I have fallen suddenly and deeply in love with Dvorak’s American String Quartet. It reminds me of tall pine forests and big black trains driving around the bottoms of mountains and soaring birds and leaves changing color in the fall and I think it is completely wonderful. I shared it with Andy last night- we listened to it while we cleaned up the kitchen after the kids went to bed. He said it was nice and that he liked it and I was crushed. I cried. Honestly. I wanted him to love it like I love it and he didn’t. Our failure to connect over this song brought the weight of a lingering sadness I’ve felt about our relationship after children down on me. Maybe this seems like a ridiculous leap to make, just because of Andy’s lukewarm reaction to a song, but that’s where I went with it. I’m so bad at naming my feelings, and even worse at understanding why I’m feeling them so it took me a lot of time to sort all this out. But here’s the core of it- I’m missing the luxurious amount of time I got to spend with Andy before kids. We could talk about nothing, uninterrupted, as long as we wanted to. We could watch bad TV or go to pub trivia or try a new restaurant. Now, we spend the kids’ waking hours doing shit for the kids and the kids’ sleeping hours doing all the stuff we didn’t get done during the day because we were doing shit for the kids. There’s not a lot of time leftover for idly enjoying one another’s company. I miss that connection. Andy held me while I cried about this longing and said he felt the same way. We talked the whole night and made plans to make more time for each other. Maybe that means ignoring the children more (easier said than done) or meeting for lunch dates on Thursdays when Andy’s mom watches the kids- either way our time together has been the lowest priority for too long and I miss it too much to keep going like this. We’ve gotta keep working on it.
My Brother, My Brother and Me, Live in Austin. This is gonna sound crazy after reading my griping in the intro, but Andy and I got to go on not one, but two dates two weekends ago. His very favorite podcast brothers were in town to tape two live shows, and we got front row seats to both of them, thanks to Andy’s parents being members, with double thanks to his mom for babysitting our kids both nights. Andy said he’s pretty sure his face looked like that the whole time. I can’t remember why we aren’t raising our hands.
In other news, I did some of the things I put on my to-do list in my last post. A guy came out to look at our cistern and he’s researching what we can do to get it operational again. And I did buy a journal! I’ll show you some pages from it. Please bear in mind that it’s hard to draw kids that don’t look super creepy.
A table of contents of sorts. I regret writing the alphabet instead of coming up with a clever note and making Henry and George’s irises black like demon eyes. I also don’t like my peach that looks like a malformed set of buttocks and the too-pointy mango next to it. I like my chickens and Andy’s T-Rex leer.
George says something outlandish like this every five minutes- I could make a whole journal of just weird shit that George says.
Henry is very rarely silly. I’ve had to listen carefully to come up with quotations for his page.
This page is just an excuse to draw flowers. I’ve also started pages for landscape drawings and to capture ideas for places I want to visit and for party plans.
On to the business of food. Here’s what we ate.
Chicken Shawarma, again. The boys and I spend every Monday at Yawp! It’s about to open to the public, so let me know if you want to meet up there some day to see how you like it! Here’s a list of things I love about Yawp: 1) The parents and caregivers, who are kind and thoughtful, and smart. Also, I suspect, hipper than me, because they’re all watching the new Twin Peaks and I haven’t even seen the old one. 2) The kids, who have been considerate and generous with each other, no matter how many times Henry jabs a finger at their iPads. 3) The space, which is inviting and stocked with art supplies and fun books we haven’t read and a courtyard that’s ideal for riding razor scooters around. It’s also super close to Halal Corner (!!!) and Xian Sushi and Noodle and a fancy HEB, which has been nice. Things I don’t love about Yawp: A) Trying to get my kids to leave on time when they’d very much prefer to watch kids play Minecraft on their tablets some more. B) The drive home down I35 in the late afternoon with a very sleepy George and a very rankled Henry (he hates traffic). Brains On, a science podcast for kids, has helped with this. That’s it! It’s a pretty good pro to con ratio. We made it home and I made this shawarma, which had been marinating all day, and served it with wedges of our first small garden tomato.
