Posts tagged ‘holidays’

9 for ’09

I didn’t manage 9 categories, but here are my top 9′s in 6 (9 upside-down) categories for 2009:

Memorable Meals

Eli’s first meat, a meatball at the Pasta Pomodoro in San Rafael, of all places: “Mama, I know it’s meat, and I want it.”
Jewish Quarter falafel with Lilya
Tony’s 40th birthday party at Beretta – burrata on pizza, mmmm…
Dinner with Libby and her family at Jamie’s Italian in Oxford
One lukewarm bottle of water at Legoland in England (where it does get hot but they still don’t have ice): the difference between surviving the day and passing out from heat stroke
Picnics by the pool
Cocktails & dessert at Aziza, any Monday night we had babysitting
Birthday parties for stuffies, with bowls of unsalted peanuts and eucalyptus leaves, hosted by Eli
Dinner and Christmas carol mash-up/singalong, with my parents, led by the boys

Best books

A Gate at the Stairs by Lorrie Moore
An Exact Replica of a Figment of My Imagination by Elizabeth McCracken
My Life in France by Julia Child
The King (poems) by Rebecca Wolff
Boy Alone: A Brother’s Memoir by Karl Taro Greenfield
This Lovely Life by Vicki Forman
The Good Thief by Hannah Tinti
American Wife by Curtis Sittenfeld
Lit by Mary Karr

Movies

Where the Wild Things Are – a terrific adaptation
Ponyo – Eli’s first movie theater movie since he graduated from the sling
Fantastic Mr. Fox – our first movie outing as a family
The Class (Entre Les Murs) – best new teaching movie
Who Does She Think She Is? – my favorite documentary of the year
Inglourious Basterds – actors, director, everyone at the top of their game
The Hurt Locker – the best war movie
(500) Days of Summer – best dance sequence of the year (and probably decade)
Sweet Land – my favorite love story of the year

2009 Memories and milestones

Eli and Mariah asleep, leaning their heads on each other, in the back of the car on the drive home from Pt. Reyes
Ben learning to ride his bike without training wheels
AWP in Chicago, meeting so many literary mamas, spending 4 days without the boys
Tony’s and my night away at Indian Springs Resort
Wine and snacks with Rob, Lilya, Liz and Ross while our boys played soccer in the courtyard of our Paris rental with one of the boys who lived in the building
An amazingly relaxing two night Big Basin camp-out (8 adults and 7 boys)
Eli learning to read
Ben playing soccer at school recess
Mama, PhD readings at Duke and the University of Richmond

Art

Tate Modern + London Transit Museum
Andy Goldsworthy’s Spire in the Presidio
Giverny
Musee de l’orangerie
Amish Abstrations quilt show at the De Young
Eli counting down to his weekly preschool art days
Seeing Maya Lin and Andy Goldsworthy installations at Storm King Art Center
Bidding on one of Tony’s dad‘s paintings in an online auction – and winning!
Ben learning how to weave

Quotes:

Eli: “I just want one more hug of you.”
Ben: “How is it that I am I?”
Eli: “I want some food.” Tony: “I’m making dinner.” Eli: “I want something more fastly.”
Ben imitating Yogi Bear: “Hey, Boo Boo!”
Eli rejecting a band-aid for his sore throat, “And anyway, the inside of my throat isn’t stickable!”
Ben: “I’m going to try something new!”
Eli: “Mama? Since you are two years older than Tony, why don’t you know more about LEGO?”
Ben to Eli, referring to us, “Ask one of the grown-ups.”
Eli to me: ” I love you cozier than my bed, curlier than your hair, and gooder than my oatmeal.”

May your 2010 be gooder than oatmeal, too.

Losing Gourmet

cross-posted from the other blog

It’s not like I grew up with it. My mom learned to cook mostly from her own mom (though luckily got an excellent pie crust education from her mother-in-law). When we moved to the US in the early 70s, I remember seeing The Galloping Gourmet and The French Chef occasionally on our black & white kitchen television, but I think they were on more for entertainment than education. Mom subscribed to the Time-Life series of international cookbooks (the hardcovers now live in my house; the paperbacks, with more recipes, continue to get a workout in her kitchen) but never a cooking magazine, that I recall.

It was after college that I started to pick up Gourmet occasionally. It was a glimpse into another world. It was like a travel magazine to me, so glossy and beautiful. I tore out the occasional recipe – and if it looked good on the page, it always turned out well– but at the time mostly just dreamed over the beautiful pictures. And that’s one small reason I’m sad about losing Gourmet; for someone who doesn’t subscribe to fashion magazines or anything else with beautiful photography, and whose nightly dinner table can get a little dull with plates of pasta, every month Gourmet showed me lovely tables I could aspire to, and reminded me to set out a vase of flowers or put the vegetables in a pretty bowl.

