• vindication

    Tuesday morning, the older two kids said they wanted to go snowboarding that evening. I hesitated. Snowboarding increased the likelihood of an injury, and I wasn’t too keen on complicating my week of single parenting with a hospital trip. But, I told myself, there was no point in making choices based on fear. (I didn’t drink any wine that evening, though, just in case.)

    Several hours later when I got the call from my son saying that he’d taken a tumble and thought he broke his wrist, I laughed. But of course.

    “The guy here says I should get an x-ray.”

    “Fine,” I sighed. “But your sister drives, not you.” And then I curled up in front of the fire with a book while my children took themselves off to the ER.

    The x-rays came back negative, much to my son’s dismay. “I know it’s broken,” he said. “It hurts.”

    I rolled my eyes. “Don’t be a wimp.”

    “No, the doctor read the x-ray wrong! I’m sure of it.”

    “Listen, hon. They took x-rays. You can think whatever you want, but that doesn’t change the facts.” I was mad at myself for letting them go the ER without coming home first. The kid was such an alarmist. Next time, I’d make him wait a couple days before we went running off to the doctor.

    Three days later, the phone rang. “I’m calling from the ER,” a woman said, “I’m so sorry, but the radiologist who reviews the ER’s x-rays says that your son’s wrist actually is broken.”

    I burst out laughing. “Oh, he is going to love this,” I said.

    “We’d like him to come in and get it wrapped, if he can.”

    “Well, he’s on a 12-hour shift with the rescue squad right now —”

    “Oh, perfect!” she interrupted. “Next time they bring a patient in, can he just stay a few minutes longer so I can wrap it?”

    I hung up the phone and then called my son. “Congratulations,” I said. “Your wrist is broken.”

    “I knew it,” he shrieked. “I TOLD YOU.” And then he added, “Actually, my wrist feels fine — I even lifted a patient out of the ambulance all by myself — it’s my head that hurts now.”

    “Your head?” I was confused.

    “Yeah, I tried to jump into the ambulance, but I misjudged and cracked my head on the doorway.”

    Oh yeah. Of course he did.

    This same time, years previous: omlettey egg bake, through my lens: a wedding, the quotidian (1.26.15), the quotidian (1.27.14), what you can do, housekeeping, grumble, grumble, thoughts.

  • what kind of stove should we buy?

    When we moved into this house, we installed a large underground gas tank for the hot water heater (although now we’ve partially switched to solar) and for the gas stove I’d be getting. But then costs piled up, as they are wont to do with building projects, and a friend offered to loan us an old electric stove he had in one of his rentals.

    Now, twelve years later, that sweet little stove is on its last leg. The burners keep slipping down under the metal liners, turning the burners dangerously wobbly. The big one — my most-used burner — lost a screw (or something) and started swiveling out over the stove top. “Remind me to fix that,” my husband said. “I don’t want anyone to get electrocuted.” (And then he fixed it, so at least that’s no longer a problem.) Because I don’t want to be forced into an impulse purchase, and because the stove’s demise is imminent, I’ve finally started stove hunting.

    Thing is, I can’t for the life of me figure out what kind of a stove I should get. All the options make my head swim. For a little bit there, I’d thought I’d settled on a stove (this one), but then we read the consumer reports and thought better of it — the oven was horrible, people said. (But then a friend told me she’d just bought that stove and it worked great, so, argh!)

    “You need to do a blog post about it,” my husband said. “Get your readers to help out. They’ll know.”

    So now, because my husband thinks the world of you, here I am, asking your advice. What kind of stove should I get?

    My main question is whether to get a stove with a gas oven or an electric oven. My gut says gas — I can bake when the power goes out and it just feels more wholesome — but my husband says gas ovens leak more heat which would be a real pain come hot summer weather. Plus, we both wonder if electric ovens are more accurate. Also, how important is convection?

    Several stipulations:
    *The gas stovetop must have solid gridwork so pots and pans can easily be moved around and little kettles don’t get tippy.
    *The oven must be well-vented so veggies properly roast.
    *The stove must be under a thousand dollars (and preferably between six and eight hundred).

    I wish there was a local appliance store — the kind where the employees can actually hold informed conversations regarding the products they sell — but there are none in our area, at least that I know of.  So it’s up to you! What other important criteria am I forgetting? Is there a particular manufacturer that you trust more than others? Or one that I should absolutely avoid?

    Thanks, y’all.

