Politics and Camping

Just before Halloween, Andy and I watched The Babadook on Netflix. Andy liked it. I thought it was the most terrifying movie I had ever seen. As the credits rolled, I thought, this was absolutely made by a woman- the depictions of the hardest parts of motherhood were uncomfortably real and stayed with me for days. (I was right- it was written and directed by a woman and produced by another. They’re brilliant.) Anyway, there’s a scene in it (mild spoiler?) where the mom throws up some vile black goo and it is the best way I can think of to describe how I have felt since the election. I walked around last week with a mass of tar in my stomach and a hollowness in my chest.

I don’t sit with my feelings. I get angry and I do shit. But this time I just let it wash over me, each day bringing fresh realizations of the progress that’s in jeopardy now that Trump has won. My immediate thoughts went to the most oppressed groups in our country- people of color, immigrants, the LGBTQ community, Muslims, the poor, then to climate change, then to the supreme court, women’s rights, voting rights, healthcare, nuclear war, genocide. The stocks in private prisons are rising. Our national parks are in jeopardy. There’s going to be a self-proclaimed white nationalist and anti-Semite advising President Trump’s every move. It’s beyond belief. I want to get on my hands and knees and throw this shit up.

I know I live in an echo chamber. That 99 out of my 100 readers are worried about the same things I am, and that the one leftover reader is probably going to skip this post because I put ‘Politics’ in the title. But if that one reader did get this far, I would guess that they’re thinking that it won’t be so bad, that my life won’t really be affected by all this stuff. And they’d be right that I’m in a better position than a lot of other people. But I don’t know that I’ll be unaffected. I’m a Jew living in Texas, a stone’s throw from the site of the annual sons and daughters of the confederacy reunion. My husband is a type-one diabetic. After he was laid off earlier this year he COBRA-ed his health care plan and went to work at a start-up company, with plans to buy insurance on the ACA exchange when that ran out. The ACA may not exist by that point. He might be denied on account of a revived pre-existing condition clause. The Texas economy might be completely destroyed if Trump backs out of NAFTA. We could all die in a super-hurricane.

Here’s the part I really don’t understand though. I am not an empathetic person. My brain just doesn’t think about or pay attention to others’ feelings. And yet, the idea of immigrant parents being ripped from their children destroys me. That people could be denied entrance to our country based on their religion is appalling. That a woman who needs an abortion will have Pence and Trump making that decision for her is just fucked. So even if I’m not directly affected by a Trump presidency, why wouldn’t I do everything I can to speak up for and protect the people who might be? And why wouldn’t you? I’m really asking this. I know it’s not because I’m more empathetic than you.

We went on a three-day camping trip to Garner State Park over the weekend. It was nice to be disconnected from things and to be able to sort through my grief. I came back ready to get to work. Andy and I set up recurring monthly donations to the NRDC, the ACLU, Planned Parenthood, and the Central Texas Food Bank. I called my senators (yugh) to ask them to please speak out against the Bannon appointment. I signed up to work in the gardens in the Mobile Loaves and Fishes Community First village, which allows all ages of volunteers so the boys can get involved too. I signed up for an ACLU of Texas webinar about the upcoming legislative session. I signed up for the boys and I to volunteer through Little Helping Hands. And I’m organizing a gift drive for children whose moms are in prison. These are all things I should have been doing all along, but which feel absolutely essential now. If you have other ideas for ways I can actively work to protect the people and things that need protecting (bonus points if I can do them with children) will you please share them with me? I’m all in.

I still feel like throwing up.

This concludes the politics half of this post. On to camping.

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Garner State Park. Andy gave me a birthday gift of a reservation at this beautiful park. He picked it on a whim, not knowing that it’s the state park I’ve been to more than any other. I spent several summers swimming in the Frio river with my friend Amanda, whose parents had a house there. We took turns sliding down a raging waterfall and jumping into the river from trees and rope swings. We read Fear Street books and watched The Usual Suspects. I accidentally closed her mom’s finger in the sliding door of their minivan on the drive out there. I still remember exactly what that looked like (I’m so sorry, Cristina!). I camped there the summer before my freshman year of high school with Molly. We ate s’mores and studiously avoided our required summer reading of Edith Hamilton’s Mythology and The Once and Future King. We watched ladies in high-waisted wranglers twirl imaginary lassos to the tune of Whip It at the famous Saturday night dance. I love this park. The river is crystal clear, there’s a huge network of varied and delightful hiking trails, some that take you along the river, some up onto Old Baldy (a big rocky overlook thing), some through caves that are cold inside even in the dead heat of summer. It’s a magical spot and I was so happy to get to go back again.

