Tears in the Supermarket.

I’ve been crying a lot recently, although not all that often at dinner.  Close friends will say that’s nothing new.  I’m quick to tears.  A song, movie, advertisement can have me sniffling.  And don’t even get me started on that NPR feature StoryCorps; that’s always good for a sob.  When I talk to people, about anything at all, the weather, the Giant’s winning, the recent election (ok, that could be cause for tears), I will often well up.  Teachers and grocery check out people probably think I’m on the verge of a nervous breakdown.  I’ll blame my recent even more frequent tears on perimenopause.  But then, I have blamed all sorts of things on perimenopause, for, like, the last ten years or so.  It’s like teething for babies; explains every ailment.

I dropped the girls off at school the morning of Halloween.  1.0 was in costume (Cher from Clueless); 2.0 was not.  She carried a couple of options (one of which was Magenta from Rocky Horror) in a bag just in case the mood struck her later in the day.  I rounded the corner from school and saw a dad walking his two daughters across the street.  Two princesses (Snow White and Cinderella) decked out in Disney’s sparkly finest.  I started to cry, really cry.  The father held each of the girls by the hand and I can remember what that felt like, clammy little palms, fingers clutching mine.  I miss those little people!

I know, I’m romanticizing that time, leaving out the tantrums and the middle of the night wake-ups and the whining, all the whining.  But what I wouldn’t give to go back, do it all again.  Or maybe even start again now.  Madness, I know.  I’m forty-five, on the cusp of the empty nest (new adventure!) and (remember?) perimenopausal.  And I’m lucky, I like my Husband, so getting to be just the two of us again will be great. But it would also be great to have a couple more kids, like a second family, except with the same father (don’t think I could break in another husband).  I’d be better at it this time, wouldn’t I?  Pay closer attention.

And maybe all these tears are about my identity.  I’m a stay at home mom and I’ve relished that roll; even when it sucks, it’s a fantastic gig.  So what will I be in three years when Daughter 2.0 is happily (please God) ensconced in college?

Daughter 1.0 has been asking me to drive to school lately.  She has her license and the use of a car and had been getting herself and her sister to school.  I am a circle driver extraordinaire and more than happy to take my girls (though I do reserve the right to grumble about it occasionally).  Maybe this is 1.0’s gift to me, a way to let me know that I’m still needed.  Or maybe she’s feeling not quite ready to be so independent, wants someone to take care of her for a little while longer.  Or could be she just wants to save on parking money.  That’s ok, I’ll take it.

My Husband made an amazing paella like dish for Saturday night dinner.  He based it on Thomas Keller’s recipe, but simplified it for the home cook.  So yummy!  There are many components, but really it’s not hard.

Faux Paella with Chicken, Mussels and Clams

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1/4 cup canola oil
Half an onion chopped finely (like a grain of cooked rice)
2 teaspoons saffron threads
2 cups short grain rice
3 cups chicken or vegetable stock

4 chicken thighs and 4 chicken drumsticks
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
Piment d’Espelette
Canola oil

1 Spanish chorizo sausage cut into 1/4 inch slices
12 small mussels
24 little neck clams
1/4 dry white wine

4 roasted piquillo peppers from a jar, cut into strips
1 cup blanched green beans and cut into 1 inch pieces

Chopped Italian flat leaf parsley to garnish

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees

Heat the canola oil in a large oven proof saute pan over medium heat until hot.  Add the onions and a sprinkle of salt and reduce the heat to medium low and cook gently for 3 minutes.  Add the saffron.  Reduce the heat to very low and cook for another 2 minutes, careful not to brown the onions.  Add the rice and turn up the heat to medium, stirring the pan and cooking 1 to 2 minutes to toast the rice.

Add the stock to the pan and stir once, scraping the side of the pan if necessary.  Cover the rice with a piece of parchment paper with a whole cut in the middle.  Adjust the heat to cook the rice at a simmer for about 12 minutes or until the liquid is all absorbed.  Do not stir the rice.  You want it to develop a brown crust at the bottom of the pan.

When the rice is cooked, gently stir in the piquillo peppers and green beans.

Sprinkle the chicken with kosher salt and pepper and Piment d’Espelette on both sides.  Heat canola oil in a large frying pan over medium high heat.  Add the chicken skin side down and lower the heat to medium low.  Cook the chicken without moving for 8 minutes.  It will develop a nice crispy golden brown skin.  After 8 minutes, flip the chicken and continue to cook for another 6 minutes, or until golden brown on the other side as well.  Transfer the chicken pieces to the rice pan, arranging them on top of the rice.

Heat canola oil in a large sauce pan over medium heat.  Add the chorizo and cook until well browned.  Transfer the chorizo to the rice pan along with the chicken.  Put the rice pan into the oven.

Pour off most of the chorizo fat from the sauce pan then add the white wine and and bring to a boil.  Add the mussels and clams and cover the pan, cooking until the shells have opened, about 3 minutes.

Remove the rice form the oven and arrange the mussels and clams on top.  Sprinkle with the chopped parsley and salt and serve.  Be sure to scrape up some of the brown crust from the bottom of the pan for each serving.

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Party in the Hot Tub!

So, most parents might worry about leaving teenagers home alone for a weekend.  Visions of Risky Business flash through our minds.  (I’m old enough to have seen Risky Business in the movie theater.  For those of you not even born in the 80’s think Project X.)  But we don’t worry when we bring the kids with us, right?  Well …

My friend will feed the cats tonight, so you are off the hook!

This text arrived at 2:00 in the afternoon.  I was in charge of feeding my friends’ cats while they were in Southern California, for a funeral. The text was not from my friend, but from her 18 year old daughter.

I was getting in the car to drive my sister to the airport.  “Huh, what do you make of that?” I asked my sister, showing her the phone.  “Think I should double check with her mother?”
“Ah, absolutely.”  My sister has no children, but was a nanny for many years.  She knows kids.  She knows not to trust a teenager.
“Yeah, probably, right?”  I put my sisters’ suitcase in the truck.  I composed a quick text before I started the car.
Just had a text from your daughter saying her friend would feed the kitties tonight. Just confirming that’s ok.
I turned on the engine but my phone pinged even before I put the car into gear.
No, if you can feed them that would be great. Ugh. That girl. Thx for checking. She said some girls were going to use our hot tub. Um no. Thx
Got it I texted back and put the car into gear. We headed down the hill, right past my friends’ house.
“Entry light’s on,” I noted.
“Yup,” my sister said.  “Party in the hot tub.”
“Ugg.  Teenagers suck!”