    This same time, years previous: the blizzard of 2016, rocks in my granola, five things, corn tortillas, pink cupcakes, movie night, baked Brie.

  • a new routine

    Recently, I’ve been sneaking out of the house while everyone is still asleep, and then driving to Panera to write. I work for three hours (fueling myself with coffee and a seventy-five cent hunk of baguette) before packing up shop. Back home, I go for a run to clear my head of the writing fog. After a shower, I fix lunch for everyone, and then we have a brief rest time before spending the rest of the afternoon on studies, cooking, reading, whatever.

    While I don’t like the drive to town, I do like the endless supply of coffee, Panera’s relative early morning quiet, and getting on a first-name basis with the regulars. I also like that having a separate location helps draw a line between my writing work and the rest of my life. Writing at home, an hour here an hour there, I always feel guilty, like I should be writing more. But when I go elsewhere to write, there’s a clear end time — even if I haven’t accomplished much of anything (like today), knowing that I’ve put in the time helps to ease my guilt over never being sufficiently productive.

    So far, this routine has worked great for the kids, too. They love sleeping in, reading in bed for a couple hours and then eating a leisurely breakfast, and they appreciate the freedom to do their chores (I leave a detailed list on the table) without me looking over their shoulders, urging them onward.

    I don’t know how long this pattern will last — finding time to write is an ongoing challenge, dependent on the time of year, the kids’ ages and needs, and my everyday responsibilities — but for now it works.

    I’ll take it.

    And now, to finish, these words from David Rakoff:

    Writing…always, always only starts out as shit: an infant of monstrous aspect; bawling, ugly, terrible, and it stays terrible for a long, long time (sometimes forever). Unlike cooking, for example, where largely edible, if raw, ingredients are assembled, cut, heated, and otherwise manipulated into something both digestible and palatable, writing is closer to having to reverse-engineer a meal out of rotten food.

    This same time, years previous: the quotidian (1.23.17), and so it begins, world’s best pancakes, the quotidian (1.23.12), moving forward, chocolate cream pie, on thank you notes, five-minute bread.

  • the quotidian (1.22.18)

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

    Pretty good: the cookies everyone is raving about. 
    Pickled onions: perking up the ordinary.
    Experimenting: sausage, kale, butternut, and cheese rolled into lasagna noodles, drowned in a cheesy bechamel, and then baked.

    Books and toast: two of his favorite things.

    Gagging down the Swiss chard.

    Because every kitchen needs a superhero. 
    Rehearsal, reflected.

    Everything breaks eventually.

    And then back in the box it went because . . . puzzles = futility.
    Making art up.

    Keep-away, dog vs sofa: she drops the ball, it rolls under the sofa, and then she lays there, waiting.

    “It’s like riding a noodle!”

    At the other end of the couch.

    Off to (sunny and hot, lucky!Puerto Rico for a week with one of MDS‘s first group of rebuilders.

    This same time, years previous: homemade grainy mustard, women’s march on Washington, lemon cream cake, lazy stuffed cabbage rolls, hobo beans, the good and the bad, multigrain bread, chuck roast braised in red wine, peanut noodles.

  • doing stupid safely

    Here are a series of photos are from last weekend when we were visiting family in Pennsylvania.

    The only things you need to know are:
    a) it was 18 degrees, and
    b) on hand were four doctors and three nurses and an EMT — except the EMT was the entertainment so I guess he doesn’t count — because we do stupid safely.


    P.S. For the video footage (thanks, Brother), go here.

    P.P.S. For last year’s plunge, go here. (Two years running  is this now a tradition?)

    This same time, years previous: the quotidian (1.16.17), on kindness, through the kitchen window, the quotidian (1.16.12), quick fruit cobbler, Julia’s chocolate almond cake.

  • scandinavian sweet buns

    Are you gearing up for some weekend baking? If so, might I suggest these simple, yet elegant, buns?

    Kanelbullar, they’re called. But since I can’t pronounce it very well — and even if I could, no one would know what I was talking about — I just call them sweet buns. Or maybe cardamom twists? Sugar knots? I don’t know. Maybe, come to think of it, I don’t call them anything. I just eat them (licks lips).

    I’m kind of infatuated with them, really. They are like cinnamon buns but more sophisticated and constrained: Instead of a finger-licking icing, just a few crunchy sugar crystals. Instead of the singular taste of cinnamon and sugar-sugar-sugar, the more nuanced flavors of orange zest, cardamom, and vanilla. Instead of a sticky mess that requires either a multitude of napkins or else a fork and plate (or running water and a sink), a tidy, self-contained treat.

