Sunday, December 08, 2013

Snow & Santa

Santa paid a personal visit to our girls this morning!
The twelve days of Christmas are imminent, and we are in the midst of Advent in preparation. For me, Advent is a time for reflection.  Christmas, according to a retail focus, not a faith focus, is all about getting to the Sale, the good deal.  There is something hollow and callous in that, and I refuse to impart that on our girls.  Life is about the living, not the show of living.  It's like having two hours of photos made on a wedding day, where the photo is more prevalent than any staged moment it's supposedly capturing.

Visits to Santa are so often the same.  Go, stand in line, get your two minutes with Santa so he and his elves can move on to the next kid.  We've seen it as part of our American cultural psyche, whether Miracle on 34th Street or A Christmas Story.

It's easy to get lost in the bustle of to do lists, and details needing attention.  I'm no exception.  It takes a conscious effort to remember that life isn't what happens to me, but found in being present in the moment and for those in my life.

This morning moved in slow motion and if it were a bushel of apples, I'd have squeezed cider from it.  In years past, Santa was either at our food bank the first year, or he came to our house.  Last year, we went for a Wilmore Christmas, and got to visit Santa at the same church where both the girls Grandfather (Poppop) and Great-Grandfather (Asa Jewell) are or were elders.  It's a precious little white clapboard church.  This year, we decided to stay home and it was just as well.  Despite the snow and ice storm which would have cancelled a trip to Wilmore in hindsight, we stayed home for our special visitor, Santa!

Let me be clear, I do not miss waking earlier than now and taking care of morning stables to tend to our horses in this weather: the ice to break in water buckets, everything frozen, from cleaning stalls to packed ice and snow in the horses' hooves that made their trip about the paddock and field treacherous. But worse, the up and down temps, ice, snow, ice, melt and mud and grey that sets in and doesn't leave until crocuses bravely pop up their purple heads, during which time the mid and muck that sucks off my boots. All this said, I miss living in Sweden where winter is winter. The days may be short, but snow comes and stays to brighten and sparkle. The Swedish adage is true: there is no such thing as bad weather, just being poorly prepared. The closest I will get to seeing that is in the few days of inconvenient snow. How beautiful it is to gaze at snow covered limbs of the trees out my back windows.

At our house,  Santa comes to get letters on St. Nick Eve (and we fudged the date a little with our 4 and 3 year old girls).  The tradition is German/Scandinavian to write letters, put them in your shoes by the door at night.  While you sleep, he comes for the letters and leaves chocolates.

At my house growing up, my parents helped us write our letters Christmas Eve and set them in our stockings.  When I was very small, like my girls, it didn't occur to me that Santa would pick up the letters while dropping off the same gifts we'd written about.  What JJ and I do now, we try to do with the intention of building.  Whether it's being clear with our expectations and giving the girls the structure they need, or creating the magic on the holidays, from birthdays to Christmas.  Prepared for little wise-crackers in our future, having lived in Sweden, we decided to change up our childhood version of letters to Santa. I wasn't taken to a mall Santa as a kid, but my Santa's helper was at our bank branch every year.  He stuck around for a few years longer so that I would remember the same Santa to me, as my sisters who are 7 and 9 years older than me.  

We're doing the same for the girls.  Santa came to our house, all for about the cost of photos from the Mall, only instead of a fictional memory that's more about the photo than the moment with Santa, the girls got to take the time, whisper their wish lists, hear stories, ask questions about reindeer, and even danced for Santa.  

Our Santa will be back around at some restaurants, and one has a kids eat free the night he's to come by.  We'll be going to that later this week, where he'll be sure to ask the girls if they've been naughty or nice!


I adore creating not just our own family traditions, but with attention to detail that makes them magical.  Today was absolutely no exception.  JJ got the bulk of the photos on our Nikon, but we haven't culled through them.  Attached is a video I edited using youtube instead of the movie program on my MacBook.  #evertheconflictedapplegooglegirl

The house smells wonderful.  I had set aside the four turkey carcasses, giblets and discarded vegetables from peeling and preparing the side dishes last week.  It was do it or compost it in making what is proving to fill my 24 quart stock pot.  I can't believe JJ got it for me yesterday.  I'd planned on borrowing one, and well, couldn't be more tickled.  

