• kale pomegranate salad

    I was thinking I should only eat oatmeal and grapefruit today, considering that tomorrow is Thanksgiving and that even though my mother is making a cake and a slew of pies, she still asked me to contribute a cheesecake so we are going to be drowning in desserts not to mention the turkey, and then the next day we’re having a sushi-making lesson courtesy of my (Japanese) sister-in-law’s (Japanese) brother. But then when I woke up this morning, I realized that I had good toastable bread and there was three-quarters of a wheel of Brie leftover from supper last night, and then my kids asked me to cut into one of the two pomegranates I bought yesterday, and well, forget about any pre-Thanksgiving austerity measures. Let’s eat!

    I toasted (and buttered, because forget restraint already) the bread, warmed a wedge of cheese in a hot skillet, and whacked a pomegranate till it coughed up its seeds. The kids were fascinated. Scratch that. I was fascinated. (And hurt. Because I missed the pomegranate a couple times.)

    I don’t know much about pomegranates, but they’re all over the I-nets these days. There’s this video on pom-spanking, and Aimee did a whole post on the festive fruit. They’re juicy and tart-sweet—an excellent pop of flavor for anything and everything, declare the masses, and the masses are right.

    Guys, I’m sold. I got my poms for 1.19 each. That’s more than a cup of pretty berry-seeds for a buck-twenty, and when you compare that to the cost of a half pint of blueberries or raspberries, it’s a fine deal indeed.

    My children (just the two youngers were around for the fruit slamming/snacking) chew-suck on the seeds and then spit the insides out. Which is flat-out wrong, but I can’t convince them otherwise. We ate a bunch for breakfast and then at lunch I put a scoop of seeds on my kale salad and thoroughly enjoyed the pop of sweet color.

    My pomegranate journey has just begun. It’s gonna be a tasty one.

    Kale Pomegranate Salad

    There are so many variations on this theme that it’s enough to make my eyes cross. Listen. All you need to do is lightly saute some chopped kale in butter—it’s done when it’s bright green and glossy with a touch of wilt. In a separate skillet saute some slivered almonds in butter. Sprinkle salt in both pans. Put the kale on a plate. Sprinkle the nuts on top. Grate a bit of fresh Parmesan on the hot kale, and spoon some pomegranate seeds over all. Eat. (But first take a photo because it’s so dang sexy.)

    I wasn’t going to write up a recipe (because that’s what I just did, right?) but then I realized that some people are rather fond of their ingredient lists, so…

    2 cups, coarsely chopped kale, sauteed in butter and salted
    1 tablespoon almond slivers, toasted in butter and salted
    light flurry of freshly grated Parmesan
    1 tablespoon pomegranate seeds

    Toss and eat.

    There. Now go do it. Happy Thanksgiving!

  • a treat

    Starting early Sunday afternoon, my husband and I found ourselves with no children for the next 24 hours.


    Okay, so not really. But we did have ourselves some typical date-time fun: movie and dinner out.

    Except the movie wasn’t exactly fun.

    We went to see 12 Years a Slave.

    Actually, I forced my husband to see it. He fussed and whimpered and begged off due to emotional sensitivities. But the other options—Gravity, Captain Phillips, Nebraska—weren’t playing at the right times or places or weren’t out yet, and the ones my husband wanted to see—Ender’s Game, the latest Hunger Game one—weren’t my cup of tea, and I certainly didn’t want to see any of the other drivel-slash-fluff that was showing (not that I actually noticed what else was showing…). If I’m going to drop twenty-two bucks on a movie, I want it to be beautifully done, well-acted, and enlightening. A girl’s gotta have standards.

    12 Years a Slave was all that and more: thoughtful, harrowing, engrossing.

    *I shivered the whole way through.
    *I spent about four percent of the total viewing time staring at my lap or the backs of my eyelids.
    *I plugged my ears twice.
    *I didn’t smile or laugh. Not once.
    *I did not cry.
    *My husband and I couldn’t talk for several minutes afterwards.
    *I highly recommend it.

    They say this movie is unusual in that it’s about slavery. Before I went to see it, I didn’t get that. Because I’ve seen lots of movies that have bits of slavery in them—Civil War stuff, the underground railroad, etc. But now I get what they mean, and they are right. I’ve never seen a movie all about slavery from the inside of slavery. Watch it. It’s worth the big bucks. (My husband isn’t mad at me for making him watch it.)

    Anyway, then we went out for drinks and supper.

    Me: baked goat cheese with warm—and incredibly soft and chewy—pita wedges and a margarita.
    Him: an enormous cheese and bacon burger, house chips, and root beer.

