Thursday, June 30, 2016

twist and shout

Yesterday the spine doctor gave the green light for my son to begin weaning himself off the brace. We waited until we got home for The Great Un-shelling.

It's pretty weird, seeing him walking around without the hard plastic coating he's been wearing for the last two months. He hasn't bent or twisted his back since April 24. (Go on, click the link. That photo compared to the one above? My throat tightens just looking at it. He's come such a long way.)

The first time my older daughter saw him twist from side to side, she shrieked and covered her eyes.

You can see the lump in his back from the break. Running my hand down his spine gives me the willies.

He's moving slowly, gingerly. He says he feels stiff, but fine. His lower back is what hurts, if anything. Probably from lack of use. After a few days, he'll no longer wear the brace at all, but he can still only lift ten pounds for the next four weeks. At that point, his bones should be eighty percent healed (it will take up to two years for the them to heal completely) and he will have resumed all ordinary activity, aside from super heavy lifting and running.

Next up: eye surgery!

This same time, years previous: the quotidian (6.30.14), blueberry pie, drying apricots, baby bunnies, and work.

Wednesday, June 29, 2016

we have arrived

It used to be that the kids would wake early. Now, not so much.

These days it's me and my husband that get up early. We run, shower, and visit. He makes his lunch and eats breakfast while I fix my coffee and turn on the computer. He goes to work. I write. After awhile I'll realize it's going on 9 o'clock and I really should get the kids up if I want them to have time to eat breakfast before lunch.

Upstairs, I cut off the noise machine and push open doors. Sometimes they're already awake, curled under the covers reading a book. But other times they're still sound asleep. “Time to get up,” I'll whisper, taking care to stay out of range of their dragon breath.

They groan, scratch, mash their retainers with their teeth, pull the blankets over their heads.

“Come on. Up now.” I'm no longer whispering. “It's time for breakfast. Be downstairs in five minutes.”

I walk out, leaving their doors open in hopes that my clattering will keep them from slipping back into dreamland.

This same time, years previous: fĂștbol, goat cheese whipped cream, red beet greens, and patting myself on the back.

Monday, June 27, 2016

the quotidian (6.27.16)

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

Washed and ready: now what?

Two batches in one week: my love for ginger cream scones is fierce.

Mediocre: my skillet lunch of rice, kale, fresh dill, olives, feta, etc.

A hot weather fave: gin and tonic.

Taking the phrase "biting your head off" to a new level.

Party remnants.

Catching all the smells.

Animal care for traveling neighbors: fetch!

Ready (for church) and waiting (for the slowpokes). 

This same time, years previous: on slaying boredom, dark chocolate zucchini cake, a break in the clouds, honeyed apricot almond cake, chin hairs and chicken noodle soup, and brown bread.

Saturday, June 25, 2016

seven nothings

1. About the book I'm still working on: I need to write—I want to write—but the topics are so big. I can't even get a handle. Plus, plugging away yields diddlysquat which makes me get frustrated before I even start. So I don't. Instead I write blog posts. 

2. There is no chocolate in this house. Also, no ice cream. This state of affairs is completely and irrevocably unacceptable. Why is it that the last few times I've been in Costco I've suffered a bout of virtuousness that caused me to waltz right by the snack section with nary a second glance? WHAT AILS ME? Could I really not be bothered to contemplate the suffering I would be afflicting upon my future self if I didn't pause for ONE SECOND to fling a bag of empty calories into my boat-cart? Apparently not. And thus the reason I'm now cramming my face with a Nutella and peanut butter graham cracker sandwich. Desperate times, desperate measures and all that.

3. My older daughter and her horse got hired to do our little neighbor girl's birthday party. The plan was to give rides to all the little party goers, but then my daughter thought the little girls might like to groom the horselike a real My Little Pony—so she bought some glitter and ribbons to take along. She's been gone for three hours now, and I only heard a child cry once. Assuming a) a hurt child making noise is a positive sign, and b) the adults standing around in the driveway didn't move, then c) everything is fine.

4. On this morning's run, I tasked my husband with not letting me walk up the big hill at the end, so while I struggled to breathe, he gave me a speech about all the qualities he'd like to have in his new truck. He was so boring that slowly killing myself felt like a pleasurable experience. I didn't stop once.

5. Have you ever bought the Extra-Sharp Provolone cheese from Costco? Well, don't. My husband took one taste and announced that it tasted like vomit. He was right. The flavor is reminiscent of the acid-tang that lingers in the back of your throat after puking.

6. This coming week my son sees the spine doctor and will maybe get his brace off. His first eye surgery is scheduled for August (news he doesn't yet know as he is currently gallivanting about Baltimore with his choir), but before that he'll have a pre-op appointment and more eye tests. Did I ever mention that it takes three hours of round-trip driving for each of his appointments? From now on, I hope he executes better form when getting off his bike. Speedy dismounts do not a time saver make.

