aromatic cooking

Tonight I carefully slice into a red bell pepper, then a green one, and finally a cheerful purple onion. I cut a quarter wedge from each of these and slice as thinly as my patience will allow. I am exhausted, and I am trying to prepare a new dish. So I move slowly; but I do move. I heat up two types of tortillas (microwave under a damp cloth napkin) and wrap them in heavy foil packets into the warmed oven. Having pickled a jalapeño (while the others roast in oil and salt), I dice it finely and add to the marinade hosting thick tempeh slices. I halve cherry tomatoes into a bowl and gently combine them with a little oil, salt, sugar: set aside. I fry up the seitan chick’n strips – having pre-baked them dry and chewy in the oven – and add the peppers and onions and more pickled jalapeño. The kitchen warms brilliantly with the fragrance of peppers and onions and the family cheers a little. Finally: I slice avocado, bring out the lime cashew cream, and the purple slaw, my husband prepared earlier. We don’t set the table as my work is spilled across it, but join one another convivially on the couch to watch a quaint baking show before we go our separate ways again for the evening.

beans

lemon-roasted garbanzo beans

This is one of my favorite snacks of all time! I have been known to make a midnight sandwich by simply stuffing these in a roll and devouring it! Doubltess some will like these hot, but I prefer them room temperature or cold. You are aiming for almost-overdone. These are also really great with a veggie tray, alongside a vegan ranch dip!

2 cans garbanzo beans
2 tablespoons olive oli
1 lemon, juiced
1 tablespoon tamari
1/2 teaspoon fresh cracked pepper, chili powder, salt, and garlic powder

Preheat oven to 450°F. Drain the cans of garbanzo beans and save the liquid (this liquid is aquafaba, and it is the most magic baking and cooking ingredient).

Next, rinse the beans so they’re easy to handle. Sit down with a friend or your kids and de-hull each bean, setting the hulls aside for compost or the garbage. It is easy to de-hull – simply gently squeeze the pointy end of the bean and the hull slides off. Every bean has a hull, even if it doesn’t look like it! De-hulling two cans takes a few minutes, and there are shortcuts to be found. But I’ve never found a shortcut I liked as much as doing each bean by hand.

The good news is, you’re almost done!

Drizzle the oil on the beans. Place in the oven, single layer in a cookie pan, and roast about thirty minutes. About halfway through roasting, combine the lemon juice, tamari, and spices; add to the pan, stirring well.

Continue roasting. You have to really check the beans out. One minute they’ll be underdone and then next, overdone! But even a little overdone is better than under, in my opinion.

Enjoy!

suddenly

So good lord, for a couple days there I was having this fantasy of this big vegetarian platter I wanted to put together, thinking of all those bright colors and crisp textures. Once I get fixated sometimes… it sucks to not just be able to do it the same day, because we all need that impulsivity now and then.

Yeah so the veggies, something I knew my kids would be uninspired about but I couldn’t help it. I’d wash dishes you know like, the typical five times a day, and I’d try not to think about it, my stomach feeling empty but my mind knowing I have enough to eat, am doing fine. Then Ralph got an insurance adjustment check to the tune of a few small funds and I ran out to purchase the goods lickety-split. Half the cost of supplies was the jar of tahini! If you know of some good tahini recipes, hook me up.

When Ralph came home last night he took over from me and finished preparing our meal: homemade pita and homemade hummus, a pea and qunioa salad, shredded red cabbage and julienned carrots, sliced English cucumber, sliced avocado, roasted sweet potatoes, braised garbanzo beans, and bleu cheese dressing. Ralph just about killed himself laying out these beautiful vegetables on plates and serving them up to the family, and one guest. Then he collapsed on the bed for a few moments. Me? I was too tired to snap a picture.

Medical appointments. For Nels, for Phee. For the dog, and tomorrow? Our rabbit is scheduled to be neutered. Phoenix had her well-child checkup and came out perfectly healthy. She got her second injection in a week and, for the second time, was more relaxed than I’ve seen anyone take a needle. Her doctor, a good sort, talked directly to her about periods and about hormones. Then he told she was in the ninety-something percentile for height; the seventy-fifth for weight. I knew my kids were tall but, you know, they’re tall!

