How to Look Surly in a Strawberry Field: A Reminiscence of our Trip to Portland

The boys and I fled the hellish landscape of summer in Austin, Texas and flew to Portland, Oregon to visit Gangie and Grandpa. It was 60 degrees and rainy and glorious. The trip was wonderful. We went to the beach, went strawberry-picking, met the biggest celebrity in the kids’ lives right now, hung out with Cousin Jack and Uncle Caleb, built fires in the fireplace, and watched a lot of squirrels eating hazelnuts on the back patio. (During one of these mornings, sitting by the fire looking out into the backyard, Henry said “I hope another squirrel shows up so we can see another lively session of Squirrel.”) It was also hard, like everything is with young children. An example: The two hour time change was really bad for George’s emotional state. It meant that he pretty much broke down around dinner every night from complete and total exhaustion. On the last night we were there, George had a long, loud meltdown around bedtime because his leg was hurting him (suddenly and mysteriously). He screamed and screamed. I gathered up the last ragged shreds of my sympathy and patience and talked to him about it. I gently propped him on the toilet so he could pee. I held him while I put on his pajamas so he wouldn’t have to put any weight on his leg. Finally, he calmed down enough that Henry and I could have a conversation about balancing on one leg, so I showed them the tree pose I had been working on in a 30 day yoga challenge (that Andy’s doing with me!). George got excited about this and tried it too, jumping off the bed and balancing on, you guessed it, the very leg he had been wailing about for the last 20 minutes. I pointed this out and he laughed and said, “Oh! Yeah!” I swear, they do this shit just to fuck with your head. In spite of this incident and dozens (hundreds?) more like it, we had a great trip. We adventured during the day, ate lots of good food, read Matilda from cover-to-cover, spent time with people we love and generally lived it up. After the kids went to bed every night, I did my daily yoga routine, talked to Andy on the phone about how hard the kids were that day and how far he’d gotten on the very long to-do list I had left him (I’m kidding! We talked about other things too.), and then hung out with my parents. We talked about politics and all the movies I haven’t seen and should see, watched John Oliver, and listened to Vincenzo Galilei’s The Well-Tempered Lute. It was a pleasure to get to hang out with my mom and dad without having to be a parent at the same time.

Here’s what we ate (and did) in Portland.

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In flight meal. Plastic knives turned out to be the hot hit of our plane ride out to Portland. George got one with his fruit and cheese tray. I also got a fruit and cheese tray because it came with Beecher’s Flagship cheese and Tillamook cheddar and a chocolate truffle. It also came with grapes that were okay and apples that were not. They had soaked them in a bucket of bleach or something to keep them from turning brown. And they succeeded in that, but not in what should have been the primary goal of serving people slices of things that taste like apples and not things that taste like old bleach buckets. Anyway, George was thrilled to discover that his snack box contained a plastic knife and he set to cutting things (grapes, cheese, crackers, what have you) with gusto. Henry’s red curry chicken and rice bowl didn’t come with a knife, so I gave him mine and a pile of grapes to cut, and this project kept them happily occupied for a glorious 30 minutes.

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Westmoreland Park. Henry and George begged to visit this park on our first day in Oregon, and they desperately needed to run around after our travel day, so we went. Henry delighted in moving the big smooth tree branches from one side of the playground to the other and George spent a lot of time throwing sand at the ground. The heart wants what it wants.

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Gazpacho with Jeff and Wanda. Jeff is my cousin, I think? But so far removed I couldn’t tell you what cousin number he is. He and his wife Wanda sold their house and have been traveling the country in an RV for almost a year and I met them for the first time in November (election day, may it live in infamy, to be exact) when they were traveling through Austin. We caught them again as they passed through Portland. They had just eaten, but like all good Jewish mothers, my mom forced them to try the gazpacho. I’m sure they didn’t regret it- it’s a very lovely soup! Bon voyage, Jeff and Wanda! Hope to see you back in Austin again soon, under less-apocalyptic conditions.

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Broccoli Salad and Chipotle-Rubbed Pork Chops. My mom made me all of my favorite foods while we were there. Gazpacho, mole, and this broccoli salad which always tastes better when she makes it. The only thing missing was Dump Cake. Next time, mom!

