Posts tagged ‘holidays’

Happy Valentine’s Day

I know, most of you will not read this till the day after the fact, but the day itself proved too busy for blogging. Still, I was just so delighted with Ben’s card, I had to share.

Most days we have to rouse him at 7, and if we’re doing well he’s out of bed by about twenty after. This morning, I heard him get up and head downstairs on his own before I even had my slippers on, and when I finally got downstairs, this is what greeted me on the kitchen island.

Love is the best. Literate children are pretty great, too.

A Good Day in San Francisco

This has not been a good winter for San Francisco. We have not, for example, been to the zoo to ride Eli’s beloved Puffer train since the Christmas Day tiger escape, and I’m not sure I’ll ever feel safe enough there to return. I have mixed feelings about zoos, but there’s something about the SF zoo, the sight of the giraffes’ heads bobbing along above the eucalyptus trees, the waves from Ocean Beach crashing in the background, that always appealed to me.

Meanwhile, in other local news, the governor has slashed the public school budget (how are our teachers, already stretched to the limit, going to continue under these conditions?), and our street car line recently struck another pedestrian.

My kids don’t know about any of this, of course, but it’s all been wearing on me and I badly needed a good city day. And we had one last Friday. We started at Ben’s school, where his kindergarten class, their fourth grade buddies, and assorted teachers, staff, and families gathered for a peace march in honor of Martin Luther King, Jr.’s birthday. The kids paraded across the park to a shopping district, chanting slogans (“2! 4! 6! 8! We think Dr. King is great!”) and singing Happy Birthday to the bemused smiles of shoppers and shopkeepers. We walked along beside them, Eli asking the whole way, “This the ha-pade? Where the ha-pade?”

After some time in the playground’s train structure and lunch, I collected Ben from school (Tony and Eli having driven home for a nap), and we rode the bus downtown. A few stops along our journey, an older man boarded the bus and sat down next to Ben and me. He listened to us chatting about the parade and MLK for awhile, then pulled a piece of paper out of his bag and started to fold. Ben watched intently as the bird (pictured above) took shape. When he was done, the man handed it to Ben, who was delighted with his gift. “For me? Really?” and then checking with me, “Caroline, can I keep this?” The man and I both smiled our yeses to Ben, and the man then got out two more pieces of origami paper; handing one to me, he indicated (I only realized later that he never spoke to us) that I should fold along with him and learn. Two more birds emerged from the papers, just as we got to our stop. Ben bounced off the bus, holding his bird, delighted with this interaction with a stranger.

Next stop, the Museum of Modern Art for the Olafur Eliasson show. If this comes anywhere near you, go see it! Take the kids! It’s a gorgeous, light-filled, fascinating exhibit, with many of the installations exposed so that you can see how they were created. Ben and I had a ball poking in and around the various pieces, and I think a Friday afternoon bus ride to MoMA might become a regular part of our monthly routine.

Ben then remembered the MLK memorial across the street, so off we went. It’s a Maya Lin-inspired fountain/waterfall, with lines from King’s speeches engraved on the walls next to huge photographs from various moments in the Civil Rights movement. Streams of water pour down (“let justice roll down as waters, and righteousness as a mighty stream”), and the whole thing always makes me cry. Luckily Ben was there, threatening to topple headlong into the water, hollering at the pigeons, lightening up the mood.

And then last stop, reunited with Tony and Eli, who took the street car (without incident) downtown to meet us for dinner at our favorite Vietnamese restaurant, Out the Door. We filled up on lemongrass tofu and chard with carmelized shallots, picked up some chocolate gelato for dessert, and then loaded two tired boys back on to the street car for the ride home. It was a fine day in San Francisco.

Celery Root & Potato Gratin

OK, I know this might not sound like the most delicious thing (and I’m certainly moving a long way from marshmallows and the other sweets I’ve been posting about) but this was one of the big successes of my holiday cooking last week. My parents spent the week with us, and I always use their visits to try out new recipes. Gracious guinea pigs that they are, they do not turn up their noses at new flavors like some small people I know and love. But although the boys rejected this one, the rest of us gobbled it up. The celery root is delicate and sweet, the potatoes rich and creamy — it’s a delicious wintery dish.

1 garlic clove, peeled and smashed
1 t butter
1 celery root, about a pound
1 pound potatoes, preferably Yukon Gold or Yellow Finn
1/2 c cream
2 t dijon mustard
1 c grated Gruyere
1 t fresh thyme
salt and pepper

Preheat the oven to 375. Rub a gratin dish with the garlic, and then with the butter.

Peel the celery root, quarter, and then slice it 1/4″ thick. Steam for 8-10 minutes, until tender. Remove to a large bowl.

While the celery root slices are steaming, peel and slice the potatoes 1/4″ thick also. Then, once the celery root is out of the steamer, steam potato slices until tender, 5-8 minutes. Add them to the celery root in the bowl.

Mix the cream and mustard together, then pour over the vegetables and toss well. Season with the thyme and salt and pepper to taste. Pour mixture into gratin dish, smooth it out, and cover with the grated cheese.