When the snow started the other day, Uncle Asa was the one home with the girls.  They went out and played.  Gammy, JJ's Mum who lives a block away from us, gave us a wonderful sled a few years back.  It's a Mountain Boy six foot wooden toboggan and man is it wonderful to have for grown-ups and kids alike.  We have little plastic blue sleds that the girls manage fine on their own, until they want a good push down the hill. Our house sits on a hill that is a river bluff to the flood plain for the Ohio River just a mile from our house.  We have three really good hills for sledding.  Well, good sledding hills while the girls are still small, that is.  We took pictures with the Nikon, and I was too busy to also take them with my cell, so hopefully, I'll remember to update or write a new post with the "good" photos.

24 quart stock pot?  I see lobster and crab
boils in our future!
Nancy's Stock Recipe

Ingredients
Carcass (in this case, turkey, include vegetables you roasted the fowl with)
discarded matter from preparing vegetable sides for Thanksgiving (obviously no husks from corn, onion or garlic, but tips from garlic, celery, peel from potatoes, etc.
mire poix (2-3 in cut carrot & celery, quartered onion)
drippings from roasting pan  

Preparation

Drippings
1.  After removing the turkey (or chicken or goose, etc), remove the celery.  Set pan aside to cool to room temp.  With the remaining roasting vegetables and fruit (I use a mirepoix and quartered and seeded pears), macerate with your fingers. Set aside in separate sealable container. 
2.  Deglaze the roasting pan by emptying drippings in sealable container, then add red or white wine, or even beer or brandy like Calvados or Bourbon, take your pick, and using flat ended wooden spoon, work into the crusty bits stuck to the pan.  
3.  Drain deglazed drippings into the rest and set on counter until room temp.
4. Refrigerate until fat settles at the top.  Skim off and put fat aside for use in other dishes*.

Mirepoix
1.  Cut the carrot and celery into 2-3 inch sticks. Quarter the onion.
2.  Set in large stock pot and saute until translucent.

Stock
1.  Take the giblets and neck you set aside when brining your turkey (or any fowl) and add to the mirepoix.  Saute until brown.
2.  Add to the neck and giblets, the drippings, the turkey carcass, and discarded vegetables from making the sides.  
3.  Add water until everything you've put into the stock pot is covered.
4.  Bring to boil and reduce to simmer.  Simmer until stock is reduced.  A short time and you produce broth, a longer time, it's stock.  I prefer the reduction to stock, as it's got an intensity of flavor that is wonderful for all sorts of options in other recipes.  
5.  Once reduced to desired consistency, pour stock into large bowl through a colander. Set bulk aside, and once cool to the touch, remove all the meat you didn't get the first time.  Compost the veg, discard the bones.
6.  I switch to a sieve to get out additional bulk, but like to have the "impurities" just not the bits of bone fragments.  You can add a cheese cloth, but again, it depends on what you'll be using it for.  I prefer more rustic dishes, over say, consommé.  You can always sieve and filter further depending on what you need.
7.  Freeze in various sizes.  2 cup freezer bags for cooking vegetables.  Ice cube trays to add by the table spoon or two for sauces.  1 gallon bags for soups.



Monday, December 02, 2013

Clara Lou's Birth-Week!

JJ and I are smart people, and there are times, that we can't do math.  As a result, Clara Lou has her birthday, a whisper after the November Sale, and periodically, on Thanksgiving.

Last Thursday was the first of those occasions, Clara Lou turned 3 on Thanksgiving.

Clara Lou had many places to explore anew in the house.  Every corner of the house was used, and she abounded.  Uncharacteristically, Big Sister Greta Jo and Clara Lou weren't the salt to each other's pepper, and Mateya and Greta Jo seemed in their own little world.  Clara Lou found her own way.  She helped me cook, whether helping in putting a few pinches of salt in the potatoes, or holding the hand mixer with me and her sister to make the whipped cream for the Thanksgiving pies.  She read a story to Aunt Leslie.  She laughed and played with the cornucopia of family present.

video

Thanksgiving Dinner came, and Clara Lou had the best seat in the house, if you're three, under the table and at my feet.


More soon, details from the day and much needed kitchen notes to get down, so I never ever make the same mistakes.  I also need to cull through the photographs taken yesterday.

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Love abounds

Clara Lou!  
Three on Thanksgiving?!