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Push Ups in the Hospital. My mom had a pre-op appointment for her lithotripsy procedure so we tagged along and had the most exciting ever waiting-in-a-hospital experience. The receptionist gave us free passes to ride the Portland Aerial Tram, which thrilled the kids and made my stomach feel queasy. And then they ate push ups. And then we washed push up slime off faces and rode the elevators a lot and then we left and went strawberry picking.

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Strawberry Picking on Sauvie Island. It was supposed to be blueberry picking, but then we got to the blueberry farm and no one was there, so we called and they said blueberries wouldn’t be ready until June 20. Their website is full of lies. Happily, strawberries were still in season and plentiful and we found a nearby strawberry farm instead. We took several of these photos but George looks exactly this maniacal with his pruning shear in each of them, so here you go. My mom looks cute!

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Get you some crazy hair and tortoise shell glasses and you can be in our picture too.

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Now you can officially say you have had a strawberry brandished at you like a weapon.

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It’s sort of creepy, right?

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I’ve heard stories about kids making themselves sick from eating too many berries while berry-picking, but not these two. They were all business. Doesn’t my mom look like a French peasant woman picking strawberries in her big sweater?

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We picked hood and shuksan strawberries, and they were both outrageously good. The hoods are sweeter, the shuksans are more complex and strawberry-y. The ones we get in Texas, shipped here from California, are big and dense and white inside. These were so soft and plump that your teeth slipped right through them. Sweet and slippery and wonderful.

It was drizzly while we were there- the dark storm clouds made it feel magical.

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Have you ever seen two kids look surlier in a field of beautiful ripe strawberries?

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Now here’s how you take a picture in a strawberry field! Nice one, mom!

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We also picked peonies! Oregon is ridiculous.

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Strawberry Pie. We didn’t have any cornstarch, so the inside of this pie was like a molten strawberry slurry, all loose and runny. Tasted great, though.

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Cousin Jack! My brother, Caleb and his son Jack met us on an overnight journey to Astoria, on the Oregon coast. We started our trip with lunch at the Buoy Beer Company. Jack entertained the boys every second he was with us- he is a phenomenal kid. At lunch, Caleb marveled at how much George had grown since he saw him last in December. While Caleb and my parents and I were talking, George sat across the table from me, ate his lunch, and talked to Jack. Six months ago, George spent the whole trip in my arms or on my lap. Isn’t it funny that this change happened so quickly, and I’m totally oblivious to it? Why does it still feel like things are hard when they’re so much easier than they used to be?

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We had dinner reservations for three hours after we sat down for lunch, so I just ate some hummus. It was so lovely, though!

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Then we swam in the hotel pool for the whole time between lunch and dinner. Uncle Caleb did the lion’s share of entertaining the kids in there- thanks, Brother!

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Bridgewater Bistro. Then we went to dinner and ordered everything on the menu. I had an oyster shooter for the first time (I loved it!) and pickled herring for the first time too (and didn’t love it. It was just cold and wet and boring). My favorite thing was a crab and avocado toast.

This was Day 4 away from Andy, and the kids were really starting to wear on me. Henry had stumbled into the habit of making near-constant mouth noises. I complained about it to Helen and then sent her this video in which Henry demonstrates said noises. Posting here for no real reason. If you do not like mouth noises, I cannot recommend this video.

George also wanted to make a mouth noise video, so here’s this one too. Shoutout to Phinnie!

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The next morning we started the day off bright and early at the amazing Columbia River Maritime Museum. We got to watch a 3D movie about hurricanes and climb aboard an old coastguard boat that was docked outside. Did you know that the place where the Columbia River meets the Pacific ocean is one of the most dangerous bar crossings on the planet? Something like 2000 ships have sunk there, the waves can be up to 40 feet high, and it’s where the US coastguard trains and tests new recruits. Also, they have this real big anchor. Worth a trip!

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Henry loved his lunch at the Buoy Beer Company so much (mac and cheese with shoestring sweet potato fries) that he begged to go back again the next day. As luck would have it, we made it there right at the start of the Astoria Pride parade, which was huge and colorful and so fun, so we watched that before we ate. Good on you, Astoria!

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We couldn’t drive all that way without a trip to the beach! So we drove around and found the water at Fort Stevens State Park. The kids had passed out in the back seat on the drive from the restaurant to the beach, and I thought about just driving back to Portland to take advantage of the peace and quiet, but woke em up instead. I’m glad I did.

