Friday, December 31, 2010


Good things happened in 2010. Max was born. My book came out. The Huffington Post gig. But that good stuff brought a lot of conflicting stuff too. For instance, 2 months after Max was born, I felt hard-pressed to promote the book as best I could. Leaving him to go to AWP was so hard. Or, rather, working myself up about the leaving was so hard. Being gone wasn't so bad. Fear of what might happen--like what if he doesn't sleep? What if he won't drink a bottle? What if Zoe throws up all over Erik? Admittedly, I didn't preconceive the throwing up and it did happen but the gist is, freak out or not, it happens anyway. My attempts to stop things with the power of my mind were no greater in 2010 than they were in 2009. I worry and stress and feel like crap about, for instance, the Huffington Post. Great as it is/was a collaborative project, I still had to extend offers, worry that I wasn't inviting everyone I wanted to (which I didn't and still want to invite people I just haven't yet and still had to worry almost daily how I was screwing that up. And still worry), send reminders, fix technological snafus, worry over artists' responses to writers' and vise versa, and generally hope I wasn't pissing people off--even though this was, in terms of out reach and artistic realization, the best thing I ever did. My book--it came out. It felt great and then I got addicted to that feeling and now I just want more more more books. I also wanted to change things and make new poems and make it an even better book although I think it turned out beautifully.
Here's another conflict--like breastfeeding Max. I should do it a lot! More! It's so rewarding. So bond-making and healthy-making. So there was no sleep and a lot of worry that maybe he wasn't even getting enough milk and how much milk does he need anyway when there's so much yogurt in the world? I still don't know but I do think we're on a weaning kick. In the middle of cold and flu season, should I quit? But what if one of my goals of 2011 is to sleep?
Like all goals, I'm pretty sure that just the act of having them makes them suspicious and unobtainable. If I say sleep, I'm pretty sure I'll get an extra dose of insomnia. And if I think I can think myself out of it, I imagine that mind-power I pretend I believe in will in fact guarantee 2-3 hours at night saying to myself, I really shouldn't think about sleep when I'm trying to sleep.
One goal of 2011 feels like it should be fulfilling obligations--do the best at what I've already set up. I'm supposed to be called for jury duty. Since I'm already thinking of weaning Max, my duty might be to go full force and do my citizenly duty. But then I'm conflicted that perhaps my real duty is to breastfeed Max in the middle of flu and cold season. I'm also supposed to interview biotechnologists in Phoenix on Wednesday. Is it my true obligation to keep those appointments?
Again, it doesn't really matter how much I worry or not about it. I'll get called or not and be asked to stay or not and there's probably not that much I can do about it.
Perhaps that's my real obligation this year: to figure out what I can do and can not change/make happen which is kind of like that icky serenity prayer/Sinead O'Connor song.
Last night, I was complaining to Erik that maybe my food book should be more like Nick Flynn's "The Ticking is the Bomb." More meditative and retrospective. He said, you can only write like you write which I strongly objected to because what then about revision and craft and manipulaiton of scene and voice. But on the whole, he's probably right. I write like I write. I will probably worry and not sleep. I'll probably breastfeed Max and then wean him and then breastfeed him one more time. And yet, maybe I'll do it enough that he sleeps through the night. Maybe I'll go to AWP. Maybe I'll invite all the people I want to to the Huffington Post. Maybe I'll publish another book and I'll love it even more than I did This Noisy Egg. Maybe I'll write a lot and revise less since in revising, I worry about how I should make it more like something else instead of just making it.
Maybe making it. That will be my goal of 2011. That's a goal that I don't think you can avoid and yet can be a great thing or a muddling through thing which will make it a lot like 2010 but maybe less fraught.