When I moved to California, I had more time for cooking, and although I didn’t have much money, I saved a few dollars every month to pick up Gourmet. It was always fun reading, a perfect escape from my dense graduate school reading lists. When I broke up with my boyfriend and moved into a place without a kitchen, I would amuse myself trying to make some of Gourmet’s recipes with just a toaster oven, hot pot, rice cooker and electric skillet. I made great stir fries, a fabulous (small) lasagne, and baked cookies by the half dozen. When I moved in with a roommate (partly, to be sure, because of the kitchen) we shared a subscription to Gourmet, and celebrated when she passed her oral exams with a cocktail party fueled by the magazine’s recipes. Whether for a single woman without a kitchen, or two budget-conscious grad students who wanted to eat well, those recipes always worked. And that’s another reason I’m sad about losing Gourmet.

And then just as I was finishing graduate school, I met Tony, and we bonded over food. I discovered, at his mom Nancy’s house, a veritable library of cooking magazines, refreshed with new issues every month: Fine Cooking, Food and Wine, Saveur, Cooks Illustrated, Gourmet. Ruth Reichl was the editor of Gourmet by then and it was becoming a home for writers, terrific writers like Laura Shapiro and Michael Lewis and Anthony Bourdain and Jane and Michael Stern. We would hang out at Nancy’s house leafing through all the magazines and tearing out the recipes, but Gourmet was the one to read and we would talk about the essays over dinner and long Scrabble games. I remember in particular an essay by Michael Lewis that came out the month Ben was born, in which Lewis describes a trip to Masa’s for dinner with his wife and toddler. For ages afterward, I paraphrased a line from the piece (which sadly I can’t find online), “If you won’t [fill in the blank with whatever I wanted Ben to do] we’ll just have to stay at home and eat broccoli.”

The magazine was always smart, relevant, and delicious, and I routinely incorporated its recipes into our life, from cookies or savory biscotti for our annual New Year’s Day party to banana muffins for preschool bake sales. Gourmet’s vodka-spiked tomatoes came camping with us this summer, and the magazine’s roasted potato and kale salad is now one of my favorite ways to eat those two favorite vegetables. Flipping through my messy binder of saved recipes tonight, I see that over half of them come from Gourmet. Without their monthly infusion of fresh recipes, the binders will stop bursting from their seams, which is probably a good thing, but it’s another reason I’m sad about losing Gourmet.

After Nancy passed away, we had her mail forwarded to our house and that meant two copies of Gourmet each month. I called the customer service people, who were happy to consolidate her subscription and mine, but there was a little confusion over the name and so it has come to me each month with her name on it. If Nancy liked something, she put her money on it, so the subscription was supposed to go deep into 2012. It was a monthly reminder of the meals and conversations we shared, and that’s the last, biggest, reason I’m sad about losing Gourmet.

Happy Mother’s Day from Moms Rising

In appreciation for the hard work of mothers everywhere, MomsRising has made it possible for every mom to get a personalized Mother of the Year award — announced online in a faux news cast. Check it out! Send it to your favorite mothers so that they can be congratulated by President Obama, celebrated by Hollywood stars, praised by a remarkably articulate baby, and more. Make sure to check out the crawl under the newscast; they snuck in a nice little bit of educational content.

Happy birthday, Martin Luther King, Jr.!


In school the other day, Ben made an image of Martin Luther King, Jr. in Washington, DC. His teacher emailed to tell us that Ben created a text box to quote MLK saying “I have a dream that little black boys and black girls will be able to join hands with little white boys and girls and walk together as brothers and sisters.” “He wrote the quote from memory,” his teacher reported, “and everything was spelled correctly and he used quotation marks. Wow!”

I’m not so surprised by his accurate use of quotation marks, really (he didn’t live through the copyediting of a book for nothing), but pleased that he knows the lines and understands what they mean.

We didn’t participate in today’s National Day of Service, as we had hoped, because Ben was still too sick when we would have needed to sign up, but we’ve been talking about MLK, Jr. a lot around here and this morning Ben drew another picture, this time with no text, in honor of the day. I can’t wait to see what he comes up with after we watch the Inauguration tomorrow.

Highlights & Resolutions


Every night at dinner, we take turns talking about our highs and lows for the day. Last night, with sushi and champagne to ring in the New Year, we asked the boys about their highlights (no need to think back over the lows) and their resolutions for the year.

Ben’s highlight: visiting France
resolution: to get a response from the people at Boeing when he sends in his designs and seating plans for a new 797 plane.

Eli’s highlight: visiting France and making his beloved pottery train in preschool
resolution: to visit a new city

Eli’s resolution will come true in April; we hope the folks at Boeing might feel sympathetic toward on an enthusiastic kid and send more than a form letter… stay tuned.

A Christmas Treat: Sugar on Snow

cross-posted at Learning to Eat:

Usually by Christmas Eve, I’ve baked at least half a dozen batches of cookies, but this year for a change, the kids and I made candy for their teachers: salted chocolate pecan toffee, spiced chocolate bark with dried cherries and pumpkin seeds, and, now that we’re in snowy Connecticut, a kind of maple candy called jack wax.