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We wrapped our hands around a lot of dirty feathers and got bowled over a number of times by an excitable loose dog (who we caught and helped return to his semi-shitty and ungrateful owner) and had an all around good time.

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On the way out of Astoria we stopped by Josephson’s Smoked Fish shop because, smoked fish. You’re looking at $20 worth of salmon here- hot smoked wine maple and cracked pepper chinook salmon. It was glorious.

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Chicken with Mole. Another favorite mom recipe! Isn’t she a delightful human being?

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Plum Tree Jam. Man, we packed so much into our short visit! We went to the downtown farmers market to meet Miranda, of Plum Tree Jam, formerly of Food52. She edited my molecular gastronomy feast articles 5 years ago and we’ve been facebook friends ever since. When I learned she made small batch jams in Portland, with local berry varieties I had never tasted, I knew I had to check it out. We got to try everything, but the big favorite was this loganberry- it’s glorious. Thanks, Miranda!

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Caleb’s Famous Grilled Chicken, Salad, Chips, Mom’s Black Bean and Corn Salsa, and Bacon-y Stewed Kale. Then we went to Caleb’s house to watch the NBA finals (sure, okay!) and eat Caleb’s chicken (I care deeply and passionately about this). Since coming back to Austin, I have made something trying to approximate Caleb’s chicken twice and this black bean salad twice. They’re both fantastic. Recipes soon.

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WE GOT TO MEET JOSEPH HOFFMAN. The kids have been taking online piano lessons from the Hoffman Academy for months and absolutely adore the man in the videos. Poking around the site one day, I noticed that his real-life academy is in Portland and mentioned that to my mom. She called and set up a meeting with Joseph Hoffman himself. She’s a superhero. It was so so fun to see the kids’ faces when they met him. And he was super nice and took so much time with them. They each got to play a song for him, they got to check out the studio where he records the lessons they watch, and he performed the full version of the song that you hear at the beginning of every lesson. It was raining while we were there, and we got rained on walking between his office and studio and George spontaneously burst out with a song we learned from his piano lessons: “Rain come wet me, sun come dry me, keep away, everyone, don’t come nigh me” and Mr. Hoffman joined in and sang along with him and it was So. Sweet. I love this guy and this program so much. The videos are free. You can also pay a monthly fee and get wonderful supplemental materials. We do this for Henry and will do it for George when he gets a little older.

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And one picture with the adults too because we also like Mr. Hoffman.

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My Dad! And Lowriders to the Center of the Earth. Great book and great dad! My favorite thing my kids did with my dad this trip was when they all took turns playing his lap steel. My favorite thing that I did with my dad was getting to talk about movies after the kids went to bed. He lent me Winter’s Bone because he thought I would dig the scene where the maternal figure teaches the little kids to kill and eat a squirrel. This guy really knows me.

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A Very Paleo Chili. Served with non-paleo toppings. Caleb and Jack joined us for dinner on our last night in town and the kids did a little bit of light LARPing in the living room.

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Sour Raspberry Crisp. Then we ate a raspberry crisp made with some early raspberries that we picked up at the farmers market- they needed lots of sugar.

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And that was our trip! Thanks, mom and dad for a beautiful time. Thanks, Caleb and Jack for making so much time for us too. Thanks, Oregon, for giving me a chance to wear a sweatshirt in June and for providing us with a whole box full of totally perfect strawberries.

Next week, I’ve got lots of good food to share from lots of good parties (of the going away, summer solstice, and birthday varieties), updates on how Andy and I have been doing a pretty great job of making time for each other, and more adventures with Henry and George. Also journaling. And yawp-ing. And preparing for a big summer vacation trip. Happy summer, everyone!

Crunchy Tacos, Blueberry Muffins, and Real Guns that Shoot Fake Houses

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.

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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.

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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.

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George says something outlandish like this every five minutes- I could make a whole journal of just weird shit that George says.