“I love you without knowing how, or when, or from where. I love you simply, without problems or pride: I love you in this way because I do not know any other way of loving but this." -Pablo Neruda

Little Clara Lou was born on Sunday, 28 November at 1:47 pm, at Norton's Hospital, weighing 8 lbs, 3 oz, 19" long.   I remember well, the aw of getting to know her those first moments, hours and days, noticing every micro-development, and how well, Greta Jo, still a baby herself, having just turned one the month before, showed gentle curiosity for her sister.  We wish you to know that there is always enough love.  (It's our time and how we spend it that is finite.) 

Greta Jo really wanted to help Sister. 1.5.11
Birthdays come and go, and three, well, it's a very important year little one. Everything happens when  you're three. This birthday and Thanksgiving is a really big deal, and everyone is coming to show thanks and celebrate at some point in the day.  We'll have a flurry of activity, breakfast, lunch and dinner, and between ball games, parades, and transforming the house from harvest gratitude to a festival of three wonderful years of little Clara Lou.  Yes, there will be blue.  She doesn't have a favorite, but ever since I picked the color blue for her sippy cups, to keep them sorted from her sister's Greta Jo Green, it's been her go to color.  Greta Jo gets to celebrate her sister day too, just like you celebrated on her birthday.  It's been said, and a sister's a sister, from cradle to grave.

We have quite a shindig planned for your birthday.  Pennies were pinched, Peter robbed, and we made it happen.

Cooking and preparing for this stacked day has been a blast.  I simply adore it.  The wee hours, the mulling over, all of it.  Stress comes out, but when does it not?  We take what comes, sometimes in stride and with grace, and well, I'm my own worst critic as for the times when I don't!  There have been things to work through, we don't get through life unscathed, and ultimately, we are loved.  It never fails to amaze me how love shows up, often in ways we don't recognize, or from those we least expect.

JJ has been absolutely fantastic.  He's stepped up in so many ways, and well, I'm one lucky gal.

Here's the tentative menu and plan for the day.  I'll post the recipes and what worked and what didn't after the dust settles.

the what and when:
6am cooking begins, final touches to the house, and manage to get myself and the girls ready for the day
8am - doors open
9am breakfast of Vegetable and Cheese Strata, coffee, tea and mimosas
noon - Thanksgiving Dinner Guests begin to arrive and appetizers and drinks out
1pm - Thanksgiving Dinner
2ish to 5 - parade watching, football fandom, flag football (if weather permits and interest abounds), and house transformation magic happens
5:30 or so, rest of guests arrive
6pm dinner
7pm cake and presents

Appetizer Menu:
Assorted cheeses and crackers
Sweet potato chips and curry dip
Signature Cocktail: Sparkling Pear Cocktail

Thanksgiving Menu:
Arugula Salad with chevre, dried apricots, slivered almonds and a champagne vinaigrette
Brined Turkey (two made in advance, one the day of)
Pear Gravy (in copious quantity)
Garlic mashed potatoes
Cornbread
Green bean casserole
Brussel sprouts in brown butter and nutmeg
Southern spoon bread
Corn bread and sausage dressing
Gammy's Oyster dressing
Pies - assorted
Wine, tea, sodas

Clara Lou's 3rd Birthday Dinner:
Mixed green salad with dried cranberries, asparagus and toasted pumpkin seeds
"Leftover" White Shepards pie (made with turkey and béchamel sauce, topped with whipped potatoes)
Vanilla bean birthday horse shaped birthday cake with raspberry compote and vanilla icing, Comfy Cow ice cream, coffee, tea, champagne

So, as the day approaches and the weeks and days poured into planning and executing what we hope to be a day of gratitude and general shared merriment, may we always feel how love abounds.

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Wee Hours

Greta Jo: Maman? Can I go downstairs?
Me: not yet sweet pea. It's still high' night time. You can't just tell by whether it is light or dark. It is dark, but see this clock (digital), that is a five. In two hours, at seven we can go downstairs.
Greta Jo: okay Maman.
:snuggle for an hour:
Greta Jo: Maman? Can I go downstairs?
Me: Not yet sweet pea. See? It still says just six. Count with me. You wok up at (just after) five, what comes next?
Greta Jo: (with me) Six.
Me: That's right! When it's seven we can go downstairs.
:more snuggling:

Being small only lasts so long.

