February 29, 2012

Container for a Letter


My relationship with my father is very complicated and I'm not fully ready to tackle it in writing just yet. He is an incredibly creative, talented, and charismatic man... but also a deeply flawed and ill man. Through much of my twenties he would send me letters; postcards with illustrations that he had painted, collages using large format film, boxes covered in hundreds of stamps, and often just simple hand written notes and ramblings. Sometimes I would get several letters in a single day and then they would trickle off and disappear for months... years... a physical embodiment of his manic ebb and flow.


I spent a lot of time considering these letters, all this paper covered with thoughts and emotions in a time when email was emerging and mail was fading. I remembered a letter a friend had held dear during a period of deep grief. She would fold it into her palm and over time the paper became stained and disintegrated at the creases. She put the letter in a box on her shelf so that she could keep it in her thoughts without destroying it.


I made this container for a letter, a vessel that encases and protects the paper. Its form was drawn from rocks on the beach which have been worn over time. It can be held in the hand or placed on its base for public display.


The container sits on my bookshelf. It's been a long time since I took it out of the base or looked at the letter. I just know that it's there.
 
 container for a letter / cherry, ash, and concrete

February 28, 2012

Snapshot: 6

backyard stream / summer circa 1988

Happy times with my childhood best friend. I wish we'd been able to remain close, but the bond we have will always be deep. (I'm on the right... in my favorite jazz pants!)

The photo is by her father who always shot with slide film and treated us all to many slideshows. I guess those days are over, Power Point?

February 27, 2012

Coastal

halibut state park, september 2011

I'm an "east coaster". I grew up in western Massachusetts which is actually a few hours from the ocean and I never thought of myself as living anywhere near the coast. I remember in second grade my pen-pal from Australia wrote asking what it was like to like to live by the sea. I was totally puzzled by the question and my mother got out a map and showed me that in fact we were near the coast in relative terms. She told me that we had the best of both worlds, mountains and fertile soil yet we weren't land-locked... her bias was pretty evident!


Now that we live just outside of Boston of course we are close to the ocean, but we actually see it surprisingly little. We are skiers and hikers and campers and love the woods and mountains so we're generally drawn to the west to my home town or up to Vermont and New Hampshire. Truthfully I'm not a big "beach go-er". Pale skin and an inability to sit still are not a great match for beach culture. Still the idea of being near the coast plays a powerful role in my sense of self.


I remember camping on Lake Superior at Pictured Rocks in Michigan, the horizon was endless and it looked and sounded just like the ocean. It was staggeringly beautiful but I had to keep bending my mind around the idea that this.is.not.the.edge. I know, something is wrong with me.

I have a mental image of where I am in an aerial view and I do get an irrational feeling of claustrophobia when I think about moving too far from land's edge. I am fully aware that it's silly. My father lives in Minneapolis and I've spent a lot of time traveling all around the country. I love so many cities in the middle of the country where the architecture is far more daring and not so tethered to tradition. I also love the mountains and the countryside and I especially love that there are areas where the cost of living is not as ridiculous as it is here. There are so many amazing places that in theory I want to call home... but my brain always goes to "land-locked, land-locked"... and so I've never strayed too far.


And although I don't like to lounge on the beach, I do love a rocky coast, staring out at the horizon, listening to the waves crash, and smelling the salty breeze. All the cliches are true, there are few places more calming.


I'm not certain where we'll end up settling down or if we'll stay right where we are. I'm sure if I do move I'll make peace with my phobias, but wherever I am I'll always be an "east coaster".

February 24, 2012

Details A2.02


Dreary day here which is possibly payback for such a beautiful week. This morning I'm working on planning for our garden plot and getting ready to get some seeds going, watching Little Smith run around from room to room entertaining himself like a real little boy...


listening to hammering from workmen replacing some basement windows (which cut nap time short), watching snow flurries land and melt out the window...


having some tea and toast for late breakfast, contemplating not leaving the house and staying in my pajamas all day. Fridays are so sweet.

February 23, 2012

Adult Talk


We had some friends over last night for a few beers and some conversation. We were hoping that Big Smith's latest home-brew would be ready for drinking but I guess it needs another week sitting in the bottles so luckily our friends came armed with some quality beverages and they even volunteered to bring pizza which meant no cooking for me- an evening doesn't get much better than that these days!

This group doesn't have kids and I so appreciate them making the effort to come and hang out now that our lives have changed so much with the little guy. I actually love chatting with child-less friends because the conversation doesn't always end up getting sucked back into baby topics. I truly value talking about baby stuff as well and it's so important to share this crazy journey with other mom's, but it's also nice to know that there is a possibility poop and sleep will not be covered in a thirty minute discussion.