The fire took a while to get started our first night so I had no light for a picture of our dinner. We had Christy’s famous flank steak (marinated in equal parts honey and tamari plus a whole lot of minced ginger) and charley bread, a recipe from my dutch oven cookbook which necessitated the purchase of my first ever can of creamed corn. I was going to serve kale salad with cashew tamari salad dressing too, but the kale smelled bad when I opened the tub so we skipped that. I think I was the only one who missed it.

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Sausage and Egg Breakfast Tacos. Before the trip, I made my own breakfast sausage using the incredible ground pork from Blue Earth Farm. Food always tastes better when you’re camping, but I was deliriously happy with this.

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Start-of-the-hike picture. I don’t know what George was doing but it is my favorite thing.

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Middle-of-the-hike picture. One of the kids always has to stick their tongue out in pictures. It’s the rule.

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We made it! George hiked the whole way! This is unprecedented.

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Take one of a top-of-the-hike picture. Not the best.

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Take two, staring into the sun. Yes they did stick an American flag on top of Old Baldy.

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Garner has paddle boats! I realized halfway through that Andy and I were the only adults on the water wearing the life jackets they give you. We are the nerdiest people you know. Also, look at that water. The whole river is crystal clear. We saw turtles and big fish and then tried to identify them with the fish guide that came in the junior explorer backpack we borrowed from the visitor’s center.

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The only picture of my children in existence where they’re both kind of smiling.

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It didn’t last long.

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I don’t know why.

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A damselfly!

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Andy almost looks like a real fisherman here. The $9 child’s fishing pole from Wal-Mart shatters the illusion.

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These boys! Heart eyes emoji.

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No pants. Never pants.

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George fell in, naturally. What’s that? You want more tongue?

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Wait, wait, I can do better.

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There it is.

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Thanks for the hammock, Gangie and Grandpa!

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Playing the ever-popular How many grapes are in my mouth? game. It’s three.

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Also three. Also! We used dry ice in the bottom of the cooler which had the bonus effect of carbonating the grapes! They were so fizzy. Fun fact- a lifetime ago I made a youtube video about how to carbonate grapes with dry ice. I still get the occasional comment on that video- they are almost always a blow to my self-esteem.

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Haven’t yet perfected using that dutch oven on a wood burning (not charcoal fire). It’s tricky.

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Jambalaya from a box.

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We ate it with saltine crackers and Elmo’s fruit punch.

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Gotta do Jiffy Pop.

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On the morning of our last day we ate chocolate chip pumpkin muffins and more of that homemade sausage. I took a picture, but the sausage, which I squeezed into link-like tube shapes, came out looking like literal poop. It was delicious but I didn’t want you to see it.

Then we went on one last hike along the river trail.

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We’re super good at selfies.

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And that was it. It was a beautiful escape.

Lots of love to all of you.

The Perils of Washing Your Hair with Baking Soda, a Cheap Person Tries Blue Apron, and Chewy Molasses Cookies

I stopped washing my hair three years ago. Instead, I squeeze baking soda water on my head to wash it and apple cider vinegar water on to condition it. It doesn’t work at all. My hair always feels greasy, especially at the yarmulke-patch at the back. And I can pull out great fistfuls of the stuff whenever I want to, which I then drop on the floor in the space between the couch and the wall until a large enough pile of it has accumulated for me to sweep it up. Also, when I went to the dermatologist a few months ago she casually asked if I cared that all the skin was flaking off my scalp. I said I wash my hair with baking soda and that I do not care. And that was true until Sunday, when I jumped in the shower after a real-life yoga class (not the free youtube ones I did this summer and then abandoned) and I was tired and sweaty and I had to leave the door open so the kids could come and yell things at me while I was in there because Andy wasn’t home, and I realized I was out of the lousy baking soda water. I said fuck it and used Andy’s shampoo. I washed my hair twice to revel in the feeling of it. I was freshly awed by conditioner- my hair felt slippery and there were no huge masses of knots I couldn’t rake my fingers through! My hair feels soft and it smells like something that’s not my sweat and why did I do this to myself for three years? For the thrift of it? To prove that I don’t need the shampoo and conditioner conglomerates? To feel like I’m better than all those patsies still washing their hair without baking soda? Yes. It was really stupid and my hair was gross and I was gross (leaving wads of hair by the couch, specifically, but there’s probably more reasons than that) and what luxury to stop doing a stupid thing just because that’s how you’ve been doing it for years.