7. We still have a lot of lettuce in the garden, but my giant chef saladscucumbers, carrots, sweet peppers, cherry tomatoes, toasted sunflower seeds, cheese, craisins, boiled eggs, chopped ham, etcare getting met with mutters. The family is salad weary. I need inspiration. New twists on creative ways to consume large quantities of lettuce, anyone?

This same time, years previous: beef empanadas, oregano, garlic, and lemon roast chicken, and lemon donut muffins.

Friday, June 24, 2016

fruit-filled coffee cake

During a string of afternoon errands, I stopped by McDonald's for an iced coffee. The drink they handed me (I got caramel flavored) was not an iced coffee. It was more like a chilled, thick syrup with a few ice cubes and a couple coffee vapors. Poison through a straw, was what it was. With every swallow, I felt like I was shortening my life by an entire week.

I gagged down the drink (I needed that caffeine), all the while wondering: Is this the level of sweetness to which most Americans are accustomed? Is our collective sugar addiction so severe that anything less sweet tastes unsweet? Because, wow. And I thought I liked sugar.

(That night we had salad for supper. You said we were going to have spaghetti, my younger daughter fussed. I had said we'd have spaghetti, but that was before I about killed myself with sugar. In this house, Mama drinks junk and everyone suffers the consequences.)

And now, let's talk cake.

(And yes, ye purists. I'm fully aware that I'm sharing a recipe for cake—a breakfast cake, no less, and with icing—directly after delivering an anti-sugar rant. No one may ever take me seriously again. Which is fine. Let's move on.)

I feel like I've always known about this coffee cake—was it a church breakfast staple when I was growing up, perhaps?—and while I'd made it a time or two over the last couple decades, I never counted it as one of my recipes. But this last week when my older daughter hauled in several bowls of sour cherries from our trees and I found myself standing for far too many hours at the disturbingly, red-juice-spattered kitchen sink, pitting the tedious little stinkers, this was the recipe I found myself fantasizing about.

I made it (obviously), and then I ate it every chance I got for the next three days (hopefully not as obviously). 'Twas lovely.

Fruit-Filled Coffee Cake
Adapted from Mennonite Country-Style Recipes by Esther H. Shank.

The recipe is a snap to make (once the cherries are pitted, good luck with that), and while I'm partial to tart fruit pared with soft pastry, the cake would probably be delicious filled with any number of fruit sauces: blueberry, raspberry, apricot, etc.

I used lemon juice in place of milk for my glaze—a tasty upgrade—but then I found myself wishing I'd tried a cream cheese glaze. Maybe next time.

This is best served at room temperature. It keeps well, too. Three days out and it was none the worse for wear (or sitting, rather).

1 cup butter
1¾ cups sugar
4 eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla
3 cups flour
1½ teaspoons baking powder
½ teaspoon salt
¼ cup milk
3-4 cups fruit filling (see below)
1 recipe glaze (see below)

Cream together the butter and sugar. Beat in the eggs and vanilla. Stir in the dry ingredients. Add the milk and stir just until combined.

Using a rubber spatula, spread half of the dough over the bottom of a greased 10 x 15 jelly roll pan, making a thin bottom crust. Dollop the fruit filling over the batter and, using the back of a spoon, smooth it out so that it uniformly covers the batter. Dollop the remaining batter over the fruit filling and try to spread it out as much as possible. Patches of fruit filling will still peep through, and that's fine.

Bake the cake at 350 degrees for about 30 minutes. Cool for ten minutes before drizzling with the glaze. Cool the rest of the way before serving. Store leftovers at room temperature, covered with plastic.

Sour cherry fruit filling:
3-4 cups sour cherries
½ cup sugar
2-3 tablespoons therm-flo, or cornstarch
a little water

Put the sour cherries in a sauce pan. In a small bowl, whisk together the sugar and therm-flo. Add a little water to make a thin paste. Stir the paste into the cherries. Heat over medium-high heat, stirring regularly, until the sauce is thick and bubbly. If the sauce is too thick, add more water.

Lemon glaze: whisk together 1 cup powdered sugar, sifted, with 2-4 tablespoons fresh lemon juice. 

Cream cheese glaze: a fraction of this recipe, but thinned with more milk.

This same time, years previous: better iced coffee (well isn't that ironic), my ethical scapegoat, the quotidian (6.25.12), chocolate peanut butter cake, lemon ice cream with red raspberries, slushy mojitos, and there's a red beet where my head used to be.

Wednesday, June 22, 2016

Korean beef

I made a double batch of this meat the other night—half pork because I'm devious like that—and everyone ate their supper and didn't say much. Later, while I was putting the leftovers away, I grouched about how I was disappointed no one liked it because I thought it was fabulous, and my husband yipped that he did too like it!