Since I stay at home I especially look forward to a simple adult conversation and that brings me to the embarrassing thing I noticed last night... BABY TALK!

baby talking with a full mouth

I hate baby talk between couples and used to cringe when my grandmother would call my grandfather "Daddy" or heard a dad say to his adult daughter "Mommy said she's running a little late". Ick, it's so depressing to think that just because you have a child your whole vocabulary and way of relating to your spouse has to change... but it's tougher than I thought to avoid.

Over time we have come up with silly little expressions and they've just sort of stuck. Last night I casually told Big Smith to check if there was "an iggy in the diggy". Huh?! Yeah this is hard to admit but we call poop "iggy". I have no idea where it started and then the seduction of rhyming lead us to rename diapers "diggies". I also told Little Smith I had to go to the "duck, duck room" which is what we call the bathroom since it's all he understands (ducks live there) and at the end of the night I told him to go get his nuk-y and his lovey for bed. Our friends kept laughing at me and honestly... it was a little mortifying that I was so used to talking in this cutesy way that I didn't even notice I was doing it. Who am I?

saying "mama" through cheerios

We totally call eachother "mama" and "dada" when we're talking to Little Smith so he knows who we're talking about and while I'm happy to say we do NOT do that when we're alone, I guess I kind of understand how after years of filling those roles it could happen. I'm hoping this doesn't get worse over time because as I try to balance not losing who I am with the fact that I am a different person since having a child, my way with words is one thing I don't want to kiss good-bye!

And although it's not at all cute when we do it... I do have to say it's pretty darn sweet when he does.

video

February 22, 2012

Broiled Tofu with Kale and Sesame Noodles


I'm crazy for tofu! No joke, I have tofu cravings. I know it sounds odd since tofu is usually considered healthy but not terribly tasty and more of a vehicle for added flavors, but I love the texture of all varieties and it tastes divine to me. Actually Big and Little Smith are also tofu-lovers as well as kale and noodle enthusiasts so this dish is a house favorite. I love that it's nourishing and also so quick and easy.

Sesame Noodles: This makes a lot of noodles since we like leftovers but cut it in half if you like. Recipe adapted from Linda (again!)
  • 1lb chinese noodles boiled per instructions (about 3 minutes)
for the sesame sauce:
  • 1/2 c tahini *or use peanut butter for peanut noodles instead- also yummy
  • 1/2 c soy sauce (I like Braggs even better)
  • 1/4 c brown rice vinegar
  • 1/4 c sesame oil
  • 1/4 c olive oil
  • 1 tbs sriracha hot paste
  • 2 tsp honey
  • 6  garlic gloves (pressed if not using a food processor)
  • water as needed (about 1/2 c)
Mix all ingredients in a food processor or just stir in a bowl. Add as much water as necessary, the sauce should be very thin. Pour over the cooked noodles and toss. I like to serve these at room temperature which makes it easy to get out of the way first.



Broiled Tofu:
  • 1 slab extra firm tofu
  • 3 tbs honey
  • 3 tbs soy sauce (or Braggs)
Drain and press tofu for at least 20-30 minutes; wrap in towels and cover with a chopping board and heavy weight. Slice into 8 pieces and lay on a metal baking sheet with parchment paper.

Mix honey and soy sauce and drizzle over tofu turning to cover. Broil on high for 5-10 minutes on each side until golden brown. The time will vary depending on how much water you've pressed out of the tofu but watch it carefully since the broiler goes fast! Burnt tofu is not so tasty.


Sauteed Kale:

Coarsely chop kale and trim and discard the thick part of the stems. Heat a few tablespoons of sesame oil in a pan or wok and add a few slivers of garlic and a tablespoon of freshly grated ginger. Add the chopped kale and saute for about two minutes until it begins to wilt. Add a splash of soy sauce and cover, steaming over very low heat for about 5 minutes until tender.


Top the dish with plenty of toasted sesame seeds and a drizzle of reserved sesame sauce.


Little Smith got a side of ginger-roasted carrots and his own special noodles without the sesame sauce because it is a bit spicy. He's a funny kid- super picky eater but he loves kale which amuses me for some reason. We also had to do away with eating with chop sticks for the time being because he obsesses over them the whole meal. I don't know why he doesn't react that way to forks!


As a side note you can really see in these pictures where I lost daylight. Food photos come out so much better with natural light but this dish really needs to be served straight from the oven so the sun set while I was cooking and I was basically cooking in the dark even when I started to try to capitalize on that daylight. I felt very silly!

Oh and if you love these flavors as much as I do here's another variation I've been wanting to try with a raw kale slaw.

February 21, 2012

Snapshot: 5

co-sleeping with my first baby / spring 2009

This poor girl, known in our house as simply "the cat", has had a tough year putting up with the toddling terror. We still love you kitty!

February 20, 2012

Home


It was a wonderful three day week-end. We went "home". Actually we went to my mom's house in the Berkshires (western Massachusetts), my childhood home, which somehow still feels like home to me.