Other things like that. I switched the living room and dining rooms in our house while Andy was at work one day last week. I love moving furniture around the house and Andy so doesn’t that I’ve taken to just doing it rather than discussing it with him beforehand. It’s so much better though! Before, you’d walk in the house and our big black table and chairs were oppressively right there, crammed in next to a piano and an IKEA shelf crammed full of kids toys and topped with teetering towers of magic school bus books. It wasn’t very welcoming. The IKEA shelf is still there but now there’s a seating area, and room to walk in comfortably and it’s another thing I should have fixed a long time ago.

Also last week I dipped my fork in a spicy green salsa to taste it and then stabbed myself in the gums with it instead of tasting the sauce. I don’t know how I did that and I’m still feeling a little shocked that my level of incompetence now includes my inability to successfully bring a fork to my mouth.

The kids are still sleeping in their own bed, and they’ve gotten really good at it. They wake up a lot earlier (between 6 and 7) but as a general rule they both sleep through the night. This is momentous.

I’m on my first month of birth control pills and so far I don’t feel any crazier than usual (Andy has confirmed this, so you don’t have to take my word for it), but also I started bleeding five days before the brown pills, which is when you’re supposed to start your period and my body just does not give a shit about the color of the pills I’m taking every night and it will continue with the 12 day period plan, thank you very much. Maybe we can get this straightened out next month and I can continue my plan to optimize all the things that aren’t functioning well in my life.

The only post I wrote in October was about my trip to Portland, but I still took pictures of everything we ate. I took out a lot of the low spots- mostly quesadillas and other tortilla-based dinners- but there were some fun things I had to share to get us caught back up again. My favorite things were a trip to Launderette, a really delicious new molasses cookie recipe, and my sister eating a panini in a fancy waiting room. First up, the panini. Here’s what we ate last month.

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Croque Madame, Vegetable Panini, A Chocolate Thing at Baguette et Chocolat. In spite of my complete inability to say any French words without sounding like a country bumpkin, I have shared my love for this place far and wide, based solely on the pain au chocolat  and batards they sell at a stand at the farmer’s market. They have a brick and mortar store now that I’d never been to because it’s in Bee Caves, but Helen and I got the chance to go a few weeks ago and it was everything I hoped it would be. I had a thrilling sandwich and that chocolate croissant I love so much. Helen had a vegetable panini and a delightful slice of chocolate mousse-y stuff. The panini was so hot though, and I was running late to the gynocologist appointment to get the birth control pills that my body is ignoring, so Helen put the sandwich in her purse to eat later. Let’s stop and acknowledge that it’s weird that my sister went with me to the gynocologist. In my defense, my gyno is a family friend and very fun and I didn’t have to be prodded with anything, so it was mostly just a chance to sit in a room together and talk about vaginas. Anyway, this office is in Westlake and super fancy. The waiting room is completely gorgeous, and everything is new and shiny and expertly designed. We sat down to wait on a lovely leather banquette and Helen discretely pulled her panini from her purse. She took a bite and the whole thing fell apart- nicoise olives fell in her cleavage, tomato stuck to her chin and she desperately shoved the lot into her mouth and Helen, the other lady in the waiting room (a quiet grandmother-type), and I laughed and laughed. It was the best. I highly recommend bringing a panini and your sister to your next gyno appointment.

