Thursday, June 20, 2019

one morning

One morning when the cousins were here, my younger daughter suggested they do makeovers. At first the little ones were apprehensive, but eventually they got into it, sitting still while brushes were waved over their faces and then scrambling to change into their Sunday best. When my older daughter got home from work, she jumped right in, scurrying to catch up.

They decided to go up to the neighboring farm for the photo shoot, and I went along as their photographer. But then, right before we headed out the door (directly before lunch, so not the greatest time to go on an outing with a tot), the youngest one’s flip-flop broke, triggering a rapid disintegration.

So much for mascara.

From then on, the poor child fluctuated between peevish calm and full-blown wails, her eyes growing progressively puffier and redder.

The slightest thing — a few drops of water on her sandals, an accidental elbow to the head — and she’d break.

Basically, my photostream should be titled "A Study in a Four-Year-Old’s Mood Swings."

The rest of us had a jolly time, though!

The spot was idyllic; the girls hammy....

And by the end, the littlest had mostly recuperated.

Then we went home and had lunch.
The end.

This same time, years previous: family week, the quotidian (6.18.18), a new pie basket, Puff!, the quotidian (6.20.16), dobby and luna, language study, the quotidian (6.19.12), refried beans.

Sunday, June 16, 2019

cousin week

Cousin week started off rainy, so we hit up the library first thing.

After they’d been at our house for about twenty-four hours, the one boy said sadly, “It feels like we did more stuff last year.”

“My dear child,” I said in my best Willy Wonka voice, “you haven’t had time to do as much stuff because you’ve only been here for a day.”

But I got the point: time to up my game! We spread an old sheet on my bedroom floor and dumped the Legos. We had the cousins over. My older son made sparks.

I took them to Costco to eat samples.

I could feel people staring at us. Probably they thought we were a weird homeschooling family or something.

I surprised them with a stop at Puppy City.

Even though the place was empty, with staff literally lining the walls doing nothing, we were kept to the strict, two-puppy-per-group rule. And, since only three people are allowed in a room at a time, this meant the rest of us had to stand there, twiddling our thumbs and quietly fuming. Note to self: next time divide up and enter at five-minute intervals for maximum puppy pettage.

It’s funny what they remembered from last year. Top priority for the youngest was bedtime snacks — apparently they don’t get them at home — so every night we had something: toast and jelly, graham crackers and milk (the favorite), pudding and nectarines.

They went to my parents’ house for a day, and to my brother’s house for a morning. For our bedtime book, I read Harris and Me (minus the swear words); at the funny parts, they laughed so hard they almost fell off the sofa.

One night we had cereal for supper (since they only get cereal on Sundays at their house) and had a movie night — Sing — with popcorn and apples.

The kids went with me to vote, and the boys observed a kickboxing lesson. We went to my brother’s band concert.

We skipped church on Sunday in favor of sleeping in, a tea party, finishing Harris and Me, and swimming in our neighbors’ pool.

A number of times, our group swelled to ridiculous numbers: my brother’s kids, my younger daughter’s babysitting charges, my younger son’s friend, the neighbor kid, a friend and her children. The yard swarmed, kids on the (replacement!) trampoline, on the swings, in the tree. The neighbors probably thought we’d opened a daycare.

Mostly, though, I cooked.

Compared to my normal daily grind of writing, it sort of felt like a vacation. For hours on end, I hung out in the kitchen cookcookcooking: eggs and toast, sourdough bread, potato salad, spaghetti and meatballs, taco salad, chocolate peanut butter cake, baked oatmeal, chef salads, pancakes, mac and cheese, zucchini-sausage soup, pizza, deviled eggs, coffee cake.

Part way through the week, I developed a sore throat that morphed into a cold. It wasn’t bad, but it was enough to make me semi-exhausted.

Or, oh hey here's an idea: maybe I was tired, not from the cold, but from, oh, I don't know, TAKING CARE OF A MILLION KIDS?

This same time, years previous: up, up, up to Utuado, taking flight, street food, this, too, shall pass, Kate's enchiladas, cold-brewed iced coffee.

Thursday, June 13, 2019

barbecue sauce

A little over a year ago, I discovered a most wonderful homemade barbecue sauce. I made it and used it for grilled chicken and whoknowswhatall, and then I made it again (I think?).

I kept planning to blog about it, but then we went to Puerto Rico — and I typed the recipe up as an email draft so I wouldn’t have to Google search it every time I needed the perfect barbecue sauce — and then it was fall, and then winter, and I kept wanting to write about it but I didn’t.

The reason I like this barbecue sauce is because (oh goodness, for a split second I was back in Miss Wolgemuth’s second grade class doing a book report!) there’s no chopping of onions or blending up of anything. Simply measure, whisk, simmer, refrigerate, and then, whenever you need some barbecue sauce, grab it from where it’s hanging out in the back of the fridge, waiting ... to make your wildest dreams come true!

Or something like that.

Barbecue Sauce 
Adapted from Half Baked Harvest

I usually double the recipe.