On my way home from the airport, after the usual hugs and kisses and miss you and fly safe, I stopped at my friends’ house.  I realized I didn’t have their key with me after I parked the car.  They had a lockbox hidden where they kept a spare key. I reached for it, but it wasn’t there.  I rang the door bell and waited.  Not answer.  No surprise.
I drove home and explained the situation to my Husband.  “I’ve got to head down the hill and kick some naked teenagers out of the hot tub.”
“I wouldn’t,” said my Husband.
I looked at him blankly. “What do you mean. I can’t let them stay in the house.”
“Yeah, but, you really don’t know what you might find.  Could be dangerous.”
“Seriously?”
“Seriously.”
“I can’t just let the kids stay there.  Think if the situation were reversed.  You’d want her to get the kids out of our house.”
“No I wouldn’t.”
“That’s silly, of course you would.”                                                                                                       “I wouldn’t want her to if I didn’t think it was safe.”                                                                        “I’m heading down.”
“So I guess I should go with you.”
“I guess you should.”

We passed a parked police car on the way down.  “We could stop and ask them for back up,” I suggested.
My Husband stayed quiet.

At the house I opened the security gate and the front door.  The alarm wasn’t set, but pinged and announced Front Door.
“Hello?” I called.  No answer.  I headed upstairs. At the top of the stairs, in front of the bathroom, was a large pile of clothes and shoes.  I turned to look at my Husband.  He raised his eyebrows at me.
The hot tub was down the back stairs in the backyard.  There was a tall, narrow window in the stairwell that afforded a view of the hot tub.  Three girls were in the water, a boy stood on the side, thankfully all in bathing suits!  On the ledge of the tub I could see clearly an unopened fifth of Jack Daniels and a pot pipe.
I went downstairs and opened the back door.  I caught the boy just swinging his legs into the tub.
“Hello,” I said.  Four quick gasps; four pairs of startled eyes, deer in the headlights kind of thing, turned toward me.  I felt bad for them, really.  Can you imagine the shock?
“Oh,” said the boy.  I think I vaguely recognized him, but couldn’t remember from where.  My kids and my friend’s kids don’t go to school together so they don’t hang with the same crowd.
I cleared my throat and said in my best mom voice, “So, I know you think it’s ok to be here, but it’s really not.  We’re going to stay here and feed the cats.  You need to clear out.  Now.”
“Yeah, ok, sorry,” said the boy I almost recognized.  He seemed really polite.
My Husband sat upstairs and waited for them to come and gather their clothes.  One of the girls whispered, “I wish we had brought these down with us.”
My friends’ fat tomcat climbed into my lap and purred.  We waited until we heard the front door close.  We fed the kitties and locked up the house.  I left the lockbox locked safely inside on the entry table, just in case.

It was just starting to rain as we turned the car around and headed back up the hill. The four teenagers were waiting at the corner bus stop.  They waved as we drove past.  “Think we should offer them a ride?” I asked.
My Husband snorted.
“You worry about leaving your teenagers home alone for a weekend.  You never figure you have to worry if you bring them with you.” I said.
“Teenagers suck,” was my Husband’s response.

Petrale Sole with Lemon, Parsley and Garlic
Farro with Pumpkin and Baby Kale

Roasted pumpkin (see my recipe)
Baby kale (I use lazy girl salad for this … pre-washed baby kale that comes in a bag)
1 tablespoon canola oil
3 tablespoons butter
3/4 cup farro
1/2 white onion diced
2 cloves of garlic peeled and thinly sliced
1/4 dry white wine
2 cups chicken broth (I used the broth from the shredded chicken tacos) mixed with 2 cups water.  You can use vegetable stock if you prefer.
Freshly grated Parmesan cheese, about 1/4 cup

Warm the broth and water over low heat.  Keep warm.
Preheat the oven to 375.  Heat the canola oil in a large oven proof skillet.  Add the farro and stir once or twice.  Pop the skillet into the oven and toast the farro for about 6 minutes.  Scrap the toasted farro into a bowl and wipe out the skillet.  You can turn off the oven.
Return the skillet to the stove and melt 2 tablespoons of butter over medium heat.  Add the onion and cook until translucent, stirring occasionally.  Add the garlic and stir for about two more minutes.  Add the wine and turn up the heat to high.  Let the wine bubble almost all the way away.  Add the farro to the pan along with a ladle full of the stock mixture and cook, stirring, until all of the liquid has been absorbed.  Continue to add the stock, one ladle at a time, stirring, allowing the liquid to be absorbed before adding the next.  Once all the liquid is absorbed, taste the farro to see if it’s al dente.

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In should be nice and nutty.  Add more water if it is not fully cooked.  Add the baby kale to the farro with a small amount of water and stir until the kale is wilted.  Add the Parmesan and last tablespoon of butter to the farro and stir until the butter is melted.  Turn off the heat and gently stir in the roasted pumpkin.  Taste and correct for salt and pepper.

4 large fillets of petrale sole
Flour
Black pepper and kosher salt
2 tablespoons butter divided
2 tablespoons canola oil
Handful of Italian (flat leaf) parsely
Zest of 2 lemons (I used Meyers because we have a tree)
4 cloves garlic peeled
1/4 cup dry white wine
Juice of the 2 lemons you zested

Chop the parsley, lemon zest and garlic together (make gremolata) and set aside.

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Spread a half a cup of so of flour on a plate.  Season the flour with salt and pepper.  Heat the canola oil and 1 tablespoon butter in a large frying pan over medium high heat.  Dredge the fish in the seasoned flour and shake off the excess.  Place the fish in the hot butter/oil and fry until golden brown on each side, 1-2 minutes per side.  I do the frying in batches of two fillets each.  You don’t want to crowd the pan.  When the fish is cooked, transfer it to a warm plate and keep near the stove to keep warm.  Turn the heat down to medium and add the gremolata to the pan, stirring for about a minute.  Add the wine to the pan and let boil until almost gone, stirring to deglaze the pan.  Add the last tablespoon of butter and swirl to dissolve.  Return the fish to the pan and turn over in the sauce.  Turn off the heat.

Serve the petrale with the farro.

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Lucky Shirts.