Nels had his braces removed yesterday and now has a wee rainbow-colored retainer. He has a sweet little lisp and gets to wear the device a few months. And I get to pay for the braces a few more installments.

The kids both had a brief but violent vomiting-illness of some sort (Phoenix on Sunday; Nels last night) and perhaps I’m fighting off that bug; I’ve been experiencing fatigue early in the day. I rest, drink fluids, take my honey and garlic, and try to be patient.

Resources are thin, but I’m very grateful for my health.

I am.

Today at my volunteer commitment a heroin addict sitting alongside me admitted he had to pick treatment or jail, so he’d picked treatment. Then he added that if he had any money he would have left treatment to go home. He said he’d given up his last $50 so had nothing to return to. I know a little about what he’s saying and what kind of choices (or rather, non-choices) he’s facing and I just felt this sadness. This moment where another human being feels unreachable to me, even if I tried to help. And I’m lost, I don’t know if there’s anything I can do, at all. I’ll probably never see this man again. Only hours later it occurs to me that maybe I was one of the only people he could tell the real truth to, without judgment, and I know that’s Something.

A few hours later in the drugstore, after driving through the dismal dark rain and as my daughter helps me pick up toothbrushes and lipstick and shampoo, I hear the entirely sickening and unmistakable sound of a skull hitting a hard concrete floor. I know immediately what has happened: a small child has fallen out of a cart. My heart lurches as I move out of my aisle and then: chaos. The child’s mother begins screaming and running about the store, cradling the toddler who is also screaming. The other customers begin to stir.

I pull out my phone and step without hesitation towards the mother, who is frantic and not holding still. Employees intercept; an ambulance is called. An employee runs for an ice pack. The mother calls a friend, convulsively crying. Her older children run to and fro.

Seeing the woman has assistance and none-too-few onlookers I return to my aisle, deeply disturbed. I keep my eyes on bright, irrelevant boxes of cosmetics but I can’t concentrate. & now: I hear the paramedics and I note how they’re talking to the mother. Something is not right with the woman, I can tell, but her child is in good hands now.

A few minutes later and I bring my purchase to another clerk, one who had not been in view of the incident. To me, this woman asks: “Did you see the mom? Did she have [lists a physical description]?…” I respond, “… I don’t know,” trying to remember, thinking of the child and the horrible screaming. The clerk smirks without humor: “I’m not surprised,” she says, without one ounce of compassion or understanding.

I’m not going to play in that playground with you.

It’s like… I have problems but I’m real glad at the problems I don’t have.

also, some typically mediocre mobile uploads

La Espera Por Tacos

(Nels y la espera por tacos)

“Gracias por la ayuda con la lengua,” I tell the fellow as he ducks back through the kitchen with my horchata. Good lord I hope that’s not a double entendre. He smiles and says “De nada”.

By the way, a few minutes after this exchange I was deeply involved with the Best Thing Ever, not just because hunger is the best sauce and I hadn’t eaten all day, but truly these tacos de tijuana (as I think they’re called) are so delicious tears forms in my eyes within the first few bites. They’re full of butter-sauteed shrimp, mozzarella, bacon, garlic, and (usually, but I skipped it) onion. The guacamole is tart with lime, fresh and creamy and with that perfect bite of raw onion (shhh… the only time I eat onion is fresh and on Mexican/South or Central American cuisine)! The horchata cold and sweet, the tomato firm and flavorful and sliced exactly as I would do if I were making it for my favorite ever grandma. Good lord. Just typing about it now I’m reliving it, and I’m only sad I can’t go right back and get another order.

A few minutes later and the boys and I are heading out, carrying a wrapped parcel for Phoenix, enchilada de pollo con todo el parte.

Recently: the weather has swerved back into rainy and grey and dismal (Surprisetown: Population Zero). I’m taking deep breaths at night to quell the anxiety (also: Percocet). Back to my one-day-at-a-time survival work. Finding  “good enough” in my constant self-administered performance review, enjoying the lovely things I have in my life daily.

Which brings me to today’s Hogamoment of Zen: have I mentioned we have four cats? FOUR. Goddamned cats. Ralph spends roughly half his hours buying cat food and litter, also vacuuming. The cats help him out. By doing shit like this:

CAT BULLSHIT

Oh, did you want a closer look?