Friday, December 24, 2010

The Nutcracker

It had been like 30 years since I'd seen the full William Christensen's (some distant relation of mine, actually) full Ballet West version of the Nutcracker. I remember the growing tree. I remember a gigantic lady under whose skirts out came hundreds of dancing babies. I remember thinking Clara was the star of the show.
This year, just like when I was a kid, I sat in the Capitol Theater on the main floor behind really tall people. The theater has wised up and hands out extra cushions for the kids but the people who sat in front of us were even too tall for the cushions to overcome so I watched the back of my niece's head for the most part as she sat on my lap and strained her neck.
Not being able to see might account for part of my troubles but I have some questions about the plot.
For instance, why would invite that Dr. Drosselmeyer who is obviously up to something when he put on a patch right before he went into the party? Was he pretending he was a pirate? Is it a bit weird he brought a special present for a little girl?
In these days of post-Spiegelman's "Maus," how can you not root for the giant mice and cringe when little Clara kills the Mouse King? The Nutcracker turns into a Prince? He takes Clara out all night? Isn't she a bit young to be out with a boy past say, 7 p.m.?
I kept telling my mother-in-law, who invited me and Zoe and Zoe's cousin, that the Sugar Plum Fairy was being danced by a man. She was like, "No. It was a woman." She looked it up in the playbook. It read Jacqueline something. I was like, "Otherwise known as Jack."
"Do you mean Mother Baffoon? She's played by a man."
"That big thing with the dress isn't the Sugar Plum Fairy?"
"No. That's Mother Baffoon. The Sugar Plum Fairy is the ballerina that dances the whole time." I always thought the little kids were the sugar plum and the Fairy would give them sugar plums. Maybe after they did their good dancing? I don't know I was 7. Again, another clash of other stories. "Visions of sugar plums danced in their heads."
So I did learn something although this Mother Baffoon only had like 8 kids run out from under her dress so it wasn't quite the spectacle I remember. Still, it was good to see The Nutcracker again only so if Zoe asks questions about how the tree grew so big and why Mother Baffoon has such a big dress and such big man-hands, I can try to explain although how it is that the nutcracker cracks no nuts through the whole ballet I have no answer for.

Friday, December 17, 2010

An apology

Dear Erik,
Although it was indeed only I who stood over the kitchen sink, cracking the legs of the Dungeness Crab open with my teeth and digging my fingers into the crevices and joints to pull out every thread of meat while you hung out on Facebook, I do recognize that our marriage vows included sharing every crab that comes within our midst. And although I did put on Facebook that all I wanted for Christmas was a Dungeness crab and realized that I was the only one likely to take me seriously so I bought that crab on sale $1.60 off the regular price so at $5/lb, I was not breaking any Christmas bank, I admit that while I dug and cracked and picked the crab that I promised you could have some crab later. And although I did in fact make you some crab dish that you liked (see yesterday's post) better than I, I have to admit that I did not mention that there was some crab leftover. And although you said, just that night that you loved crab sandwiches as much as I, I nodded and said, well, let's try this crab-stuffed trout thing instead.

So yesterday, when I had about 6 oz of crab leftover from the crab-stuffing project and Max and I decided that 10:30 a.m. was a good time for lunch, I have to apologize that I went straight for the crab. And I'm sorry that I chopped the celery into such tiny bits and minced the onions finely. I'm sorry I stirred in mayo and a bit of mustard. I apologize for adding celery salt and a titch of your favorite hot sauce. I'm sorry I was so gleeful to use gruyere instead of the usual plastic swiss we slice for these sandwiches. I'm sorry that I toasted the English muffin perfectly and dolloped the just-enough-crab mixture onto the muffin, then topped that with the cheese. I'm sorry I broiled the sandwich until the cheese bubbled brown. It was, I admit, delicious. And it is possible that it might have tasted even better if you'd been here to share. But I would have still been hungry. As it was, I still wanted another one.

With some regret, although not quite enough,
Your only wife

I promise to pick you a new crab clean, like any good otter-wife.

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Dining Disasters

I wanted to title my food book "Dining Disasters" and just lament all the times I tried to cook for people and failed. The book would have been long but I guess it would have become tiresome eventually. I would have included a few success stories but I think the crux of the book would hinge on describing the people I fed and, since I mostly like my friends and want to keep them, it wouldn't have been very revealing. And, maybe it's kind of ridiculous--the way I shoot to make something so delicious and fail so often.

One of the things I wanted for Christmas was Dungeness Crab. No one believes that I want ingredients for Christmas (well, my sister Val believes), so I bought one on sale at New Frontiers for $7 and came home and cleaned it. It had been awhile since I'd had to clean a Dungeness Crab but it came right back. I stood over the sink and cracked and dug. I ate the green butter on the inside. I picked the legs clean with my nutcracking tools. I got about 12 oz of crab out of that dude. Not bad for $7 and half an hour of picking.

