Sunday, March 30, 2014

It's a hell of a thing, this rain, ain't it?

Is it bad form to serve coffee to teenagers? 

I offered the small hoard in my kitchen coffee and pastries, it occurred to me that I should have had something more wholesome, like a saucer of milk or some lovely oatstraw tea.

I asked that question on Facebook yesterday and got 42 interesting answers.  Most people are not opposed to coffee for teenagers.  Many are for it. One, interestingly enough, a youngish dad to Maxwell's preschool best friend said 
It is my opinion that teenagers are stimulated plenty enough without caffeine. I'm ok with my teen having a coffee or soda, or even a beer, but he has to get it without my help.

It was a rainy day yesterday, a rain that gave me pause and made me wonder if climate change was indeed going to destroy the world in my lifetime.  

Then it stopped.  

I was lying around on the sofa, like a terrible person, because I am sickish and exhausted from it.  I was reading Orange is the new black and counting my lucky stars that I had never done anything that stupid in my misspent youth.  

Maxwell and his band were playing, not terribly, upstairs.  

They came down for food and because I was sick, I had nothing.  

I had nothing to feed the group of very nice boys, which is not a thing like me. 

I had nothing made.  

I did have a box of chocolate croissants that I had bought to bribe Freyja into eating, and letting me stay in bed past 8:00am on Saturday. 

So in a panic, I threw the rolls onto a glass pedestal cake plate and poured tiny cups of coffee with heavy cream, which is what I would offer any other guests, but then I thought I had taken some kind of terrible turn,where I become some kind of devil, pushing children down a slippery slope, right up to the gateway of gateway drugs!  

I also cut up on small green apple.  As a sort of peace offering to the gods of poor choices.

Everybody has a story to tell

I like to read memoirs; they are likely my favorite genre.

I am nosy by nature, but there is also something humanizing about finding the common threads in people's stories that I love.

I started Nigel Slater's Toast last night.  Mark brought it home from the library for me, the way I come by most of my reading material these days.

I am a huge fan of Mr. Slater's food writing and cookbooks.  I bake his rose and pistachio cake at least once a year.

I like the simplicity of his style.

I like that he never Americanizes his writing, or cookery, to gain a wider audience.

I like that he is not a cheeky monkey like Jamie Oliver (who I also like).

I like that he is classy AND rustic.

The book is predictably well written.  He is an excellent writer.  Both writerly and organic and unstuffy at the same time.  He uses a sort of vignette style, each chapter could easily be an essay, standing alone, which makes sense, since he writes for magazines, and it's likely that each chapter may have indeed stood alone, at some point.

He writes of his mother's terrible cookery, and his father's moody indifference, and touches on his own outsiderness, without wallowing.

I haven't reached it yet, but I know his mother dies when he is nine.

I know his father shacks up with the cleaning lady and I know things go badly for the balance of his childhood.

I've read the outraged outcries from the stepmother's children, but their tales ring hollow and sound totally absurd.  One of the step-sisters (ten years older than Nigel) tells of how her mother inherited everything, when the father died, when Nigel was 13(!) and that the mother kept it all to live on, with the intention of leaving the estate to him when she died.

What I wonder did she think a 13 year old orphan was going to live on in the interim?

I suspect Nigel's recollection of the step-mother's trashiness and bass nature was spot on. To his credit, he did praise her cooking.

In some kind of twisted way, I suppose he owes his career to her selfishness, as he went off to work in his first kitchen when his father died.  Cooking is the only industry where child labor is still alive and normal in western countries. 

Thursday, March 27, 2014

Glass houses

I went to see the new Wes Anderson film The Grand Budapest Hotel, which was as lovely as I had anticipated it would be.

I went in the middle of the day, with my friend S, who is the perfect movie companion, a fussy film lover, with a delightful discrete laugh.

We ate a great deal of overly greasy popcorn, which I said I didn't want, then mooched off of anyway, as I like to do, and I had a terrible coffee, with even worse fake cream.  He had some kind of carbonated thing that I left alone, which made me feel righteous about eating more than my share of the popcorn.

It was a rather ideal way to spend a rainy afternoon, of a spring vacation that wasn't really a vacation at all.

I am very fond of Wes Anderson films.

I happen to love even The Darjeeling Limited, which many people don't care for.

I am a sucker, for the scenery, the color, the attention to the tiniest of details. In a perfect world my life would look just like one of his films, complete with orange wallpaper.

One of the things I liked most about this newest film were the wine glasses. I am not a fan of overly ornate glasses, and I adored the conical goblets used in this movie.

They are similar to a set that I have, that once belonged to some dear family friends, and have, over the years been broken, one, by one.  I have a single goblet left, and three sherry glasses.

The glasses in the movie look something like this

My glasses look similar, but with a simple lily of the valley etched on each side, and a band etched around the top.  I also favor Duralex glasses, which are practically indestructible, which may explain why they firm went out of business. 

A friend was just telling me that he bought himself a treat, two lovely wine glasses, from a local wine shop, that are "nicer than you would offer a drunk neighbor."  The Duralex are perfect for your drunkest neighbor, or your clumsiest friend, or the tiniest toddler.

I knew exactly what he meant though.

I once bought myself a large, plain, beautiful balloon glass.

Thin as could be.

Fragile as all get out. 

Obscenely expensive.

Just because I felt like it was the kind of thing I should do.


Own something really over the top.

I used it too.

