Tuesday, January 31, 2012

January 31

I started the day with nothing but water. After the kids were dropped off at school, I headed to the medical center where I receive care for a routine physical. I got a great parking spot on the street, though was dismayed to discover the rate has gone up from $2/hour to $4/hour - might as well have parked in the garage. After a bit of shuffle at the lab ('What do you mean you can't find the order for my fasting cholesterol blood draw in the computer? No, I won't wait another hour until I see my doctor to clarify, then come back here, then eat after that. No.'), I found some passable oatmeal and coffee in the cafeteria, with thirty minutes to spare before my appointment. That first sip of coffee, hours delayed due to the fasting blood draw, was almost euphoria-inducing.

In the stairwell, I ran into a woman I worked with, peripherally, many years ago; a beautiful woman, physically and temperamentally. The last time I saw her she must have been somewhere around my age now. I felt a shock wave of tenderness at the sight of her, aged, still beautiful, with just a touch of frailness about her. Seeing how she wore the passage of time brought tears to my eyes.

I'm going to have to be careful when I sleep tonight - my arms are sore from vaccines. Did you know the recommendation is now to renew tetanus after five years? Somehow, despite multiple surgeries and very regular medical care, it was discovered I haven't had one since 1993.

Happy last day of January.

Monday, January 30, 2012

about the phone

Out of the blue one day, around the age of five, Abbott said, 'I dream about having a wallet and a cell phone.' For the past six months or so, he's followed up on that dream, or at least part of it, repeatedly asking for a phone of his own. His persistence in the face of adversity ('no') has been somewhat surprising. He hasn't complained; merely soldiered on. Followed up politely at regular intervals. He left me a note on my desk last week, asking when he might (underlined) get a phone.

The whole thing has been a bit puzzling to me. He rarely talks on the phone with his friends. He texts a couple of his cousins, and one of his great-aunts, from my phone. We restrict video games (he gets to play a minute for every minute of piano practiced) such that whether the phone is mine or his, the play time won't increase.

Yesterday he brought it up again, and we had a family discussion. He pointed out that he's been very responsible with his possessions, such as the camera we gave him for his birthday. He keeps the battery charged. He tends to leave it home when we travel, because he worries about losing it. He manages the camera's memory card independently. With this track record in mind, we decided to let him have one of our old iPhones. We're not paying for cell service, so it only works where there is wireless access. If he is discovered using the phone for games without permission or other inappropriate use, it will be confiscated.

Right away, he started exploring the voice recognition software he's seen Alexi use. He dictated something, and then wanted to erase what he had written and start something new. Alexi started to describe the somewhat circuitous route he takes to accomplish this. After hearing the explanation, he raised the possibility of a simpler way of swiping from top left to bottom right directly on the text before them, then tapping 'delete'. As he suggested this, he did it, and it worked! (Alexi wishes he'd thought of his a long time ago!)

This morning, before school, he used his phone to read three New York Times articles, this blog, and check the weather. After school, he used the calculator function to check some of his homework, and the timer to keep track of his piano practice.

So far, so good.

Sunday, January 29, 2012

from Sunday evening


I've been thinking about making pasta since I took a class about it at The Pantry a while back. When my sister asked me what I wanted for Christmas, I asked for a pasta machine. Since opening the gift, I've admired it in its box on a shelf, and daydreamed about using it. Probably not until after hockey season, I've told myself. We're just too busy this time of year.

Yesterday, unexpectedly, Abbott's scheduled game in another town got cancelled. So he read a (an entire) book. Cal and Alexi worked on the Lego Imperial Shuttle Cal got for Christmas (recommended for ages 16 +). I did a long-overdue overhaul of the playroom. The cats reveled in it all. Then I got to work on pasta dough. Abbott joined me in the kitchen and said that, actually, he'd like to make the pasta. So I sat at the table and we chatted away the rest of the afternoon while he worked.

I hope your weekend was a nice one.

Friday, January 27, 2012

morning, evening

Top: morning, leaving the neighborhood. Bottom: coming home. Instagram.

Have a great weekend.

Thursday, January 26, 2012

for me, for you


Last week, as the snow started to fall, I stocked up on just about everything that looked good to me, without a particular plan for most of it. Like a cook for a battalion heading off to war, I suppose - I don't know exactly what we'll be dealing with, so I'll take some of everything, please. One subsequent snowy afternoon, I looked through my vegetable bible, searching for something to do with the head of cauliflower I had at hand. I came across a recipe for soup. I tend to stay away from garden-variety cauliflower soups, with their combinations of butter/cheddar/flour/cream in varying proportions. I just don't like them. What caught my eye in this recipe was the addition of mustard and creme fraiche, and cheese other than cheddar.