So, last night, I tried to make crab-stuffed trout. That's a dish, right? I started at 4:30. This should have provided enough time. But, as often happens when Erik and I hang out in the living room, talking and having a pre-dinner drink, I wander into the kitchen for five minutes here and there but mostly return to hang out by the fire and with Erik and the kids. This dinner should have been easy: mixed green salad with French vinaigrette, roasted fingerling potatoes, spaghetti squash and this crab stuffed trout. I love crab. I love trout. I love butter that makes the stuffing that makes the crab stick to the inside of the trout.
This dinner was the kind you could make in five minute spurts. Squash in the oven at 4:30. Potatoes in at 5:00. Make the vinaigrette at 5:30. Stuff the trout at 5:45. Dinner should be ready by 6:00.
Stuffing: egg, scallions, melted butter, lemon juice, breadcrumbs. Stuff the crab inside cleaned trout, read the recipe. Bake at 400 for 5 minutes and then broil for five more minutes.
I pulled the fish at 6:10, having given it 7 more minutes than the recipe called for. When we went to pull the bones out of the trout, the stuffing fell out. Worse, the bones wouldn't come loose because the fish wasn't all the way cooked. I tried to restack the fish and the stuff and baked it again. For ten more minutes.

I did not like it. The trout was soft. The skin. Soft. The stuffing. Soft. The potatoes, overcooked, were soft and so was the spaghetti squash. The only things sharp were the salad and the salad dressing. Mostly disaster in my book. The only good part? I had roasted the potatoes in butter but, in this disaster dinner, the butter didn't soak in even though I poked the potatoes. So Zoe and I broke the potatoes in half and dipped them in butter. That was success. But the crab? Barely tasted.

Fortunately, I have some crab leftover for which I have to write a different kind of apology.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010


I spelled etiology wrong on my last post. I fixed it here. Apparently, fixing Zoe's stomach ache was equally easy although how it actually worked, I'm not sure.
We went to see the ever-lovely Dr. D. She asked a million questions and then listened to Zoe's lungs. She'd checked them out just a few weeks ago but this day, she could hear the wheezing. She thought, just in case, to test her out for a possible urinary tract infection but if wasn't a UTI, she suspected pneumonia, which sometimes presents with stomach pain. But before we got to that, she'd try to UTI. She asked Zoe to pee in a cup. Zoe thought this was madness and she leaped off the table and hid behind me. I finally talked her into it and took her into the bathroom. Once I explained it's just like peeing in a tiny toilet, she relented.
Of course, no UTI.
We've been the pneumonia route before. Last time, it was the last part of an 8 day stay at the hospital. But the doctor did not seem panicked so I tried not to panic myself.
So we headed downstairs (radiology downstairs. How handy). I took Max and ran to the appointment at the university I had at 1:30 to cancel. This sucked in several ways: The first was leaving Zoe. The second was that the appointment was to help the printmaker who was helping my poetry students put their book filled with letter-pressed pages together. I felt horrible about leaving him to do all the work. I can't stand that I did not see my students' final books. I knew I'd done the right thing though. As I drove back toward the doctor's office, I kept imagining them admitting Zoe to the hospital to treat the pneumonia, wondering how one has a baby at home and a kid in the hospital and no family around for 500 miles. Apparently, Dr. D's non-panicking effect only works directly in her presence.
Zoe did have a little pneumonia but the not-panicking doctor, described the streaks on her lungs as very tiny. She prescribed a different anti-biotic from the one she'd prescribed last week for what she suspected was a sinus-infection--ampicillin does not help pneumonia but arythromax does. She had the former first. Now she is taking the latter.
But! Here's the rub. On the way home, my stomach started to hurt. We all went home and took a nap. Zoe for her usual 2 hours, Max for his usual 45 minutes. I slept too for those 45 minutes and my stomach still hurt. Like I'd been kicked in the gut. And in the back. And like I wanted to throw up but couldn't. I drank 64 ounces of water. When Zoe woke up, I made her drink two big glasses too. We both started to feel better--Zoe more than I. By six o'clock last night, there was no more, "it hurts. It hurts." She slept through the night. She's been fine all day.
So now, all the fine people we saw and ate and drank with this last week--I hope you didn't get what I believe now happened to be a short-lived stomach virus that Zoe couldn't fight off because she was fighting off the pneumonia too. Once the anti-biotics started working on the lungs, her body took care of the stomach--well, that and the huge amount of liquid I made her drink and that uncanny way of the virus that seems to abandon one person as soon as it's safely ensconced in another. If you did get it, let me know and I'll repay you with a dinner made without any infectious children around.