    Back home, we sat down in front of the fire. The heat made my bones melt into puddles. I didn’t want to move.

    The house was so quiet.

    And then I murmured, “Let’s sleep in front of the fire tonight.”

    My husband smiled. “We could bring down the kids’ mattress…”

    We hesitated. Dragging down a mattress, blankets, and pillows would mean a bothersome morning clean-up. Sleeping in our regular bed in our regular room like regular people on a regular night would be so much easier.

    “We should do it,” I announced, pushing myself up off the couch. “Do something different. Break out of our comfort zones. Not be such sticks-in-the-mud.” (Which is funny because we just came back from a wild, let’s-live-in-another-country adventure. How is it that something as simple as sleeping downstairs instead of up can be a shake-‘em-up exercise while nine months in Guatemala is just par for the course? I don’t understand myself.)

    We ended up hauling down the mattress (and, in the process, discovering that there was a colony of stink bugs living between my son’s mattress and box springs—we vacuumed up right around three dozen—go look under your mattress). You’d think we’d have been toasty-oasty all night by the fire, but we slept so hard that the fire was almost completely out, come morning, and the house was an invigorating 58 degrees.

  • the quotidian (11.25.13)

    Quotidian: daily, usual or customary;
    everyday; ordinary; commonplace

    In the making: potato soup.
    Browning the ground beef and sausage for the ragu.
    Chemistry, the Khan way.

    A girl, a sling, and her doll.
    Amusing note: my children are appalled at how Lucy (in I Love Lucy) takes care of her baby. 
    When Lucy lays Little Ricky down, still whimpering, for the night and then walks out of the room,
    turns out the light, and shuts the door, they all yell at the screen, “That’s not how you put a baby to bed!” 
    And once, when Little Ricky cried in his crib and Lucy tried to soothe him by simply 
    patting his back, my younger son bellowed in shocked indignation, “PICK HIM UP!” 
    It’s interesting how the attachment practices that didn’t use 
    to be the norm have somehow become their norm. 
    Or maybe they are the natural norm and children just haven’t unlearned that yet?
    My lunch: greens, roasted butternut, feta, sunflower seeds, and balsamic vinaigrette. 
    I had two helpings.
    The trampoline is back up and hard at work saving my sanity.

    Our current resident bread baker.

    Color pops: the post rest-time treat.
  • how to use up Thanksgiving leftovers in 10 easy steps

    This time of year, there is always a barrage of articles and blog posts telling all us poor, clueless, overfed North Americans what to do with our Thanksgiving leftovers. The titles are generally pretty straightforward, such as How To Use Up Thanksgiving Leftovers, though every now and then someone has a burst of creative brilliance and adds an exclamation point and number a lá 37 Ways To Use Up Thanksgiving Leftovers!

    And I’m left sitting there scratching my head because, Really? Thanksgiving leftovers are a PROBLEM? Whatever happened to just EATING them?

    However, because everyone seems to think that a glut of turkey, stuffing, and cranberry sauce pose unimaginable culinary hardships and I don’t, I’m going to assume that my hassle-free, shockingly simple method truly is unique and you all are dying to know about it.

    Because we all know what assuming does. You and me, baby. You and me.

    How to Use Up Thanksgiving Leftovers in 10 Easy Steps

    1. Open the refrigerator.

    2. Select what you want to eat. (If the options are overwhelming, just grab three things. Chances are, they’ll taste real good together.)

    3. Spoon the desired portions onto a plate.

    4. Put the plate in the microwave and zap until the food is hot.

    5. Get a fork.

    6. Put food on fork.

    7. Put fork in mouth.

    8. Remove fork from mouth.

    9. Chew food.

    10. Swallow.

    Today’s snark brought to you by A. Lil Common Sense, 
    with a nod to Nuttin Elsie II Rite O’bout, and Casey de Ornery Grumps.
  • candid crazy

    We have fully acclimated back to life in the States, I think. The glow of the rediscovered ordinary has faded to comfortable shabbiness. I’m a little sad because I liked the buzz I got from normal stuff like a soft mattress, toast, measuring cups, and apple cider. It was magic.

    Now I’ve re-engaged in my private and persistent battle with boredom. I often feel at loose ends. The days are full with the kids and their studies and adventures and scuffles. I do lovely, self-fulling things like write, read, visit with friends, and watch movies. I think and ponder and work myself up into ranting tizzies over world affairs and cultural idiosyncracies.

    But it’s not enough. (And no, nothing is ever enough. This is my personality, my Achilles heel, my poke-y thorn.)

