We’ve been listening to a lot of Hamilton lately, and while I love it, it makes me feel like I haven’t done anything with my life. Lin-Manuel Miranda is only a few years older than me. Why haven’t I written a groundbreaking musical? Or furthered a good cause? Or why don’t I at least know more about history (I was an American history and political science major in college and I don’t remember a lick of it)? I said this to Andy and he helpfully pointed out that Lin-Manuel Miranda is a genius, with the award to prove it. I thought that I could, at the very least, really throw myself into this blog and do the best job I possibly could on it. But by the time I got the kids in bed last night, did my daily yoga (I’m on day 23/30!), and got the pictures edited and uploaded, it was 11:15 and I was exhausted. I lied down on the carpet and savored doing nothing for what felt like the first time that day. I want to be truly great at something, but for now I feel like I just have to get through the day until I’ve finished all the work and finally get to lie face down on the floor. Here’s what we ate this week.
Lemon Ricotta Pancakes and Sausages. You’ll also need this basic dry pancake mix recipe, though you’ll only use about half of it. And you’ll also need this homemade ricotta recipe, though you’ll have to double it. Did I lose you? These are thrillingly delicious. The ricotta took a literal 5 minutes to make and was 100% better than the store-bought stuff and also fun and also much cheaper. The pancakes taste like blintzes- like blintzes in a pancake costume. Make ’em when you’re feeling fancy.
Herb-Packed Falafel with Pita, Tahini, and Greek Salad. We stayed home all day, and I finished my book. Does this strike you as notable? It is a full-fledged milestone. I sat on the couch and read fifty pages, during the day. Yes, the kids sat next to me much of that time, Henry calling out the page number every time I turned one, and George asking for milk, or to go pee, or for whatever else he could think of incessantly, but I got through it and it felt amazing. (Side note- it was The Silkworm, the second book in JK Rowling’s pseudonymously- written detective series, and I thought it and The Cuckoo’s Calling were both fun reads. I’m a huge Agatha Christie fan, in spite of every book of hers being very nearly the same, and this scratched that itch.)
I’ve just noticed that I cooked J. Kenji Lopez Alt recipes almost every night this week. This is his falafel, and it’s amazing. You soak the chickpeas overnight, but don’t cook them. Instead you blitz them up in the food processor with tons of herbs. You let the mixture sit a bit so the chickpeas can release some starch, and then you sort of squeeze it into balls. It barely holds together. I’ve made several falafel recipes where the things disintegrate when you put the balls in the hot oil, so having them nearly fall apart when I was forming them made me really nervous. But he said they would hold together and they did. And they’re perfect. Super crunchy outsides and tender, green, and flavorful insides. We got to eat them tucked inside of some of that delicious Hot Bread Kitchen pita I had saved in the freezer, and with a greek salad with our first homegrown cucumber. It was a dinner that made me happy.
Cheeseburgers, Corn, and Barbeque Chips. Mary came over so Andy and I could go on a date! I left her and the boys with what I thought was a slam-dunk kids’ dinner- no real vegetables, just meat and carbs- but we came back and found that the kids barely ate anything. The corn was untouched, George ate none of his burger and Henry ate barely half. Most mysterious. Were they horrible? I had made an extra burger and ear of corn for Andy to take to lunch the next day, and he reported back that they tasted great. But can he be trusted? Has the whole world gone mad?
St. Edward’s Park. Usually when Andy I get the chance to go on a date, we do pub trivia at In.gredients. It’s super fun. You do have to eat vegetarian food from a deli counter reheated in a microwave, but the trivia more than makes up for it. But this time, Andy thought it would be nice to go on a hike and have a picnic. Isn’t that the cutest damn thing you ever heard? We went to St. Edward’s Park (it’s not by the school), and we brought our big silly dog with us. It was an easy hike along the water, and there were so many beautiful things to see. Little waterfalls, forts made out of cedar branches, a big heart at the base of a tree made out of little stones, and this very cool dam and dozens of cairns. We sat on a flat rock by the water and ate boursin and salami and strawberries and baguette. Our dog Adelaide was delighted to share the picnic with us. At the end of the hike we tromped through a field of waist-high wildflowers, which would have been romantic if I hadn’t developed a crippling fear of chiggers. We didn’t get any though, so the date was an unequivocal success.