It’s always a bit of a nostalgia trip for me to come to Connecticut, where I relive with my boys some of the farm and garden life I experienced as a kid with my grandparents. In the summer, we gorge on fresh berries and vegetables from the garden. In the winter, we plan our meals around what my Dad’s put up in the freezer. The boys start every day with a bowl of thawed frozen berries, and we continue from there, pulling from pantry and freezer, making soups with the squash, chili with the dried beans, gratins with the potatoes, pastas with the frozen chard, broccoli, beans and peas.

This winter, we’ve arrived to find over a foot of fresh snow on the ground and plenty of last year’s syrup in the pantry, and so I finally got to teach the boys how to make a snack I first read about in Little House in the Big Woods. As a Christmas treat, Ma Ingalls boiled up molasses and sugar (it was too early in the year for fresh maple syrup) and Pa brought in two skillets full of fresh snow; Mary and Laura drizzled the thick syrup over the snow to make candy. My siblings, cousins and I did this with our grandparents when we were kids, but it’s likely been thirty years since I’ve eaten fresh maple candy. All you need is a cup of syrup and some fresh snow.

Boil the syrup until it comes to about 240 degrees on a candy thermometer, or let a drop fall from your spoon into a cup of cold water to test; it should form a soft ball. Drizzle over a pan of fresh snow. Eat.

It looks like this:

Thanksgiving Dinner

This year, among many other blessings, I am thankful for good food, and family and friends who know their way around the kitchen so I don’t have to cook it all.

Mom’s Brown and Serve Wheat Germ Rolls
Butternut squash bisque
Whole berry cranberry sauce
Garlicky ginger cranberry relish
Green beans with lemon zest
Baked pearl onions
Mashed potatoes
Sweet potatoes anna
Shaved brussels sprouts with lemon and hazelnuts
Frissee salad with pear, manchego and pomegranate seeds
Wild rice, lentil and mushroom timbales
Mushroom gravy
Chestnut stuffing
Tony’s grandmother’s bread stuffing with lemon zest and parsley
Turkey and turkey gravy
Pumpkin pie
Cranberry almond crostata

Happy Thanksgiving!

Start Your Christmas Shopping Now!


OK, I realize I’ve been ignoring the blog a bit lately, but it’s been a busy time spreading the news about Mama, PhD. So I’m delighted to stop talking about that book (just for a moment) to announce the publication of my essay, “Wonderful Life,” in the new anthology, The Ultimate Christmas (Health Communications, Inc). The book is one-stop Christmas shopping, with essays, stories, recipes, pictures and advice on how to get through what can be a stressful holiday without losing sight of the magic. I’ve never shared space in a book with a martini recipe before, and I am well pleased. My piece is based on my Literary Column on It’s A Wonderful Life; here’s an excerpt:

Christmas Eve, 2002

It’s my first Christmas as a mom, and I as sit rocking infant Ben to sleep in the darkened room, I realize that the ubiquitous Christmas telecast of It’s A Wonderful Life (Frank Capra, 1946) is flickering on the ancient television. The sound is muted, but I remember the dialogue. George Bailey (Jimmy Stewart) has just learned that Uncle Billy misplaced the day’s deposit, and despite sacrificing his whole life for the Building & Loan, George is ruined. He can’t listen to his wife Mary cheerfully prattle on about their daughter Zuzu’s cold. He rages about the money spent on the doctor, their money-pit of a drafty house: “I don’t know why we don’t all have pneumonia!”

Ben stirs in his sleep and cries out. I hold my breath as I adjust his IV, which has tangled around my arm and pulled taut. I touch my lips to his sweaty head and he relaxes back into sleep. I exhale, relieved to have avoided another cycle of the anguished cries that raise his fever and bring the nurses running with another round of invasions.

We have pneumonia.

Go pick up a copy of The Ultimate Christmas to read the rest!

End of the Road

This is how the backseat looked after we’d extracted the two sleeping boys from their boosters.

And here are some road trip notes:

$4/gallon gas does help keep holiday drivers off the road, so we managed 300 miles today in 5 hours (including a stop for morale-boosting ice cream).

The ice cream sandwiches in King City, California, are so big even Eli can’t finish one (believe me, he tried).

Speaking of ice cream, drumsticks are “a great example of fossil layers,” says Ben.

We passed truckloads of garlic and broccoli, fields of romaine and artichokes, oil rigs (both off-shore and on land) and wind farms.

Visiting family is terrific (especially when there are young cousins to play with and a new book –no, for a change I don’t mean mine! — to talk about), but it’s always good to be home.

A Good Day



#1: Sleeping in (yes, there was the 1-3 AM visit from Ben and the 6:00 AM visit from Eli, but I remained horizontal)

#2: Breakfast in bed–including freshly-baked scones from Tony– with the Sunday Times

#3: A gift of new lip stuff and chocolate

#4: A mama-centric special at Ben and Eli’s cafe (see photo above) and a most excellent mother’s day banner (if you look closely, you’ll see the letters are all train cars)

#5: A workshop/reading by the wonderful Lisa Garrigues, attended with a new mama-writer friend of mine

#6: Dinner at one of my favorite pizza places, with my three favorite guys.

I hope all you mamas out there had equally lovely days!