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Henry is very rarely silly. I’ve had to listen carefully to come up with quotations for his page.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

 

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

Noodles and Fried Fish and Pies and Ashtray Cake

I sat here, watching the cursor blink, every night for the past week. Mostly I’d end up drifting over to the open facebook tab instead of writing anything, watching those autoplay videos of someone’s fast-forwarded hands cooking something elaborate with crescent rolls and pre-grated cheese. But also reading all the news. The Trump-related revelations this week have felt deliciously rich and satisfying, like a well-chilled chocolate mousse that’s bitter and fatty and melts on your lips. I have savored every bit of it. But, yeah, I didn’t feel like writing. I felt like I’d even forgotten how. How do you start? What do you talk about? In a flash of inspiration, I thought I’d check out two of my favorite blogs, Ben and Birdy and Tipsy Baker, to see how the pros do it. It made me feel better. I love them both- they’re funny and informative and inspiring and I read through the backlog of posts I’d missed with a big smile on my face. But they’re not doing anything groundbreaking- they’re just saying some shit and moving on. I can do that! I don’t need to write something brilliant or amazing. It can just be me saying some shit and moving on.

Speaking of Ben and Birdy- the author, Catherine Newman, is always hawking things. But it’s the best kind of hawking because they’re all things I want. She writes about great novels to read, the best watercolors to keep in your purse, the board games her family has loved playing. They all funnel perfectly into the lifestyle I aspire to live- one where I read great books instead of looking at facebook, and watercolor the sky outside my window instead of looking at facebook some more. To that end, I had to buy the Journal Sparks book she reviewed here. It’s full of amazing journal prompts to get you writing and observing and painting every day, and it is so inspiring. I’ve gotta find a journal with pages thick enough to watercolor in, but when I do, some of the pages in my journal will be: what’s blooming in my yard each month, with line drawings that have been water colored; paintings of the sky, with dates and times; funny things Henry says; funny things George says; drawings of landscape ideas for my front and side gardens; a dream journal with details looked up in a dream encyclopedia and recorded (I dreamed this week that a tree outside our house was on fire and I put it out, but the fire kept spreading to under the house, which seems symbolic of something? It does seem an apt metaphor for every damn day with the kids); restaurant and road trip destinations I want to visit; paintings of whole 30 foods I enjoy eating, so I can look at them when I want to feel hungry for more healthful foods; snippets of overheard conversations. There are lots of ideas for stand-alone journal prompts, but I’m more drawn to ones like these, that you add to slowly over time. It’s a beautiful book.

The kids have felt extra tricky over the last two weeks, like trees on fire. I said to my sister, and have really felt this way most days, that I’m so tired of parenting. I still want to have my kids. I love my kids. But I want to not have to say parent-y things to them every 30 seconds. Every time I walk out of the room lately, George starts screaming because Henry has done something shitty or, in some cases, done nothing at all, and I have to come back and remind them about using their words instead of screaming or hitting or kicking, or throwing shit (not literal. yet.) at each other. Repeat 200 times. The first 100 times, I am patient. I explain calmly that we can’t treat each other like this, we have to be respectful. Tell George you don’t want to play that right now. Tell Henry that you can’t see the pages of the book he’s reading. Don’t scream, don’t kick. My patience erodes over the course of the day. When the screaming starts up for the 101st time, I am 13 feet tall. My voice is deep and growly. My hands are monstrous curving claws, and saliva drips from my pointed teeth. When I am my best monster, I tell Henry, in that low and terrible voice, to go to his room. When I am my worst, I yell at him with the might of those 13 feet behind me. It doesn’t help, obviously. I feel worse and Henry definitely feels worse and, when I calm down, I apologize for yelling. And then we repeat the same stuff the next day. I guess we’re just all behaving badly.

Here’s what we ate this week and last week.

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Sloppy Joes. Shit, y’all. These are a hit. I made em because I had some old Hawaiian rolls left over from Henry’s birthday that had been sitting on the counter for a week and a half. I thought, what can I put in those rolls? The answer was: some sloppy meat. I made it with a pound of ground pork instead of the 18 lbs of beef the recipe calls for. It was plenty and it was delicious.

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JJ’s Arcade. Molly and Dustin gave us all tickets to see this show for Henry’s birthday and the kids loved it and we loved it. It’s based on this heart-swelling youtube video. The kids were pretty psyched to get to play with the cardboard arcade games after the show.

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George won a back-scratcher which he promptly applied some next-level thinking to.