    If we were comparing bread to people, then regular cinnamon buns would be your blowsy, big-bosomed mum with a bad perm (whom you love dearly) while these buns would be your slender, long-legged ex-ballerina aunt with high cheekbones and a tight bun at the nape of her neck.

    Or something like that.

    I’ve made these three times. I experimented with a chocolate babka-like variation, but that didn’t go over so well — too dry — and decided that I much preferred the traditional flavors.

    Scandinavian Sweet Buns
    (Otherwise known as Kanelbullar)
    Adapted from Dinner With Julie.

    Julie says these could also go savory, with pesto as the filling, perhaps, or simply garlic and parmesan, to make a sort of garlic knot.

    These are quite similar to the Cardamom Orange Buns that I’ve already written about. (I didn’t realize it until just now, oops.) Those buns are from Finland, and the recipe calls for two tablespoons of cardamom. In these buns, the cardamom is rather mild, so feel free to double, even triple, the amount.

    for the dough:
    1 cup warm milk
    2 teaspoons yeast
    3 – 3½ cups all-purpose flour
    ⅓ cup butter, softened slightly
    ⅓ cup sugar
    1 egg
    Zest of one orange
    1 teaspoon cardamom
    1 teaspoon vanilla
    1 scant teaspoon salt
    1 recipe of filling (see below)

    for the topping: 
    1 beaten egg
    Swedish pearl sugar

    Put the warm milk into the bowl of a kitchen aid mixer and sprinkle with the yeast. Once the yeast has bloomed, add three cups of flour and the remaining ingredients. Using the dough hook attachment, mix on medium-low speed until tacky and soft. Add the remaining half cup of flour and mix briefly.

    Turn the dough out onto a floured surface and lightly knead, taking care not to use any more flour than necessary. The dough should be manageable, but just barely. Place the dough into a lightly buttered bowl and cover with plastic. Let rise until double.

    Cut the dough in half. For each half: roll the dough into a 9×12-inch rectangle.

    for the filling:
    1 stick of butter at room temperature
    ½ cup packed brown sugar
    1 tablespoon cinnamon

    Using a fork, mash the butter with the sugar and cinnamon to create a thick paste. Divide the filling between the two rectangles of dough and spread evenly.

    Fold the dough into thirds, like a letter, and gently roll it back out until it’s about 8×12 inches. This sounds confusing, I know, so think of it this way: You are going to be cutting the dough into long strips, as you would cut pastry for a pie lattice. There will be eight strips, more or less, each one about 12 inches long.

    Now, cut the dough into strips. Twist them into long curly-cues, and then wind each twisted strip over your fingers as though you’re coiling electrical wires. (Here’s a little video.) Tuck the end of the strip through the middle and set the bun on a parchment-lined baking tray with the ends on the bottom. It’s way easier to do than it is to explain, and the buns are forgiving, baking up beautifully no matter how sloppy the twist. Brush the buns with the beaten egg and sprinkle with pearl sugar.

    Let the buns rest at room temperature for 15-30 minutes before baking at 350 degrees for 15-20 minutes. Serve warm.

    Leftover buns can be frozen and then thawed and briefly reheated.

    P.S. After yet another wearisome day filled with our president’s filth and hate, this message of kindness, respect, and hope is a much-needed balm.

    This same time, years previous: homemade lard, the quotidian (1.11.16), the quotidian (1.12.15), roll and twist, sticky toffee pudding, spinach lemon orzo soup, kiddling shenanigans, starting today…, spots of pretty.

  • boys in beds

    Shortly before eight o’clock this morning, before leaving to take my daughter to a (routine) doctor’s appointment, I ran up to the boys’ room to give them a few instructions. I sailed into the middle of the room — earlier, trotting up and down the hall, I’d noticed the lamp light shining out from under the door so I knew they were awake — surveyed the chaos and both boys, cozy in their beds, and said, “Don’t move. I’m getting my camera.”

    Their room makes me want to pull my hair out. With the hardwood floors and three big windows, it has so much potential, but the boys could care less. Just a few weeks ago, my older son removed the area carpet — I forget why — so now there isn’t even a rug to soften the space. I’ve mostly given up on getting them to keep it tidy, though every couple days, like today, I’ll lay down the law: NO LUNCH UNTIL YOU PUT YOUR CLOTHES AWAY. And then they do, but it hardly makes a dent. Clearly, this room won’t be appearing on a Pinterest board any time soon.

