Sunday, August 31, 2014

Judgement Rendered and Returned



It's been really hard for me to write anything lately.  I've been trying to jump to a few conclusions as to why this is so, instead just letting it be.  It could be because the neighborhood dog begins his endless barking at 1pm sharp.  Or it could be that I try to write during my dwindling nap time.  It could be that I do not have ready access to a study carrel.  It could be that I'm out of practice.

***

A while ago my neighbor called me on my cell phone, a number he obtained from another neighbor, during the middle of the day.  I didn't recognize the number and I picked up the call.  "Hi....are you home?"  I wanted to say, "No sorry, I'm out and can't be bothered."  But, I was home and the girls were napping.  But I very well could have been out!  "I need you to do a favor for me," he went on to say.  Thinking I was going to save a withering tomato plant, I said sure, of course.  I locked the girls in the house and proceeded to go next door, cell phone to ear, following his explicit instructions.  Walk into the breezeway, find the hidden key, with that key unlock the door, get the other spare key, go back downstairs, put that spare key out, put the original spare key back in hiding spot.  All of this so that the air conditioner repair man can repair the air conditioner without gaining knowledge as to the hiding place of the spare key.  This is above and beyond, I thought to myself and I was happy to help.  "Thanks," he said.  Click.  It was then that I started feeling a little crappy.  And then it dawned on me and I stood mouth agape, brow furrowed.  "I've been judged!"  I said with the same velocity as someone would say, "I've been robbed!"  Enter Steve Martin with a dopey voice saying, "Gee, do you think so?"

To him I was that stay-at-home mom who had nothing better to do than to make sure someone else's air conditioning was running full blast.  To him I was that stay-at-home mom watching her soaps in the middle of the day and eating cookie dough batter.  I was clearly over-reacting and clearly judging his motives at the same time.  I said to myself, I'll totally get over this when I see him in person the next time and he thanks me profusely for my random act of kindness and when he goes on and on about how he can't believe he caught me at an okay time.  Those things never happened of course.  God knows I do my fair share of judging and I need to give the guy a break, for goodness sake.  But, still.  I was judged!  As every person is again and again by people who don't understand, by people who do things slightly differently.  By people who think the way they do things is the best way to do things.  Myself included.

What is a judgement for if not to take stock of your life and the decisions you've made and decide if you want to change anything?  I do this all the time.  There are some moms who insinuate that you are betraying your children by sending them to preschool twelve hours a week.  There are some people who look at you and your decision to be with your children during the day-time hours and secretly feel as if you are sending the wrong message to them and to the greater population of women.  And there are others who find it easier to understand your role as a stay-at-home mom if you have a part-time job attached to it.  It's a relief for them to hear that you at least do something on the side.  It's also more comfortable for the mother because then you don't have to clarify that it isn't child-care you are passionate about, but your own children.

Any way you slice it, you are doing something wrong according to someone.  This is hard for me because I like to be in agreement with all people at all times.  Not sure what I should do about that.

***

The girls were great, exhausting company this past week.  My little compadres.  They have no choice but to go where I go.  This is a great responsibility, many times a pain but it's also a lot of fun.  I'm still surprised when I turn around in the car and see two people strapped in, waiting to go where I have us going.  Following my sister's lead, we didn't rush out the door.  I didn't realize that I did this until I stopped doing it and it was so nice!  We laid low, ran errands, bought groceries, and had long lunches.  They ran around naked in the backyard, jumping off of a lawn chair into a blue plastic pool and watching me laugh at them.

I also got a moment to paint.  For a while now I've wanted this blog to have a header -something other than Times New Roman.  It's hashtag nobigdeal, but like you want to envision your best self, sometimes, depending on the time of month, I have a vision for my blog as its best blog self.  Right now it's not that.  And maybe it never will be.  But I have a vision, a vision that changes from mood to mood, but a vision at least.


***

Monday, August 11, 2014

The Meal Plan | 08.11.14 | A Sketch


Today we made purple pesto!  For our reach moment we made the peach tart prepped for yesterday's non-specific feasting purposes.  
Tomorrow I'm hoping to make Barefoot Contessa's provencal potato salad.  I made this on Sunday with half of the ingredients it called for and I'd like to try it again.  First she makes a basic but stand-alone french potato salad and then adds to it haricots verts blanched, tuna, capers, halved cherry tomatoes, chopped red onion, black olives, hard-cooked eggs.    
Wednesday I might make a spicy ratatouille from the Home Made Summer cookbook that is now overdue. 
Thursday: On the same page of that cookbook is a recipe for large polenta pizza with ratatouille.  Then I'll return it.  
Unless I keep it around to try her crispy chickpeas on Friday.  
:)

Wednesday, August 6, 2014

The Meal Plan | 08.06.14


There hasn't been much meal-planning around these parts.  We've been loading up at farmer's markets and trying to keep the oven off.  Duh.  We've been eating lots of tomato sandwiches and lots of peaches.  I perfected corn on the cob!  Boil it for only four minutes, drain most of the water, put a lid on your pot and let the corn steam until you are ready to serve it.  The corn stays warm and the kernels are plump.  Thanks Aunt Rebecca.  

Last week I ate raw.  I can't really call it a cleanse because I was still drinking coffee.  I made smoothies, ate lots of cashews, splurged on a beet juice and drank lots of water.  It was good and I learned a few things.  One, I can survive a day without a full bowl of oatmeal for breakfast.  Good to know.  Two, it is possible for me, though I don't recommend it, to go a night without wine and or chocolate.  And three, it is really hard to sit down and eat something different than your family.  There are many questions: "Momma, why aren't you having any oatmeal?"  "Momma, why aren't you eating any pizza?"  "You see, Naomi, I'm not growing anymore so I can go without sometimes."  This is very true, but it's also true that eating together and eating the same thing is the real bonding experience.  I felt like an outsider.  But the other part of me was like, "deal with it and stop with the peer pressure!"