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

We Live a Little While

Eric Bartley
5/12/1972 - 11/14/2013
41 years old
Strike first.
Strike hard.
No mercy.

A dear friend passed away last week.  Sorrow creeps up on me like a hole in a field at night, after your eyes have adjusted and pace takes the footing for granted as you stare at the stars, only to trip and scrape your knee.  My loss, the loss of a friend, pales in comparison to those dearest to him, his Mom, his girl, Jen, his Mamaw.

“After all, what's a life, anyway? We're born, we live a little while, we die.” -Charlotte from E.B. White's Charlotte's Web

Eric Bartley 1972-2013
Culling through thousands of photos he took, is like following the trails of hooves made in the mud and hardened by a sudden cold freeze.  I've braced myself, as those dear to my friend could not.  Fought back the cold of sadness, knowing my tears are not what my friend would want (save the chortle I imagine it would have given of yet another one of his endowed friends heaving her bosom just for him, how that might have pleased him.)

I don't have the stories to tell, nor memories to etch as those for whom I walk this trail.

To see his most prized photographs, check out www.ericbartley.com.

Good bye Eric.  May you and your Dad Pete find good hunting there in Valhalla.


Monday, November 04, 2013

Life at The Lair

My desk at the balcony to our master bedroom.
When we first moved into our home just over a year and change ago, I felt as though someone might walk up to the door, thank me for house sitting, and that would be that.  JJ called our house The Lair, and among he and I, at least, the name has stuck.  It's mid century modern styling is a far cry from the Victorian in Crescent Hill I thought we'd call home, and I have to say, the universe has once again proven to me that while we make plans, life happens.

Life has happened in dense and rapid pace this last year.  I haven't written as much.  I don't read.  I took to playing a game with JJ, Ingress, and when the pace of life had different plans for me, that went to the wayside.

So, here I sit, with a moment to spare and time to update what has become a chronicle of thoughts, imaginings, recipes, and peek into my life, the life I share with my dear husband, our darling girls, sister Leslie, here at The Lair.  I have my desk as my personal space (currently invaded by my little helpers who would rather be close than play).  JJ has his studio.  I love hearing him put together music, culled from his imagination.  When he involves the girls it is all the more fun!  For Marea's birthday, I recorded J² playing with the girls.  Greta Jo broke out her own style of singing after we'd sung Happy Birthday, creating a Pumpkin Patch song.  Clara Lou made a b-line for the volume to "jack" the mixer.  Such good times have been happening, in big and small moments.  Greta Jo proclaims how she will "grow and grow and grow!" to which I replay, "just enough every day."



Not every day has been sunshine for me, nor are they for anyone.  I usually give myself a time frame for feeling my feelings, a few moments to a few days.  Greta Jo catches me or Aunt Leslie with tears and she breaks out in song, "Be Happy!  Be Strong!"  She's such a neat person.
Here are the girls once again looking onto the paddock
at Winter Wind Farm, home to Poppop, Grandma B,
and Uncle JL and his little Mateya, cousin.

One thing I hope to not pass down to the girls is when to succumb to the negative nellies and start from a place of scarcity when there is so much in our lives.  Feel them, sure, and trust that with the gift of grace, a perspective of plenty is around the bend of that same set of circumstances.  For instance, we don't get to see our friends and family nearly enough.  Gammy Margi, around the corner.  Grandmama and Grandpa, just 12 miles away.  Poppop and Grandma B in Wilmore.  There are plenty of family who lives days drive or long plane rides away.  We're fortunate to live in such close proximity, and yet, days and weeks will go by without seeing one another and it makes me ache.

We so enjoy visiting Poppop and Grandma B in Wilmore.  There's 90 acres there, with cattle, pony, several pensioner horses, the occasional Standardbred being reared for racing, and menagerie of goats, chickens, dogs and cats. One of my favorite things to see is the love of Poppop sharing chores with the girls.  Each trip there is a special treat for the girls.

With Gammy Margi living so near our house, she's a standing invitation to many of our house for being that extra set of hands to help with the girls getting ready for school or going to ballet for Greta Jo's class on Monday.  She's come over for a spot of tea, or been the one to help get on socks and shoes.  Always quick with a smile, I really admire her charm and grace.  She gives me permission to simply be.

