Thursday, January 15, 2015

January 15

Our lives have taken on the relative asceticism of January. We’re keeping our heads down; working hard and long and making do. Walnuts in a bowl with a cracker have taken the place of the holidays’ never-ending supply of confections purchased and gifted and made. The light increases by inches every day.

I placed a plate full of steamed artichokes on the table between the boys after school as they did homework, Abbott Spanish – “mi abuelo es el hijo de mi bisabuelo” – Cal multiplying combinations of numbers and decimals. Without looking up from their work they tugged the leaves off one by one, dipping them in the bowl of melted butter I’d placed next to them and then scraping off the flesh with their teeth. They paused when they got to the heart, eating in concentrated pleasure.

I asked Abbott about a presentation he’d had to give on Brown v. Board of Education for a civil rights unit at school. I was reminded of my parents’ experiences growing up in the Jim Crow South; I told the boys what I knew, second-hand, about the 'colored' and 'white' water fountains and restrooms and churches in the town where they grew up, when they were kids, and their school becoming integrated in the mid-1960s, when they were in high school.

After making myself a bourbon tonic I collected and chopped a handful of parsley from the yard, miraculously robust after months of winter. I boiled fingerling potatoes and then slathered them with butter, Maldon salt and the parsley. I roasted the buttery flesh of king salmon to this side of raw and steamed a pot of broccoli to Crayola brightness. We cleared the table of the work and the artichoke leaves and ate, discussing our own civil rights concerns and racism at this point in history.

Bourbon Tonic
Adapted from Not Without Salt

After Ashley posted this recipe last fall, it has been in regular rotation here. I highly recommend getting a tray to make large cubes, if you don’t already have one. I’ve been known to bring one of my mine on vacation with me. I love how slowly the large cubes melt and, of course, the look of them.

1.5 ounces Bourbon
3 ounces tonic (I prefer Fever Tree)
Wedge of lemon
1-2 Maraschino Cherries (preferably Luxardo)

In a rocks glass with ice add the bourbon. Squeeze the wedge of lemon and then add it to the glass, along with a cherry or two and a tiny bit of the cherry juice, and the tonic. Stir gently a time or two.

Yield: 1 serving

Sunday, January 11, 2015

January 11

We discovered Cal’s coat on the hood of our car this morning, water-logged after a night outside in a fog as heavy and enveloping as the ocean itself. The boys played lacrosse in the street until well past dark; I’m sure he didn’t see it on his way inside. Their days aren’t that different than mine were at their ages. My coats and mittens were always at least faintly damp, even when they made it inside to dry overnight.

Last weekend when we traveled to and from Canada, the customs officers in both countries verified that we weren’t carrying eggs in our vehicle (avian flu alert!). I’m not sure what we came down with, but we spent the majority of the first full week of 2015 home with fevers. I never got around to fully re-stocking the pantry after our travels. After cleaning up from lunch this afternoon I stared into the fridge, hoping our dinner would materialize before my very eyes. I found a LOT of wan-looking leeks I don’t remember purchasing. So I put together a soup, comforting and satisfyingly easy to make, perfect for a cold night when everyone is hungry for something warm.

Leek and Potato Soup

The least complicated soups are often the most loved. I made this phenomenal cornbread to go with it.

3 cups sliced leeks (white and tender green parts only)
3 cups peeled and roughly chopped waxy potatoes
6 cups water
1 tablespoon kosher salt
sour cream or crème fraiche for garnish (optional)

Bring all the ingredients (except the sour cream/crème fraiche) to a boil in a 3-quart saucepan. Partially cover the pot and let the contents simmer for 20 to 30 minutes, until the vegetables are tender. Season to taste. Puree in batches in a blender or with an immersion blender in the cooking pot. Top each portion with a dollop of the cream.

Yield: about 6 servings

Tuesday, January 6, 2015


For years, we were housebound for large portions of every day due to naps and early bedtimes. Now it’s the grandparents who nap. I can’t remember when bedtimes became more fluid, but the boys could certainly outlast us in the evening if we were to let them.

We spent the weekend in Canada. It has become noticeably easy to travel as a family: the boys pack and unpack themselves. I can let them sleep until the last minute. They get right up and get their teeth brushed, and then while I blowdry my hair, Cal will put out extra food and water for the cats while Abbott carries our luggage to the front door.

They’re independent while also more overtly interested in whatever I’m doing or talking about than ever before, reading over my shoulder, interjecting questions and commentary to every conversation.

Abbott’s favorite Christmas gift was a t-shirt I got him:


He loves that thing and would wear it nonstop if I didn’t hide it in the washing machine from time to time. I think he’s proud of the recognition. Its what we all crave, I suppose. To be known – truly seen – by those we love.

Saturday, December 27, 2014

December 27

Alexi's childhood home in Nova Scotia

It’s just us again. My family returned home; Alexi’s hasn’t yet arrived to ring in 2015 with us.