What have you been up to lately?

*Above is a picture of some posies I made for a wedding.  I keep meaning to tell you about my new job at a most becoming little flower shop!

Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Lobsters with a View






Chauncey Creek.  Last month it was featured in Bon Appetit and so when we went there last week I thought we would find it puffed up and crowded.  But it wasn't.  It hadn't changed at all.  There were parking spots, no framed copy of the article and no long line.  Granted we were there on a Tuesday.  We laid our tablecloth on one of the picnic tables and got out our accompaniments - a baguette, pasta salad and a bottle of white wine.  Then we ordered our lobster, some steamers and two cups of clam chowder.  Then we sat and sipped and admired the view.  Or ran around climbing on ropes, depending.  It really does make for the perfect summer evening.  If you can make it there go by way of Portsmouth, New Hampshire and take the little bridge that connects you to Kittery, Maine.  It really is beautiful.    

Friday, July 18, 2014

Birthday Week



Every year I get a little bit better at keeping the birthday blues at bay.  My tip for this year -Start Celebrating Early.  Take your "birthday week" seriously.  Open presents when they arrive.  Go to Trader Joe's with a couple of recipes in mind and stock up.  While you're there pick up a twelve pack of Whale's Tail Pale Ale and say to yourself -it's a whole lot cheaper than going to Nantucket.  Next, unabashadly and unbegrudgingly make your own birthday cake.  This year I'm making a pavlova because I've always wanted to and because Yvette van Boven is a hoot and it's her recipe.  If I ever write a book, I want it to be as personal and as lovable as hers.  Also, my mom made this killer lemon meringue pie -it was truly a masterpiece, and so every time I have egg whites beating I think of her.  I miss her dearly this week.  I find myself asking why, why all over again, but that is a question I'm getting comfortable with.  This question I ask best to my sister.  She asks the same question back to me.  Then we spend as long as we need to in the subjunctive.  We play out various and wonderful what-if scenarios and start many sentences with, "Can you imagine if..."  After our dwellings we walk about in disbelief critiquing our shoes and discussing where we want to end up for a drink, completely aware of the gift we have in each other.  We decided on Drink.  It's like a nugget of NYC tucked below a rather ordinary, wide street in Boston.  We decided on this place as we both declared we would be on the Acela to that very city if mom had any say in it.  The bluefish spread with warm, lightly charred bread was the best thing I've tasted in a long time.  There we laid out plans for the coming year -how to squeeze out every ounce of this life, how to rein in our wildest dreams and how to peaceably take over the world.    

Sunday, July 13, 2014

Ginger Baked Beans

On my stove right now sit simmering, bubbling baking beans.  Last night I soaked a bag of pinto beans.  Today I added all of the extras -molasses, garlic, salt, a little ketchup and ginger.  Minced ginger is my secret ingredient.  It adds a sweet spice and an interesting flavor to a very simple dish.  I've made it a few times already this summer.  Once we put them on a salad.  The next time we put them beside a hot dog.  Today we will bring them to a going away party for a friend.  You can cook them with bacon if you are feeling up to it.  You could use tomato paste instead of ketchup.  In years past I always thought of these beans as too sweet and syrupy, but if you make them at home they can be just how you like.  


Recipe:

1lb dried pinto beans or any white bean.  
molasses 
ketchup or tomato paste
2 or 3 cloves of garlic minced
tablespoon or so of minced ginger
1 1/2 teaspoon salt, and more to taste
a few grinds of pepper

If you can, soak a pound of beans overnight after bringing the water to a boil for a moment.  The next day strain and set aside some of the bean liquid until they are just barely covered.  Bring the pot to a boil and then lower the heat to a simmer.  Add 1/3 cup of molasses -more or less depending on your taste.  Add 3 tablespoons of ketchup or tomato paste, the garlic and ginger.  Let cook until the beans are tender -about 30-45 minutes.  Ina Garten says salting beans early can make them tough so I add it towards the end.  That's it really.  It can be tweaked forever but at some point they are good enough.  

:)

Monday, June 23, 2014

The Meal Plan | 06.23.14 | A Little Bit of Everything

It's starting to click.  Oh yeah.  Summer is easier than I remember.  It's just that ornery New England Spring that confuses me.  But summer means effortless snacks of blueberries by the pint and strawberries for the picking.  Summer means pesto!  Praise God.  I love pesto.  I made it tonight and sliced and salted heirloom tomatoes to top.  It was a good moment.  

Today was one of those days that just worked.  I think it was anchored by thoughts of pesto.  We all have those days that unfold in ways you couldn't have foreseen.  A day when there is no one peak arriving approximately at 10 o'clock in the morning, but simply a day placed against a backdrop of contentment and emotion.  Or something like that.  Anytime when you can pass the 4 o'clock hour with short people underfoot and not question the meaning of life you are in the lead.  Gorgeous weather really does help.  So does beet juice.  The beet and carrot and apple and lemon juice that I u-turned for was well worth it.  I had more energy today at 4pm than I have had in a long while.    

I record this because sometimes my melancholy folk music mental state allows me to mostly write about the sullen.  

If you are feeling a little sullen listen to this song.  Follow it up with some pesto and we can be twins.  

This week we are headed to the Blue Ridge Mountains.  We are going the long way.  There isn't a short way.  But we aren't racing is what I mean.  We aren't going to try to beat our record from last summer.  I have lots to do before then, mostly get excited.  But that will come once I see the hills and slip off the grid for a bit.