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Seared Cod & Udon Noodles with Shiitake Broth and Togarashi-Spiced Cucumber.  This is my “I tried Blue Apron!” post. Obviously, I’m not getting paid for it. But I did take advantage of a $50 off coupon they had on their website, so it’s almost like I’m the kind of fancy food blogger who gets things for free in exchange for her expert photography and glowing descriptions of the meals. I’ll be honest- I only tried it because it was $10 for three fancy meals that would be delivered to my door, and not because I’m all that interested in actually subscribing to them. For one, I really like menu planning. For another, it just isn’t practical with our kids right now, because it’d be too expensive to get the option that feeds four people and too hard to make two separate dinners.  The first meal I cooked was the least delicious of the three, but still not bad. The food all felt fresh and light, and we ate more vegetables than we typically do and more fish too. The noodles were a little too thick and gummy, the amount of broth was a bit meager, and the cucumber tasted mostly of vinegar and needed something sweet to balance that out. Still though, Andy and I liked it just fine.

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Blue Apron #2, Pimento Cheeseburgers, Collard and Carrot Slaw. The kids didn’t care about not eating our cod and cucumber dinner, but they did want in on the burger meal. Andy and I had to cut hunks off ours to share with them. I liked everything, though I didn’t serve all of the collard green slaw at dinner and the rest of it sat in the fridge until it got too old and was dumped in the chicken coop.

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A Possum we Drove Around Town. Speaking of chickens, this may or may not have been the fellow who took greedy hunks out of two of them and then killed my beloved naked neck by eating her head and leaving the rest. I hated him so much for that. My neighbor Otto lent me his live trap and then offered to dispatch whatever I caught by putting it into a bucket and gassing it with propane so it would just go to sleep and not wake up (like putting your head in an oven!, he said). But once I caught the thing and looked it in the eye I didn’t want to be responsible for its death. So instead the kids and I drove it down to nearby park, where there’s a creek and hundreds of acres of woods and also a big dumpster for the little guy to poke around it. I shook him out of the cage and he wandered away and the whole thing was a lot easier than I thought it would be.

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Blue Apron #3- Crispy Chicken Milanese with Warm Brussels Sprout & Potato Salad with an Oppressive Amount of Celery. Seriously, why all the celery? The chicken was not as good as this one but I really liked the brussels sprout potato thing. And there is an undeniable pleasure in having the right amount of every ingredient at your fingertips, the mustard in its own tiny bottle, the egg in a little cardboard space ship. Thanks for the almost-free food, Blue Apron.

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Mocktails with color-changing straws. You guys, when they brought out these straws we all lost our minds. Helen had a Watermelon Shrub with chili basil syrup, sea salt, and soda water, I had a Bruleed Pineapple with ginger beer, sage peppercorn syrup, and lemon. Christy had a plain old green tea, made extra festive with that rad straw.

This was at Launderette– a restaurant in East Austin that I’ve been wanting to try forever. Christy took Helen and I there for a special joint-birthday treat and it was the best dining experience I’ve had in a long time. Every bit of it was perfect, start to finish. The food was brilliant, the space is beautiful, and the service was great. And there was a chocolate dessert I’ll dream about for the rest of my life.

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Striped Bass Crudo with Canary Melon and Crispy Fish Skin.

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Kale Salad with Marcona Almonds, Currants, Pecorino, and Balsalmic Vinaigrette.

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Salt Cod Croquettes, French Fries, Roasted Cauliflower with Pickled Pears and Crispy Sunchokes.

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Beet Hummus with Labneh and Millet Crunch,  Everything Crackers.

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Milk Chocolate Semifreddo with earl grey, buckwheat, orange bitters, and peppermint patty, Lemon Yuzu Tart, Caramel Apple Profiteroles.

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Every bite a symphony. This was masterfully done. Helen was the one who took this picture, and when I texted her a couple nights ago to ask for a copy of it, I fell in love with it all over again. I said I wished I could eat it again right then and Helen agreed and said “I curse you for having me look at these pictures just before bed.” If you like fancy foods with hipster touches (color changing straws!) you’ll really love this place. I have it on good authority that things get a little crazy at dinnertime, but it was a breeze at lunchtime.