    I think back to times in my life when I was completely boredom-less. There was that afternoon when I was an almost-teenager and I spent hours playing in the ocean, fully absorbed. There were the natural births of three of my children and the all-engrossing task of getting them into the world. There were the intense, rather awful months of fostering a difficult teenage girl. There was the bellydancing. There were the weeks when I was involved in a play. There were the first three months of survival in Guatemala.

    Not to over-analyze the situation, but I think I might thrive on pressure just a little. Also, being productive. Maybe being in front of people, too. And since I’m not about to put myself into a pressurized situation willy-nilly (I have to have stellar reasons and be fully sold in order to put myself and my family through such stresses), I think my best bet is to work at being productive. So…

    I’m taking up knitting.

    It’s a pretty mild solution (sorry to be so anti-climatic) but I’m hopeful it will work. Doing something with my hands will (please, please, pretty please) rein in my antsy mind and insatiable desires. (Yikes. That sounds a little more risque than I intended.) In my free moments, I’ll have something to pick up and zero in on. The soft yarn, the clicky needles, my eyes staring at one spot, the making something will work together calm me. (Good grief. Now I sound like a jittery druggie.)

    I’ve done this before. I got a so-so scarf and a now-trashed hat out of the deal, along with a solid sense of accomplishment (questionable though it may be). I’m slowly gearing up for the plunge: getting the yarn box down from the attic, pestering friends, studying patterns (which is foolish since they’re as legible as hieroglyphs to my un-knitting-educated eyes), and purchasing supplies. My fingers are itchy to start. It’s like I have that I’ve-been-trapped-inside-all-day-and-need-to-have-a-walk-NOW feeling, but it’s all consolidated into my fingers.

    Knitting isn’t the long-term solution, make no mistake. I’m fully aware that it’s simply a coping mechanism, a way to bide my time and ponder until I land on the next rock-my-world, go-go-go, thrill-seeking, push-my-limits (and everyone else’s) project.

    I sound crazy. It’s one of the risks of being candid.

    From the archives (I told you it’s an ongoing problem).

    So come on now. Be candid. What’s your crazy? (And if you say you don’t have one, I won’t believe you.)

  • sock curls: our latest infatuation

    It all started when I discovered (via Cup of Jo) the mountains of how-to girl hairstyle videos. We watched several videos in quick succession, the kids clustered around me at the desk, and then we set up shop: brushes, bobby pins, water spray bottle, bands, and socks.

    I did a crown braid on my younger daughter. It wasn’t perfect, but it was pretty darn good (and shockingly simple, too). The hair bow braid was a bit trickier—I made a few errors and didn’t finish it through to the end, but the concept made perfect sense (and for this hair styling-challenged mama, that’s saying a lot). But it was the sock curls that were the most exciting.

    Just roll the hair up in socks, knot, and sleep. In the morning, unknot, tousle the hair at the roots to loosen the curls, and that’s it.

    Socks removed and before the curl shake-out.

    It didn’t work as well for my older daughter. Her hair is really thick and heavy, and it’s layered so it keeps slipping out of the knots. I probably should buy some type of curl-set-spray thing to put in her hair before rolling it up.

    Ignore the stricken face. She’s faking it.

    However, the sock curl method works perfectly for my younger daughter’s thin, naturally wavy hair.

    As the day wears on, the bouncy curls relax into soft ringlets that make me slightly jealous.

  • the quotidian (11.18.13)

    Quotidian: daily, usual or customary;
    everyday; ordinary; commonplace

    Cabbage: ready for braising.
    Look who visited us!

    Look what she brought us! 
    (When she heard that we (enlightened husband not included) didn’t know about the Waltons,
    and that I—oh horrors!—had never even seen the show, she took matters
    into her own hands and gave us her entire collection.) 
    Sleeping bags: the solution for when you are banished to the cold outdoors 
    before the winter clothes have been brought down from the attic.

    The Are Teeeeast.

    Washing the dishes. 
    (Kind of.)

    A neighborly gift of fresh venison and a tableful of work. 
    My older daughter was thrilled (no joke) to grab a knife and plunge right in.
    (She has a consistent and passionate love for animals, both dead and alive.) 

    Team effort: the shoeshine boys and my boots.
    Not a good night’s sleep. 
    Five police cars with retina-stabbing flashing lights.  
    They sat there quietly, flashily, for four (four!) hours. 
    (Something about a robbery and manhunt, we later learned.)
  • lessons from a shopping trip

    *The best, most-thoughtful shopping lists are worthless if left at home.

    *Searching for brown socks is futile and makes me angry. Just stay home and shop Amazon.

    *Mannequins are scary. The nasty things repeatedly jolted me out of my deep, outfit-pondering trances. Do retailers realize that filling their store with lots of lurking, icy, plastic women might be counterproductive?