Fish and Chips and Heinz Baked Beans from Full English. Friday morning marked the fifth day since George had swallowed a penny. The poison control people told me to call back if he hadn’t pooped it out by then, and so I did. They said I had to call his doctor to see what to do next. So I called and was put on hold for a very long time. Long enough for Henry to go outside, stand, for one reason or another, on top of the metal nesting box that sits on the ground next to the chicken coop, knock it over, and cut his bare foot on a sharp screw on its side. It wasn’t a bad or deep cut, but he had been barefoot in a chicken coop when it happened, so I spent my on-hold time washing out the scratch, putting neosporin on it, and frantically googling ‘tetanus.’ Since Henry is up to date on DTaP, and had his last shot only a year ago, I figured we would be okay. I still considered asking the nurse about it, since I was going to be speaking to her anyway about the penny inside George, but then I decided not to in case calling about a penny in one kid and then mentioning that my other kid walked barefoot in a chicken yard and cut his foot meant I would be flagged as a negligent parent in some CPS database. The nurse said that if George didn’t poop out his penny in the next 24 hours, we would have to take him to after-hours care for an x-ray. Then he would need to be x-rayed every week for the next four weeks to see if the penny was progressing, and if it wasn’t, then we’d have to go in and extract the thing. Boo.
I got to leave all these unpleasant things behind and go out to dinner with Helen and Christy, ostensibly to plan for the foods we’ll make on an upcoming camping trip, but mostly to drink tea and eat cakes and fried foods and enjoy each other’s company. It was really nice to get out.
We went to the Stonewall Texas Peach Jamboree on Saturday. It was everything you’d want from a small-town Texas peach festival, minus the peaches. There were remarkably few peaches. We got there in time to catch the end of the parade, where the kids were delighted to stand on the side of the road and catch a wagon-load of the candy and lollipops that were being tossed out by people on the passing floats and vehicles. The event was free, there were lots of great (free) activities for kids, plus entertainment for kids (this magician was the best of all time! And Henry got called up to be his assistant! OscarMunoz.com!) and adults- there was a 42 tournament (some spades/bridge-like game played with dominoes which appears to be a Texas thing?), and a washers tournament, and a peach-y baked goods competition which I considered entering but didn’t for lack of time. The only real nods we saw to peaches were the display of prize-winning peach bushels and a taste of peach cobbler ice cream, which was dreamy. It seems like most of the big stuff happens at night. A rodeo, plus a rodeo-like thing for kids called mutton-bustin’. I was really sad we had to miss that. But it was fun just being out in rural Texas for the day. Also, an old cowboy had to duck in front of us in line at the baby cow sausage tent (more on this below) and he tipped his hat and said “excuse me, ma’am” and I positively beamed with the charm of the whole thing.
His and Her Fair Foods. Opa’s Reuben Wurst and Frito Pie. We read the menu at this food stand after watching little baby cows get roped in a stadium as a warm-up for the rodeo that evening, and joked darkly, when we saw that this Reuben wurst was made with veal, that you’d get to walk over to the ring and pick out your baby cow like you might pick a lobster from a tank. And then Andy ordered the damn thing! He said it was ok. I went with the classic, and no more humane, I’m sure, frito pie.
On the way out of town, we stopped at a peach stand and bought a basket of the peaches that had fetched 2nd place in the peach bushel beauty contest. And then we listened to Hamilton all the way home and George fell asleep and stayed up until 11 at night. Still, a good outing.
Quesadillas with Mexican Street Corn. In addition to the roadside peaches, I bought four ears of corn, which I cut off the cobs to make this corn thing from The Food Lab. I’ve made lots of versions of elotes, but I always substitute sour cream or crema for the mayonnaise the recipe calls for, because the idea of squeezing mayonnaise on to corn sounds disgusting to me. How wrong I’ve been! This was so perfect. The quesadillas are, as you know, what I put on a plate when I have nothing else to put on a plate, and were just fine.
And also: GEORGE POOPED OUT HIS PENNY. I have never felt such joy when looking at feces. It took him six days, but he did it, and now we don’t have to get x-rays and do a baby colonoscopy or whatever horrible thing they do to get pennies out of toddler intestines. I am so, so happy.
Hanging around with everybody’s favorite chicken, Naked Neck. Happy Father’s Day, Andy! Have an ugly chicken! The kids obsessively catch and re-catch the slowest, huskiest chickens. Noodles, whom they have dubbed “Big Puffy Chicken Noodles,” probably spends more time being lugged around by Henry or George than she does on the ground. She’s a tolerant lady. But Naked Neck is the ringleader of the flock, and elusive, and they’ve never managed to catch her. Hence the thrill on Henry’s face when Andy nabbed her on Father’s Day.