We took a trip out to Bernheim Forest with Gammy not long ago.  I simply love this picture I took of her. The girls have such fun out there; we can't get out there enough.

We happened to be out there when there was a play event happening. We got out there early in the day, and went for a walk along the path to the Tree Canopy and view of the forested valley.  There was just the hint of color at the time.  (of note, writing this on November 4th, there is still plenty of color, although many trees are bare after the recent rains).  The play event provided loads of opportunities to create and explore.  There were piles of rope, sring, cording to string from tree to rock, around people, or in Hilde's case, dog.  There were drums and other instruments, made from pipe.  There were chalks, and the play ground.  Loads of new ways to interact. Seeing Gammy sound out the drums with JJ, Clara Lou, and Greta Jo, while Hilde sat, didn't need a picture, though there were plenty taken that day.

Several photos were taken while at the tree canopy, such as the one of Gammy above.  This one of Greta Jo and Clara Lou always wows me as one of those "ah ha" moments of realizing just how much they are growing, just enough every day.  They are sisters.  It's clear that even though they compete, and struggle with what their bodies can or can't do, ideas of what they wish for that cut against the grain of what is, push and tug at one another, sometimes literally, they love one another.  JJ and I hope to instill that and respect to last their days.  A sister's a sister, from cradle to grave.  May they always be able to access the support that relationship can bring, and have it carry them through life's inevitable hardships, and share each other's joys.

Another photo from that day trip is of Clara Lou and Hilde.  Hilde is a working dog and left to her own devices would be nothing but mischief.  I have long said, that a working dog requires work, regularly.  That is what Hilde has gotten from the day we picked her up at her foster placement on a horse farm in Brown County Indiana.
Clara Lou can be very decisive when she wants this or that, so when she wanted to be the one holding the short leather lead to Hilde, JJ and I complied to her, erm, request.  Hilde heeled the entire time and that was no surprise knowing both Clara Lou and Hilde's dispositions.  We met another puppy along the trail and Hilde obeyed my vocal commands for sit-stay.

Greta Jo's had her fourth birthday.  I still haven't culled through all the photos from the Nikon, which takes far better pictures, like that of the girls at Bernheim, but there was one that my camera on my phone didn't totally botch.  We had a Pirate/horse themed birthday, and JJ arranged for a scavenger hunt.  BIG FOUR meant we had a big gift that Greta Jo has asked for for months and months - a scooter.  Knowing their inherent desire to keep things for themselves, we wrapped one, and had the other assembled and waiting outside.  As guests arrived, and Greta Jo saw the presents accumulating, she gave tours, as has become her custom.  She announced that "that's my scooter" - even though I'd done my best to wrap it, she was precisely right, as it maintained its shape despite its paper covering.

I'm rather lucky with my three sisters.  Ellyn and Elaine have always been close, as one would expect with identical twins.  Leslie, has been that for me, and well, that's even more the case now that she's living with me, JJ and the girls.  Our nuclear family, redefined, means we do things differently, and we know no different.  I couldn't be more proud of Leslie.  Her book, Judith, has its launch happening this weekend at Shine, on East Market.

Leslie recently had her 35th high school reunion.  She got dolled up and had a fabulous time. There was a cruise along the Ohio River, and friends who knew her, classmates who did not.  It's fun to revisit what was, with the perspective of today.



###

The girls and I have a good time together.  Down the road and around the bend from their school is a private farm of exotic animals, open to the public, called Henry's Arc.  There are zebras, oxen, camels, ostriches, and rare ducks, and such.  The tom turkey wanted us out of his turf, so we moved along!

There was a sign that said no running, which was near impossible to do, as even at a quick walk, I had to jog to keep up.  It never ceases to amaze me how such short little legs can move so quickly and cover so much ground.

I took the girls to Henry's Arc with the ulterior motive of acclimating the girls to being around animals.