It started with a shirt.  A lucky shirt.  Daughter 2.0’s lucky Giants shirt.
Last night was game 6 of the World Series.  The Giants were leading the series 3 games to 2, which meant that with a win the Giants would be world champions.  It was a big game.
Daughter 2.0 has this Giants t-shirt, and when she wears this shirt the Giants win.  If they are losing, and she changes into this shirt, the Giants win.
First pitch for game 6 was scheduled for 5:07 pm.  2.0 thought she had a voice lesson from 5:00 to 6:00.  Turns out she didn’t have a voice lesson (her teacher was in Boston), but that’s another post altogether.  Anyway, I drive her over to her voice teacher’s house, which is only a couple of miles from ours house.  “You’re not wearing your shirt,” I say.  “You better change into your shirt when you get home.”
“I’m saving it,” she says.  “For tomorrow, when they will really need it if they don’t win today.”
“But we want them to win today,” I say.
“I know, but I’m saving it.”
We arrive home together (after we realize that there is no voice lesson) 1/3 of the way through the bottom of the first inning.  Daughter 1.0 is sitting at the kitchen island with her homework spread out before her, the game on the TV.  Jake Peavy (the Giants pitcher) appears to be in good form.  I make the mistake of mentioning 2.0’s lucky shirt and how she’s saving it.
“They have to win tonight.  Put on the shirt!”  1.0 orders 2.0.  Daughter 1.0 is a rabid Giants fan.  She loves them.  She has bought, on iTunes, both the 2010 series games and the 2012 series games (who knew you could even do such a thing?), both series won by the Giants.  She will often watch one of these games if she’s feeling sad, or stressed, or just because they make her happy.  The night before, a travel day for the Giants, she re-watched Madison Bumgarner pitching in game 4 of the 2010 series.  Like I said, she’s a fan.  And like many fans, she’s superstitious.
“It’s my shirt, I’m saving it for tomorrow,” 2.0 says.  You can see how this could escalate.  And it did, quickly, ending with yelling on all sides and Daughter 2.0 in her bedroom with the door shut.  I start making dinner and Daughter 1.0 and I grumble about how unfair it is that 2.0 won’t wear the shirt, for us, for the Giants.
That’s when things start to go very wrong for Peavy.  It’s now the bottom of the second and Peavy gives up back to back singles to start the inning.  Then the Royal’s Mike Moustakas doubles to drive in a run.  It’s 1-0 Royals.  Peavy strikes out the next batter but then loads the bases on a strange play by our first baseman Brandon Belt.  Next batter, Nori Aoki, singles and drives in another run.  Giants manager Bruce Bochy goes to his bullpen and Daughter 1.0 goes to her room.  “I can’t watch this!”  By the end of the inning, the Royals lead the Giants 7-0.
I’m not going to say it was the shirt’s fault, or Daughter 2.0’s fault for not wearing the shirt.  Clearly a shirt worn by a 15 year old girl will not make the difference in a win or loss for the Giants.  But in our frustration over the Giants’ dismal performance, Daughter 1.0 and I start to blame the shirt, and by extension, Daughter 2.0.
When dinner is ready, I call the girls to come to the table.  It’s only the three of us because my Husband teaches a class on Tuesday nights.  Daughter 1.0 fixes her tacos and sits at the dining room table.  Daughter 2.0 hasn’t come out of her bedroom yet.  I call her again, no response.  I go to her door and knock.  Nothing.  I open the door and she is sitting at her desk with her back to the door, watching someone play the Sims on YouTube (really, watching a video of someone else play a video game!) and painting her nails.  She has on her head phones and couldn’t hear me.
“I’ve been calling you to dinner!  You can’t wear those in the house if you can’t hear me calling you!”  At this point the Giants were down 8-0.  I’m cranky.
Daughter 2.0 follows me into the kitchen and starts to make herself tacos.  Daughter 1.0 says something nasty about the lucky shirt.  Daughter 2.0 answers back with something nasty about Daughter 1.0, to which 1.0 says something equally nasty about 2.0, to which 2.0 starts to say something even more nasty to 1.0, at which point I explode.
I do something I’m not proud of, something I used to do much more frequently, but have been trying very hard not to do anymore.  I swear I am trying, really trying, to model good behavior, but sometimes I revert right back to that screaming kid I was at age 7, the one who called my parents fucking asshole (where did I even hear that language?) at the top of my lungs, and threw scissors at my older sister, and wielded baseball bats meant to hit pinatas dangerously close to my younger sister’s head.  I yell.  “Enough!  I have had it!”  Now, that might not sound so bad, but when I say I yell, what I mean is I bellow in my loud, deep, growling voice (the voice that makes my poor dog put his tail firmly between his legs and cower in the corner) with my contorted face inches from Daughter 2.0’s (because she happened to be closer and the the one who had spoken last).
2.0 eyes grow wide.  She blinks.  I could see tears well and threaten to spill, but she manages not to cry.  She finishes assembling her tacos and carries them to the dining room table.  I fix my plate and join the girls at the table.  We eat in silence, the TV muted, the Giants give up another run.
It’s only later, when the dishes are cleared and the Giants are losing 10-0 (the eventual final score in the game) that it dawns on me why Daughter 2.0 didn’t want to wear her shirt.  It was her shirt, her lucky shirt, and she didn’t want it to lose it’s magic.  She didn’t think the Giants could win with Peavy pitching.  The Royals were Peavy’s achilles heel.  And if she had worn the shirt and the Giants lost, her shirt would lose as well.  And if they won?  Well, no one would remember which shirt she had worn.  She wanted to maintain the magic of the shirt until the last possible game.
When Daughter 2.0 left for school today she was wearing the shirt.  Game 7.  Go Giants!IMG_1571

It was Tuesday, and so tacos for dinner.  This week I made soft shredded chicken tacos.

Two chicken breasts, bone in, skin on
1/2 an onion peeled and roughly chopped
Teaspoon salt
2 bay leaves
1/2 teaspoon dried marjoram
1/2 teaspoon dried thyme

Small red onion, peeled and sliced
2 jalapano peppers, seeded and cut length wise into strips
1/4 teaspoon black peppercorns and 1/4 teaspoon cumin seeds ground in a mortar & pestle
1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
2 cloves garlic peeled and halved
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup cider vinegar

2-3 ripe avocados
1/4 white onion chopped fine
1/2 cup chopped fresh tomatoes
1 clove garlic grated
Juice of one lemon
Salt

Soft corn tortillas
Sour Cream
Shredded cheese (mixture of cheddar and jack)
Your favorite hot sauce

To make the chicken, place about 4 cups of water in a large sauce pan and add the 1/2 onion and teaspoon of salt and bring to a boil.  Add the chicken breasts and skim off any foam that rises in the first minute or so.  Add the bay leaves and marjoram and thyme and partially cover the pan and simmer on medium for 15 minutes.  Turn off the heat and allow the chicken breasts to cool in the liquid.
Boil the sliced red onions and jalapenos in a small sauce pan in salted water for one minute.  Drain the onions and jalapenos and return to the pan with the ground black pepper and cumin seeds and the oregano, salt and vinegar.  Add enough water to just cover the onions.  Bring to a boil over medium heat and time for 3 minutes.  Remove from the heat and let cool.  The longer these onions sit, the better they are.
Peel and seed the avocados and mash in a bowl.  Stir in the white onion, tomatoes, garlic and lemon juice.  Taste and correct for salt.  We like our guacamole salty!
When cool enough to handle, remove the chicken breasts from the cooking liquid.  Remove and discard the skin and pull the meat from the bones, shredding it with a fork as you do.  I like to return the chicken bones to the cooking liquid adding more water, and simmer to make a chicken broth.  After dinner I drain the broth and cool it in the refrigerator overnight.  The next morning I freeze the broth in freezer baggies in 2 cups portions.
Wrap the tortillas in a damp kitchen towel and microwave on high for one minute to steam.  Alternatively you can heat the tortillas on the stove top in a dry heavy frying pan on medium low.
To serve, place the chicken on the warm tortillas and top with the pickled onions, guacamole, sour cream, shredded cheese and hot sauce (or any combination)

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I like Sundays best.

