Tuesday, May 31, 2011

That's A Lot of Sage

After this four day week is a three day week and then my summer begins.  I'm not going to lie to you: I am ready. Oh, I know, after the first couple of weeks, I'll miss my students, I'll miss the creative aspects of designing lessons and trying to figure out what each little squirrel needs just right now, but let me just state:  I'm looking forward to missing it.  That is all

I was thinking today, about all the people who have died in military service to the United States (as it is Memorial Day) so I decided to do an internet search. I found this sobering tally right off the top, and it really set the mood for my "three day weekend".  I mean....I sort of can't comprehend, on the one hand, how many precious lives have been lost (how many families have ached for their loved ones?) and on the other hand, I can't bring myself to accept, on face value, that this is a wholly inclusive total.

We took advantage of our three day weekend by doing some long-needed chores around the house.  Here, Erik "fixed" the dead bolt lock on our front door.  Ahem.
And I even managed to clean this front window, which the pup has taken to rubbing her nose on while pacing back and forth, awaiting our return any time we leave the house.  I mean. Gross.
It's better now : ). I can see out it now.  Oh, except for the two huge cracks that are spiderwebbing across the top of the window.  I mean, we're just keeping it classy around here, really.
I also went into a bit of maintenance mode in the garden, even this early in the season there is so much yummy work that needs to be done!
Complex tasks like caging the tomato plants. A chore made even better by adorable fuschia, yellow,  and orange cages. Yay! Oh, but that sage plant is out of control.  See it there, in the background?
A quick shearing and I had cleared enough space to stake my adorable bean plant experiment.  Oh, they're little arms, forever reaching to hug something....I love you, bean plants!
Which left me with some newly harvested sage.  Quite a bit of it, in fact! My immediate response was, of course, to do a quick internet search.  Now I have another (can't really call this a) chore I can't wait to try.

What did people do, before the internets?????

Monday, May 30, 2011

Cockle Shells

 For the first time in 6 years, everything I planted in my vegetable garden is growing strong.  Usually, after the starts have been in the beds for a month or so, I take pictures and think, "Well, this isn't working." It's only when I've compared the new photos to the ones I took on planting day, that I actually realize something is happening.

Not so, this year!  Three weeks after I started the beds, I went to water and thought, "Holy cats!" I mean, even to my (oh so critical) naked eye, the garden was growing strong and rapidly! Which should prove to be interesting. I normally overplant a bit, in anticipation of loss...now, if things proceed at the same pace, it looks like I'm going to have 6 honey dew melon plants (was hoping for? 2) to deal with. I didn't even stagger the plantings, so at some point, I will have to deal with a hojillion melons, all ripening at the same time.  Also true about the dozen tomato plants, the half dozen cucumbers, the half dozen eggplants, and the trio of zucchini/squash I planted (nobody needs more than one, I can tell you that for free). I think in June I'll still plant a couple of pumpkin starts though.  I LOVED those pumpkins, and the sheer volume of pureed pumpkins (and, thus, baked goods) that came from them is enough to bring a tear to my eye.

Sometimes, people in my life (Erik) roll their eyes at my hand-weeding habits. It's how my mother does it, and how her mother did it. I could go on and on about why I think it's so great (no pesticides! learn your soil! who's making that part of your yard a home?) but the number one reason I can highly recommend hand weeding is that you are in total control of what stays, and what goes. These are I don't know what but I like them. They spread all over, naturally, and grow beautifully.  That pile I pulled on the left in the photo above was growing in the walkways between the beds.  We're calling them weeds. The bunch that started growing themselves in a galvanized steel tub got to stay. We're calling them plants.  See how that works?

My entire front yard is covered in volunteer hollyhocks and volunteer these yellow things.  If I had just mowed down or weed whacked everything, I never would have benefited from this mini-meadow in my front yard.

