Friday, November 27, 2009


As we express our gratitude, we must never forget that the highest appreciation is not to utter words but to live by them.

-John Fitzgerald Kennedy

Happy Thanksgiving! This year I am thankful for so many things, I feel so lucky to be blessed with such amazing friends and family, husband, child, beautiful home walking distance to most everything, garden, yard with fruit trees, just so many blessings I could go on and on. Rather I will remind myself to be grateful every day for everything, living with the attitude of thanks.

I hope everyone is enjoying the fruits of their busy cooking day yesterday: leftovers! Aren't they the best? This year I brined our turkey to wonderful results. Once you brine, you never go back, or so I have heard, and now believe! Another new one this year was a jellied cranberry-apple sauce that I think will become a tradition, recipe thanks to Food and Wine magazine. A fuji apple adds pectin to the cranberry sauce creating a moldable jelly. I used a loaf pan to mold the jewel-colored sauce studded with apple bits. The apple created an even, innocuous background, a perfect counterpoint to the acidity of the cranberries. Translation: delicious!

Thanksgiving Day started early with our local toddler Turkey Trot. Our good friend and neighbor is an avid runner and offered to run the one-mile race with our little one. Patrick and I watched proudly from the sidelines as they rounded the track and headed into the hills to complete the one-mile loop. We waited anxiously as they disappeared from view behind the hill. Finally, we saw them reappear and begin the final lap. Babou was no longer running, her head and shoulders down, and I felt more than saw, her lower lip wobbling. She had fallen while running down the hill at full speed. We started cheering and Babou looked up and saw us. She straightened up, pulled her eyebrows together in concentration, and started running...right into my arms! My heart broke as my love for her grew, bursting its mold again. Love, it seems, knows no limits. And that is what I am most thankful for.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Earthly Delights

At its heart, a genuine food culture is an affinity between people and the land that feeds them.

-Barbara Kingsolver, Animal, Vegetable, Miracle.

The choices I make now about my food will influence the rest of my life. If a lot of us felt this way, and started thinking carefully about our consumption habits just one meal at a time, we could affect the future of our planet.

-Camille Kingsolver, Animal, Vegetable, Miracle.

I finally finished Animal Vegetable Mineral: A Year of Food Life, and am enjoying the afterglow of inspiration while still trying to digest its far reaching focus.

It is both a new and old way of looking at food and our relationship to it. Reading about Kingsolver's garden, her canning, and her garden journals filled with nature notes were all food for my soul. The outdoors have always been a particular place of joy for me, the changing smells of the seasons, the excitement of growing things, the lessons plants teach us silently, leading by leafy example. It is amazing just how much nature is woven into our being if we just go outside and are reminded. For me, it is the ultimate sanctuary, the ultimate grace.

The book also reminded me of the importance of a food culture, of individual knowledge of our food. It reminded me of the manager of the french restaurant I worked for during college. When it was slow, we would often talk about her life growing up in France. She would happily regale me with colorful details of their daily meals, her mother's careful preparation of each menu, her loving care of their family's potager. Their garden supplied most of their fresh vegetables, and other goods were bought locally and produced locally. Regional pride prevailed. Natural ingredients created with care and pride made fulfilling, shared meals that nourished both body and soul, family and community. And. as importantly, the environment, the land, and its natural abundance.

We have now had a vegetable garden for the past three years, slowly growing more proficient with time. This year is the first that I will continue growing through our mild winter, and next year I plan to learn to can, learning to store the bounty of summer. Reading this book makes me realize at a very deep level what I do impacts more than myself and the environment, it also affects my daughter and future generations. I want to teach her where her food comes from, I want her to feel the excitement of sowing a seed and watching it grow, and I want her to internalize the deep happiness that comes with that ancient alchemy of earth, air, and growing things.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Weekly Report

Last week we had the great fun of having Rescue Ranger come for a visit! Babou thought he seemed more like a jungle gym than a cousin! Patrick's mother also came for a visit so Babou was about beside herself trying to keep everyone entertained!

It was all too much for her, and she got sick, as did I. The end of last week and the beginning of this week were spent getting well. Babou has made a full recovery as of yesterday and I am pretty much better too except for a nagging cough.

Needless to say, between company and sickness, there has not been much time to get anything done and I am starting to feel angsty. I need to work on my writing project more, a lot more, and I need to plant the winter garden. And then I need to get going on the bigger projects I am trying to finish before the baby comes. It is crazy to think, but next month will be so busy between Christmas and lots of family birthdays (including Babou and Patrick's) that I see time slipping away so quickly. Plus, hopefully, I will be starting a new job next month! I am very excited about it all but feel I can't waste another minute.

Still, life goes on and you know it should be enjoyed. I am lacking that feeling of joy and inspiration I depend on to happily move have decided to take Loco O and Babou on a hike this morning, a much needed walkabout. We usually take some kind of walk-about/outing a day, usually to the park, so I decided to do something different today. And maybe I will treat myself to a latte along the way! That way I can spend the afternoon writing and gardening free of any worries that I am neglecting my dog or child as they have already gotten to run about! And I can focus, hopefully!