Sunday dinner.
I grew up having Sunday dinner at my grandparents’ house.  We ate the same meal every week – roast beef, green beans, corn, pearl onions (all from cans opened with an electric can opener), potatoes (baked for the grownups, mashed from flakes that came in a box for the kids) and gravy.  The menu never changed.  Even during the years that my parents toyed with vegetarianism, we would all eat a Boston rump roast on Sundays.  I loved Sunday dinner, and not just for the forbidden treats like Pepsi and potato chips that we kids would snack on while playing board games and watching the Sunday movie, waiting for the meal.
I’ve mentioned before that my marriage is based on food.  I sometimes say that I married my Husband because he could cook, and, while he does have a couple of other things going for him, that’s not far off.  We cook and we eat, and we talk about cooking and eating.  And we love Sunday dinner.  Back in college we would cook pasta or chicken fajitas for our friends on Sundays.  Now it’s the showcase meal of the week for our family.  It’s usually just the four of us, although sometimes we invite friends.  We don’t live near family, but if we did I’m sure we would share Sunday dinner with them.  Our menu, unlike my grandparents’, changes week to week, although our daughters will complain that my Husband can sometimes get into ruts (oh goody, tri-tip and beans, again!).  If I’m honest, I sometimes complain myself, although I try to bite my tongue, given that my Husband generally plans the menu and does the farmer’s market shopping on Saturday.  Shut up and eat your tri-tip.
This past Sunday we watched the Giants (Go Giants!) beat the Royals in game 5 of the World Series and had a beautiful pork roast dinner that tasted like fall.  We will be having plenty of pig parts for the next few (several) months.  See, we bought half a pig from a friend’s sister-in-law who raised it for 4-H, feeding it mash from the local brewery.  It’s delicious!  And it’s taking up all of the space in the freezer in our garage and most of the space in our kitchen freezer as well.  Oink!
There were no tears at dinner per se, everything’s better when the Giants are winning, but things felt a little on the verge.  Daughter 1.0 watched the game snuggling on the sofa with the boyfriend, eking out every last second of the end of her October break.  Yeah, I know, October break?  Who has a week off in October?  The French, apparently.  And my girls go to an international school with Francophile leanings.  1.0 mourns the end of times that make her happy.  When she was younger she would sometimes sob at the end of a particularly wonderful day, knowing that day would never come again.  I could almost see her gearing up for the end of vacation, even as she cheered her beloved Giants and gave the boyfriend a back rub.
Daughter 2.0 was hormotional, teetering on the edge of a downward spiral all weekend.  She only began work on the 60 pages (60 pages!) of math problems assigned for the break on Friday and had spend much of the day in her room with the door closed, up to her eyeballs in geometry.  She hates geometry, much prefers algebra.  I am no help with either.  2.0 had ventured out of her room before the start of the baseball game in something of a wound up manic mood.  My Husband had recommended she do some meditation.  2.0 had stormed back to her bedroom and slammed the door.
Dinner was prepared the way I like best, it was a joint effort by my Husband and me.  He is the menu planner, the executive chef as it were, and I am a very good sous chef, mostly following directions (mostly).  Ok, there is a second way I like best (bester, bestest?).  That’s when my Husband does ALL of the cooking and tells me just to sit there and sip white wine and look pretty.  That’s awesome!
We had finished eating but were still at the table.  The boyfriend had stuck around, but didn’t eat with us.  He would eat later at home with his father.  We eat Sunday dinner early, usually around 6:00.  The game was still on.  We leave the TV on during dinner for important sporting events.  Any time the Giants are playing and Sunday night football are important sporting events.
My Husband had angled his chair toward 2.0’s to have a better view of the TV.  He rested his feet on her chair rails.  “Don’t put your feet there!  How many times do I have to tell you?  It’s disgusting!  I can feel them moving under my bottom!”  2.0 has a thing about feet.  She hates them.  They gross her out.
My Husband moved his feet.  “Someone needs to spend less time in her room,” he observed.  Now, some background.  One of my Husband’s chief complaints about our daughters is that they spend entirely too much time in their bedrooms staring at some form of screen – iPads, computers, TV’s.  2.0 has something of an addiction to YouTube and The Sims.  We have had battles over screen time.  I knew that this comment of my Husband’s would send 2.0 stomping back to her bedroom.  He knew it too.  2.0 picked up the small glass of wine which we had poured her for dinner (our children have had wine with Sunday dinner since they were teething and we soaked bread in wine for them to chew, my Husband’s Italian after all) and started to leave the table.
“You can’t drink wine in your bedroom,” I said.  We have standards.
2.0 put down her wine glass and headed to her room.
“Stay,” I called after her.  “The Giants need you!”  I pleaded.  It’s embarrassing how often I find myself pleading for 2.0 to stay.  She slammed her bedroom door.
I glared at the Husband.  He glared back.  At least the Giants went on to win.

Sunday dinner: Pork shoulder roast with onion marmalade served with roasted pumpkin and dandelion greens

Pork Shoulder Roast

One bone in pork shoulder roast
Pork brine (to make this you’ll need kosher salt, honey, bay leaves, rosemary, italian parsley, garlic & black pepper corns)
Whole cloves
Black Peppercorns
Handful of fresh sage leaves
A couple tablespoons of rosemary
4 cloves of garlic
Half a lemon
Olive oil

Make the pork brine the day before by combining 8 cups of water with 1 cup of kosher salt in a large sauce pan.  Add 1/4 cup of honey, 10 bay leaves, a couple of rosemary sprigs, a handful of italian parsley (stems and all), 8-10 garlic cloves, crushed and 2 tablespoons of black peppercorns.  Bring to a boil and stir and turn off the heat.  Cool to room temperature then refrigerator until ready to use.
In the morning, place the pork roast into a large bowl and cover with the brine.  Refrigerate for at least 2 hours, but no more than 4 hours.  Remove the pork from the brine and rinse under cold water and pat dry.  Discard the used brine.
Preheat oven to 425
Grind about a tablespoon of black peppercorns with 2 teaspoons of whole cloves using either a mortar and pestle or spice grinder. Chop the sage, rosemary, garlic and lemon together and combine with the ground cloves and pepper.  Stir in a tablespoon or so of olive oil.  Rub this concoction all over the pork roast.  Place the pork in a roasting pan skin side up and roast in the oven for about 30 minutes.  Lower the temperature to 325 and continue to cook for another 4 hours, or until it reaches an internal temperature of 155 on an instant read thermometer.  You can cover the roast with foil if it gets too brown during the cooking.  Remove the pork from the oven and allow to rest.  Turn the oven back up to 400 to roast the pumpkin.

Onion Marmalade

1/4 cup olive oil
3 yellow onions peeled and sliced
1/4 cup sherry vinegar
1/2 cup balsamic vinegar
1/2 cup water
Kosher salt
White pepper
1 teaspoon sugar
1/4 teaspoon piment d’espelette pepper or hot paprika pepper

Heat the olive oil in a heavy sauce pan over medium heat.  Add the onions and saute until golden brown, about 10 minutes.  Add the rest of the ingredients and bring to a bowl.  Lower the heat and cook on a high simmer until the liquid is evaporated, about 30 minutes, maybe longer.