On Christmas Eve our pastor’s address began, “This is a time when a soul feels its worth.” I’ve thought about that idea more than once over the past few days. For the time being, the four of us are in a bubble, free of outside distractions. We feel our worth to each other.

Vacation has its own unique rhythm. It's the only time we ever sleep until we wake up. There is no rush for anything. This morning as I grated cheese for our breakfast I felt the fluidity of time; recognized that holiday breaks have felt the same way my whole life.

Nearly half our waking hours are spent in absolute darkness. We get outside again and again while we can. Alexi and the boys skateboard, toss a ball around between lacrosse sticks, throw a Frisbee. Nelly and I walk. On Christmas Day we watched eagles in a courtship ritual: talons locked in the air. By Easter, there will be eaglets in the neighborhood.

The heavy narcissus fragrance of the paperwhites I planted Thanksgiving weekend still fills the kitchen, though the white blossoms are beginning to shrivel and brown around the edges. A thick soup invariably burbles on the stove at any given time after breakfast. There are rounds of Jenga and checkers and Uno at the dining room table; movies, which I fight to stay awake for. The days end with one of us reading aloud. After “one more chapter” we put ourselves to bed at an indulgently early hour.

Apple and Cheese Toast
adapted from The Breakfast Book by Marion Cunningham

A stick-to-your-bones comfort breakfast.

2 pieces of sliced bread, any kind
1 apple
2 tablespoons unsalted butter, plus enough to butter two slices of toast
½ cup grated cheddar cheese

Peel, core and slice the apple. Melt the butter in a small skillet, and then add the apple slices. Cook over low heat until tender and slightly carmelized, 8-10 minutes. Set aside.

Lightly toast, and then butter, the slices of bread. Place them on a baking sheet, and then sprinkle the grated cheese over the pieces of toast. Place the baking sheet under the broiler until the cheese is just melted. Top the toast with the apple slices, and serve warm.

Yield: 2 servings

Wednesday, December 24, 2014

December 24

I get a lump in my throat every time I look at this picture. Cal's gesture expresses everything about the season.

I wish you peace, joy and magic. xoxo

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

December 16

Our long, winding, dead-end street has been transformed; despite its relative isolation, the road is unabashedly festive. The house with green lights switched to blue this year! The new family hung luminous red globes from a tree in their yard! In the last of the light I exchanged greetings with a neighbor on a stepstool, tie loosened, tacking lights into shrubs in a zigzag pattern.

Nelly ate her first candycane and her first bar of chocolate, both of which she ingeniously found in envelopes atop gifts under the Christmas tree. Thankfully, it was milk chocolate - not as dangerous for canines, I learned, as dark chocolate - and I’m very relieved to report she’s fine.

In three days, my sister and her family will arrive. My gift to myself is getting completely ready for Christmas, inside and out, before they get here. Our cards and gifts have been mailed and distributed and a constant stream of news and greetings arrives. This afternoon we found meringues sandwiched with Nutella and a Christmas mixtape CD left for us on our porch.

E.B. White's Christmas Greeting (via Elissa)

And a little something for you:

White Chili
adapted from Bon Appetit

This comes together quickly, and I can't imagine anyone not liking it. Perfect for a weeknight or anytime. I put some from tonight's dinner in the freezer for another time; maybe a lunch during my sister's visit.

1 pound skinless, boneless chicken thighs, cut into 1” pieces
Kosher salt
freshly ground black pepper
¼ cup olive oil
1 large onion, chopped
1 poblano chile, seeds removed, chopped
2 garlic cloves, finely chopped
1 tablespoon chopped fresh oregano
2 teaspoons ground cumin
4 cups chicken broth
2 15-oz. cans cannellini (white kidney) beans
1 bay leaf
2 tablespoons fresh lime juice
Sour cream, cilantro, and lime wedges (for serving)

Season the chicken with salt and pepper, and then cut it into 1 inch pieces. Heat the olive oil in a Dutch oven or small stockpot over medium-high heat. Add the chicken and cook, turning occasionally, until it is browned all over, about 10 minutes. Transfer the chicken to a plate and set aside. Add the onion and poblano chile to the pot and cook over medium heat, stirring often, until the onion is softened, 8–10 minutes. Add the garlic and cook, stirring, until fragrant, about 2 minutes. Add the oregano and cumin and cook, stirring, until fragrant, about 1 minute. Add the chicken broth, beans and their liquid, bay leaf, and chicken and bring to a simmer. Season to taste with salt and pepper and cook, partially covered, stirring occasionally, until the meat is cooked through and tender and the liquid is slightly thickened, 30–35 minutes. Season with lime juice and more salt and pepper. Serve with sour cream, cilantro, and lime wedges.

Yield: 6 servings