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Fried Fish Sandwich. My neighbor, Otto, brought me some white bass that his friend Eldon had caught and cleaned the day before, cuz he’s a real nice guy. His friend Eldon is nice too. An old-fashioned gentlemanly sort of nice that you don’t see too often. For a tangible example, he reminds me of one of the farm hands in The Wizard of Oz who are kind to Dorothy and have a dreamy twinkly-eyed quality to them. I thought about making some grilled fish tacos with it but opted for fried fish slathered in a mayonnaise sauce served sandwiched between griddled buns. I had leftover batter so I used the dregs to make some onion rings.

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Old-School Baked Ziti. The next day was Otto’s birthday. I knew his favorite food was casseroles, specifically lasagna-type casseroles, so I made this for him.

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Raspberry Buttermilk Cake. And also this cake. It looks like I stubbed out three cigarettes in the middle, but that’s just what candles look like from an aerial view.

Maybe I shouldn’t tell you this story? I’m gonna go ahead and do it, but I’m trusting you to keep it quiet, and to not breathe a word of it to our across-the-street neighbor, Kate. Otto is what you might call a tinkerer. He makes things, all sorts of things. His own box fans from rescued air conditioner parts, a working cannon that can drive a ball bearing through a telephone pole, a homemade Jacob’s ladder- those sorts of things. For his birthday, he invited us to bring the kids down to see a pyrotechnic display. He filled a series of balloons up with propane, taped them to a metal pole, rigged up a gun-powder fuse, and blew them up. It made a big movie explosion-style fireball that roared up into the sky. We loved it. Then Otto said he had some leftover fireworks, so we set those off too. A smoke bomb, some spinny-things, a fountain, and then, the big finale, two artillery shells. Shortly after that, a helicopter flew overhead. This isn’t unusual, because we live really close to a hospital with a landing pad. But then it kept circling back around. You see where this is going- we found out on Nextdoor that Kate, and several other people in the neighborhood, thought they had heard two gun shots. Kate called the police who sent over a helicopter super fucking quickly. So the moral of that story is: don’t set off fireworks in the city of Austin on non-firework-y holidays. And if you do, stop as soon as you hear a helicopter.

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Crispy Smashed Potatoes, Roasted Green Beans, Roast Chicken. Hey, here’s another thing about Eldon! These green beans and potatoes are from his garden! I blanched and then roasted the green beans in a 450 oven on a sheet pan with a chopped spring onion and they were the best ever. Maybe it’s just because they were fresh from a garden, but the technique worked well too. They were soft and tender, and sweet from the onion, with little bits of roasty crispness too.

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Chicken Shawarma, Cucumber Salad, Pita Chips, Tahini Sauce. Gonna eat this every day.

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BLTs, Butter-Braised Purple Potatoes, Corn on the Cob. First BLT of the season! The purple potatoes are also from Eldon’s garden. Between the fish and the produce, this guy fed us all week.

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Chorizo, Crispy Potatoes, and Spinach. Another whole 30 favorite trotted out for an easy dinner.

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Mother’s Day Lunch: Salad with Crispy-Skinned Salmon, Roasted Potatoes, Haricot Verts, Bacon, Avocado, and Tomatoes. Plus Tortellini Pesto Pasta Salad, Garlic Cheddar Biscuits, and Berries. I made way too much food. My mother’s day gift, as usual, included Andy taking the kids somewhere so I could spend time by myself. It is the best. I used my precious alone time to paint the bathroom, hallway, and dining room while listening to all the episodes of S-Town. That was on Saturday. On Sunday, the boys surprised me with delightful cards that Andy helped them make and super fancy chocolates and salted butter caramels from Chocolaterie Tessa. He did real good. We spent the rest of the day eating a big lunch and then swimming for hours at Grandma Mary’s house. A good time all around.

 

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Halal Corner: P7 Meat over Hummus Plate with Gyro. I didn’t feel like cooking after all that, so we got takeout from Halal Corner instead. The hummus is soft and rich like ice cream and they put salty meat on top so it is the best dinner you can buy from anywhere.