The pony lessons that we'd started back up with.  This is our third year, having started when Greta Jo was just 2, and last year was Clara Lou's first year.  We aren't able to afford doing it regularly, so we've had long gaps in between.  This means that some things, like being quiet and respecting the distance we need to keep from some animals, or parts of them, like hind quarters, or nibbing teeth, or hard hooves, or minding Maman or Papa, or their teacher - the adult in charge, becomes gravely important.  Our girls are quick to make an impish game of chase, and in Clara Lou's case, as she only now approaches 3 years of age, drops to the ground unconsolably, as if the request to leave is the most tragic news.  To her, it is.  Learning to cope with that news, isn't just a matter of gaining perspective, but also  one of feeling feelings, and finding healthy ways of expressing them, if at all.  We use time outs, and don't feed upset (fires) with too much attention (oxygen).  The fever pitch usually sorts itself out in no more than a few minutes.

Greta Jo is a bit of a speed demon.  Her initial hesitations indicate to me that she studies, then leaps ahead boldly.  While Clara Lou's attention span is such that she doesn't always follow as instructed, Greta Jo is keen to work hard, so she can trot, or ride over poles.  Since the lesson is a group lesson, I'm fortunate to have Leslie along to demonstrate the instructions of Miss Angela (Ariatti), the girls riding instructor, currently teaching out of Pine Hill Stables in Anchorage, Kentucky.  Our friend Jeff also comes along, so that he can lead one, and I the other.  Last week, he donned his kilt.  I wish I could put my fingers on the photo, as the juxtaposition was a memorable one!

Leslie wasn't the only one to have had a reunion.  JJ had his 25th high school reunion recently.  We got a sitter and made the trip to Lexington.  I caught one of the many bug-a-boos that the girls bring home and rallied.  It was fun meeting a few of JJ's fellow "apathetic lemmings" - the group of kids, many of whom were National Merit Scholars, who knew stories on JJ.  Many people didn't recognize him.  Let it suffice to say, that he was often with his hair hanging down over one eye, or if not, it was spiked up on a colourful mohawk.  I actually knew two of his classmates, and really enjoyed meeting the others.  The years pass, the memories fade, and new ones are made in their stead.




Picture of the entire family are hard to come by, despite the countless photos we take, mostly of the girls.  This is by far one of the best, and even it is missing Aunt Leslie.  I'm hoping we manage to get one of all five of us over the holidays.  JJ and I took the girls hunting for pumpkins out at Fox Hollow Farm, nestled between Crestwood, Sleepy Hollow and Prospect. It a farm I've been to over the decades in its various incarnations.  Currently, its a sustainable farm, complete with various crops and livestock.  It also offers a store and health center; really a lovely place.  We missed their harvest festival, but enjoyed the round bale fortress that was up.  It was here that we did a trade with another family to capture photos.  We lucked out, as the Mom we swapped with was a professional photographer with the very same camera!

Halloween was an event that lasted several days this year.  The Tuesday before, Chance School held Trunk or Treat.  Keep in mind, this year, Greta Jo has a firm grasp of the holidays, and had been talking up her birthday for some months, and also Halloween.  Just as her birthday theme became a mash up of pirate meets pony party, so too was indecision part of Halloween.  For weeks, the girls thrived in dressing up as fairies.  That steadfastness, I knew would not last, and sure enough, when their interest turned to superheros, we had super girl and bat girl dresses at the ready.  The day of Trunk or Treat, Greta Jo, ever knowing her own mind and holding to her ideas, decided she would be nothing but a kitty cat.  We'd been a witch family with black kitty cat for Clara Lou last year, notably Greta Jo had acquired it by night's end... but the ears and tail were "put away somewhere safe."

We went shopping, and all the kitty cat ears and tail were gone, so mouse ears and tail were going to have to suffice.  Determined to find that "safe place", I looked again when we got home and found the kitty cat ears and tail.  So we ended up having big sister kitty and little sister mouse.  Such fun!  Trunk or treat was a blast.  So many families showed up and decorated the backs of their car.  I was taken by Greta Jo's confidence, steeled by the resolve to visit as many families and acquire candy.  Clara Lou was far more interested int he apple we got from our bobbing for apples.  There were several children who played along.  I was quite surprised!  I decorated the car with corex JJ brought home, and plastic table clothes.  Yes, our car is decorated as however those who saw it, whether a Gift Horse, monster, or bat.

Little mouse taking a cat nap at Grandmama's and Grandpa's.
There were predictions for horrible rain storms and wind, so the city and all the former municipalities, informal neighborhoods, were deciding what to do.  Understandable confusion happened, and some children trick or treated that night, as I would have as a kid.  We decided to go with what most seem to do, and just delay one day.  This had the a happy unintended result of the girls being able to both trick or treat AND pass out candy.  The next night, we met up with two neighboring families and trick or treated our way around the neighborhood.  We took a different turn at one point, and ended with a trip to Gammy's door, where she had special treats ready for the girls.