We've moved on from last week, thankfully. Cabin fever started to set in. I've restocked the pantry; the leftovers are gone; the sun is shining and the temperatures have warmed. But I don't want to forget about this soup, and I don't think you should, either. I'm writing it up now, so I don't lose track of it. The flavor is complex and well balanced, and everyone liked it. No small accomplishment in a house with kids.

In the words of Mr. Slater: 'I do believe in the power of soup to restore our spirits and to strengthen and protect us.' Sing it, Nigel.

A soup of cauliflower and cheese
from Tender Volume 1, by Nigel Slater

50 g (3.5 tablespoons) butter
1 medium onion, coarsely chopped
2 cloves garlic, crushed
one head of cauliflower, broken into florets
2 bay leaves
200ml creme fraiche
1 heaped tablespoon grain mustard
120 g (1 1/2 cups) Gruyere or strong Cheddar
sea salt and black pepper, to taste

to finish:
2 slices dark rye bread
1 heaped tablespoon grated Gruyere

In a heavy large pot or dutch oven, melt the butter. Add the chopped onion and crushed garlic, and cook until soft, stirring often. Add the bay leaves, and remove from heat.

Boil the cauliflower florets in about 850 ml water over medium heat until tender to the point that a fork will slide in easily, 8-10 minutes. Add the cauliflower and its cooking water to the onion mixture. Bring everything to a boil; add sea salt and black pepper to taste. Reduce heat to a simmer, cover, and cook for fifteen minutes, until the vegetables are 'truly soft'. Remove the pan from the heat, discard the bay leaves and allow the soup to cool slightly.

In two batches, puree the soup in a blender. Pour the mixture back into the pan and stir in the creme fraiche, mustard, and grated cheese. Bring the soup slowly back to a simmer, and serve. Or, if you like, finish with toasted bread, as described below.

To finish, toast the bread on both sides, cover with the grated cheese and let it melt under a broiler. Cut into triangles and float them on the soup.

Yield: 4-6 servings

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Wednesday


Thought-provoking - Changing Education Paradigms by Sir Ken Robinson.

Grassdoe - some of the best visual storytelling I've seen in a while.

More tomorrow. xo

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Tuesday


Cal and I spent just shy of two hours traveling fifteen miles this evening. The downside of city life. The upside was being stuck enough to listen to the State of the Union address, and discuss it bit by bit. I found myself looking at others in the surrounding lanes, wondering if they, too, were listening. If the collective unconscious was more than just shared frustration.

Happy Tuesday.

Monday, January 23, 2012

Monday

Color startled me, all day, after a week of monotone white. Heaps of snow here and there remain all over the city. And the sun shone. I felt like a mole, blinking, above ground after a long winter's hibernation.

I restocked the pantry.
I got the car serviced.
I ordered new (chartreuse!) placemats to brighten things up a bit around here.
I went to the hardware store and bought a snow shovel, and supplies for making a longhouse - ahem - for Abbott to use in making a longhouse.
I vacuumed and did a load of laundry.

It feels like things are just about back to normal around here, and that makes me just a little bit sad.

Sunday, January 22, 2012

you had to sit close and lean in a little



My great aunt Wanda died almost a month ago to the day. My mother recently sent me some of her things; among them a teapot, and a few necklaces. I'm particularly fond of a huge owl necklace in the collection, circa 1970s. My mother wore something similar throughout much of my childhood. I don't remember Wanda wearing it, but I like thinking about her when I put it on.

She and my great uncle Henry, Tootle we called him, never had any children of their own. She survived him by a couple of years.

When I was a kid, we'd leave Alaska twice a year to come visit family in Texas. Two weeks at Christmas, two weeks in summer. Every visit, we spent time with them on their farm. There were cats everywhere, and constant stories about the cats. And cows that lived their lifespan on that farm, all known by name, who could be seen out the back window. I don't know the story there; if they intended to have them as pets, or if that's just how it worked out.

She had short, curly blonde hair and thick glasses, and a laugh that lingered. To hear him speak, you had to sit close and lean in a little, and wait for the pause between sentences.

There was never a visit that didn't include pie.

Eventually they bought a house in town. I imagine it just got too hard living on a farm as they aged.

The day after Wanda's death, I heard the following from my mother. 'Wanda has two dogs, Thelma and Louise. The dogs bark a lot at night, but they never come scratch on the door. Just as Wanda was passing, they both came to the back door and started scratching to get in to see her.'

