Tuesday, October 11, 2016

October 11

Since school started, I’ve been trying to absorb two new realities: that Cal is now in middle school; that Abbott is now in high school. Seven years from now, Alexi and I will pack Cal off to college, and then – what? The planet will inch toward change and a new season, as it always has and will, but my existence will be outside the rhythm of a school year. All I can do is to be present while they’re still here.

Despite the linear progression of time, in many ways this October is the same as any other. The days shorten; the light progressively loses stamina and warmth. Mornings, vapor rises from Elliott Bay, obscuring everything from view. Then the fog gives way to afternoon warmth. Wind whips through the trees and across the water while birds call out overhead. Our gutters fill with leaves.

Our schedule is a dizzying choreography of who has to be where, when. The past two weekends I’ve taken Abbott out of the state and out of the country for hockey. Last weekend we were in Gibsons, BC. I walked the docks while Abbott warmed up for his game, and felt a tug for the time I spent working on boats in Valdez, Alaska the summers between my years of college. Back at home, we ended the weekend watching the debate together. It didn’t seem real, making certain the boys understood that despite a presidential candidate saying otherwise, sexual assault is not “just locker room talk.” For months now, we’ve been witness to the presidential race and have felt keenly the darkness of the times. It should go without saying that racism, anti-Semitism, xenophobia and misogyny are never okay. Being an American should be synonymous with speaking out for the marginalized and the dispossessed.

With so much that may cloud our future, it’s impossible to tell what's going to happen next. But there are a few things I do know for certain. That the yellow dress the neighbor’s gingko is slipping into will be gone this time next week. That our table is set and ready for our next meal. That on some not too distant day, I’ll watch Canadian geese rise out of the water with their honking calls, joining together in flight. I’ll continue to do my best to make the days count.

Friday, June 17, 2016

This was taken just before Cal’s elementary school graduation, and just after Abbott’s middle school graduation. Feeling all the feelings; filled with so much gratitude for what we’re leaving behind, and everything that lies ahead of us. xoxo

Thursday, January 28, 2016

January 28

Sunday, Alexi was going to grill steaks, but it turned out we were out of charcoal. He prepared to cook them, instead, in a cast-iron skillet, while I put together a Caesar salad. For the first time in forever, it seemed, it wasn’t yet dark at five o'clock. I couldn’t believe how much the light seemed to have changed since the last time I had prepared dinner.

Also stirring me at this point in winter: Broiled grapefruit. Wearing my favorite sweaters. Dark red wine and chocolate cake. The way train whistles and rain sound in the dark. Getting caught up on the laundry.

I wish we would get snowed in, but that's not going to happen before this winter is over. The camellias are beginning to bud! If we want snow, it seems, we have to visit the mountains. We've been twice this month.

Best wishes for the rest of your January.

Steaks Cooked Inside
Adapted from A Boat, a Whale & a Walrus by Renee Erickson

If you don’t already have acclaimed chef Renee Erickson’s book, I can’t recommend it strongly enough. It's a work of art, filled with simple, elegant recipes and seasonal menus.

2 bone-in, dry aged steaks (Erickson recommends rib-eye), 16 ounces each
6 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
2 tablespoons crushed gray sea salt
1 lemon, halved

Remove your steaks from the refrigerator 30 minutes to 1 hour before you plan to cook them.

Preheat the oven to 450 degrees F. When the oven is hot, place an empty cast-iron skillet into it and let it heat up for 15 minutes. Meanwhile, smear your steaks with 3 tablespoons of the olive oil, covering both sides of each steak, and season both sides of each with gray sea salt.

Place the hot skillet on the stovetop over high heat. Immediately swirl 3 tablespoons olive oil into the pan. Add the steaks, and cook for five minutes undisturbed. When the meat is well carmelized on the first side, turn the steaks and cook for another 2 to 3 minutes for medium rare. Finish cooking thicker steaks in a 450 degree oven. The steaks are done when they reach an internal temperature of 135°F. Add the lemon halves, cut side down, to the pan for the last minute or so.

Transfer the steaks to a platter and squeeze the juice of the lemons over them. Let the steaks rest for 10 minutes before serving, half a steak per person. Smear each serving with butter (preferably whipped with chopped fresh thyme and lemon zest), and with freshly ground black pepper.

Yield: 4 servings

Thursday, January 7, 2016

January 7

Life is back to normal around here. School started up again. We’re looking forward.

I’ve taken a good long walk every day. Early in the week, hoarfrost blanketed pockets of the neighborhood, and there were a few wet, fat snowflakes. I haven’t yet tired of the winter landscape. This morning when I was out I watched a flock of birds. It was captivating. What makes them fly in unison? What makes them land; what makes them take off again?

I’m not one for making resolutions, but I do have a few hopes for the year to come. One of them is to organize my shoeboxes full of letters and photos dating from when I was about Abbott’s age, but I can’t bring myself to get started. What do I do with it all? Especially those that pertain to people I’m not in contact with anymore? Things that aren’t necessarily sentimental, but that represent something about me; about who I was at one point in time; that remind me that I was once young. Most of it isn’t anything anyone else will ever care about. Maybe I just need to take everything out and look at it all; it’s been awhile.

Here's wishing that at least some of what each of us is hoping for comes about this year.

Saturday, December 26, 2015

December 26

This week was a (mostly very happy) blur of preparations, family, and anticipation, and then it was Christmas Eve, and then the eve after the eve – the inevitable middle-of-the-night finishing of details after the boys are asleep – and then it was Christmas. I slept nearly twelve hours last night. I woke to luminous clouds, and droplets of water suspended from the bare branches outside, and the earthy smell of the coffee Alexi brewed hours before. I felt at ease all day. I made scones; I began a couple of the books I got for Christmas (Hunger Makes Me a Modern Girl, M Train). For the first time in a long time, there was nothing I needed to be doing. I sat quietly and took it all in: the season’s fullness, and the intricacy of all the things that led up to it.

Every year, I put up some of the ornaments my mom, and my maternal grandmother, made, and used, when I was a kid. My boys have developed an appropriate sense of awe when they come out of their wrappings. They remember their presence year after year, and the corresponding stories of Christmases when I was a girl. They know our delicate paper doves were made by my grandmother Louise for her Christmas tree, and they know how my family flew from Alaska and then drove through barren West Texas in order to celebrate next to the tree that held those doves.

There was always a strand of chunky red bulbs that outlined the roof of my maternal grandparents’ ranch style home. The same felt stockings Grandmother Louise had made for each of her grandchildren were always hanging from the mantle, and the house was always full with all of those grandchildren and their parents. And Grandmother Louise always made gifts for each of us every year.

My dad’s family was more spread out, so the number of aunts and uncles and cousins we saw at my paternal grandmother’s, who lived 80 miles away, varied. The constant at Grandmother Lorene’s was that we knew how to be a family, together, whatever the configuration was; everything always fell into place.

My boys like waking up in their own beds Christmas morning. We have a few constants in our holiday season; other things constantly change. The given is that we know how to be a family: the four of us, and with our extended family, as we celebrate, in person, on the phone, even playing video games with cousins thousands of miles away, thanks to modern technology.

Best wishes to you and yours. xoxo