Perfect Grilled Steak, Grilled Peach and Burrata Salad, Crispy Smashed New Potatoes. My idea of a perfect Mother’s Day is getting to spend a lot of time by myself, and I assumed, rightly, that that’s how Andy would prefer to spend Father’s Day. So in the morning, while Andy slept in, the boys and I drove down to Casa Alde to get him some breakfast tacos. A big round-bellied older fellow wearing conductor’s overalls and a little hat came in and walked up to the counter while we were waiting for our order. I was prepared to love him, because, obviously, his outfit was adorable. The waiter asked if he had called in an order and he answered, with a sneer, “Yeah, but I gave it to a woman so who knows what happened to it.” Fuuuucckk. My blossoming friendship with Misogynist Santa née Adorable Train Conductor Guy is effectively over.
I made Andy a steak on the grill, and it came out pretty well using the “perfect grilled steak” recipe outlined in The Food Lab. I grilled some of the peaches we picked up in Stonewall and arranged them on a platter with torn burrata, which is the world’s greatest cheese (like mozzarella impregnated with millions of milky mozzarella babies), basil, and a balsamic vinegar reduction (I learned all this from Abbie! xoxoxo). This would have been delicious but the peaches were not sweet, and tasted watery, sour, and bitter from being charred on the grill. Boo. The crispy potatoes are an Andy favorite and they turned out just fine.
Andy is an incredible dad. He comes home from work and does the shit I’ve been refusing to do for the kids all day. Primarily, play a Captain Hook game where you have to pretend to be Captain Hook and say “Stop that dreadful racket!” when the kids make loud noises, or go out and feign surprise at the sight of the chickens when the kids say, “Hey Captain Hook! Wanna see some big birds outside?” It’s so tedious, but Andy always does it. He’s really nice and I love him and I love that I don’t have to be Captain Hook.
Solstice Altar. Boom! Check it out. Tangerines. Candles. Floating candles in bowls of water with chamomile blossoms. Yeah, I had to use Hanukkah candles for my candle sticks because I’m out of tapers, but still.
We’ve been celebrating the solstice since Henry was a baby. The first year, it was just a fire in the backyard with s’mores, like the pagans did it. But every year our celebration has gotten a little more involved. This year, we had a color feast and did arts and crafts projects and, of course, ate more s’mores.
A Colorful Feast for the Solstice. With colorful flowers from Amanda. These are all from her backyard! Look at those perfect zinnias. I’m super jealous of her gardening abilities. And see my selection of solstice-y books on the shelf in the background? I live for this shit.
A juicy shot of that honey maid box. It ruins the ambiance of the color feast, but we had to have a tray full of s’mores stuff.
Crudites with Edamame Hummus. Not as good as regular hummus, but green, so.
The 100th shot of a fruit platter on my blog. Gonna keep showing ’em to you, though. This one features more of those flavorless peaches.
Honey Lemonade Jello. With the beautiful springtime honey from my sister Joanna’s bees! I wanted to include some sort of ritualistic thing with this very special honey, made from bees sipping the nectar of the literal millions of wildflowers on Joanna’s ten acres of land in nearby Buda, because it seems to me like magic, to get to ingest this sweet sticky thing that is the product of the bees’ hard work and flowers and sunshine. I imagined reading a poem while we each dipped perfectly tiny little wooden spoons into the honey jar and let the sweetness dance on our tongues. Instead, I stirred it into some store-bought lemonade along with some gelatin and said nothing of its symbolism to anyone. Next year, though! Ritual honey-eating is happening.
Blueberry Sparkler. This tasted mostly of water-y blueberries, but the straws fancied it up nicely. It’s from Henry’s Forest Feast cookbook. You put 1/4 cup of frozen blueberries into a glass (instead of ice), add 1/4 cup of any kind of berry juice, and top it off with sparkling water and a lemon slice. Why do some of the blueberries float and some of them sink? And what about that rebellious fellow caught in purgatory in the middle glass? Some things to ponder.
Joanna brought a rad rainbow craft from Pinterest. Listen up, y’all, I’m about to save you hundreds, maybe thousands of the dollars you were planning on spending on colored sands to make your own sand art. You can make sand art-like stuff by rubbing colored chalk on table salt. It’s easy! It’s fun! Behold.
Yes, I made a solstice altar but did not change my children out of pajamas. These are my priorities.