Roasted pumpkin

Two small sugar pumpkins
2 tablespoons chopped fresh sage leaves
3 cloves chopped garlic
Olive oil
Salt and pepper

Carefully cut the pumpkins in half and scoop out the seeds with a large spoon.  You can clean and roast the seeds for roasting for snacking if you want.  Peels the pumpkin halves then cut the pumpkin into crescents.  Toss the pumpkin with the sage, garlic and olive oil and salt and pepper to taste.  Spread the pumpkin pieces on a rimmed cookie sheet and roast in a 400 degree oven for about 20 minutes.  Drizzle with olive oil and serve.

Dandelion greens

Two bunches of dandelion greens.  If you can’t get dandelion, this recipe works just as well with spinach.
Olive oil
Chopped garlic, 2 cloves or so
About a tablespoon of chopped preserved lemons

Cut off the stems from the dandelion greens and steam them until wilted.  This will only take a couple of minutes.  Heat a couple of tablespoons of olive oil in a large saute pan.  Add the garlic and stir until fragrant but not brown.  Add the preserved lemons and dandelions and stir once or twice to combine.  Add salt to taste.

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Fish Burgers and F***ing C***s.

An archive addition.  I have archives, from when I was writing posts but not actually posting them.  This is from last spring, before Daughter 1.0 turned 18.  She’s far more reasonable now, you know, ‘cause she’s an adult (and also has that terrific boyfriend).

For those of you averse to foul language, please stop reading now.  For the rest of you ….
“You’re a fucking cunt!” Daughter 1.0  says to me through clenched teeth at the dinner table.  The meal is finished – Ahi tuna burgers (with fresh horseradish sauce) and roasted spring vegetables – and fortunately Daughter 2.0 and her guest, the sweetest most gentle girl (daughter of Ukrainian immigrants; nationally ranked rhythmic gymnast) have left the table and are safely behind 2.0’s closed bedroom door.
Tempers have been rising throughout dinner.  Finals are next week.  For 1.0, a high school Junior, these are the most important tests she will ever take, in her life.  “Don’t you understand that there will never be anything at all as important as these tests?  They will determine where I can get into college and so my entire future, and I don’t see you guys taking this seriously … at all.  I need complete quiet this weekend.  She can’t have people over.  They are terrible people anyway, stupid!”  2.0 has asked to have a group of classmates (can’t really call them friends because, as she says, she doesn’t have anything in common with any other freshmen) over on Saturday for a study session.  I have (foolishly) said yes.
“They can’t come over this weekend, I need …”
“Complete quiet, I know.  But what you really need is a good night’s sleep.  I thought you were going to take tonight off from studying and just try to rest.”  This had been the sensible plan that we came up with on the car ride home from school.  1.0 hadn’t had a good night sleep in at least a week.
“You are interrupting me!  You are not listening to me!”
“I’m sorry, it’s just I thought we had a plan for tonight  You need to go to sleep.”
“I CAN’T!  I HAVE TO STUDY!”
“Study smarter, not harder,” I helpfully quip.
This is when she calls me a fucking cunt.  I eye the water glass in front of my daughter, decide that saving the Heath dinner plate should take priority and quickly clear it, along with my Husband’s plate and my own.
“Please don’t use that language,” I say sternly walking the plates to the kitchen sink.  Ice cubes (at least it wasn’t the glass) wiz by my head.
“1.0!” the Husband cries and I turn to see him taking the water glass out of harm’s way.  Not satisfied (oh I know this feeling so well, punch the wall, slam the door, throw the glass, anything to make the anger go away) 1.0 picks up the coke bottle thick glass votive from the wine barrel stave holder (I know) that lives in the center of our dining room table and hurls it at me.  It lands at my feet.  She storms to her room and slams the door.
“She’s a lunatic,” I grumble under my breath and start cleaning the kitchen.  I resist the urge to follow her into her bedroom and rail about the total lack of respect and appreciation.  Instead I growl to my Husband about how it’s time for her to move out, time for her to go to college.
Later, my Husband and I sit on the couch watching the Giant’s game when 1.0 comes out of her room and stomps down the stairs and out the front door.  I hear her car start and drive away.  I try calling her on the phone (don’t worry, she has hands-free integrated blue tooth) but she doesn’t answer.  In a couple of minutes I get a text:
Just sitting outside the house for a little
I look out the front window and yes, her car is back, parked in front of the house.
“That’s progress,” my Husband says.  “She removed herself from the situation.”
I didn’t point out that it was only after fucking cunt and thrown glass, because, well, this is progress.

Ahi Tuna Fish Burgers with Fresh Horseradish Sauce
4 4-6 ounce sushi grade ahi tuna steaks approximately 1 inch thick
Olive Oil
Kosher salt
Freshly ground pepper

1/2 cup creme fraiche
2 tablespoons mayonaise
1/4 cup freshly grated horseradish (or to taste)
Lemon juice from 1/2 lemon
Salt
White pepper

Shredded iceberg lettuce
Sliced tomatoes
Your favorite hot sauce

Soft hamburger buns (I like potato buns)

Sprinkle the steaks on both sides with salt and pepper and rub with olive oil.  Heat a gas grill to 400 degrees.
Combine the creme fraiche, mayonnaise, horseradish and lemon juice in a small bowl.  Season with salt and white pepper.
Grill tuna steaks on the hot grill, just searing the outside for 1 to 2 minutes per side.
Spread the horseradish sauce on the top and bottom of each bun.  Top the tuna steak with the shredded lettuce and tomatoes and sprinkle with hot sauce.

Roasted Spring Vegetables
Mixed spring vegetables (I used baby carrots, asparagus, spring onions)
Olive oil
Fresh black pepper
Kosher salt

Toss the vegetables with the oil and salt and pepper in a large bowl.  Spread the vegetables on a heavy duty rimmed cookie sheet.  Roast in a 400 degree oven until nicely browned, about 15 minutes.  I actually put them on the gas grill before grilling the tuna.  So simple, so delicious!

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Pick ’em where they grow!