CAT BULLSHIT CLOSEUP

SNAGGLE TOOTH FOOLISHNESS

Don’t worry. The other chair is being cared for too:

Hammy & Josie

Seriously, kitties, no, please – try and relax. Just try, mmkay? We’re worried about you.

going over to the enemy of my imagination

As I’ve had occasion to write before, I struggle with depression and anxiety. Since we’ve been steadily moving into a period of more and more light in the day, and in the home, the depression has lifted considerably – is seeming to lift, anyway – and my physical energy and capacity for joy have increased accordingly. I am very grateful for this, an improved (and temporary, as all things are) state of affairs.

But anxiety is still a very troubling presence in my life. This morning after only a handful of hours of sleep I’m awake again. For a few minutes my mind jumps in a scattered fashion and frets on scenarios unresolved, situations I certainly can’t do anything about at six AM, and for that matter nor are my energies productive. In this case, it’s about the food enterprise with my boy. We had a wonderful time cooking yesterday (palak paneer, vegetarian korma with carrots, potatoes, and cauliflower, basmati rice in ghee with cardamom and cinnamon, double-coconut muffins), and now that we’ve satisfied a handful of people and the dishes are done my mind is free to punish me. I begin to worry. I worry I’m wondering how I’m going to handle the takeout dishes aspect. I worry, since Nels is our CFO, people will take advantage of his inexperience and we’ll be giving out food at a net loss after my hours of work. I worry some ass will shut down our wee little thing, even before Nels tires of it, accusing us of running a business. I worry if I cook for the downtown lot, that I’m being a foolish asshole to spend our grocery money on strangers, even though four out of four Hogabooms want to do so. (Yesterday I worried about the food while I cooked it, but one thing that sticks with me now is our competence in this endeavor: last evening I was left smiling as I tasted each hard-earned dish before packing it up – really, we did well!).

I worry about Nels and I: I’m worried that in my impatience with my son yesterday while busy in the kitchen I took his beautiful idea and made it into something shitty. I worry in general about my relationship with Nels, because lately I’ve been letting him down and I’ve found myself not only resenting him, but being unable to give up the resentment; of having some hardness set in.  Then I berate myself because I think This is supposed to be fun, and the sad truth is it is my anxiety that stands to corrupt a lovely experience. Nels and I have been working so well in concert but my mind threatens to destroy it all (fortunately my son is too strong and joyful to let this be entirely up to me). My anxiety feeds on itself and becomes an amorphous mass of discontent and fidgety, jumpy fear; soon I am responding far too harshly to myself and family.

And this leads me to one of the hardest realities, one of the most debilitating aspects that I struggle with: the poor self-worth that develops or threatens to. When I am having trouble my mind turns on me and begins to berate my character. I’m a shallow human being / I’m overthinking things; I am too pinched / I am too open and naive; I am too trusting / I am too suspicious. I was stupid to embark on a new adventure / I don’t take up adventures enough. Really, writing it out is a bit of a relief (isn’t it always?) because it illustrates there is no way for me to avoid these criticisms. There’s no code of conduct I can tightrope-walk and avoid character attacks. Last night, just before we fell asleep with our arms around one another, my daughter said, “Mom, I’m struggling with the pressure of needing to be perfect.” I held her even closer and said, “Oh, I’m so sad to hear that. I understand. I know what that feels like. I feel it too.” After a beat she asked, “Why do we do this?” and I had no answer; for now I am merely a pilgrim with her on this journey.

I think often how parents aloud devalue or put down their kids, not because they don’t love them or anything, but because they don’t pursue mindfulness and they are consumed with fear. The other day my twitterstream was clotted with people talking about their children “whining”; I notice words like “brat”, “monster”, “tyrant”, “pitching a fit”, the most dehumanizing language used so often (when I responded to one twitterite – who’d asked for advice – and postulated that concepts like “brat” only serve us to alienate ourselves from our children and obfuscate solutions, she wrote back and said, “‘Whiny’ & ‘brattish’ are describing [my child’s] behavior, not her,” then went on to talk about working on “manners” with her child). Then I think of how many parents see so little of their children by choice, years going on like this, and that’s sad enough but okay, fine, but then at the end of the day they come home and find family life so draining, so busy, scheduled, hectic, dissatisfying, scary. A perfectly lovely man, partner and father admitted this to me the other day, that sometimes he would get home and want to hide from his own child. I responded I didn’t think he was alone. I admire him he admitted this to me, that he trusted I was his friend enough to tell me this. He had room to share with me and I appreciate it; I am sad to reflect the scenario is hardly an atypical one.