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Ramen with Crispy Pork Belly and Marinated Soft-Boiled Eggs. I did not make the broth with the trotters and the dozens of other ingredients in the linked recipe. I made my normal chicken broth, and stirred miso and tamari into it and called it a day. The pork belly recipe is a great one to have in your back pocket, because unlike most pork belly recipes, it doesn’t take 24+ hours. You rub the pork with salt and herbs and stab the fat hundreds of times with a bamboo skewer. Then you blast it in a 450 oven for an hour and a half and you’re left with a much smaller piece of meat sitting in a pool of it’s own fat, but it’s perfect- the skin is crackly and salty and the meat is tender.

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Roasted Sausage with Fennel and Broccoli. This was the surprise hit of the week- it’s so damn easy, and everybody loved it. I made the sausage by mixing some salt and garlic and spices into a pound of ground pork but you could use a pound of any sausage you want. Andy and the kids ate theirs on top of farfalle with butter and parmesan and I ate mine as is- it’s so much more than the sum of it’s parts.

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Sesame Noodles with Butter-Fried Scallions and an Egg. Christy’s daughter Ella made me this beautiful bowl of noodles- she is a poetic and noble land mermaid. I’m gonna have to steal this recipe from her- its brown rice noodles doused in sesame oil and tamari, topped with a crispy-edged, runny-yolked fried egg, fried scallions, fresh scallions, chopped peanuts, and furikake.

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Beirut Lebanese Food Trailer: Beef Shawarma, Tabbouleh, Fattoush, Baba Ganoush, Falafel Pita Wrap. My friend Amanda and I got to go out, just the two of us, without kids, for the first time in years. We shotgunned some shawarma and then went to a garden talk and tour at Pam Penick’s house. The talk was about her new book, The Water-Saving Garden, and I left feeling inspired. She has a beautiful metal stock tank pond and I have an empty stock tank in the back yard waiting to be turned into a pond. She pined after those gigantic metal cisterns you see on the sides of green houses and I have a 15,000 (at least) gallon stone cistern buried under a metal cover in my back yard, unused. I’ve gotta reroute my rain gutter to feed into it and get someone (Otto said he would do it) to climb down there to see if the pump at the bottom still works. There are cockroaches and toads in there and I’m not going down there for anything. Also, she grows a lot of plants successfully in the shade that I didn’t think you could, and I want to brainstorm ideas for using those plants in my front yard. I loved it all, and I loved getting to learn this stuff with my friend.

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Mango and Avocado Sushi, Miso-Glazed Roasted Eggplant. The kids and I were busy doing something, I don’t remember what, Friday morning when I looked up at the clock and saw that swim class started in 20 minutes. I threw the kids into their swimsuits and we raced to class. We made it, but I forgot towels, so I had to borrow some giant t-shirts from the front desk to dry off the kids after class. A kid in Henry’s class showed up late and then for all the world acted like he had forgotten how to swim. He’d get out into the middle of the pool and panic and cling to the teacher. This went on for a while until he burst into tears, ran to his mom and vomited into her hands. I’ve been that mom. Julia, the coach, says it happens all the time. In fact, she said, the day before a kid had shit in the pool, the power had gone out, and another kid had thrown up within the course of a single hour. We all washed our hands really well after class. Oh yeah! We ate sushi for dinner.

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Gluten-Free Blackberry and Peach Pies for Joanna’s Birthday. (With this crust recipe). I love Joanna! She asked for pie for her birthday and I thought, I love you so much I’m going to make you TWO PIES. Here they are, in the trunk of my car, hot from the oven. The hot pie juice sloshed out and ran onto the quilt, but it doesn’t matter. Our old dog Rupert (RIP even though you bit people’s faces) had already chewed a big hole in the middle of this one. Happy Birthday, Sister!

I’m gonna do a preemptive list of things I might want to talk about in next week’s blog in case I’m feeling uninspired again next Sunday: the kids watching other kids play tablets at Yawp for three hours; how Amanda Soule is able to have five kids and run a business and a farm and still sew and knit all the damn time; the end of my life as a breastfeeding lady (I assume I have big feelings about this buried somewhere deep inside myself); how desperately I need to rewrite my About page on this site, and replace the bizarrely tiny photos, one of which is a selfie Andy and I took with my iMac circa 2006. And surely I’ll be able to show you photos of my finished stock tank pond and pages from that journal that I’m going to buy and write and paint in. Those things are totally happening.

See you next week!