After we ate s’mores, we clipped herbs from the garden- rosemary, lavender, oregano, and lemon balm- formed a circle around the fire, walked around it three times, and threw in the herbs and made a wish as we breathed in their scent. This was another place where it would have been good to have a poem, or a song, or something meaningful to say, besides just counting to three. Notes to self for next time: add a honey ritual, find and insert witchy pagan poems wherever possible.
I think that the kids liked all this stuff. I hope they did. But really, I did it for me. We all got to sit around the table and paint pictures of sunshine by the candlelight from my badass solstice altar, and read lovely books together, and eat rainbow foods, and play drums by the fire, and it is everything that I want from life. Maybe a collection of cheaply-made sand art will be my legacy. Take that, Lin! Happy Summertime, friends!
Arielle, if they gave awards for raising brilliant, wonderful children you would have your award! And they should have such awards since the task is so important! Your blog always makes me feel good and I look forward to it every week.
You are an utter delight! Thank you for your love and kind words, sweet friend! xoxo
I got invited to a friend’s Midsommar party for the solstice last weekend and it was so great. Multiple test tubes full of aquavit (because I hang out with awesome nerdy people who realize that test tubes are way easier to keep track of than 40-something shot glasses), 5 or 6 types of pickled herring (My friend gave me an apprehensive “have you had pickled herring before?” when I arrived, but I quickly told her that
a. I’m Minnesotan, so yes
b. I’m part Swedish and Minnesotan, so yes
c. My folks love pickled herring and have it every New Year’s, so yes.
I ate a lot of pickled herring for the aforementioned reasons. And then there was a pig roast! And frog dancing! And princess cake! Midsommar is the best. I brought a Tosca cake because it’s almond-y and traditional.
I finally got my scones to work. The baking time in the Violet Bakery book is off by about 10 minutes, but once I adjusted that enough the spelt/oat scones have been perfect with my morning coffee.
The Honey Lemonade Jell-O is reminding me that I found a Gin & Tonic Jell-o Mold in one of Nigella’s books last week that I may need to attempt making, even though I’m not sure I’m a jell-o mold kind of person.
I just learned about Sweden’s solstice festivals on Monday! I started up a youtube playlist of solstice/litha videos before our gathering started and one of them was this silly video (with bonus ground rodent footage!) about midsummer in Sweden. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=W9Y_GknY_oM&index=37&list=PLZJf__9hICU3X5vZGqUvmhOHiK1TpF8e5
Did you guys get to dance around a big penis pole? That’s a tradition worth spreading. Love the test tubes of aquavit! I’ve never had pickled herring, but I’d love to try it. So fun that there are so many varieties! And a pig roast? This sounds like the greatest event of all time. I’ve got to google tosca cake and frog dancing. I’m so happy you were able to troubleshoot the scone recipe! I had to return my copy of that cookbook to the library, but I’ve been missing it. I’m gonna have to buy a copy. The gin and tonic jello sounds amazing! I have been meaning to cook from a nigella cookbook- was just reading a gushing review of her on another blog. Thanks for sharing your stories with me, Ben! Hope you’re liking the food lab!
Midsommar Pole: https://www.instagram.com/p/BGzxNLJF54x
Tosca Cake: http://www.npr.org/2011/06/14/137178410/tosca-cake (I used this recipe and it came out great. What’s not to love about a cake with a crown of caramel/almond stuff on top?)
For Nigella books, I really like _Kitchen_ – it has a nice variety of recipe types. She talks a lot about getting pleasure from cooking/baking that really resonates with me. I’ve also been reading Ruby Tandoh’s _Crumb_ and getting a lot of the same vibes from it. She was on Great British Bake Off a few years ago, but also did a great piece for Vice recently on so-called “clean” eating: http://www.vice.com/read/ruby-tandoh-eat-clean-wellness.
She has a new book coming out later this year called _Flavour_ that I’m probably going to pick up.
I’m totally digging the food lab. Kenji is totally going to make me re-try salmon even though I’m pretty sure I Don’t Like Salmon, but what if it’s just a case of I’ve Been Cooking Salmon Incorrectly?
Raising wonderful, happy children who can stand on their own two feet is a very great accomplishment! There will be time for other things as they become more independent. I look forward to your blog every week and this one did not disappoint. Love you.
Thanks, mama ❤ You're right, I know. It's hard to keep everything in perspective sometimes. I itch for the chance to do more, but I wouldn't give up what I've got for anything. Love you
Days late in my reading this blog, but your writing and stories are timelessly wonderful!