At the end of the day – or now, the beginning of the day – it is my children and partner’s presence and company I look forward to and treasure most. Time with them has the potential to be so incredibly restorative. My day, my journal, is filled with our memories together. Yesterday: my daughter, playing Hangman with Nels in the living room while we waited for guests, putting up the phrase “Super-Snooka” (in quotes and everything, a family joke for the grabassery our kitties partake in) and Nels diligently solving the puzzle, and both kids do this thing where they arrange the discarded letter clues into other words, if posible words that relate to the puzzle itself; last night watching an action film and then Phoenix said, “You’re right, mom – I do smell a training montage,” and a few minutes later one was delivered with epic rock guitar accompaniment and we snickered into our blankets. Or how late last night I walked into the kitchen and Nels put down his spoon and said, “How are you doing Mama?” right away, with genuine concern, he’d been with me all day but he thinks of me often and loves me so much.

And when I’m ill-slept and careworn I need to hold myself in that gentle levity and light and joy they bring me every day. I am not a bad person for struggling. I am still the Mama the children love so much. I should take care of her as best I can.

Nels Counts

Nels, working on concepts of earning, wearing his Tinkerbell apron. He stacked the money, counted it, moved it around, handed out twenties to Phoenix, Ralph, and I. Eventually he decided instead of using a jar-based system he’d take Ralph up on his offer to open a bank account.

“just keep ’em appetizing!”

The last few days have been full of lots of home-cooking. A broccoli, swiss, and pepperjack quiche, an apple pie with oat, brown sugar, pecan and cranberry topping, baguettes, green beans, mashed potatoes (SERIOUSLY Ralph does a great job on these), pot roast and green beans, spaghetti and meatballs (in case you’re wondering, two days ago Phoenix emphatically lifted vegetarian requirements but suggests organic and/or ethical meat when we cook with it), butter broccoli, roasted garbanzo beans atop red and white basmati rice (again, Ralph nailed this one) with an attendant fresh-veggie tray, salad with butter lettuce and cherry tomatoes that burst in one’s mouth, sweet tea and our usual hot coffee, ice cold Red Hook beer.

I struggle with occasional experiences of guilt when it comes to my kids and their care – food is an aspect of that care and it’s hard to feel daily okay about my efforts (unless you’ve been a mom you may not fully understand – not that every mom necessarily does, either).  In a more balanced vein, the part of me that feels genuinely Me instead of feeling under pressure, one of my pleasures in life is to cook for those who enjoy the food provided; there is an additional pleasure I get in seeing my kids devour everything on their plates (which they don’t always do, but for instance they did tonight). I think it’s a pretty simple thing, really. Their bodies and minds are strong and beautiful and growing; their robust appetite reminds me of this and feels like an odd sense of security and love. I also genuinely enjoy it when I’m able to provide someone with the exact thing they want, and my family loves what I provide. My kids tell me fresh bread or lemon asparagus or frijoles refritos or hardboiled eggs and carrot sticks or bún thịt xào; I can make it happen as if by magic, and always with love.

Tonight I worked right up until I realized it was long time for me to rest. I wanted to be brave enough to not do the dishes (Ralph almost always does them but tonight he watched a movie with me instead). But, no dice, becuase once I get an idea in my head it’s hard to let it go. Just after 4 AM I washed dishes and wiped counters and made some new sweet tea for Ralph tomorrow but soon l I felt genuinely beat, and I still had more work to do. I followed the kids through their bath and picked up bath toys and re-sorted tidied the living room…

and got a cold beer and came to bed and turned on a ghost television show on Netflix …

And now? Close the laptop and take a few minutes with the kiddos before Slumbertown, Population: Us.

farmer maggot’s mushrooms

11th Annual Fish, Farm, & Forest Tour! My little family, and a bunch of much, much older other people!

