Monday, October 31, 2011

October 31

Cal's fourth year as a shark; Abbott's second as Anakin Skywalker. My kids know what they like.

Happy Halloween.

Sunday, October 30, 2011

the way it went

We usually make it to a pumpkin patch before Halloween; yesterday, we visited Craven Farm. I like this farm because it is incredibly picturesque, and it’s quite large, such that I’ve never felt crowded in the pumpkin patch or the corn maze, despite the crowds that come. Their corn maze is the best I’ve found in the region – 15 acres! This year, we went through it Hansel and Gretl style, leaving a trail of Kettle Corn.

I cooked all afternoon long for a dinner party we had this evening. I made little cheese crackers for an appetizer, lamb curry, and an apple cake. When our friends arrived, the kids ran around in their Halloween costumes. We ate, then played It’s the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown for the kids during dessert, giving us, the parents, a last little bit of quiet time to catch up on two months’ worth of life.

Abbott played Fur Elise again and again while I loaded the dishwasher. Then, he sat in with Cal while Alexi finished a Brady Brady book. And now, here we sit, Alexi and I, listening to the rain, remembering it all. No doubt the boys, right now, in their beds, are dreaming about Halloween, tomorrow. That magical day when the lines blur between fantasy and reality.

I wish you a very happy Halloween.

Friday, October 28, 2011

eleven years

Eleven years ago today, on a crisp, sunny autumnal afternoon, Alexi and I were married. I watched part of the video today, and as I was doing so I came across footage of Alexi (looking like a baby!) toasting me at our reception. He recounted a morning when he was starting a new rotation (something residents - doctors training in their specialties - do every month). He described how, on that particular morning, I got up and made lattes for us, and brought his to him in bed. This was a special treat for him, given that latte making was usually his role. And then I offered him mine, and I offered to drive him home. It was out of our routine and he described it as a generous act in his time of need. He went on to say that people tend to think of generosity in a time of need as something more along the lines of giving up a last sip of water while lost in the middle of the desert, but that’s heroism, he said. He said I recognized he was having difficulty when he didn’t see it, and I adapted.

"The generosity I’m talking about exists moreso in the realm of the mundane. In those small daily actions it’s easy to say ‘you’re not tired until you die’, ‘if it doesn’t bleed it doesn’t hurt’, and so on. Generosity lies in the small things in life. It’s the daily glue that holds us together."

I have loved these eleven years we've had together, learning to be sensitive, flexible and generous with each other. I look forward to knowing and loving the person he'll be five, ten, fifty years from now.

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Curried Peanut Soup


Curried peanut soup. I served it as the entree for my very first dinner party. I was in my early twenties, new to Seattle. I invited some of the first friends I made upon moving here, Debra and Allan, to join me for dinner in my studio apartment on Capitol Hill. I didn't own a dining room table, but the kitchen had a built in breakfast nook that comfortably accommodated two and could fit three in a cozy way. It didn't feel crowded. These two are fun and entertaining (they're actors!) and comfortable.

Allan is quite a chef. From him I learned about Cook's Illustrated, toasting nuts to bring out their flavor, and making my own croutons. He was the first person I met for whom food was a topic of conversation. I enjoyed many a fine meal at their table before my first experience hosting them, so I wanted to make something special. When I started flipping through the three cookbooks I owned at the time and came across this recipe, I knew it would be a safe bet. It was. Allan has a weakness for peanut butter. He used to talk about hiding the jar from himself (not sure how that worked) to avoid snacking on it. Years later, he still sometimes brings up this soup and that meal in a daydreamy sort of way.

It's a hearty soup, intended to be a main course. Between prep time and cooking time it takes close to 2 hours to make, most of it simmering time. Everything can be done in advance; just add the buttermilk after reheating, just before serving.

Curried Peanut Soup
from The Enchanted Broccoli Forest by Mollie Katzen

The Soup:

1 Tbs butter
1 cup finely chopped onion
2 large cloves crushed garlic
2 tsp freshly grated ginger root
1 tsp salt
1 cup chopped raw peanuts
1/4 tsp each: cinnamon, cloves, ground cardamon or coriander
1/2 tsp each: dry mustard, turmeric
1 tsp ground cumin

In a large saucepan, saute the first five items together over for a few minutes over medium heat, until the onion begins to soften. Add the remaining ingredients and saute another 8-10 minutes over medium-low heat, until the onion is well cooked.

Next, mash the following ingredients into a smooth paste:

2 cups stock or water
1/2 cup natural (unsweetened) peanut butter
a handful of raisins (optional)
1 Tbs honey
1/4 - 1/2 tsp cayenne

Add this to the above saute, mix and cover. Simmer over very low heat for 1 hour, stirring occasionally.

Whisk 1 1/2 cups buttermilk into the hot soup just before serving.