    Oh, well. At least the space is getting used. And if the boys don’t mind the mess — on the contrary, they practically revel in it — then why get my panties in (too much of) a twist?

    This morning when I stormed in, my older son was watching a lecture in preparation for his Anatomy and Physiology class that started today. (He called me afterward to tell me he loved the professor. She’s so enthusiastic, he said, that at one point she jumped up on a lab table while lecturing.)

    My younger son was working on the control panel from his remote control car. He’s dismantled it to see how it works. Last night he showed me the three motors, one for the steering, one to spin the back wheels and one to spin the front wheels — I appreciated his excitement, but the subject matter made my eyes glaze over — and later this morning I found him at my computer watching a how-to video on installing solar panels. (And yes, that is a glue gun in his bed. Why do you ask?)

    This same time, years previous: our little dustbunnies, one year and one day, the quotidian (1.9.12), earthquake cake.

  • the quotidian (1.8.18)

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

    Take your pick.

    Christmas, on its way out.

    Lingering family suppers: not as frequent but more fun.

    Bathtime moral support.

    Pennsylvania bound.

    Farmhouse sunrise.

    Smart chicken. 

    This same time, years previous: the quotidian (1.9.17), kicking off 2016, sourdough crackers, date nut bread, between two worlds, buckwheat apple pancakes, so worth it, salted dulce de leche ice cream with candied peanuts, hog butchering!, turkey noodle soup, baked hashbrown potatoes.

  • today…

    Savoring: my afternoon coffee and the lingering taste of Dutch apple pie and whipped cream. I had the pie for my breakfast, too. The kids reacted to the addition of raisins, but I liked them — they gave the pie a virtuous boost of fruity wholesomeness.

    Appreciating: the cheerful nurse at this morning’s doctor appointment (vaccines for two kids) who was sincerely apologetic about our extensive wait, due to an office snafu, and then gave us a grocery store gift card as a consolation prize for our troubles. ‘Twas a ray of sunshine… 

    Listing: sideways on the living room sofa because it has got a horrific case of old-sofa sag. Maybe this is why my back always hurts?

    Contemplating: purchasing a new sofa … but I’m not sure I can justify spending all that money. Ugh, I hate buying furniture. (Anyone have a comfy — and attractive and not too old and supremely comfy — couch you want taken off your hands?)

    Anticipating: this weekend’s family gathering in Pennsylvania and all the good food and conversation to go with!

    Packing: extra warm socks and slippers since our hostess warned us that her house — a huge old farmhouse — doesn’t get above 63 degrees … and that’s in the warmest places.

    Making: two pies — a grape and an apple — for Saturday night’s pie bar at my cousin’s house. 

    Considering: stopping at a Target (or some such store) on the way up to PA and purchasing some winter clothes for the child who has nothing warm and has been (oddly enough) whimpering about the state of his wardrobe for quite some time.

    Listening: to the wind thumping the metal roof, the high-pitched whine of my husband’s old and very slow computer, the whir of the noise machine in the upstairs hall, the ticking of the clock, the old dog’s heavy breathing while she sleeps, the tapping of my fingers against the computer keys… 

    Twitching my nose: at the weird, cold-weather house smells that float up through the floor from the basement. When it gets super cold, the heat draws the air up from the crawl space under the living room, and for some unknown reason, it smells exactly like dog farts. My husband says it’s just a matter of lining the crawl space with plastic (again), and that it shouldn’t take more than a couple hours, but has he done it yet? Nope.

    Gearing up: to do some more smoking once this cold spell lets up a little. We borrowed a smaller smoker from a different friend, and I just picked up a new smoking book from the library. Along with another brisket and a pork butt, I’d like to try burgers and hotdogs….

    Craving: soup, the brothier and hotter, the better. I have one more meal’s worth of Italian Wedding soup in the freezer, but I’ve been hoarding it. Gives me great comfort, knowing that soup is in my culinary arsenal.

    Watching: Godless, with my husband (not right now now), and oh my word, Jeff Daniels makes an outstanding villain. I can’t watch the show right before bed, though, else I can’t sleep.

    Marveling: that my husband works outside, all day long, in this brutally cold weather. He doesn’t even fuss (at least not about that, he doesn’t).

    Have a good weekend, friends. Stay warm!

    This same time, years previous: marching, high on the hog, what it means, the quotidian (1.6.14), headless chickens, of an evening (and a morning), candied peanuts, winter chickens, what I did.