Slightly Carsick

I do not have a problem with older people. Some of my best friends are senior citizens.* I do slightly resent a publicized “family-friendly” activity designed with about zero consideration for small children. The small children there – our Nels, and the sole-other young family P.’s two little ones – nevertheless had a good time together (in part because we moms missed some of the adult-activities to play outside on tractors etc).

Beauty

The tour was great and opened my eyes to the almost 500 farms in our county.  We visited an oyster farm, a cranberry bog (this was seriously interesting!), a ranch with a presentation on forest management and their sustainable forage farm paired with pulp industry operations (I had to miss this for abovementioned reasons), and a fish hatchery. My favorite was the oyster farm. Ironically (or probably not, I am not so good at identifying irony) even though I’ve lived here off and on for many years I learned more about oyster farming from an episode of “Dirty Jobs” than living alongside such endeavors. Saturday I learned a tiny bit more while other tour participants gobbled up grilled and smoked bivalves.

Oyster Seeding Demonstrated

Oyster Seeding Demonstrated

Oyster Seeding Demonstrated

The tour was also a bit disturbing because many aspects were completely and unflichingly pro ag-business; independent farms (like the one we support) were not mentioned nor was there much mention of what I’d consider the future of food – local, decentralized ownership and smarter, less chemical- and process-intensive practices (such as the raw milk movement – although it’s always funny to me when we go back to principles quite established in human experience it’s called a “movement” or “trendy”)**.

As a bonus at one point one fellow got up and started talking logging history (gee, living here twenty-five years of my life I’ve never heard any before! P.S. we have entire MUSEUMS dedicated to this and in-county not one Native American museum I know of) and before long he was using strong language to condemn the environmental movement, which he said is completely controlling everything in forest and fishery managment. He got very upset talking about this lovely boss he’d had and the beautiful shiny log trucks that used to be in the now-empty lot. These fellows often speak in terms of decades – the time a logging business existed. I understand the pain that’s been lived in my community and I live and breathe this reality (and I completely loathe the over-simplified charicatures of residents in this area as knuckle-dragging rednecks – as I do worldviews of “progressives” who pretend they do not live off the backs of the US working class and the overseas slave class). Seventy years of a logging operation now gone, very sad, it really is. So is killing off wildlife species, and whatever happened to those Native cultures that lived here for not decades but – guess how long? No, guess. 10,000 years. I don’t second-guess nor criticize the anguish of those suffering our long-standing bottomless economy legacy – I only wish for a little more of that seasoning called Perspective.

So the trip was really awesome but it was also kind of the story of white guys just trampling and eating everything they see.

We saw some lovely mushrooms. This little one was about the size of a quarter.

Tiny Mushroom

We saw her brothers and sisters nearby – larger than dinnerplates, but with this classic toadstool shape. Nels and I were really into these big mushrooms.

The weather was that breathtaking misty shroud which turned into a soft rain.

Oops

More mushrooms: today’s lunch, the chanterelle (sautéed in butter and garlic), avocado, and (local raw milk aged) goat cheese sandwich. Awwww yeah.

September 27th, 2010

Today I worked very hard on sewing (I hope to post awesome pictures very soon!), helped the new indie bookstore brick-and-mortar operation move some shelves, cooked for everyone which meant about five or six extra kids running in and out (food included crumpets with whipped cream and preserves and, for dinner, a lentil, sausage, rice, carrot, potato and spinach stew; it was entirely gratifying to see several children devour this with much gusto***), then went for a late-night spooky and dark run (so spooky I had to call Ralph and ask if he’d come escort me – like a total hero he did!).

Lovely fall times.

Cow-Handlin'

* This was a bad joke. I’m sorry. Read comment #1 & #5 for clarification. Thanks commenter lizzie for (indirectly) bringing it to my attention.

** There was however a lot of discussion of home gardens and the tour leader Don Tapio just about floored us with his knowledge on most every ag-product subject you could imagine.

*** “That’s the best thing you’ve ever made,” my daughter tells me just now as I type.

famiglia e paisano (the latter as in the screwtop wine)

I don’t see my grandpa too much these days. He’s eighty-five and he doesn’t get along like he used to – as well as he lives in Southern California (with much of my extended family) and we Hogafour don’t have the scratch to take vacations much. He and his eldest daughter, my aunt Patti, sojourn up here to visit our little wing of the family and check up on my aunt’s handful of houses she owns and rents.

