Wednesday, August 24, 2016

family extended

She’s a gem, this new family member of ours. Helpful, curious, smart, kind, low-maintenance, candid, and adventurous, Melissa’s got all the positive attributes. Bonus, she laughs easily and often. She blends right into our family.

In  many of my cross-cultural experiences, I'm the one traveling, navigating a foreign place, and floundering my way through a new language. Now it’s the other way round. I get to explain and correct and clarify. It’s such a treat, getting to build cross-cultural bridges from the comfort of my home.

Yesterday, we invited one of Melissa’s friends, a Colombian IVEPer named Ayda, for supper and then to help with canning tomatoes afterwards.

That evening the kitchen bubbled with Spanish and English, shrieks of laughter, and teasing. We were informed that when chopping onions, if you wipe the knife blade with fresh lemon, it will reduce the onion-y fumes. Also, Melissa claims, the most effective way to chop an onion is to thwack it all over and then slice it.

“We have lots of secrets,” Ayda said, her nose in the air. “One dollar, please.”

I have a feeling that this year is going to be a special one. The world is coming to our door, and we don't even need to go anywhere. Lucky us.

This same time, years previous: the quotidian (8.24.15), that special date, he got me, 16, coming up for air, whole wheat buttermilk waffles, and homemade butter.

Tuesday, August 23, 2016

the quotidian (8.23.16)

Quotidian: daily, usual or customary; 
everyday; ordinary; commonplace

Sun, sun, sun, here it comes!

For the bruschetta.

Leftover toasts.

My  younger son's corn: he planted it, harvested it, husked it .... and then shared it.

My  older daughter's mind tends to wander....

We  ran out of salsa couple months ago. It's been sorely missed.

Light bulb moment!


Ten-hour workdays and the dirt to prove it.

Built for reading.  

Off to the fair: all four kids, by themselves, yes!!!!!


Feeling a little insecure there, son?

They asked if I'd like to try some samples and I said yes.

How in the world....?!

PS. Prepped this post yesterday but didn't get around to publishing it until today. My excuse: Life.

This same time, years previous: sun-dried tomato and basil pesto torte, kale tabbouleh with tomatoes and cucumbers, stewed greens with tomatoes and chili, and grape jelly.

Thursday, August 18, 2016

a new room

For years, the downstairs bedroom has been the bane of my domestic existence. Actually, my house has other banes, such as the back hall, the basement, the attic, and my children’s bedrooms, but the downstairs bedroom is one of the larger banes. We can never seem to settle on its purpose. Sometimes it’s a study. Other times, a guest room, art studio, minor league living room, or storage shed. We’ve considered knocking one of the windows out, putting a door in, and transforming the place into a mud room. But it doesn’t feel wise to turn that much square footage into unlivable space. So the room has just kinda existed, floating along, never living up to its full potential.

Until now.

A couple months ago, I read a little blurb in our church’s newsletter requesting host families for Spanish-speaking language assistants who would be volunteering at our local university through Mennonite Central Committee.

Me: Hey, hon. Want to have a stranger come live with us for a year?

Him: (Grunt)

Me: Great! I’ll look into it.

One thing led to another and soon our family was matched with a young woman from Guatemala City. She would be arriving the middle of August and she’d have the downstairs bedroom. Her imminent arrival lit the fire under our butts. Or rather, it lit the fire under my butt and then I, in turn, pestered my husband until he smooshed his nose to the grindstone and got to it already, thank you very much.

We took everything out of the room: shelves, coat hooks, furniture, ratty blinds, filthy rug, lamps, everything. Except for the bed, which we stripped, covered with an old sheet and left to stand in the middle of the room like a four-legged island.

My husband patched holes and mudded, and then he painted the entire room. He swapped the torn screens with the non-torn screens from other windows (and now there's a good chance a bat, or small dinosaur, might fly through my bedroom window), installed new blinds, and replaced the non-functioning light switch.

We contemplated buying a new rug.

“Let’s first try cleaning the one we have," I said. "If it works, we save a couple hundred dollars.”

 So my husband spread the rug on the deck, sprinkled it liberally with detergent, and then he and the kids scrubbed it into radiant submission. It took at least four rinses until the water ran clean, and then a couple days of basking in the sun to dry. And we had a new—or at least a clean—rug!

For the bed, we splurged with new pillows, blanket, duvet, sheets, etc. A friend gave us a dresser, I bought a desk and comforter from another friend for five dollars each, and we stole the super-comfortable ratty old swivel chair out of my daughter’s bedroom. We bought curtains, a bulletin board, new towels (in a color we don’t have—white—so the kids will know not to use them), a towel rack, and a fan. My mom gave us a couple lamps. We shopped our attic for a little shelf and a mirror, and my bedroom for a potted plant. My sister-in-law provided cut flowers, and my daughters scoured their rooms for little jars for the vases to put them in. My kids and their cousins made a welcome sign and pinned it to the bulletin board.

Finally, finally the downstairs bedroom was a real room.

Him: We're on a roll. Why don't we do the other rooms while we're at it?

Me: Because the kids are in them, duh.

Him: Good point. Once they leave home...