We create rituals in our lives, traditions.  They give us a point of reference, a shared experience, something to punctuate the passage of time.  Autumn begins some of the most honored traditions in our house, our own spin on the commercial holiday parade that begins with Halloween and ends with New Years.  Sometime in mid October we make the pilgrimage 30 miles south to the town of Half Moon Bay to select the perfect pumpkin at Bob’s (Pick ‘Em Where They Grow) Pumpkin Farm.IMG_0268
Half Moon Bay is the pumpkin Mecca of the Bay Area with a dozen or so patches to choose from.  They run the gamut, from full carnival style patches with hay and pony rides, and corn and hay mazes, and perfectly shaped pumpkins neatly arranged by size, to actual farms where the pumpkins are left in the fields in which they were grown.  Sixteen years ago, when daughter 1.0 was two years old and I had just finished the first trimester with 2.0, we found Bob’s. We had driven south the weekend of the Pumpkin Festival having been told that it was a not to miss event, mandatory really if you had kids.  We fought the traffic and drove past Lemos and Pastorino finding no place to park amid the music blaring and the flags flying.  I’m not at all sure why we continued south on Highway 1.  Maybe we had given up of the idea of pumpkins and festivals and patches and were just trying to get home and thought we would take the long way round to avoid the traffic.  But I do remember seeing the hand painted sign for Bob’s, and we must have decided to give it a try.
Bob’s sits on it’s own out on Highway 1 south of Half Moon Bay with a view of the Pacific Ocean.  There’s a large dirt parking lot and a farm stand (open all year round) and an enormous field of pumpkins.  In the first years we went they had a corn maze, but drought put an end to that several years back.  They’ve added “attractions”: a tall stack of baled hay you can climb and jump from, a small farm animal petting “zoo” with pigs and goats and rabbits and a strutting turkey, a rusted old pick up truck for photo ops and at one time a broken down tractor that you could “ride.”  There are no speakers blaring music and rarely any crowds.  It is where we have gone every year for the past 16, save one when we missed because of over-scheduled children and I sank into what I shouldn’t call a full blown depression but certainly a fair amount of melancholia that didn’t lift until I started planning the Thanksgiving menu.
We’ve added to this tradition over the years.  After reading a New York Times article on tacos up and down the California coast my Husband insisted that we make a stop in the tiny town of Pescadero, south of Half Moon Bay, for gas station tacos.  Now we get tacos at the gas station and look for our first Christmas ornament of the year in one of the gallery/shops in town.
And more times than not there are tears, because of the wrong pumpkin, the wrong picture, it’s too hot, it’s too cold, it’s my turn to push the wheel barrel, why do you get to pick two pumpkins when I only get one?  There’s always some sort of a fight.  Why then do I insist on going every year?  Why is it one of the things I look forward to so much and look back on so fondly?  It’s tradition.  And besides, similar fights and bickering would happen at home anyway, so why not head to Bob’s?
Daughter 1.0 will be in college next October, then 2.0 two years after that.  This may have been the last year that the four of us go to Bob’s.  When we put the pumpkins into the back of the car and the girls walked over to the hay pyramid I looked out to the ocean and this year I was the one who cried at the pumpkin patch.

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Zuni Inspired Roast Chicken with Bread Salad
Or as my kids call it, Chicken with the Salty Part

Two very small chickens if you can get them (under three pounds each) or one larger one
Kosher salt
Large loaf of good bread, I like Della Fattoria campagne or levain
Champagne vinegar
Olive oil
A couple tablespoons of currants or dried cherries or raisins  (I’ve used all three)
Red wine vinegar
A couple tablespoons of pine nuts
Chopped shallots
Mixed baby salad greens

Earlier in the day rinse the chickens and remove the large fat flap from the opening of the body cavity (and any giblets etc that are in there).  Put the chickens into a large bowl and take a handful of kosher salt and sprinkle into the body cavity and rub all around the skin.  Cover the bowl and set the chickens in refrigerator.  About two hours before you want to eat, remove the chicken from the fridge and let come up to room temp for about thirty minutes.
Cut the crusts from the bread.  (Discard the bottom crust, but the top and side crusts make terrific crackers for cheese.)  Cut the bread into large chunks and rub with olive oil.  Put the chunks of bread under the broiler and brown, flipping to get all sides.  Be careful not to let the bread char too much.  When they are browned, remove from the oven and let cool.
Preheat the oven or a gas grill until very hot (500 degrees).  Dry the chickens with paper towels. Heat two oven proof skillets on the stove on high (or in the gas grill or oven) until hot, then at the chickens, breast side up.  The pan should sizzle.  Put the pans into the oven or the on the grill with the lid down.  They should take about an hour to cook.
While the chicken is cooking, tear the chunks of bread into bite sized pieces and place in a large mixing bowl.  Whisk together about 1/4 cup of olive oil with 2 tablespoons of champagne vinegar and season with salt and pepper.  Toss this vinaigrette with the torn bread.  Place the currants or cherries or raisins in a small dish and cover with red wine vinegar and set aside.  Place the pine nuts into a small oven proof skillet and pop into the oven for a few minutes to toast.  Remove from the oven and add the pine nuts to the bowl with the bread.  Pour a tablespoon or so of olive oil into the skillet you had the pine in and put over medium low heat.  Add the shallots and stir to sauté without browning.  When soft, scrape the shallots into the bread mixture.  Drain the currants and add to the bowl with the bread.  Toss everything to combine, then pile into a casserole dish and tent the top with foil.  When the chickens are almost done, place the bread salad into the oven for about 8 minutes.
Remove the bread salad and chicken from the oven (grill) when the chicken is cooked through (160 degrees on a thermometer inserted into the thigh).
Put the bread salad into a large salad bowl and toss with the salad greens.  Remove the chickens from the pans and deglaze the pans on the stove top with a little bit of vinegar, then sprinkle the bread salad with these pan drippings to taste.  Season the salad with salt and pepper (taste first as it may already have plenty of salt).  Carve the chicken and serve it with the salad.

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Where is Waldo?

I live with a high school senior.  And she is a high school senior who will go on to a four year college.  And it’s October.  And so, it’s application time.  It’s personal statements and supplements (not the vitamin kind, but the myriad of silly, nonsensical questions that colleges throw into their applications, like Why do you do what you do?, even if said colleges use the common app, which is supposed to streamline this whole ridiculous process).  It’s did you ask for recommendations? and have you taken an ACT (SAT) practice test lately? time.  Not to mention what schools have you toured? and do you have a first choice? time.  Could be crazy-making time.
I was out for a run when Daughter 1.0 called.  She was in tears and I couldn’t understand what she was saying at first.  “What?  You’re about to step on something?”
“Noooo!  I screwed up on something!”
“What did you screw up?”
“I sent my application into X University and I misspelled something!” she wailed.
“Take a breath.  Calm down.  What did you misspell?”
“My college counselor’s name!  I switched the E and the L.  I’m so stupid!”
So this is what it’s come to.  A full blown panic attack because she transposed the E and the L in the first name of her college counselor.  Well, you might as well cross that school right off the list.  There’s no way they would accept her now, what with her clear lack of intellectual ability.  Obviously the L goes before the E!
I manage to talk her off the ledge.
But it got me thinking about the pressure kids are under, the relentless quest for perfection.  Brilliant people sometimes make spelling errors.  They even make (gasp) grammatical errors.  They get things wrong before they get them right.  Isn’t this what we should be encouraging in our kids?  Make mistakes.  It’s what you do after those mistakes that matters.  That’s what leads to growth and understanding, right?  Think baseball (something 1.0 loves, like, fanatically).  Make an out 6 out of 10 times and you’re a superstar. What Daughter 1.0 did, once she had stopped crying, was compose a (funny) email to the admissions office pointing out her error.  X University would be lucky to have her.  And I am only slightly biased.
This whole getting into college industry feels a little out of hand to me.  And in our particular socio economic group it seems to be driven not by the students, but by the parents.  I know, I know, we all want to give our kids every opportunity, every advantage.  We don’t want them closing doors now when they don’t even know all the doors that exist for them.  Especially when they are perpetually distracted by shiny objects (Boys! Clothes! Music!)  But what happens to those kids, whose parents got them into college by hiring an army of tutors and consultants, when they are actually in college?
My Husband says he gets tired of being asked where “we” are applying to college.  “I went to college, over 20 years ago,” he says.  It is hard though, not to get caught up in it.  One night as we were climbing into bed my Husband said “I really wish she would spend more time studying for the ACT.”
“Really?” I asked him.  “She’s 18 years old and lives in one of the most amazing cities in the country (the world?) and what you really wish is that she would spend more time studying for the ACT?  Really?”
“When you put it that way ….”