Due to the relative infrequency of his visits (about once a year) I’m reminded each time I see my grandfather it may be the last. He seems in good enough health but he takes a tackle-box worth of medications daily (my two California aunts help look after him) and he’s no spring chicken. My father used to say Bill might live to be a hundred, and sure. My grandfather’s mind is amazing and sharp but he’s also a bit foggy (I swear it’s the drugs) and he now walks with a cane and naps about eighteen hours a day. I feel a great affection for him but also a breech I can’t cross as there are also patriarchal aspects of our family that drive me fucking crazy. I do what I can which is mostly, treat him kindly and cook for him. He genuinely seems to enjoy listening in to family as we sit and talk. And he loves, loves to eat. I cook a lot and talk a lot so it works out well.

Today I was feeling a bit below the weather and I spent most of my energies cleaning and preparing the “feast” for this evening (slow-cooked meatballs in marinara over angel hair pasta, a veggie tray with olives and dip, devilled eggs, and roasted cauliflower and broccoli). As special treats I added rhubarb pie from the GH Public Market and our family’s favored red table wine (at dinner my mom had a small bucket-worth and got her trademark red face). After dinner was standing by (I love slow-cooking in the big enameled pot in my oven) I managed to watch a bit of computer-movie and sew a bit and rest a bit and wrestle with my kids a bit and – a special treat – have lunch out with my husband where we talked about the next recording effort for his band (w00t!). You know what’s funny, I’m not sure how much alone-time other couples get who have small kids. Even though we homeschool and our kids sleep in a big-ass pile in our very large bed-Pangaea the moments I have with Ralph have been increasing over the years and are quite special for both of us.

My grandfather, aunt and mother arrived at seven and we served the food on my sewing table, which Ralph had moved into the living room (we don’t own a dining room table). The kids were wonderfully enthusiastic at dinner and then vanished while the grownups did some talking (a lot about chickens and gardening and the world of paid employment which only one adult out of four currently works in). In early moments I had braced for my mother to being “bragging” to my grandfather about us (she has done this in the past, mainly about my housework standards and my husband’s sainthood, ugh – remember that “patriarchal” stuff I was talking about?) but fortunately this did not happen. I ended up in a long conversation with my aunt (a nurse – actually a Wound Care Specialist who’s used maggots as treatment, ew!/awesome!, and yes we had this conversation at the table). I gave my grandfather a loaf of homemade zucchini bread wrapped in wax paper I’d baked earlier in the day. Before the relatives left my grandfather gave each of my kids a twenty dollar bill after I sternly forbade him not to for a few confusing minutes (I misunderstood and thought he was trying to give me the scratch). He was a Mobil Oil man and has money now. Gifting it is one way he shows his love.

The three of them left at about nine thirty and Ralph cleaned the kitchen while the kids bathed and I took a few minutes stitching on some corduroy pants for my son. I’m grateful Ralph has tomorrow off as I love having him around.

Sometimes I hardly know what to do with those I love other than be present with them and spend time – and cook and feed them (I remember clearly how much of a difference it made to me when my father was dying and he began to stop eating; I could no longer minister to him in this way). Fortunately most people seem to appreciate these things. Ralph paid me an amazing compliment yesterday when he told me the dinner I’d prepared (a Spanish tortilla on warmed-and-buttered French bread, marinated kale salad, and corn on the cob) made him immediately feel better and then “healed him” of his illness (which really in the final analysis seems to be true, either that or a striking coincidence). Now that I’ve caught the scratchy-throat and stuffed-up nose myself I’m wishing for the same kind of healing.

friday, hitting it hard with a can of Ensure

Earlier in the day my mom came over – needing a break from preparations for a party she would host later – and took the kids and I along with her little Rat-dog for a walk along what we HQX residents call the flats, an abandoned industrial field along the bay, across from the old swing bridge and paper mill.  Funny because what may look like a wasteland of driftwood, crab grass, blackberry bushes, pissy Canadian geese, and various and sundry detritus (“Oooh, a blasting cap!”), the area in its way speaks to me (and I daresay, my brother and our friends) of freedom. Many nights were spent out on the flats around a bonfire, with or without underage drinking and drugging: summer nights where our only concerns were spending time with one another and heading to an all-night eatery when we got hungry.  In fact, one of Ralph and my first dates ended up in a parked car out this way, ahem!, where we wrestled around in the backseat more or less chastely but oh-so-fun.