1¼ cups ketchup
1 cup brown sugar
¼ cup each molasses, pineapple juice (or apple cider vinegar), and water
1 tablespoon worcestershire sauce
2½ teaspoons dry mustard
2 teaspoons smoked paprika
½ teaspoon garlic powder
¼ - ½ teaspoon cayenne pepper
1½ teaspoons salt
1 teaspoon black pepper

Combine all ingredients in a small saucepan, bring to a boil, and then reduce heat. Simmer for five minutes, or until the sugar has dissolved. Cool and store in the refrigerator.

This same time, years previous: plan our vacation for me please, the quotidian (6.12.17), the business of belonging, Greek cucumber and tomato salad, when I sat down.

Monday, June 10, 2019

the quotidian (6.10.19)

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

One of my favorite Nicaraguan meals: soupy, salty beans with a boiled egg plopped in. 


A packed supper for the returning travelers (and the people who picked them up).

Summer: when bowls of produce litter your kitchen. 

You never realize how much skill goes into emptying a drainer until  CRASH

Travel costs: assessing the damage.

Prettifying: the process in which one looks moderately terrifying before becoming pretty.

Because he asked if he could have it: his.  

The cousins have landed!

Between our house and the road: a wall of green.


This same time, years previous: the quotidian (6.11.18), spinach dip, the smartest thing I did, the quotidian (6.11.12), sourdough waffles, fresh tomatillo salsa.

Saturday, June 8, 2019

margarita mix

The other weekend when my cousin’s family came to visit, she brought along a bottle of margarita mix. We didn’t get around to drinking any — they fixed us fresh mojitos instead, oh-la-la — so, curious as to how margaritas from a mix tasted, I asked if I could pour a bit into a jar for a drink later, after they left.

The margarita was delicious (of course — aren’t all margaritas delicious?), and then I started thinking: couldn’t I just make my own margarita mix? Really, how hard could it be?

From my preliminary research, I learned that mixes — ingredients and proportions — are all over the place. Some have only a spoonful of lime, and others call for a variety of citrus: lime, lemon, and orange. Some mixes have boatloads of simple syrup and others zero. After reading recipe after recipe, the whole thing started to sound like gobbedly-gook, so I quick scribbled down some quantities and shut the computer. Clearly, I’d have to learn by doing (and tasting, ha!).

But lo and behold, my first attempt, despite my decidedly inferior mixology skills, yielded margaritas that were exactly — I repeat, exactly — what I was after: not too sweet, punchy with alcohol, and with plenty of sour from the lime. I was thrilled.

Since then, I’ve made the mix several times. I enjoy the drinks both straight up (salted rims, optional) and whirled with ice for a slushy. On hot summer afternoons, however, I’m particularly partial to the slushy version, especially when it’s served up alongside a heaping plate of cheesy (pepper jack is best!) tortilla chips.

Margarita Mix

One recipe makes about four margaritas and can be either served straight or blended with ice.

For the simple syrup: measure ½ cup each of white sugar and water into a small saucepan and bring to a simmer over medium high heat, removing from the heat when the sugar is dissolved. Store any leftover syrup in a jar in the fridge.

6 ounces tequila
2 ounces triple sec
2 ounces simple syrup (see head note)
2-4 ounces fresh citrus juice, approx (1 lemon and 2 limes)

Combine and store in a pint jar in the fridge.

For an icy margarita for one: blend ½ cup of the mix with ice (keep adding ice until it’s a thick slurry) and pour into a tall glass. If you’re feeling fancy, add a slice of lime and stick a straw in it.

They (the margarita gods) say that the mix will stay good in the fridge for a week, but I think it'd last lots longer. I mean, it's alcohol and sugar, after all — how can it go bad?

This same time, years previous: ba-BAM, pulling the pin, reverberations, a photo book, mud cake, last Sunday morning, Jeni's chocolate ice cream, how we beat the heat.

Wednesday, June 5, 2019

how do you want to be when you grow up?

This afternoon, a cool breeze, rain. Birds.

Downstairs, me and my 13-year-old — my younger daughter is in her room, sleeping maybe? 
and a 90-minute podcast on success.

"How do you define success?" I ask, hitting pause.
“Doing something correctly?” he asks back.

He grips a pencil and my chest puffs. My little notetaker!
But when I look closely I see he’s only tallying
the number of times the presenters say

I make margarita mix.

Also, brown rice, with bacon grease, in the rice cooker.
Beef browning, with onions, garlic, and pepper,
and taco seasoning added at the end.

My older daughter texts that she and her brother, at Culebra, are heading out to snorkel.
Text when you get back, I tell her.
They had fun, she reports later,
but there wasn’t much to see.

“Books are the great lie that tell the truth about the way the world lives,” Verghese quotes.
“Don’t prepare the path for myself,” someone else quips. “Prepare myself for the path.”

I plan the menu for the next few days and add to my grocery list
scallions, salmon, evaporated milk.
When the kids come home (tomorrow!), we might have strawberry shortcake.
If there are still berries in the garden.
My younger son washes the dishes.

Distracted, he picks up my camera and
wanders, snapping aimlessly, until I tell him to

The podcast ends and he disappears,
probably to his room to read.

Outside it's still raining (but barely) and
in the kitchen it's quiet. Just me,
a grown-up.

This same time, years previous: energy boost, the family reunion of 2017, the quotidian (6.6.16), delivery, meat market: life in the raw, of a sun-filled evening, for hot summer days, three reds fruit crumble.