Sunday, May 29, 2011

Dinner for Three

 The day that Gram died, I got home around 10 at night, and I started cooking and cleaning. As you do.
In this case, I had a very special mission.  I needed to make dinner and dessert for Miss Maia and her Pumpkin.  (Papa was out of town, so it was girls' night and we took full advantage!)
 Maia loooovveeeeesssssss banana bread. I make it for her as much as possible.
I headed into San Francisco and got as many snuggles and toothless grins I could possibly squeeze into the few hours we had together.  I know I may be biased, but I'm not exaggerating when I say: this is easily the cutest, sweetest, most lovable baby I have ever met.  I mean honestly:  look at that mug! swoon And there's nothing that soothes the ache from the loss of a precious life, as holding a new precious life does. Just what I needed, isn't Maia smart? ; )

For dinner, I made her a lasagna with ground beef and a loaf of homemade bread, and of course a loaf of banana bread. Every time I make lasagna, people ask me for the recipe. Here's what you need to know about me and lasagna:  I grew up with an Italian mother. People positively melt when they eat her lasagna. They can't get enough! I promise you this: you would vomit if you watched her make a lasagna. For an Italian? "lasagna night" is "clean out the refrigerator night". Everything gets tossed in, and it's not unusual to find yourself eating lasagna comprised almost entirely of shredded beef that was used in enchiladas on Tuesday, chicken that was roasted on Wednesday, and eggplant and zucchini that was not going to make it to the weekend in the vegetable crisper. Add a couple of eggs, ricotta cheese (cottage cheese also works, use whatever you have, because under no circumstances do you ever buy fresh ingredients for an Italian lasagna), and shred the ends of every moldy brick of mozzarella and cheddar you can find in the refrigerator.  Layer with noodles and tomato sauce.  Cover with foil and bake at 350 degrees F for about an hour (remove foil for the last 10 minutes or so, so the cheese melts completely).

This is NOT the lasagna I made for Maia. You're welcome. The lasagna I make, that everybody asks how I make it and wants to know my secret for, comes directly from the side of the box that the no bake lasagna noodles come in. I buy the ingredients fresh, and I bake it immediately. I make it exclusively for other people, and every time I pull the 5 pound beast from the oven, Erik always demands to know (only half-kidding in his ire), "Why does everybody else get lasagna, and we never do!?!" To which I can only reply, "If you wanted lasagna, you shouldn't have married and Italian girl."

Saturday, May 28, 2011


When my grandma died last Monday, May 23rd, I sat down next to her and stared out the window, tears spilling down my cheeks....hands in my lap....lost in my thoughts.  My hand went to my head, my head went to my childhood, all my memories wrapped up in the woman lying next to me.  43 trips around the sun, and the next one had to be done without her, for the first time.

I lost my hero, and as I sit writing this, I'm crying again for the first time since I stood up and walked away from her room that day. It's hard to be sad when you think of Gram. She was bigger than life, and as I have stared at the ceiling this week, at 2, 3, even 4 in the morning (more times than I'd care to talk about), overwhelmed by this loss, restless from my helplessness, I have been thinking about all the things that I learned from her.  For right now, I'm recording them old-school in one of my (many many many lol) paper journals. But I can tell you that the one that bubbles up and calls for most of my attention, the one string I keep pulling at that continuously unwinds into more and more thoughts and memories, is that I learned that family is the most important thing in our lives....and that family includes everybody we love, whether we are related to them or not.  Orphaned at 14, she spent the rest of her life reaching out to the abandoned children who were most lost. I learned that there are a lot of them, that you can never run out of love (patience? that's a whole other matter :), and that when you open up your heart and your home amazing things happen.

When I came into the kitchen at Aunt Barbara's, this is the scene that greeted me. I had to laugh. I've seen this exact tableau a hundred thousand times in my life; dudes at one end and chicks at the other, food everywhere, hillbilly folk accounted for, and laughter. The stories were already being told. The old ones that have been perfected over the years and MUST be told by the appropriate person (my family will stop you mid-memory and say, "No, no! Let so-and-so tell it!" haha; new ones that are unfolding and require the input of everybody at the table, and when those stories feel complete and just right, they'll be wrapped back up and trotted out whenever we need them. And we need them a lot. If you had to die, you'd want to do it in my family, because we really do believe (and put into practice) the idea that as long as somebody remembers you and tells your stories, you will live in their hearts, forever, and that's what immortality looks like.

I love her. I know everybody does, she's universally adored far and wide, but there's no other way to say it. I love her and I will miss her. I already do.

Sunday, May 15, 2011

Just Breathe (pearl jam)

Yes I understand
That every life must end
As we sit alone
I know someday we must go

Oh I'm a lucky man
To count on both hands
The ones I love
Some folks just have one
Yeah others they got none

Stay with me
Let's just breathe

Practiced on our sins
Never gonna let me win
Under everything
Just another human being

I don't want to hurt
There's so much in this world
to make me bleed

Stay with me
All I see

Did I say that I need you?
Did I say that I want you?
Well if I didn't I'm a fool you see
No one knows this more than me
'cause I come clean

I wonder everyday
As I look upon your face
Everything you gave
And nothing you would take
Nothing you would take
Everything you gave

Did I say that I need you?
Did I say that I want you?
Well if I didn't I'm a fool you see
No one knows this more than me
I come clean

Nothing you would take
Everything you gave
Hold me till I die
Meet you on the other side

Monday, May 9, 2011

A Special Mother's Day

On this Mother's Day, it seems appropriate to talk about my dear friend Maia, who became a mama just a couple of weeks ago.