This same time, years previous: the quotidian (8.17.15), in progress, the quotidian (8.18.14), starfruit smoothie, garlicky spaghetti sauce, lately, our life, drilling for sauce, tomato and red wine sauce, and thoughts on nursing.

Thursday, August 11, 2016

tomato bread pudding with caramelized onions and sausage

I've been on a bit of a tomato bender. Of course there's the tomato sandwiches and bruschetta (a friend strongly encouraged me to try goat cheese instead of the fresh mozzarella, so that's next on The Tomato Agenda). A couple nights ago I made stuffed baked tomatoes over creamy polenta. I thought it dreamy, but no one else did, phooey on them. Then last night I made tomato bread pudding.

Now this pudding, I've written about before. I'm not one to re-post recipes—ever—but today I am making an exception. Rather then go back to the original recipe and add in my changes like I usually do, this time I'm presenting you with the entire tomato bread pudding experience all over again. You won't resent me if I force you to luxuriate in cheesy, garlicky, sausage-y, bready, tomato-y goodness, will you? Right. I didn't think so.

After that supper, flavor fireworks still going off in my mouth, I informed my husband that if I ever open a restaurant, tomato bread pudding will be on the menu. I'm not planning to open a restaurant any time soon, nor do I ever even entertain such thoughts, but never mind that. If I do open a restaurant, I will serve tomato bread pudding. In fact, now that I'm thinking about it, maybe I should open a little cafe that sells only tomato bread pudding and red wine. Wouldn't that be quaint?

Tomato Bread Pudding with Caramelized Onions and Sausage 

Changes I made this time around: I tossed in a pound of browned sausage, two caramelized onions, and instead of the fancy seasoning mix that I don't have, I added a bunch of spices willy-nilly.

The recipe sounds complicated, but most of the components (toasted bread, browned sausage, caramelized onions, roasted tomatoes and garlic) can be made ahead of time. Even the egg custard can be whisked together and then stored in the fridge until assembly.

Also, what with the eggs, sausage, and bread, this is basically a breakfast casserole, you realize. Just saying....

6 cups of cubed rustic sourdough bread (roughly one pound)
2/3 cup olive oil, more or less
3 pounds Roma tomatoes, topped and sliced in half
½ teaspoon each oregano, basil, thyme, rosemary, fennel, sage, salt, black pepper
1 head garlic
2 cups grated Gruyere cheese
½ cup grated fresh Parmesan
8 eggs, beaten
2 cups milk
1 cup heavy whipping cream
2 teaspoons salt
½ teaspoon pepper
1 pound breakfast sausage, browned
2 large onions, sliced thin and caramelized

Toss the bread cubes with 1/3 cup of olive oil. Bake at 375 degrees for 15 to 20 minutes, stirring occasionally, or until golden brown and toasty. Set aside.

Toss the Roma tomatoes with the spices (the ½ teaspoon list) and a couple tablespoons of olive oil. Place the tomatoes on a sided baking sheet, cut sides up. Cut the top off the head of garlic, place the head cut side up on a piece of foil, drizzle it with olive oil, wrap it up tightly, and nestle it in among the tomatoes. Bake the tomatoes and garlic at 375 degrees for one hour. When the garlic is cool enough to handle, squeeze the soft pulp out of the papery husks and into a bowl. Mash the pulp with a fork to get rid of lumps. Set aside the tomatoes and garlic pulp.

Beat the eggs in a large bowl. Add the garlic pulp, milk, cream, cheeses, 2 teaspoons salt, and ½ teaspoon black pepper.

Tumble the toasted bread cubes into a greased 9 x 13 baking dish. Spread the caramelized onions and browned sausage on top. Pour over the egg-cream mixture. Arrange the roasted tomatoes on top.

Bake the pudding at 375 degrees for 40-50 minutes or until the custard has set up and the pudding is puffy and golden brown.

This same time, years previous: the quotidian (8.10.15), the Murch collision of 2015, the quotidian (8.11.14), the quotidian (8.12.13), goodbye, getting my halo on, there's that, sanitation and me, sweet pickles, and orange mint tea.

Monday, August 8, 2016

the quotidian (8.8.16)

Quotidian: daily, usual or customary; 
everyday; ordinary; commonplace

Trashy art.

So refreshing: I drink it by the pint jar.

Straining his breakfast: he used the wrong (non lactose-free) milk.

It doesn't get any simpler.

Salsa (or some such tomato-y thing), in waiting.

Didn't quite meet my expectations, and I even shelled out the big bucks for the Gruyere, pfft.

I roasted them.

A boatload of zucchini boats: capitalizing on the church potluck.

Onion tears.

Note the paper and pencil for tallying his pieces of pizza.

A once-a-year event, if we're lucky.

All by herself: she pulls up the entire plant, tears the corn off the stalk, husks it, and eats it.
(Mom and Dad, if you were wondering why your corn patch isn't producing
as well as you thought it should....)

Brotherly-love shelf installment: for the Little, from the Big.

Riverside paparazzi: my daughter turned the tables on me.

Spoiled dog.

He adored his big "brother." 
(And yes, my son does know how to properly hold a fork...I think?)

For playing Fox and Geese: my younger son mowed a trail in the grass.

One fish, two fish, red fish, blue fish.....