I spent some time looking through old family photos after she died, and what I found was just too little. One snapshot of her, alone, sitting on some steps somewhere; one of the two of them where she's smiling, he's not. Some things you just have to carry with you in your mind's eye. I carry snapshots of them in my heart.

Friday, January 20, 2012

Friday evening

I left my street today for the first time in three days. Wielded a shovel for the first time in twenty years.

I'm ready for this weekend.

Have a great one.

Thursday, January 19, 2012

good things


sleeping late
Radiolab podcast on Games (thanks Jenny!).
blood oranges
Enough time to bake bread.
Good Together Stacking Vessels for sale tomorrow!
Kids asleep early, after a day of hard play in the snow.

Much love.

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Wednesday

I suspect we'll sleep like the dead tonight, after the day we had in the snow.

A few new math apps we love (for the ipad; some are also available for the iphone/itouch), thanks to recommendations from our school's technology teacher:

Operation Math - focused on basic operations but in a fun way that has a lot of motivation built in. A spy theme, which is very catchy and fun! A polished game-like way to practice.

Math Bingo - a slower and lower key way to practice basic math facts using bingo. Highly rated and recommended by several sites from kids to grandparents.

Mathemagics - a tutorial style approach to learning short cuts and the magic behind numbers. May need an adult to help explain and walk through some of the problems.

Skynumbers - a challenging, fun way to use mental math in a game setting and sharpen those skills very quickly before items fall to the ground from the sky!

Happy Wednesday.

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

by heart


If you live in the Seattle area, you, like me, may have made a run for 'provisions' today. There is a winter storm warning in effect here. I always grocery shop Monday mornings, and today is the Monday of this week, because of yesterday's holiday. This morning, we shoppers had our heads down. We were getting ready. In the dairy aisle, I overheard a woman on the phone telling someone in hushed tones, 'it's not snowing yet, but the school said...' I strained to hear the rest, but she got too far ahead of me to make it out.

School started two hours late today due to snow, and I ended up having to head right back after I got home with the groceries, as the snow started to fall again. The writing on the wall said there would not be hockey practice tonight, so instead of planning to heat up that casserole in the freezer to eat in the car on the way to the rink, I bought fixings for a quick favorite. And enough food to feed the neighborhood for the next ten days or so, should the need arise.

This has been a standby for me for more than a decade. It's simple enough to remember how to make without a recipe, which comes in handy.

Good ingredients are the key here; buy the best looking beans you can find, and don't skimp on the cheese.

Green Beans With Roquefort and Walnuts
slightly adapted from The New Basics, by Julee Rosso and Sheila Lukins

1 pound fresh green beans, with the stem end trimmed
8 strips best quality, thickly sliced bacon
4 ounces Roquefort or other blue cheese you like, crumbled
1 1/2 cups toasted walnut halves
freshly ground black pepper

1. Bring a pot of water to boil; add the green beans. Simmer until crisp-tender, 3 to 4 minutes. Drain, rinse under cold water, and drain again. Set aside.

2. While the beans are in progress, toss the walnuts in a skillet at medium heat for 3-5 minutes, stirring frequently, until fragrant and slightly darkened in color. Set aside.

2. Cut the bacon slices into 1/2 inch wide strips. Place them in a skillet and cook over medium heat until well cooked, 5 to 7 minutes. Remove the bacon with a slotted spoon, and set it aside to drain on paper towels.

3. Add the green beans to the skillet the bacon was in, and heat through over medium heat, for 2 minutes. Add the cheese, and toss until the cheese just begins to melt, about 30 seconds. Sprinkle with the walnuts and lots of pepper. Serve immediately.

Yield: 4 portions

Monday, January 16, 2012

January 16

A day at home, to remember Martin Luther King, Jr.

"Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere... Whatever affects one directly, affects all indirectly."
- Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., 16 April 1963, Birmingham, AL

Abbott's response, excerpted from his homework: 'If someone elsewhere is being treated badly, don't ignore it! It might be you next. Also, it is the right thing to do! That is what Martin Luther King did, and I feel very proud that we have a country like this. It makes me feel proud of what he did to make the world a better place.'

Sunday, January 15, 2012

there were snowplows

Abbott and I are back from his hockey tournament in Hope, British Columbia. Our hotel was in Chilliwack; the photos are in both locations.

It's good to miss, good to be missed. We're all glad to be home, together, again. Came home to snow and we're hoping for more, even as it falls; hoping for a week of hunkering down.

Friday, January 13, 2012

Friday night

Have I mentioned before that I love snow? Indeed I do. Abbott and I are up in Canada until Sunday. He's asleep in his bed; I'm sitting, awake (obviously), in mine, wanting to watch it for just a little longer.

Happy weekending.