Garlicy Chicken Thighs with Haricot Vert (Skinny Green Beans)

1 and 1/2 pounds boneless skinless chicken thighs
1/4 cup olive oil
Lots of garlic, maybe 8 cloves or so, 2 cloves minced and the rest peeled and smashed
4-6 tinned or jarred anchovy fillets
Couple tablespoons of brined capers, drained
Crushed chili flakes to taste
2 Lemons
Chopped Italian parsley

Pre-heat the oven to 350.  Season the chicken thighs on both sides with salt and pepper and set aside while you make a anchovy garlic oil.  Heat the olive oil in a large oven proof skillet over medium heat.  When it’s hot, add the smashed garlic cloves (reserve the minced ones for later), the anchovies, the capers and the chili flakes.  BE CAREFUL!  The oil will splatter as the anchovies dissolve.  Stir the pan until the anchovies are dissolved and the garlic is golden.  Add the chicken thighs to the pan and brown one side well.  This will take about 5 minutes.  Flip the chicken and pop the pan into the oven.  Cook the chicken in the oven for about 10 more minutes until cooked through.
When the chicken is in the oven, zest one of the lemons then cut both of the lemons in half.  Par boil the green beans in very salty water for 1-2 minutes then drain and plunge into an ice bath or rinse thoroughly under very cold water.  Let drain.
When the chicken is done, remove the pan from the oven and set back on the stove over medium heat.  Take the chicken out of the pan and place on a dish near the stove to keep warm.  Squeeze the two lemons into the pan and scrape the bottom and sides with a wooden spoon (also known as deglazing the pan).  Toss in the lemon zest and stir once.  Return the chicken to the pan and coat with the sauce.  Sprinkle with chopped parsley.
Toss the green beans with salt and olive oil and serve with the chicken.

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And then there were three …

Turns out this particular evening no one cried.  But there was only one daughter present which reduces the chances of tears considerably.  Daughter 1.0 spent the night at her boyfriend’s house, which she does as often as possible these days.  Never on a school night, that’s pretty much our only rule.  Funny how for us the process of watching our daughters grown up involves an ever loosening of the rules.  On days when I think I’m a good parent I would say we are giving our daughters increasing responsibilities in the hopes that they will one day (soon) be functioning, independent adults. Other days I chalk it up to exhaustion.
Daughter 2.0 was sick this weekend.  Runny nose, coughing, aches and pains turned into a fever by Saturday afternoon.  There’s something so basic about caring for a sick child.  Not a truly sick child, not a child with one of those catastrophic or rare diseases that could keep you awake at night if you thought too much about them once you had children.  But what’s required of a parent with a child suffering some run-of-the-mill childhood sickness (cold, ear infection, stomach bug) is clear and straight forward: comfort in the form of a back rub or cold compress, tea and maybe some Advil.
By Sunday evening 2.0’s fever had broken, so she sat at the dinner table with us.  In a moment of what could only be considered madness my Husband mixed up the seating assignments and 2.0 ended up in his spot and he in 1.0’s chair.  I was in my usual spot.  Maybe this is why the world didn’t end.  Or perhaps it was because 2.0 was still not fully recovered and in that post sickness docile period, as opposed to the whiney, complainy post sickness period which sometimes happens.  Or maybe it was because 1.0 was not home.
We keep having practice runs for what our life will be like starting next fall when 1.0 leaves for college.  It will be quiet.  I won’t say it will be conflict free.  My Husband and I seem to do a pretty good job of eliciting tears.  But that particular sister dynamic, that intense love and hate, admiration and jealousy, won’t be there.  We are already seeing a shift in the girls’ relationship, an untangling, and a friendship starting to bloom.  Just in time for them to miss each other next year.
So no tears tonight.  Well, maybe a couple when the Cardinals’ Kolten Wong hit a walk-off home run to defeat the Giants.  On to game 3 …

Sunday dinner was easy this week.  We are having our summer in San Francisco, as we always do, in October.  It was too hot for an elaborate meal.

Pesto Pasta and Tomato Salad

2 parts basil leaves to 1 part italian parsley (I don’t bother carefully picking the leaves from the stems of the parsley.  My husband’s grandfather, who owned an Italian restaurant in Philly, told me once that the stems have the most flavor.) for a total of about 2 cups, loosely packed
1 – 2 cloves of garlic peeled
3 Tbsp pine nuts
1/3 a cup or so of grated parmesan cheese
Salt and peper
1/2 good olive oil

I make my pesto in a food processor.  If you use a blender be sure to put the oil in first followed by everything else.
Put all the ingredients except the oil in the bowl of a food processor.  Process for a few seconds then add the oil through the food tube and continue to process until all the oil is incorporated.  That’s it; super easy!  We like to serve ours on linguine, but any pasta shape works.  Scoop out a cup of the pasta water just before draining.  If the pasta seems too dry, add some of the water to the pasta when tossing with the pesto.  Serve with additional grated parmesan.
Various versions of tomato salad are a go-to in our house.  Because the last of the dry farmed early girl tomatoes are so good right now, we didn’t need to do much to the tomatoes.  Quarter the small tomatoes, add fresh basil, sliced white onion, a little garlic chopped fine, plenty of coarse salt and good olive oil.  If the tomatoes are not acidic enough, you can add a splash of red wine vinegar.

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I hate it when you sing!

What’s for dinner?  White beans with sausages and arugula salad with persimmon.
Who cried?  Daughter 2.0

Family dinner.  Research tells us that it is an important component in the health and well being of our children, in everything from physical health (less likely to be overweight or develop diabetes) to educational achievement (smarter kids!) to mental wellness (less likely to smoke, drink, take drugs or suffer from an eating disorder).  Just sit down and break bread with those little creatures you created and voila, you will raise happy, healthy, well-adjusted children.  So tell me, is it as beneficial if more times than not someone leaves the table in tears?

We have always had family dinner.  My Husband and I built our relationship around food – cooking and eating it – and we weren’t about to let having kids get in the way.  My Husband has been known to work long hours and so my children learned to expect dinner on the later side.  Not as late as Spaniards, but around 8 or 8:30 most nights.  We have never been a family that fed the kids before dad got home; we always waited for dad.  So family dinner, check!  Pat ourselves on the back.