I keep waiting for the day that I don't call this place home. I finished college, moved to my own appartment in the city, got a cat, got a car, got a degree, got married, moved and made my own home, had a kid... and still when I am going to my mom's for the week-end, I say I'm going "home". 


It is a beautiful area with the perfect balance of mountains and rivers and great restaurants and galleries. My mom has wonderful collections and plants and treasures. It would be difficult to find a better place to call home and maybe that's why I struggle to leave it behind. That and the fact that my childhood bedroom has been completely preserved as though I just walked out the door. It's kind of odd but also strangely important to my inner balance.


It was a week-end with something for everyone. We ate some good meals. We went for a few walks along the river. I gossiped with my mom, watched cable, and hit up some thrift stores. Big Smith went skiing, enjoyed some quality time with the little guy, and read "The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo". Little Smith discovered the dog, dug in houseplants, played outside (with no snow), and learned to climb the stairs... on his own... even unsupervised once- yikes!


We even enjoyed a couple's evening out which was very romantic until we decided to order a brownie sundae complete with hot fudge and I ate so much that I felt queasy for the rest of the night. Little Smith also never sleeps in his pack-and-play well so we didn't have the most restful nights. Still it was really good to get away and the best part of a long week-end is the short week that follows.

It's also always good to be at this home. Hoping for a solid night's sleep in our own bed and crib.

February 17, 2012

Keep the Love


Valentine's week is officially coming to a close. I always so look forward to this bright little holiday in the dark of winter and it's sad to see it go. We don't do anything elaborate but it's just a reminder to be extra sweet to one another and to gaze a little into each other's eyes. We both had such a fun time this year.

This morning we woke up grumpy. That happens a lot in the morning around here and it's mostly just because we are both so tired. Big Smith works late and when he finally gets home we really want to stay up even later and hang out together because... well we like each other! We go to bed happy and lovey-dovey but then at 5:45AM, when we've had five hours of sleep for the ten millionth day in a row, we are not at our best.

In the haze of exhaustion it's easy to forget how much we are both working... working hard at our jobs (even if mine is at home), working hard to raise our child well and give him the best life we can, and working hard to nurture our own relationship as well as our individual interests and passions. Despite morning grumpiness, I so appreciate all of the hard work that my husband does, and I hope know he feels the same.


So even though I've polished off the last of my chocolate and the flowers are starting to fade, I want to remind myself to keep channeling the Valentine's spirit every day (well okay maybe every week!). It's important to have a little romance and mutual admiration on a regular basis and we do okay in that department but I think we can do better. Maybe a once a week at-home date night and even a once a week early-to-bed night (no, not that way.... really to get more sleep!). Whatever we do I'm going to double-down on keeping the love.

Have a great week-end, especially if you get Monday off... we're looking forward to that!

February 16, 2012

Fun Little Things: Pyrex


Since I don't have a microwave plastic tupperware has become my worst enemy! I cook in a pan or pot, then I have to repackage all of the leftovers into plastic for the fridge, and then when I want to eat them I need to take them all back out and put them into an oven-safe dish to re-heat. Add to that all of the concerns about BPA, the staining from tomato sauce, curry, or saffron, and reminding Big Smith for the four hundredth time to only load tupperware on the top rack of the dishwasher (why is that so hard?)... and plastic and I have officially decided to break up.

We use glass-lock to package things that will need to be carried because the lids lock, but even those aren't oven-safe. For all of the leftovers that are just making the journey from table- to fridge- to oven (which is the majority here) my go-to containers are Pyrex. They're safe for the oven, fridge, and even freezer and I honestly don't know why they aren't more popular as everday work-horses as opposed to collectibles.


All of my pyrex is vintage, both because it's fun to hunt for and because I haven't been able to find any new models with the same variety of sizes or with lids. I know nothing about the art of collecting vintage Pyrex so I just scoop it up at yard sales and thrift stores when I see what I like or a size I need. The vintage one's are also such great colors and while many patterns have become highly collectible (and pricey) I still found most of my dishes for a few dollars. It's actually been cheaper than the new stuff and fun that each one has a story. Once I read this I was even happier that all of our's are from the '60s and '70s. I guess use caution if you've got newer Pyrex!

I tend to prefer some of the less sought after colors so I think that also keeps them in my budget. My absolute favorite are the green refrigerator dishes (above) which come in different sizes and are perfect for storing Little Smith's cubed roasted veggies and snacks.


These little sunflower printed casseroles (above) are also a great size for leftover mashes and rice dishes. Plus how can you not smile looking at these happy flowers? Anything that makes everday chores more fun quickly becomes a favorite for me.

I love how practical, pretty, and affordable all of these "leftover dishes" are and when the kitchen is a total mess (often) and everything is spread out all over the counter... it's actually kind of lovely. So much nicer to have these colorful little guys than a bunch of stained and scratched tupperware. I'll be adding to my little collection and never looking back to plastic!