My neightbor, Otto, in our cistern. If you’re wondering if that’s an electrical outlet dangling into the water by a tether of frazzled wires, it is! This place is also full of toads and cockroaches and Otto said the water smelled pretty terrible when he started kicking up the muck that’s on the floor, so this is probably filled with juices of a dozen disintegrating human bodies. I don’t want to go down there. But I’m grateful that Otto does! He said it was pretty cool. He measured it so we could calculate how many gallons it’ll hold- it’s 12 ft 4 in in diameter and 12 feet from floor to ceiling, so it holds a little less than 10,000 gallons of water. And he discovered that there are flood lights mounted to the ceiling of the cistern, which answers the question of what those two light switches on the side of our house are for. He also doesn’t think this thing is watertight, because there are big cracks between the stones. Wouldn’t that be sad if this cistern couldn’t be used as a cistern and it’s just a big cockroach pit for the rest of time?
Jef Page, from Purple Fountain Tree, came out to look at it too. He told us about this amazing rebate for Austin Water customers so I’m telling you in case you have a big giant hole in your backyard. Maybe we’ll end up putting a thick plastic lining in there, or maybe we’ll nestle a whole complete tank in there or maybe we’ll do nothing because it will cost thousands of dollars. Let’s wait and see.
Middle-School Tacos. We subscribed to the Sunday New York Times delivery after Trump got elected (to support journalism, not because I like reading about Trump) and I sometimes read the news but I always read the food section in the magazine. A few weeks ago it was about crunchy-shell tacos and it made a compelling case for them. The part I liked most was the notion of putting all the toppings out in little bowls for kids to DIY their own dinner. Given the choice, my kids eschewed the vegetables and ate meat with sour cream for dinner. We all loved this- the filling recipe is greasy and delicious (see photo) and I’ll make it again.
Perfect Blueberry Muffins. These were everything I wanted out of a blueberry muffin, even if I did eat them while helping my dear friend Amanda pack up her stuff so she can move far away. What I’m saying is, this muffin is delicious enough to cut right through your sadness.
Crispy Thai Pork with Cucumber Salad. I had/have big plans to make ten Instagram posts of my top ten favorite things I ate on Whole 30, which, I imagined, would bring lots of new readers to the blog when people looking for chorizo-stuffed sweet potatoes found they could have that and also read about how often I get my period all in one place. This Thai pork is near the top of my favorite things to eat, Whole 30 or otherwise.
Roast Chicken and Bruschetta. I was a hopelessly picky eater as a kid, avoiding meat, vegetables, fruits, and beans at all costs and eating simple carbs and lots of sugar. But I loved cooking shows so much. For my 14th(ish) birthday, I asked for and received David Rosengarten’s cookbook, Taste. I read the thing cover-to-cover and then asked to make this bruschetta. The recipe specifies a Tuscan olive oil- “the greenest, fruitiest, and most peppery of olive oils.” And my mom went to Whole Foods and bought every last perfect ingredient I needed to make the recipe, including the expensive oil. I made it and we all loved it. I’ve been making it ever since, and every time, I think of my mom doing that for me. Thanks, mom.
Chicken and Broccoli Pot Pie. Henry eats fruit like a champ, but otherwise his food preferences map perfectly to my childhood food preferences. He ate this meal by burying his biscuits in gravy so they’d sop it up and then scraping all the vegetables and chicken off and just eating the soggy biscuits.
Spinach Fusilli with Pesto, Tagliolini with Brown Butter and Sage, and some other stuff. After the kids’ swim class on Friday, we ate at Texas Honey Ham, and then went just another half mile down the road to this new pasta shop. Everything is clean and shiny inside and all the pastas were so lovely. My kids wanted to press their hands against the glass display cases and rub their bodies along the full length of the counter, so I probably won’t go back there with them again. They each picked out a half pound of pasta to try, and we cooked them up, two ways, for dinner. The spinach fusilli smelled a little swampy when it was boiling, but tasted good. The tagliolini was better.
Chocolate Zucchini Bread. We ate this for Memorial Day with Molly and Dustin and a little schnauzer-y puppy they’re fostering who is currently named Arthur but whom George thinks should be named Nibbles. We also ate chorizo pork burgers with grilled honey onions from Dinner: Changing the Game. Henry picked those and they were a big hit.
Lemony Cheese Blintzes, Crispy Potatoes, Fruit. I’ve asked Helen from time to time during her pregnancy if she’s craving anything I can make or bring her. She hadn’t taken me up on it until last week, when she said she couldn’t stop thinking about blintzes. As it happens, Shavuot, a Jewish holiday I know nothing about except that you celebrate it by eating dairy, was just a few days later, so she came over and we ate them and that’s my story about blintzes.