Then it broke, and that was the end of the grand experiment in luxury.

If you like wit, and beautiful and quirky things go see this movie.  Keep an eye out for those glasses, they are extraordinary! 

Sunday, March 16, 2014

The luck of the Irish

It's like I woke up one day and it was SPRING!

No warning, no segue.

I suppose that is the way these things go, but still. 

The yard looks like a terrible mess. 

It is never what anyone would call "nice", but this time of year it is just shameful, nasty, unkempt. 

Rolf and Freyja set about cleaning out the beds, in preparation for setting in their little garden. Mark and I took down several volunteer trees and cleared a lot of brush, from a corner of the house in the front, that is always neglected. 
There was a new wrinkle this year, with ivy clinging madly to the foundation and making it's way up and under the cedar shake siding. 

I ripped it off, but I can tell, it'll be back. 

It's that kind of thing.

I like to have a dinner for St. Patrick's Day.  I hardly acknowledge my Irish heritage, except on this day.  I am much more connected with my German roots.  I have no idea why.  

I am making the ubiquitous corned beef brisket, except I bought a fancy organic roast and did the seasoning myself. 

Truth be told it is not as good as the shitty, chemical riddled thing that comes in a plastic bag from Safeway, but I did my best. 

I am also making sauted cabbage with chanterelle mushrooms (foraged by Freyja and Rolf in the Tillamook National Forest) and green apples, creamed nettles (foraged by Freyja and Rolf at Sauvie Island), with a bread crumb, horseradish & walnut crumble, mashed yukon gold potatoes and asparagus for the unadventurous eaters. Oh, and a stuffed capon.

Mark's mother's birthday is this week.  I have not made a plan.  I hope that this diner takes care of it.  I baked Irish soda bread, which could count as cake, if you squint.

My friend Lily brought me two presents yesterday.  This amazing California pottery platter, and this two woolen mice. 

Freyja and I taking a break from cooking and cleaning

Irish soda bread, with dried cherries, because I can't leave well enough alone

Wednesday, March 5, 2014


My boy is 15!

It hardly seems possible.  I will confess to liking parenting a teen more than I liked parenting a kid.  I loved parenting a baby and I enjoyed parenting a preschool.  Maxwell was such a lovely, lovely preschooler.  Having a teen, has been pretty good so far, with the exception of all the dangerous stuff... bigger and badder stuff can happen to a teenager, than a toddler.  Aside from drowning in the mop bucket, and that type of freak things, little children are pretty much in your control.  This teen is out of my control a good deal of the time.  I like to let him be.  I let him go to shows, I let him ride the bus.  I let him be unsupervised a lot, because I know that he is smart and capable.  I know that is risk adverse, just like his mama.  We talk often and frankly and we care about each other.  I think all of that helps.  I hope so at least.

Sunday, March 2, 2014

The remodel

Day one of the kitchen demo!

Look what we found inside the WALLS!

Down to the studs, on my birthday!
Freyja and I at the rental house. It is my birthday and I am just about to leave and go sleep in the freezing, sawdust filled house, so the cat wont feel abandoned.  I am THAT good. 

Then there was drywall hung, and things seemed more hopeful.
Maxwell hanging out at the rental house "table".

Next came plaster and paint, and LIGHTS!

Then the fabulous "click tile" cork backed marmoleum, soft, quiet, warm

Ben installing the gas cooktop with SIX burners!

The ovens in the diningroom

Ben cutting the stone on the back deck, in the freezing weather

Installing the back-splash, my hand-painted tiles.

The eating area is finished. I am in love with my new light fixture.

over kitchen sink-it was challenging to figure out what to do with the window frame and sill, guess who solved the problem? THIS GIRL!

I lost my big built in curio shelf, which created a lot of displaced brick-a-brack.

cute corner cupboard

Giant pantry for all of your international foods

Coffee station

Eating area, I recovered the chairs.

We removed the old swinging door and added this arch. 

The kids and I lazured this room that had been white for 16 years, on the snow day.

put my shrine to our dearly departed pets up, which made me feel more "finished".  Teddy & Giovanna's ashes


In the midst of this existential  trash bin I call my life, things do go on.  Sometimes a bit wobbly, as if the wheels might fall off at any moment, but they go on.

The kitchen is DONE!

Some excellent meals have already been prepared.

Valentine's Day was Valentinious and delightful.

I need a step stool.

A high step stool that isn't too ugly.

My new kitchen is tall, for a short lady.

Munich style potato dumplings, cooked in vegetable broth

pre broth boil

topped with buttery bread crumbs and baked a tiny bit

goulash with green beans and potato

a great deal of paprika

muffins of crustless quiche, for Mark's breakfasts next week.

A Valentine dinner for little girls

A prune stuffed pork loin for Mark

Taking the new grill pan for a spin.  Freyja is over the moon at the thought of grilled meat year round. 

Then there was the call from the lady that had won a year of cakes in an auction- I'd donated the gift certificate TWO YEARS earlier, but who's counting?  This is devil's food with caramel and black sea salt.  

Delivering the cake, even though I feel like absolute hell, with a sore throat and a hurty back.

My cousin's half sister, who, once a long time ago, prior to her mother's divorce from my uncle, was my cousin, made me this extraordinary goat.  Isn't that the sweetest thing ever?  She was visiting from Florida and brought me a goat!

Freyja and I had breakfast at Bob's Red Mill, and it was only so so, now, after their remodel.  What a shame.