“Well how was I supposed to know that? You never said anything.”

“I had two helpings!”

“Right,” I said. “Like I'm supposed to keep track of how many helpings you have.”

Gradually, he convinced me that he did like the beef. And everyone else did, too, they said. Turns out they were telling the truth, not just placating me to cover their butts, since over the next several days, whenever I'd get out leftovers for lunch, they'd ask, “Is any more of That Meat Stuff left?” until it was all gone and everyone was sad.

My only beef (ha) with this dish is that it's on the dry side. Maybe my meat is extra lean? In any case, I think next time I'll add a little cornstarch-and-chicken broth slurry at the very end to create a sauce. That should do it.

Korean Beef 
Adapted from Camille over at Flowers In His Garden.

This is a double recipe. I see no point in making less.

I think this would be delicious with roasted cabbage and carrots tossed, or maybe some sauteed sweet peppers. Really, any vegetable—cauliflower, broccoli, peas, potatoes, etc.—would be great additions.

I cut the hot pepper in half because my kids are wusses.

2 pounds ground beef
2-4 tablespoons minced fresh ginger
6 cloves garlic, minced
½ cup soy sauce
2 tablespoons sesame oil
2/3 cup brown sugar
¼ teaspoon cayenne pepper
6-8 green onions, chopped

Fry the ground beef until cooked through. Add the ginger and garlic and cook for 2-3 minutes more. Add the soy sauce, sesame oil, sugar, and pepper and simmer for another 10-15 minutes. Just before serving, stir in the onions. Serve over rice.

For a saucy version: put 2 tablespoons of cornstarch or Thermflo in a bowl and slowly whisk in 1 cup of water or chicken broth. Add the paste to the meat (prior to adding the onions). Heat through until the liquid has thickened and turned clear. Add onions and serve. (I haven't tried this method yet, but I see no reason why it shouldn't work.)

This same time, years previous: the quotidian (6.22.15), three things, weigh in, please, angst, flubs, and strike, cilantro beet salad, orange cranberry scones, spaghetti with fresh herbs and fried eggs, and a driving lesson.

Monday, June 20, 2016

the quotidian (6.20.16)

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

The job that takes FOREVER.

More weeds!

To live off of: quinoa, feta, kalamata olives, tomatoes, cucumbers, and a light dressing.

Bacon from our pigs, eggs from our chickens, lettuce from our garden: MY lunch.

How my younger son makes toast: defrost it in the microwave till it's hot, chill it in the fridge, 
and then toast it.

Growing feet: the ten-year-old versus the fourteen-year-old. 
My son is going to be enormous.

Gettysburg: we made like good homeschoolers and went on a field trip.

Creek envy: at my aunt and uncle's.

Family extended.

Getting her "round." 
(Apparently, it's a big deal.)

After the accident, one of my first questions 
(after learning he sustained no long-term damage, of course) 
was, "How long until he can do dishes?" 
 I didn't ask it out loud, but I thought it.



The man hates it when I get in his personal space so I do it all the time. 

This same time, years previous: the case of the slipping snood, in recovery, magic custard cake, walking through water, the quotidian (6.19.12), refried beans, this particular Friday, what I got, cabbage apple slaw with buttered pecans, swiss chard rolls, and sour cherry crostatas.

Friday, June 17, 2016

smart hostessing

When we were in Pennsylvania last weekend, we spent the night at my aunt and uncle's place. We arrived at their place right before bedtime, and, while visiting with my aunt in the kitchen—she was flitting about, smacking flies with deadly precision and then carefully dropping their mashed bodies into the compost bucket—I asked if their family would be attending church in the morning.

“No,” she said, and then, dropping her voice to a confessional level, “We actually decided to take advantage of all the company and put everyone to work. We're going to do peas first thing.”

When I got up the next morning, most everyone was already outside on the patio, pans of peas balanced on their laps.

Conversation fluttered from topic to topic—trees that might need to be cut down, a cousin's rationale for eating ice cream for breakfast instead of at bedtime (then I have all day to burn off the sugar!), building projects, job offers, etc. My cousin's wife had just had a baby that morning, so phones kept pinging with text updates: gender! size! name! pronunciation of name! And all the while, our hands were moving—pop open the pod, thumb-scrape the peas out, toss the shell into the basket, and repeat.

pea thief

Wanna know something? A patio pea party makes for a pretty awesome church substitute: grounding, meditative, productive, and relational.

Yo, churches! Beat that.

This same time, years previous: the quotidian (6.16.14), dobby and luna, language study, a dare, when I sat down, Kate's enchiladas, naps and mowers, cold-brewed iced coffee and cold-brewed iced tea, old-fashioned vanilla ice cream, and how to freeze spinach.