Monday, November 2, 2009


The shadows of a thousand years rise again unseen,
Voices whisper in the trees, "Tonight is Halloween!"
-Dexter Kozen

And what a day and night it was! This was the first Halloween that Babou has really "gotten." It seems more and more, at an amazing rate, Babou is "getting" things. Yesterday, she sat down to do some drawing and, instead of her usual horizontal scribbles, she announced that she was going to draw me! She then proceeded to draw a circle and add eyes, nose, etc ! I could not believe it! It was, albeit, an abstract, but still, she managed to get the idea and had suddenly leapt out of scribbles into something much more realistic. I was so proud!

We spent halloween afternoon making popcorn balls, I think more for myself than for anyone, really! It eased us into the sugar debauchery to follow!
We ate a good dinner and dressed and then, when Patrick got home from work, he put the finishing touches on our little ladybug and we set off!
She was a little rusty at trick or treat etiquette and it took her a couple of houses before she could remember to say "trick or treat" at the door instead of "I want some candy," as she did at first!But once she got into the swing of things, she was one happy ladybug!
She would collect her goodies and say "another house please" and we would say, yes, that we were going to go to another house, to which she replied, again and again, "fantastic!"
She was giddy by the time we got home and I could barely get her night times on and get her teeth very carefully brushed before she crawled onto my lap and promptly fell fast asleep! The contented sleep of a perfect Halloween!

Friday, October 30, 2009

Fast, Easy, and Tasty (and Healthy)

When men reach their sixties and retire, they go to pieces. Women go right on cooking.
-Gail Sheehy

Once upon a time, I was talking to my mother on the phone. We were chatting about this and that and the topic of dinner came up: the Big question: what to have? I personally think it is one of life's hardest, although sometimes I do pretty well thanks to almost daily cravings for certain foods guiding the way.

This particular day, I had come up with an amazing little menu for what to have for dinner. My mother mumbled something halfway apologetically about having some plans for soup. She finished up by saying, "I just don't love to cook like you do, you know?"

Well, I don't either, I quickly informed her. And beyond that, I certainly could see how she had had to cook for years squelched much inspiration and joy she had for cooking. My father is a firm believer of eating at home, always, so my mother had dinner on the table pretty much every night of the year for God knows how many years (a lot) and still cooks daily for my dad. Add to that that we all had our little, and big, eating whims and you really have a nightmare on your hands.

In my situation, I have the luxury of enjoying cooking because I don't have to deal with picky eaters, Patrick and I like to eat out (not very often anymore, but certainly more than my parents), and Patrick works away from home pretty regularly. When he is away, I will often make a big pot of soup and eat it for dinner for days. So easy. Cooking for me is fun because I don't have to make a big production of it if I don't want to. And often, I don't.

In this vein, I discovered a dinner the other night that turned out really well and was really easy, I hope this helps make someone else's evening a little more relaxing:

Pasta with peppers and sausage
Start pasta water to boiling
un-case one, sweet turkey Italian sausage, saute and crumble
When mostly cooked, add half a jar roasted peppers with some of the juice to deglaze the pan
cut peppers into whatever size you want, you can just chop them in the pan with your stirrer
Add cooked pasta and a little pasta water and cook it all together for a few minutes
Season with salt and pepper (I always season last) and viola!

You can add lots of variations to this: I sometimes add sliced garlic and onions to saute in with the sausage. Fresh herbs and lots of parmesan cheese at the end also seem like a good idea. Red pepper flakes might be amazing addition if you are not feeding too tender of palates. This is a great go to pasta dish for a quick and easy dinner on nights you don't feel like cooking.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

From the Mouthes of Babes

Last night I was putting Babou to bed. I had just finished reading to her and had turned off the light and we were having a cuddle. She wasn't quite ready to sleep yet and so we were talking about important stuff like the moon and how hard it is to see when there is a ceiling in the way.

She looked thoughtful for a moment and I thought she might be drifting off, instead she said, "mama, you're my best friend!" I gave her a squeeze and told her she was mine, too.

She was still thoughtful looking and continued, "and daddy, I LOVE daddy!" I agreed, and we talked about how much we loved her daddy and all that we loved about him.

Still, she continued, "and Nana, I have two nana's and I LOVE my nana's!" I said yes, that she does indeed have two nana's who she loves dearly and who love her dearly. Feeling satisfied, she then drifted off to sleep!

Monday, October 26, 2009


"'From a Neurological viewpoint, it's a revolution for the brain when you have a child," says Michael Merzenich, a pioneering expert on brain development at the University of California at San Francisco. "It is life-changing in the sense that you are presented with physical, mental, mechanical challenges - forty nine disasters to take care of at once. It's an epoch of learning and brain-induced changes, because everything matters so much...I don't think there are a lot of better things you can do for your brain than have a child."'
Quoted in The Mommy Brain by Katherine Ellison

Katherine Ellison presented last night for our Mamas Writing salon and I am already a chapter deep into her book, The Mommy Brain: How Motherhood makes us Smarter (which is pretty far for this slow reader). It is fascinating and a refreshing take on motherhood and the changes it incurs in women. It is also well researched and easy to read, both an extra boon! I will let you know how it was thoroughly once I finish.

The writing salon ended a very pleasant but busy week filled with lots of writing (I know SO much--too much--about tomatoes now), visiting (got a visit from my brother-in-law Military Man although Babou took him over fairly quickly),
hiking (complete with the excitement of snakes and beautiful views),
and an adventure out to the coast to visit an old friend and see her new art exhibited. Babou had her first oyster at the art show and caused a mild stir. A photographer asked to take pictures of her first try capturing her tentative first bites. He then strolled off missing her spitting it out after some thoughtful chewing only moments later!