To be fair, last night the tears were before dinner.  Mondays and Wednesdays, Daughter 2.0, who is not a dancer but has musical theater aspirations, has a dance class (teen introduction to technique!) until 7:45.  Those nights her father picks her up on his way home so dinner is served at 8:15 or thereabouts.

Daughter 1.0 is keeping me company in the kitchen, as she likes to do, giving me a running mumbling monologue of her homework as she completes it.  She’s in a good mood.  She has been since she started dated a boy (man, he’s 22!) she worked with over the summer.  For a variety of reasons I have yet to meet said boy (man!) but my husband and Daughter 2.0 finally have and like him.  I have been assured I will in fact meet him on Saturday.  This Saturday!  She had a crappy cross country meet that afternoon and her shin splints are killing her, but she actually seems in fine spirits.

With dinner all set, I go to the window to see if the car I heard pulling up is my Husband and Daughter 2.0.  It’s not.  I sit in one of the dining room chairs that flanks the buffet.  It’s in the corner of the room.  Our house has one public space, a great room (it’s great!) that we created by knocking down some silly walls that used to surround the kitchen and separate it from the dining room/living room combination.  Now we basically have what we always dreamed of, a kitchen with couches.  Our house would be considered small by most US standards, but is considered palatial by many here in San Francisco.

“I like this room,” I say to Daughter 1.0.
“You’re sitting in the corner of it.”  She is a practical, no nonsense girl, that one.
“I know, it’s a good perspective.  One I don’t see very often.”

1.0 comes and sits in her chair at the table and angles it towards me.  It’s her chair, next to the one that is my chair and across from the one that is 2.0’s chair.  Over the years I have learned that ownership of particular dining room chairs and spots at tables is of critical importance.  “You’re funny,” 1.0 says.

I am still sitting in the corner when I see my Husband’s car pull up in front of the house.  Daughter 2.0 bounds into the room, demonstrating the body roll move she’s learned tonight.  She loves the Wednesday class (contemporary) and suffers through the Monday class (ballet).
To recap, dinner is ready to go, I am sitting relaxed in the corner admiring the beautiful room, 1.0 has finished her homework and is in a great mood, 2.0 is so happy she begins to sing, which is what she does when she’s happy.  She’s singing Carrie Underwood’s “Last Name.”  Actually she’s kind of belting, and she sounds good, and I tell her so.  Only 1.0 apparently doesn’t think so, or maybe she doesn’t like that I compliment her sister.  It seems my kids believe that a compliment of one is an insult of the other.
“Stop singing, it’s hurting my ears!”
“She’s happy,” I say.
“She’s too loud,” through clenched teeth.  2.0 continues to sing, more quietly.  “Mother fucker, shut up!  You know I hate it when you sing!”
“Girls!” this is me.
“Well you know I hate it when you tell us everything you’re doing for your homework as you’re doing it, out loud, all the time!”
“Girls!” me again.  “Shut up!” 1.0’s voice is rising.  I tense up, waiting for something to be thrown.
2.0 yells back, “I just want to sing!” and storms off to her bedroom, slamming the door in the process.

And just like that, my quiet, happy evening is blown.  My Husband appears, changed out of his work clothes.  “What’d I miss?”

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Sausages with white beans

Sausages, any kind you like, but preferably NOT Italian.  I used one the butcher called Toulouse.
White beans, fresh or dried
One large carrot cut in chunks
One small yellow onion, quartered
One bay leaf
6 cloves of garlic
Red wine vinegar
Salami cut into matchsticks
Red onion slivered

The white bean part of this takes time, but can be done on different days.  Two days ago I shelled a bag of white beans that my husband got at the farmers market.  I think they were cannelini, but any any white bean would do.  If you don’t have fresh beans, soak a bag of dried for a few hours then proceed.  Cover the beans with cold water and bring to a boil with the carrots, yellow onion and bay leaf.  Lower the heat and keep at a high simmer until cooked through.  To test, cut a bean in half.  It should be a uniform color all the way through, no white chalky center.  When the beans are done, turn them off and salt the water and add a tablespoon or two of olive oil.  Let cool then cover and store in the refrigerator in the cooking liquid.  They keep up to 4 days.
The day you want to eat the beans, remove the onion and carrots and bay leaf.  Add 5 peeled cloves of garlic that you’ve smashed with the back of a chef’s knife.  Bring back to a boil and simmer until the garlic is soft.  Drain the beans and garlic and toss with red wine vinegar to taste (I add 1/2 a cup) and one clove of chopped garlic.  Let cool to room temperature than mix in salami and red onion.
Fry the sausages or grill them or however you like to make them and serve with the beans.

Arugula Salad with Persimmon

Baby Arugula
One or two Fuyu Persimmon (the hard ones) peeled and sliced thin
Shaved Manchego cheese
Shallots chopped fine
Apple cider vinegar
Walnut oil
Olive oil

Soak the shallots in a couple of tablespoons of vinegar and a pinch of salt for 15 minutes.  Whisk in a tablespoon of walnut oil and 3 tablespoons of olive oil (or to taste).  Add black pepper, again to taste.  Toss the persimmons and arugula with the dressing then top with shaved Manchego.

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Can you still call yourself a stay-at-home mom when your children are in college?

Give me a couple more years and I’ll let you know.

I used to joke that in the future I would announce at cocktail parties that now that my girls were in school I was thinking of returning to the paying workforce and I would flatter myself that people might assume I meant elementary school. After all, I live in a city where first time moms are as likely to be in their 40’s as their 20’s. And there was a time when I would tell people I was the mother of a 7 and 4 years old, or later an 11 and 8 year old, and they would look at me amazed. You couldn’t possibly have children that old! they would say, flabbergasted by my youth.

Now, when I tell people that my daughters are 18 and 15, I pause, wait for the astonished gasp, the That’s impossible, and am, more often than not, met with silence, not even a raised eyebrow. Not even from salespeople at department stores who work on commission and really should know better.

I am a stay-at-home mom, or mum as I try in vain to get my girls to call me. My Husband says it’s pretentious, but he didn’t grow up on the South Shore of Boston where everyone, rich or poor, educated or not, called mothers Maaaa (like a nannie goat) or Mum. I was poor, and very well educated, and my mother said she wasn’t a goat and so she was Mum, and so I thought I would be Mum. My girls are growing up in San Francisco and no one, save the Irish immigrants and the pretentious, call mothers Mum. Ah well. I am Mom and occasionally Mumma, which is not far from Mum, so I’ll take what I can get.

So I am a stay-at-home mum (mom). And it’s pretty great, except when it’s not, or when people ask me what I do, and I’ve taken to saying nothing, which isn’t true at all, and diminishes the value of what I contribute to this venture that we call our family. Being a parent, stay-at-home or not, is hard and wonderful and thankless and demanding and maddening and funny (because if we don’t laugh we are sure to cry).

And now I guess I’m a blogger. But really, who isn’t?

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