    *Layering clothes, while attractive, means double the money. Can’t do it.

    *Trying on frames for new glasses = a study in all my insecurities, because a) I can’t tell the women’s frames from the men’s, b) I have no idea what looks good on my face, c) I’d like to be big, bad, and bold and go for something huge and expressive but haven’t the nerve, which means that, d) I’m stylishly mediocre, the (re)realization of which makes me, e) depressed.

    *Upon arriving home at 3 pm, battered and lunchless, the solution is simple. First, a peanut butter apple, snarfed. Second, a hard pretzel with slices of smoked Gouda. Third, a cup of coffee with whipped cream, a mini Heath bar, and the newest Bon Appetit.

    The photo has nothing to do with the post, except to serve as
    an example of the exact opposite of how I feel post shopping. 
  • refrigerator bran muffins

    For about five days or so, chocolate cake has been on my brain. Specifically, Amanda Hesser’s Chocolate Dump Cake with Chocolate-Sour Cream Ganache. I found my way to the recipe via an interview that Luisa linked to on her blog, but only yesterday did I find my way into the kitchen to actually bake the cake. It was simple to make, and the ganache was a dream to work with. I was all sorts of excited; if it tasted as good as it felt under my knife, I’d have a real winner of a new recipe.

    Turns out, I don’t really like the cake. My husband kinda strongly dislikes it (the ganache in particular), and I haven’t run it past the kids yet. I suspect they’ll be (at best) ambivalent. So much for a new cake to get all giddy over, sigh.

    My family was much more excited about the muffins I made for breakfast the other morning.

    I’ve had the recipe for years, but I’ve only made them a couple times, which is kind of ridiculous since they’re so fabulously easy, delicious, and convenient.

    The muffins get their bran-ness from bran flakes the cereal, not the grain (as these muffins do). All the ingredients get whisked together and then the batter can be stored in the fridge for up to six weeks. In the morning, plop the batter into muffin tins, pop the tins into the oven, and then go about your business bossing kids, picking up socks, emptying the dish drainer, and making lists (or whatever it is you do to get ready for the day). Twenty minutes later, it’s breakfast time.

    We ate the first round of muffins with butter from the cow that my daughter has been milking. The butter was a gift from the neighbor lady, and oh my, was it ever good. The kids slathered it on their muffins real thick, and I didn’t say a peep. There’s something wholesome about homemade butter that negates the fatty consequences, don’t you think? (Later, I melted down the remaining bit of butter for the waffle batter. When my children discovered what I had done, they were outraged. You wasted it! You can’t taste it in the waffles! I wanted to EAT it! I guess I won’t be making that mistake again.)

    Refrigerator Bran Muffins
    Recipe from our friend Wilma.

    The recipe calls for Raisin Bran cereal, but I used just plain old bran flakes.

    3 3/4 cups (7 ½ ounces) bran flake cereal
    1½ cups sugar
    2 eggs, beaten
    ½ cup oil
    2 cups buttermilk
    2½ cups flour
    2½ teaspoons baking soda
    1 teaspoon salt
    ½ teaspoon cinnamon
    1/4 teaspoon each allspice and cloves

    In a large bowl, stir together the bran cereal, sugar, eggs, oil, and buttermilk. Whisk in the dry ingredients. Store the batter in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to six weeks.

    To bake, fill greased (or lined) muffin tins three-fourths full with batter and bake at 375 degrees for about 20 minutes. (If baking a batch with the freshly-made—not-yet chilled—batter, bake time should be only about 15 minutes.)

    Yield: approximately two dozen muffins.

    P.S. Completely off-topic, but check this out: the infamous Harry Met Sally scene (you know the one)…in real life in the real café. (Thanks, Cup of Jo!)

  • the quotidian (11.11.13)

    Quotidian: daily, usual or customary;
    everyday; ordinary; commonplace
    Bouquet from my younger daughter. 
    (Can you guess what the yellow frondy plant is?)
    Sunny kitchen spot(s).
    A calculating competition.
    Brilliant Mother Move of the Week: unpacking (er, dumping
    an entire garbage bag of Legos on my bedroom floor.

    Our very own Mrs. Doubtfire.
    Listening and learning: music for the Christmas play.
    Cheesy discovery: a new store that sells blocks of Feta for less than five bucks.
    Bedtime milk: raw.
    The children drink with an enthusiasm that would make Heidi’s grandfather proud.
    (The neighbors are teaching my older daughter to milk their sweet Jersey. Exclamation points would not do justice to my daughter’s—or my own—unbridled enthusiasm, so I left them out all together.)
    Wednesday night, 7:30.