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Pinballz Birthday. We went to Pinballz Kingdom for Helen’s birthday, because that’s basically what we do for anyone’s birthday, and had a thrilling time. Henry hit the jackpot on an acorn drop game and won 500 tickets, Helen got us all addicted to one of those push-the-tokens-over-the-edge game, this one with a Wizard of Oz theme, and we ate some delicious snacks. The boys were able to use their winnings to walk away with the unimaginable treasures of a nerf football and a plush ball bedecked in an eyeball and planet motif. It’s really something. Also, George screamed for 45 minutes around dinner time for no apparent reason. Still, it was fun celebrating Helen’s birthday! Thanks for including us, sister!

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A Food52 Potluck Picnic at the Capitol. I generally, no, always prefer to go out to lunch with friends without my children, but this picnic fell on a day when Grandma Mary was working and I really wanted to go, so the kids and I made an apple panzanella and hiked down there. The kids were honestly pretty good. For the first half of the picnic they just sat on the quilt and ate. Mostly bread out of our panzanella, but Henry also fell in love with Abbie’s farro with cannelini beans and kale pesto and ate mounds of the stuff. Then they spent some time in trees and some time wrestling on the ground nearby, and I’d have to go pull them apart every few minutes, but still! Progress, definitely.

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Sweet Berry Farms’ Pumpkin Patch. I took lots of pictures of the kids surrounded by pumpkins on rusty old trucks and this was the best I got. They’re not looking at the camera and they’re not smiling but at least they’re not glaring at me. I’d forgotten that the pumpkin patch only serves food on the weekends, so much of that glaring was probably hunger-related. The kids ate pretzels, the only snack I had with me, and then, towards the end of the trip, we found a stand on the other side of the ‘patch that had not yet sold out of vanilla ice cream, so they ate that too. We painted pumpkins, fed goats, made sand art necklaces, and rode around in the creepy dystopian hayride that I’d forgotten about from last year. It takes you on a tour of dozens of scarecrow vignettes- a saloon with prostitutes, a jail, an Indian village, a “we hate girls” club, and basically every other stereotypically insulting thing one could do with a scarecrow. After that, Henry picked out a small white pumpkin and George picked out a huge orange pumpkin. Any pumpkin over 30 pounds costs $15 and that’s what we paid for his, so it was at least that heavy. I lugged it into the car, we drove through the Taco Bell down the road and then the kids fell asleep on the way home while I sang along with Hamilton. All in all, a successful trip.

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Kombucha. Christy gave me everything I need to make my own, and talked me through the process over and over, because I kept forgetting what she told me. But I did it! This is hibiscus mint kombucha and it tastes lovely and the kids love it too. Probably mostly because it looks like kool aid.

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Cilantro Chutney Chicken. Yamahama it’s fright night. This looks like a terrifying halloween dish- frog brains covered in meal worms or something. But it’s really delicious.

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Henry and the Van de Graaff Generator.

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Gingerbread Cupcakes with Cinnamon Cream Cheese Frosting and Chewy Molasses Cookies. The boys and I made these cupcakes for Jordan’s birthday because he loves gingerbread. I just googled ‘gingerbread cupcakes’ and picked the recipe that looked best and it was a big hit. The cookies were from a recipe a friend shared on facebook and they’ve jumped to the top of my favorite-cookies-to-make list. You melt butter instead of waiting for it to soften, you don’t need a mixer, you don’t need to refrigerate the dough, they’re quick and easy and come out soft and chewy and warmly spiced. Happy Birthday, Jordan!

 

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Backlit George! On Saturday we went to a YMCA Halloween event where Grandma Mary was volunteering. The highlight was going on a haunted walking trail that everyone warned us was too scary for little kids but that both Henry and George insisted on trying. Lots of people in scary costumes jumped out at us. Henry’s response was to giggle loudly, George’s was to ask to be carried, but both boys claimed to have not been scared at all, and said they loved it.

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Kale and Italian Sausage Lasagna with Pumpkin Bechamel. Molly and Dustin came over and carved pumpkins with us. We listened to halloween jams on the radio and cleaned out George’s 80 pound pumpkin and the boys followed Dustin around like a living God. He’s really good with kids. I made this recent food52 contest winner because it includes many of Molly’s favorite foods, and everyone liked it, but it didn’t taste much like pumpkin. Maybe it’s because I roasted my own pumpkin and it was more watery than the canned stuff? It was still delicious, but next time I’ll try it with canned pumpkin.