The Topping:

2 fairly green bananas
juice of 1 lemon
3 Tbs butter
1/4 tsp cinnamon
1/4 tsp turmeric
dash of salt
1 Tbs sesame seeds

Peel the bananas and thinly slice them on the diagonal. Place them in a shallow bowl with the lemon juice for 10 minutes.

Heat the butter in a heavy skillet. Add the bananas plus all their lemon juice, and sprinkle with the salt, spices and sesame seeds.

Saute, gently turning and stirring, for 5-8 minutes over medium-low heat. (It's ok if the bananas lose their shape.)

Spoon a few pieces of the banana topping into each individual bowl of soup. According to the recipe, 'Your mouth may attain enlightenment'. Allan and I would have to agree.

Yield: 4-5 large servings

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Wednesday random

Abbott visited a synagogue this morning with his fourth grade class, as part of their study of world religions. I’ve never been to one; I wish I had been able to accompany him. In December, they’re going to visit a mosque.

In between taking my car in to have the brakes replaced, getting my knives sharpened, and various other things, I sat in a cafĂ© and ate a meal alone. I’ve never done it before; usually I’ll grab a sandwich to go if I’m alone. I enjoyed it far more than I would have expected. I felt myself really relax as I observed my surroundings and savored my espresso. I didn’t even read.

In other news, a small lizard has taken up residence in our garage. I suspect his days are numbered, as we do have two cats. And he’s a bold one – he ventured out to sunbathe on the porch and barely glanced in our direction when we returned home from school yesterday.

Happy Wednesday to you.

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

this lake

Typically, I run for exercise. I have one friend I walk with regularly, but she’s out of the country right now. And when we get together to walk, we WALK, we don’t amble and take pictures. Today I had some time between appointments, so I took the opportunity to stroll around Green Lake, a favorite walking spot, camera in hand.

When I was in Texas a couple of weeks ago, I realized for perhaps the first time that not all parts of the country experience autumn in as dramatic a fashion as we do here. So here are a few fall images for those of you in those parts of the world with an autumn that comes and goes without fanfare.

Monday, October 24, 2011

fleeting


Thunderous morning rain gave way midday to brilliant autumnal sun. The kids’ coats were still damp, from rainy recesses, when we got home from school this afternoon. It warmed to the point of opening windows. I rushed an early dinner to get us outside for a brief walk. Soon, very soon, there won’t be any light after dinner, or, for that matter, when we sit down to eat. The convergence of blue skies and evening light felt all the more precious for their obviously fleeting nature.

Sunday, October 23, 2011

he who seeks beauty will find it

We watched Bill Cunningham New York tonight; I found it tremendously inspiring. Don't miss it.

I hope your week gets off to a good start. xo

Friday, October 21, 2011

October 21

Today, I had a couple of doctor's appointments (nothing to worry about - routine kinds of things); afterwards, I had a late lunch at the Oddfellows Cafe. The cashier called me 'Miss', and I'll sheepishly admit it kind of made my day.

I made a curry yesterday, and had some leftover ginger. I used it this evening to make ginger sidecars - so good!

Well, whatever your plans, have a good weekend. xo

Thursday, October 20, 2011

at this point in October

I felt out of sorts much of the day. I think, mostly, I wasn't prepared for the return of the rain, for the wintry light. We've had a spectacular October up to this point. At the end of the day, as I was putting dinner on the table, the clouds lifted, just at the edge of the horizon. Just enough to see the glow of the last of the light as we ate dinner. Just enough.

PS - Still at habit, through the end of the month.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

something to think about

“There are many people, particularly in sports who think that success and excellence are the same thing and they are not the same thing. Excellence is something that is lasting and dependable and largely within a person’s control. In contrast, success is perishable and is often outside our control... If you strive for excellence, you will probably be successful eventually... people who put excellence in first place have the patience to end up with success... An additional burden for the victim of the success mentality is that he is threatened by the success of others and resents real excellence. In contrast, the person fascinated by quality is excited when he sees it in others.”

Joe Paterno, Penn State football coach – 1990

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

my message from the universe

Above: Left Bank Books, Pike Place Market, our guest room, end of day.

My take-away message from this day, thrice reinforced: let people surprise you. Don't worry so much about that looming, likely-to-be negative interaction - it might be fine. Or about your kids' ability to handle something on their own. They are up for the challenge. And definitely say no when it's the thing to do - you might not get the reaction you think you will.

Another good message: your time is limited... made my heart ache.

Take care. xo

Monday, October 17, 2011

Monday


We own shelves full of board games, yet they gravitate toward electronic checkers and chess. I like the sound a checker makes when it slides, the feel of the board. I hope they'll always have that sound, that feel filed away in their memory somewhere. There are losses and gains with every new technology, I suppose. Probably every generation of parents has had similar thoughts.

Sunday, October 16, 2011

golden


Pictures from this evening at Seattle's downtown waterfront. We're beginning to feel a chill in the air, but not enough of one that we need a coat in the sun. I have an aunt and uncle here visiting. It's truly wonderful, spending time with people who have loved me my whole life.

I hope your weekend was a good one.