The last day of "Halloween"  was a long overdue visit with Grandmama and Grandpa.  There are loads of photos, still on the Nikon, so I'll post those later.  Clara Lou was uncharacteristically sleepy, and even after a car nap, slept in my or JJ's arms.

One of the things Clara Lou struggles with is completely normal for her age.  Taking turns, sharing, stopping one thing to do another has been hard for Clara Lou recently, particularly anything indicating that the end of a pony lesson is near. Today, the girls helped me clean some of my tack (loads more of this in our future). When we finished with my finest saddle, I set the timer for four minutes and practiced taking turns with mounting and dismounting. I am once again reminded that this is the time the girls are developing "emotional vocabulary and coping mechanisms for when they don't get their way.

Greta Jo, while she doesn't lack desire, doesn't always do as she's told (shocking, I know), so we practiced the riding exercises that Miss Angela has the girls do.  Repetition, knowing what to expect, set the girls up for success, feeling confident in their own bodies.  Whether or not they ride, that's a good thing in my book.


Ballet is another thing we've started with the girls, and they both love it so!  I dress both of them up, as Clara Lou isn't yet old enough to join in the class.  There is one for parent-child, but not at the same time.  My solution is to have her go dance and play in an empty studio nearby.  Aunt Leslie and Gammy have standing invitations to come with us, and are the ones who get the lions share of seeing Greta Jo in her class.  She's apt to want to try things first, and it's a great chance for her to practice patience, as well as get to learn her body.

Just last night, we were watching a musical, and the girls sang along, made up their own verses, danced.  I say this often, and it deserve repeating - I love being their Maman.


Monday, September 23, 2013

layered & delicious


Not long ago, I invited some friends over for brunch.  It was "early" by most standards, and well, the initial answer was no.  In progression, I sent photos of the concoction I was making.  I figured, if they didn't make it, I could freeze and enjoy the spare servings for a later date, one where I didn't feel like cooking.  (that does happen, albeit not often).

Cooking and sharing a meal, breaking bread, is a bonding experience.  It's not just the conversation shared, but the act of nourishment, I believe, that contributes to how we relate to one another more deeply after sharing a meal.

Turns out, the photo of the dish going into the oven was impetus enough for friends to come and savour brunch.  Good thing too, as the following Sunday, they rescued me later... but that's another story.

Les oeufs en cocotte
The key to making baked eggs is making sure they don't dry out.  Here's how I made a layered oeufs en cocotte (baked eggs in ramekins - sounds better in French, yes?).

Ingredients
  • half dozen, halved, toasted English muffin, buttered, diced into chunks
  • 1 lb bacon
  • 1 scallion, diced
  • 2 cloves garlic, diced
  • 1 Bottle of Champagne (1/4 cup is needed for the dish, the rest is for the cook, and if he or she desires, to share with her friends and family)
  • two bunches fresh spinach, no stems
  • chevre
  • halved cherry tomatoes
  • dozen eggs
  • 1 cup heavy whipping cream
Preparation

  1. Sautée the bacon until crisp and set on paper towel.  Set aside all but 2 tablespoons of bacon grease from the sautée pan.
  2. Sautée the scallion and garlic, and set aside.  Add a teaspoon of olive oil to pan.
  3. Add spinach and the champagne to pan, cover to wilt the spinach, stirring occassionally.  Remove and set aside.
  4. Preheat oven to #5 (this is an inside joke.  My oven doesn't work.  I use my warming oven at present.)
  5. In buttered ramekins, add base of toasted Enligh muffin, and drizzle with bacon grease.
  6. Add to the ramekin the spinach, scallion and garlic mixture, and form into bowl.  Top with chevre, cherry tomatoes, and bacon, making sure to form a "cup."
  7. Into the cup of created by the prior ingredients, crack an egg, being sure to no break the yolk.  Pour 1 generous tablespoon of heavy cream.
  8. Bake until yolks are done, but still soft.  Not sure how long that would be for your oven, but yeah, trial and error.
Make more than one ramekin per guest.  They will want seconds.