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Banana Pudding. This is not at all seasonally appropriate, nor is it a logical choice after a pumpkin lasagna, but Molly and I had just been talking about our shared love of banana pudding so I had to go for it. This recipe insists, rightly, on the use of Nilla wafers, but classes them up just a bit by tossing the cookie crumbles in a dusting of freshly grated nutmeg.

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Halloween! Which brings us to the end of October! We celebrated with our friends and family at my sister’s new house in Plum Creek, which was made for Halloween. People just sit out on their front porches and give out premium candies. One old guy dressed like Popeye gave out full size Reese’s! It doesn’t get any better than that. And I got to wear the witch costume my parents got me for my birthday, which added to the thrills. Henry wanted to be a witch’s cat (my cat, that is), and George had to be Kylo Ren after seeing the costume at Target. We loved being with our friends and family, watching the kids patrol the streets together, and stealing candy from the kids’ considerable stash. Happy Halloween! Happy November!

Apple Picking in Portland and Everything You Wanted to Know About My Menstrual Flow but Were Afraid to Ask

We have three couches. They have all been peed on. At the end of the day, when the kids are in bed and I have complete freedom to choose for myself what I want to do, I choose to sit, hunch-backed on one of these urine couches and look at my phone for three hours. I read all the things re: the election that facebook has to offer me (I’m obsessed, completely) and I look at pictures of bathrooms on pinterest. Sometimes Andy and I will watch something on television. But that’s it, that’s what I’ve been doing. I’m choosing to do this stuff instead of writing blog posts and making shopping lists and cooking interesting meals and writing thank you notes that are now more than a month over due. I can blame part of this ennui on our nine day trip to Portland, when I was on 24/7 childcare duty and also had an endless stomach bug and had no hope of being productive. But we’ve been back for 11 days and I still haven’t done anything. Aside from looking at my phone and coughing up a lot of sputum, cuz something else is wrong with me. Isn’t sputum the worst word you’ve ever heard? Or in my case, read? I don’t think I’ve ever heard anyone say that word, and I don’t know if you say spoo-tum or spuh-tum. I’m gonna pick spoo. I feel completely worn out and apathetic and also kind of disgusted with myself for not doing anything. But then, last night, I felt like my old self again. Still the sputum, but I made a legitimate dinner that was not the endless parade of sandwiches and quesadillas we’ve been eating, I water-colored a cake topper for my sister, and I made food for a party, and I said, I’m back, baby! And shit y’all, I’m writing this blog post, so I’m officially unstoppable.

Things that have happened in the 20 days since my last blog post:

1) I dragged myself to the gynocologist (the word gynocologist is your cue to skip this paragraph if you don’t want to hear about vaginas. The un-fun aspect of vaginas) and got myself some super potent birth control.  Not for the birth-controlling part (because Andy has kindly seen to that in the manner that necessitated him spending an intimate weekend with a bag of frozen, thawed, and refrozen corn niblets) but for the period-controlling part. My periods are the fucking worst. Everybody says that, but I feel like mine really are and I win and get to complain the most. For the last year, they have been 12 days long. 5 light days, and then 2-3 unbelievably heavy days where I fill up the stupid diva cup every two hours and have to wear and change overnight pads at the same time, even though the diva cup says it holds one ounce and that’s how much most women bleed during their entire period! Rage. If I don’t empty it every two hours the thing starts to slide out of my body and it is the scariest feeling, when you’re at the grocery store with two little kids and a cup full of blood could spill from your vagina at any moment. Anyway, after I make it through those days I have another 5 light days. The whole thing is terrible. And in August, for the second time this year, I’ve had back-to-back periods, where I do all of this, and then get a week off, and then start all over again. I don’t like to intervene with my body’s natural processes. I want to believe it can sort this shit out by itself. But enough is enough. I’m on day five of my super-hormone-packed high dose birth control in an effort to get this shit in line. I have been warned that I might be an insane person for the next month or two. Hold on to your fucking hat.