Today the flats contain nothing more or less for me than a simple walk: a mother, daughter, grandchildren, a cowardly dog.  The kids find sticks of driftwood – Nels in particular needs an exact half-dozen, each looking unremarkable to me but containing the power and label of Pogo-stick, walking-stick etc.  My mom and I talked; Nels became angry at the lack of attention received.  I scored a small victory for myself (and my children) when I did not get irritated with his demands, but continued on in my way and let him have his feelings.

Later in the evening Ralph joined us for my mother’s party; because it was mostly older folks (no really, I spent a large amount of time listening to fishing stories from a man old enough I had to memorize his birth year, then come home and use my calculator to figure his age, P.S. this tiny story-lette is actually more about me being dumb) everyone had left by 10 PM.  10 PM, people! That’s just when I start getting going.

We had a nice time; I haven’t been to a real party, early bedtimes notwithstanding, since Halloween (when we went to two, bam-bam, take that!).  And tonight, pretty much every conversation had and every individual there was a delight.  In an effort to help my mother with her hosting I made a huge vat of frijoles refritos and a double batch of tamales de puerco. By party’s-end the only food that had been entirely consumed was the latter – beating out the expensive platter of ribs (suck it, ribs!) from the local restaurant (suck it, restaurant!). I am not going to shit thee, those tamales were delicious.  Which is kind of cool because as much as I’m an accomplished cook and regularly provide meals from my kitchen, sometimes I do a very mediocre job, and I always hate when that happens to a large group of people, many whom I’ve only just met.  In these latter cases I usually give “The Shrug” since, you know, I did what I could.

Early in our evening a few guests began to inquire regarding my blog and writing – then, my life at home with the kids.  Query me they did, and rather pointedly indeed.  In fact, the abovementioned fishing-story gentleman began to ask me many questions: what did I write about, what were my three most important topics, why did I choose to homeschool, what did I do for my children’s religious education.  I must admit, I love talking about all these things, but I wasn’t exactly on my feet and ready to, you know, defend (or even describe) my life, only specifically because I have some unanswered questions right now and, sadly, a lack of mentorship regarding these.  Tonight’s discussion and curiosity were completely respectful, and at any moment I could have changed the subject, but I didn’t for whatever reasons.

And yet:

The next time someone asks me why my kids aren’t in school, I’m going to ask: “Why should they be?”

Home

what counts

Why bake one loaf of bread when its as easy to make a few for everyone?

Why bake one loaf of bread when it's as easy to make a few for everyone?

My husband’s co-worker M.* is very sick with what looks like an advanced case of cancer. Ralph has, since taking the job at the college, been bringing my food – especially my baked goods – to share at work.  M. has really enjoyed my breads especially. I think at first he thought maybe we were bread-peers to have a competition, but he’s now thrown over as me the “winner” and him the recipient of my awesome bread. So I’ve taken to baking a loaf just for M.  I love baking bread – I mean I love it, it will lift me out of any minor depressive state. And I love making it for other people even more.

Food-wise today I also made a yellow cake with double-chocolate cream cheese frosting and decorative kumquats and of course, breakfast and dinner (chicken lettuce wraps and vegetable fried rice).  For lunch the kids and I took shelter from the rain at one of our favorite local eateries, a homey place that specializes in Italian fare. The three of us split a steak lunch and I wrapped every bit of extra meat in a piece of foil to take home to the cats.

I love diner eating with the kids for lunch.  It feels like a little tradition of sorts.  I won’t lie, the kids don’t always never sit still and if I’m hungry it sets me on edge.  I’ve been smart lately and brought some math workbooks for the two of them to mess about with while we wait for our meal.  Nels in particular shows a joy and adventurous proficiency in the subject; he worked on a first grade level today and after solving the numeracy problems assiduously decorated each cone, square, circle and triangle into corresponding real-life shapes (party hat, wooden block, eyeball, and tooth, resp.). Sophie and I sat on one side of the booth and we couldn’t get enough of holding one another, scooting in and kissing or snuggling. She smells better to me than just about anything else, even fresh-baked bread.

* Not his real initial.