Bake, covered, for 30 minutes; then uncover and bake an additional 15-20 minutes, until bubbling and nicely browned on top.

Adapted from Deborah Madison’s Vegetarian Cooking for Everyone

Toasted Coconut Marshmallows

OK, these are just too easy not to make. And we’re having a party next week, and these keep a long time, so why not feed the people marshmallows?! The only change I’d make to the recipe is to not toast the coconut for 7 minutes unless you like it burned. That’s all.

This picture is of the giant marshmallow before I cut it into dozens of marshmallow babies. I’m tempted now to make a multi-layered marshmallow birthday cake someday; wouldn’t it be beautiful? You could dye the layers different colors with food coloring, cut them into whatever shapes you like. . . Sweet, fun, and so jiggly, too!

Miracle on 11th Avenue

First, go read my latest column at Literary Mama, on Miracle on 34th Street. Come on back when you’re done.


OK, so here’s the postscript:

I was in the kitchen baking some cookies yesterday (as I’ve been the last several days…) when the doorbell rang, and Tony answered it for a postal service volunteer. She’d read Ben’s letter to Santa and brought him a pogo stick! She left too quickly for us to really thank her properly, or send her off with a plate of cookies. The pure generosity of this just knocks me out, and the thought of kids who really might not get a Christmas present without such volunteers makes me tear up (Tony looked up the Toys for Tots website and made a quick donation).

Ben and I hadn’t talked about his pogo stick request since the day he mailed his letter to Santa, and I didn’t act on it; I didn’t really take it seriously. If you have read this blog, or know my boy, you know that Ben is not really a pogo stick kind of guy. But last night Ben made a careful plate of cookies, carrots (for the reindeer) and wrote a note for Santa: “Dear Santa, I hope your trip goes great tonight! PS, Did you bring my pogo stick? Signed, Benjamin James Grant.”

Of course, he was delighted with the gifts we gave him (his own set of measuring spoons; a compass; about a thousand Lego pieces) but his face when he recognized the big package under the tree this morning was pure joy, and he has not stopped marveling that Santa responded to his letter.

(Image from the book that started this all, Marla Frazee’s Santa Claus the World’s Number One Toy Expert)

It’s beginning to look a bit like Christmas…

We’re cooking, and decorating, and generally filling the house with good smells and pretty things… More to come!

Oh, Christmas Tree

This tree, a scrawny little primrose, is making me very happy. We’re fostering it for Friends of the Urban Forest, which will reclaim it after the holidays and plant it on a street somewhere in San Francisco (I’m hoping we can get the address, so that we’ll be able to visit it). Tony and the boys deemed it too small and skinny to bring inside and decorate, so we have a more traditional Christmas tree in the living room, and this one is hanging out by the front door, adorned with a flock of origami cranes.

Meanwhile, in other Christmas preparations, I’ve made (with Ben’s participation) candied orange peel, Elevator Lady Spice Cookies, pumpkin rocks, cranberry bars, and cranberry-pistachio ice box cookies. We still need to make hickory puffs and bourbon balls, some biscotti, and probably some wasps’ nests (a recipe I’ll post so that I can help Fertile Ground use up her egg whites!). Plus, there’s nothing chocolate yet, and that’s just wrong. Finally, I’m considering — for the first time — buche de noel for Christmas dessert, which is perhaps a little nutty. Tune in Wednesday to find out!

Salted Chocolate-Pecan Toffee

This was a fine way to end a busy week, or start a busy weekend. Ben and Eli both helped, Ben marveling at how much sugar the recipe called for, and both boys loving the sight of me wearing heavy-duty work gloves when it was time to stir the vanilla into the boiling sugar (somehow we don’t have oven mitts). When I asked Tony if he wanted a taste (we’ll give most of it away) he said, “Are you kidding? I saw everyone in my family throw a stick of butter into the pot. Yeah, I want a taste.” I’ve never made candy before, but it turns out to be a lot less work than an equal amount of cookies, and needless to say, it’s plenty delicious. We might be trying out some more recipes during this holiday baking season. Stay tuned.

Father’s Day Reading

Check out all the good Father’s Day reading over at Literary Mama, including Libby’s column, my column, and one of the new features that we have been working hard on: a reading list!

Antidotes to a Lousy Hour

Luckily, it didn’t take much (it was really only an hour, after all, and I didn’t even get any bruises) but it was abundantly, extravagantly erased by:

lots of sympathy from family and friends, both in the computer and out

+ a quiet afternoon playing with my boys

+ Saturday morning at the farmer’s market listening to a friend’s band

+ an afternoon at our friends’ new home, making up for the previous day’s aborted playdate

+ an impromptu barbecue with three other families (8 kids under 6 all playing easily together while the parents eat and visit)

+ Sunday morning’s chocolate-chip coconut coffee cake (happy Father’s Day, Tony!)

+ a sunny afternoon at the San Jose Giants game, both watching the game and, when it got too hot, watching the boys play the carnival games in the parking lot

+ another great dinner with friends (two nights in a row being fed by someone else!)

+ another late night, carrying sleepy, sweaty-headed boys from the car up to bed

= a sunny summer weekend with old friends and happy kids and good food