The other exciting development is that we have mostly successfully gotten the kids to sleep together in their bed so Andy and I can be like real-life married people and sleep in the same bed again. I’ve been sleeping in the master bedroom with George since he was born, and Andy has been sleeping in Henry’s bed with Henry, because he didn’t want to sleep alone. Both kids were really happy with this arrangement and both Andy and I were really not. So we talked about it with them and went for it. Sometimes they both sleep through the night and we don’t have to do anything. Sometimes George wakes up and wants to cuddle for an hour before he falls back asleep. Sometimes I wake up suddenly to find Henry sitting in the rocking chair right next to my face, in the very spot where I put my glasses after reading election shit on facebook until 1 AM, because he would like a drink of water and wants to know if that’s okay. It’s been pretty great though. And it’s been really fun to listen to the kids talk to each other in the morning, while Andy and I are still in bed. The other day, I overheard Henry, pointing to something on the counter, ask George “Who did that?” George said, “Mama. The question is, where is mama?”

Also I caught a possum in a live trap and put it in the back of my Prius and drove it to a park and released it near a dumpster.

Here’s what we ate three weeks ago. In Portland.

 

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Westmoreland Park Nature-Based Play Area. Helen taught Henry to do this punk rock pose when she cut his hair into a faux hawk and now it’s the only way he’ll take a picture. This park is good. Too good. The kids stayed there for four hours and would’ve stayed longer if we didn’t remind them that we had to eat and sleep and live our lives.

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Trader Joe’s Haunted House Kit. Gingerbread (or in this case, chocolate) houses are one of those things that are a good idea in theory and pretty miserable in practice. The icing in this kit was an abject failure. The thing fell apart over and over again until we mixed up an egg white with powdered sugar and used that instead. Meanwhile, the kids stole long ragged gulps of icing from the bags and became progressively more and more insane.

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Kiyokawa Family Orchards. I’ve wanted to take the kids apple picking for forever. I did it once in college, in my roommate Julia’s hometown of Nashua, New Hampshire, and thought it was the most magical thing. We were the only ones in the orchard, and we saw the sun set over the surrounding hills that were covered with red, orange, and yellow trees. We made pies and drank spicy hot chocolate and slept in her beautiful old home and I wanted to do it again, so so much. I researched options for picking apples in Texas, but it doesn’t have the same appeal. Apples are only grown in the middle of nowhere, and are ripe and ready to pick for approximately 4 days in the middle of August. No thanks. Stupid Texas. Anyway, we made it to Portland in the very heart of honeycrisp season, my favorite apple. We drove along the Columbia river for about two hours, and stepped out of the car into this magical orchard. We picked more apples than we could possibly eat in the first ten minutes we were there and then wandered around a bit. We all loved it. I don’t know why Henry’s looking at George like that.

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I made it to the line to weigh and purchase our apples right after a busload full of senior citizens did, so I had time to take a couple dozen pictures of the apples in my wagon.

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Grilled Cauliflower with Chimichurri, Salmon Rilletes with Grilled Focaccia, Fried Brussels Sprouts with Brown Sugar and Bacon Marmalade at Solstice. On the plane ride to Portland I sat next to a neat scientist lady who does cancer research and also knew of the best place to eat in the Hood River Valley. The cauliflower was largely raw and not great, but everything else was outrageous.

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George contemplates his peanut butter pizza. I ate some of this too, in between bites of salmon rilletes, and really liked it.

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Vanilla Gelato with Lemon Zest at Cicci Gelato. Scientist lady told me we had to stop by this gelato shop, which is next to Solstice, and I’m so glad we did. The gelato was spectacular, and the guy who sold it to us was too. There was no one else in line, so he came out of the cart when we were done eating and told the kids to look under the cart. Someone had kicked a soccer ball under there, so Henry crawled under and retrieved it, and then this guy played soccer with the kids for half an hour while we talked to him about Italy and gardening. It was neat.

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The majesty of this view was only moderately diminished by the discarded used condom we had to walk around to get to the water’s edge. Did people have sex right there on those pointy rocks? One of the great unanswered questions.

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Enchiladas Suizas at Rocio’s. This is a really shitty picture, I’m sorry. This place is hipster and adorable inside, and the food was pretty good too. But they said they had agua frescas and then brought us club soda with a smashed up raspberry in the bottom and I don’t know what went wrong there.