Oreo Cheesecakes. A Shavuot infographic on Pinterest informed me that you are also supposed to eat cheesecake. Twist my arm! As luck would have it, Shavuot fell on Helen and Jordan’s second wedding anniversary. Since they served oreo cheesecakes at their wedding, I decided to line my mostly-useless coeur a la creme mold with foil and make them a little heart-shaped anniversary cheesecake with some of the batter. I got brownie points for being a thoughtful sister and I got to eat a stack of surplus oreos, a win-win.
Hurst’s HamBeen’s 15 Bean Soup. Otto made a big pot of 15 bean soup for lunch some months ago and invited us down to join him, so we did. The kids ate it with bread and crackers and fucking loved it. Almost every time we’ve seen Otto since then, Henry mentions how much he loved that soup. He said it again last week, and Otto went out and bought a bag and left it on our back patio for us one day when he was giving the chickens a snack. Best neighbor. We all loved it. It doesn’t seem like it would work, 15 kinds of beans all cooking in the same pot- wouldn’t some be sodden while others were undercooked? But no, they were all deliciously tender. That’s the HamBeen magic. And oh yeah, it comes with a packet of ham-flavored powder which Otto advised me to not use, so I didn’t. Passing that on to you in case you’re interested in making this soup for yourself or if you’ve been on the lookout for some ham-flavored powder.
Sweet Potatoes with Coconut, Curry, and Mint. My mom sent me this recipe- it’s glorious. I loved the crushed fennel flavor with the sweet potatoes. I pureed the leftovers with the rest of the can of coconut milk and it made a really good soup for lunch today.
So today was Andy’s and my first day of prioritizing our time together and it felt a lot better. It’s hard though! The kids didn’t fall asleep until 9:30. They argued loudly in bed and came out of the room a number of times for reasons including, but not limited to: wanting a blanket that is not too hot for summertime like the one they’re currently using, Henry feeling like he’s not special anymore (?!), and the classic, being really thirsty. Meanwhile, I’m finishing this post while Andy tries to fix our ice machine, which sent out broken shards of plastic auger along with your ice cubes until enough of the auger broke off and it stopped sending out everything all together. But after that, we’re gonna hang out and pretend we don’t have kids for a little while and it’s going to be great.
That first paragraph just made me sad. I wished we lived closer so between Mary and me you and Andy could have lots of date nights. Dad and I love Dvorak. I was happy to be reminded about Taste. What a nice memory. Loved the pictures of the flowers in bloom and Henry at the piano. Also the picture of you and Andy. Food as always looks yummy.
Thanks mama- I wish you were closer too. And I’d love more date nights but more than that we need to learn to prioritize our time together amidst all the kid stuff. Do you know the American String Quartet? It’s very like the new world symphony- so wonderful. Thanks for liking my pictures 💜💜💜
I stumbled across your blog about a year or so ago after googling a specific food. I initially thought it was purely a food blog and signed up.
After receiving the first email I realized it was more than a food blog and I eventually became hooked. You are really smart and funny and I admire you for telling it like it is.
We are very different in the sense that I’m 57 (known as the cool aunt), Canadian, married/divorced many years ago and have no children. I’m also a Wasp.
I recently read “I’d like to thank my teacher Mrs. (?) for teaching me to read.” I’ve also been an avid reader since I was a very young girl. I’ve also loved food and anything related to it for many years. Thank you for providing me with both an interesting/entertaining read and your cooking adventures/critiques.
It may not always seem like it but you have and will continue to have a wonderful life. All the best!
Sent from my iPad
Rhonda, thank you! It feels like magic to connect with you here. Thanks for your kind words and for reading my blog. I know you’re right- my life is wonderful. It’s easy to lose perspective and just focus on the negative stuff. Thanks for the reminder to appreciate what I have, because it is abundant. 💜
I love you. I wish there were some way I could help you so you and Andy could have more time together.
Hope to see you soon… Xoxox Barbara
Thank you, Barbara- you’re wonderful! We have been working to find little pockets of time for each other during the day and it has made such a huge difference. Will you be at Abbie’s on Saturday? I hope so!! I miss you.
I was very touched by the Taste anecdote, and then I see your Mom was the first commenter. I miss my own Mom/cheerleader so much. Bless you both with many, many years of sweetness.
Thank you, Maggie, for reading and for your beautiful comment. I got to visit my parents this month and I thought of your note often. It helped me make the most of our visit and really appreciate how amazing my mom is. I’m so sorry for your loss.