Maia is so dear to me, such a precious person in my life.  You might remember her as my London Friend haha since she and her husband just came back last summer after living in England for two years.  They were here about two minutes, and then she became pregnant.  I was (and am) so happy for them, especially because I know that they were waiting until they got back to the States, and they are both so wonderful with kids. What a lucky baby they will have, I thought to myself when she told me they were expecting.

One night, a couple of months ago, they were at our house for dinner when Maia got rather serious, and rather emotional.  Neither of these things is unexpected from her; you know what they say about 'opposites attract'?  haha!  There's our friendship, right there.  

She said that they wanted to ask us something, specifically me something, but that it also involved Erik.  I glanced at Erik, and thought, well this is strange.  They are Jewish, and we are Atheist, so that rules out GodParents.  So what the heck?  

Then they asked me to be there when their baby was born. Um.  YEAH!  Of course!!  As Kelly said when I mentioned it on Facebook, what an honor, and I have to agree. It felt like such a privilege to be asked, even considered for such a thing. They were both really committed to an unmedicated birth, and as is their nature to totally and thoughtfully plan and prepare for every little thing, bless their hearts, they had made a list of potential Birth Day Helpers, narrowed the field through a series of late night discussions, and landed on me (me!) as the person most likely to be helpful, and, perhaps even more importantly, to not be an ass. 

I got The Call (or, because it's 2011, The Text) on a Tuesday afternoon.  We went back and forth and who knows what, and by 10 pm that night, I was headed over to Stanford. I pulled over on the side of the 880 freeway so I could snap a quick picture of the moon on my way over to the hospital. This picture, in absolutely no way, does the moon justice. It was a huge, low hanging, harvest moon. Really magical, just like the one on the night Tommy was born!

Her birth story is hers to tell, but it's worth noting that I am pretty sure I was helpful on at least 3 occasions that night; Maia went from 5cm to baby born between 10pm and 230am, without even one aspirin; I was so moved by the two of them together, how much they loved and needed each other, so much sweetness; and, finally, they had the cutest baby I've ever seen.

 Oh!  Those little folds....I could positively swoon : )

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Dear March, You Sucked

There were some things that happened in March that did not suck:
 like when Michele came from Belgium
 Leslie came from Oakland (with the blood of virgins on her face, apparently,
because she hasn't aged an iota since 1987)
and Tom came from Walnut Creek (little Gibby and Tommy kicking it lol)
(all photos scraped from Michele's F/Book post!)

There are people I will always be happy to spend some time with.  I'm an easy-going person who likes to have a good time, and it is not hard to make a temporary friend to a pass a few hours.
But this little get-together, orchestrated to get us all in the same room when Michele came to the states from Belgium, reminded me that there is another, much smaller, group of people for whom the connection is always there.  No need to manufacture a make-shift shanti friendship....just pick up a piece of string that is always tethered to you and to them and then, just like that, you're already caught up and on your way.  I love these people, I always have, and watching our kids play together was too wonderful. 

Or:  Opening Day for Little League and T-Ball

And also: the backyard, through hand weeding no less, went from barren winter stillness:
there are stone stairs and a pond and a huge hill buried under all those weeds : )
 it took hand weeding for hours every day of spring break
(here the weeds are transferred to piles roughly the size and shape of two volkswagens)
 ah! all that work and now we can say:  getting there. lol

 and after hauling in newly composted soil and getting veggies in....
it was finally time to welcome in the beginnings of spring.

As for the rest of March?  The rest of the month is invited to kindly go fuck itself.  Just saying.

Monday, May 2, 2011

Easter 2011

dipping a toe in....  : )
 My famous annual Mr. Bunny Cake....

 First time ever using the mini pie maker my mom got me
results:  apple and cherry yumminess

 My job:  salads....Berry Fruity and cold pasta salad.

 festive egss

 festive project

 the season of peeps!

 contemplating grandpa's hammock

 my brother's kids are trouble lol


and her great granddaughter
(George's daughter, Sarah, her daugher, Lola)