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Berry Crisp. Speaking of raspberries. The produce in Oregon puts our Texas stuff to shame. The strawberries were so soft and sweet! The ones I get are big and dense and sour. The raspberries and blueberries too- a huge difference. In spite of that, we weren’t eating these berries quickly enough, so I made a fruit crisp.

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Chili. My parents were so good to us. My dad made us fried eggs and toast for breakfast and my mom cooked us dinner. They read stories to the boys and were endlessly patient about all the jumping on the furniture and spilling of drinks. My kids spill so many drinks, you guys. My dad likes to drink crystal light, which comes in little packets that you pour into plastic water bottles and shake up (does everyone know this but me?). The kids were instantly enamored. It’s like a science experiment every time you want a drink. You get to pour powder into liquid, shake it up, the thing changes color and then you magically end up with a sugary sweet drink. They also loved the plastic water bottles, which they could not resist squeezing to hear the crunchy crackly plastic sound, and which resulted in washing and rewashing the tablecloth from all the spills until I did the unthinkable and said they couldn’t have any more crystal light. Also, my mom’s chili is delicious.

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Butter Croissants with Strawberry Jam and Brie at La Provence. Come on! Look at that tiny piece of brie that comes with a croissant! Both the jam and the croissant were tremendous.

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Henry picked a lemon tart and ate the whole thing. George picked a vampire cookie and ate enough to stain his mouth black and then left the rest in a crumbled pile in his car seat.

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My parents got a new car while we were there. We went with them to the car dealership and took a lot of drinks out of the mini fridge and then left.

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Look at my adorable mom!

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OMSI. The kids loved getting to spend time with their cousin Jack, who is utterly delightful and so kind to the boys. He also turned us on to the Septimus Heap series, which we have been devouring.

Sand Belly. George does this exact thing anytime he comes into close contact with a pile of sand. It was quite the hit among the cadre of parents milling around the sand box.

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I love this.

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Baked Potato Soup. I don’t remember anything noteworthy about this day to share with you, but I had to make mention of how extraordinary this soup is. It’s one of my mom’s specialties and is creamy AF. She just learned what AF meant so I threw that in there for her. It is really creamy though.

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Apple Crunch Pie. I got that stomach bug/flu/whatever the day we went apple picking and felt sick and tired for basically the rest of the trip, but I did pull myself together long enough to make an apple pie with my mom’s recipe and the newtown pippin apples we picked ourselves.

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It’s just the best apple pie.

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Potstickers, Sweet and Sour Chicken, Orange Flavored Beef from Hunan Pearl. George was furious with me during this meal, for reasons I still don’t understand. He yelled at me in response to any question I asked him. What would you like to drink? NOTHING! Wait. A SPECIAL DRINK! WHERE’S MY SPECIAL DRINK?! I DO WANT AN EGGROLL! I DON’T WANT THAT CHICKEN. ACTUALLY I DO WANT THAT CHICKEN. And on and on. It has sort of continued since that moment. I remember, of course, that age 3-4.5 was pretty rough with Henry and all signs point to George following in his brother’s footsteps.

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Back to the nature-based play area for more sand belly opportunities!

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Lemony Cheese Blintzes, Latkes, Apples and Jam. I made Rosh Hashanah dinner. Henry ate the outside of one blintz and then burst into tears because he missed Papa. Also he got my stomach bug which sent me down a dark path of imagining all the various scenarios that could take place on a four hour flight home with two children with GI distress.

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The kids loved reading books with Grandpa too. This book, The Digging-est Dog, is unfathomably dark. This dog has seen some shit, you guys.

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Bestest Banana Bread. I ruined this by taking it out of the oven too early. That’s just what I do with quick breads. I ruin them.

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Tomato and Olive Salad. Isn’t it pretty?

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My Mom’s Beef Stew. She doesn’t normally serve this on egg noodles, but without them Henry wouldn’t have eaten anything in the bowl.

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We got home and put our underwear on our heads.

And now we’re all caught up! I did a thing! Now I’m gonna go sit on a urine-stained couch and read some facebook.