Monday, December 13, 2010

Zoe's illness-- an eitology? Please?

So Zoe's had a cough since right after Halloween. She's been to the doctor, taken albuterol, antibiotics and finally, prednisone (a coriticosteroid) to help her beat the cough. Suddenly, she's developed so really weird nighttime stomach ache. She said she felt like she wanted to throw up but couldn't. She writhed on the bathroom floor for an hour, got up and went back to bed, then got up again another hour later. The next day we called the doctor's office. The nurse said it was probably her sinuses, dripping into her stomach and her stomach was rebelling from all the mucus that now lay therein. That sounded sort of plausible even though she always has a cold and has never had a stomach ache accompanying.
The next day, she's 100% fine. Running, bike riding, movie-going, regular kid.
That night, more writhing. More chants of, my tummy, my tummy. No sleeping. More Erik and I saying, poor Z. I'm so sorry and rubbing her back and feeling totally helpless.
Two nights later, on Saturday night, we called the triage nurse, having been on the verge of taking her to the ER. That nurse said, if she's not coughing up blood or bile, if she can walk without clutching her stomach, and if it doesn't hurt on the right side (appendix) then she doesn't need to go to the hospital. Stomach things are weird, she said.
The next day, she's 100% fine. Running, bike riding, movie-going, regular kid.
That night, more writhing. More chants of, my tummy, my tummy. No sleeping. More Erik and I saying, poor Z. I'm so sorry and rubbing her back and feeling totally helpless.
Last night, more writhing. Less sleeping. Max decided 45 minute-stints of sleep were sufficient. I think I called him "numb nuts" as a rocked him to sleep--in a nice voice but these are the words that escape my mouth when I haven't slept in six nights.
Her stomach actually hurts now (in the day time!). We're more, "I know your stomach" hurts now. And more "yeah, stomach things are weird." Also, we've cut out all milk-products on the off-chance they're mucus-making or lactose-intolerable. But as Zoe says, "It doesn't help. Nothing helps. It just hurts."
We're also on our way to the doctor in a couple hours. But here's my guess what the doctor will say: She says, "it's a virus. Stomach things are weird." Or, at the other end of the spectrum, the battery of tests begins with an endoscopy and ends with a colonoscopy and has some CT scans in the middle.
So if you guys haven any ideas before the battery of tests begins, then let me know. Also, I don't think she's contagious. Max nor Erik nor I have any stomach pain as far as I can tell but if we did contage you, I'm sorry in advance and I hope that you sleep again one day.

Friday, December 10, 2010


Sort of. It was so cold in the middle of November. And then it snowed a bunch, delaying our return from Torrey from Thanksgiving. Today though? 58 degrees. Zoe and I went bike riding/running and we both had to take off our coats.
Why are you and Zoe bike riding/running on a weekday you may ask? Well, Zoe was up all night with some stomach ache that wouldn't go away. At least not until morning when it miraculously disappeared. The doctor thinks her stomach's hurting from some sinus/post-nasal drip thing. I think I shall invite Zoe to sleep standing up tonight.
But we're having a fun day even though I'm a bit of a zombie. Did I mention Max's babysitter quit to move to Austin? So Erik and I have been juggling Max which means I'm really barely keeping it together.
But it's the end of the semester and although I have a million things to do, most of them are semi-mindless. At least the way I organized this semester. I have to lay out type for the poetry/print making collaborative project. I have to alert students to next semester's course offerings. I have to review a few poems but I didn't have students turn in portfolios this semester because I've come to realize that the portfolio is perfunctory (mostly) for students and the comments I give them sit in the folder waiting to be picked up and rarely are. Plus, they already worked their butts off this semester. Parties (College and Department receptions rather) and dinners (thanks Sandy!) and letters of recommendations galore makes me feel like it is time to go to Amazon and click presents that read "prime shipping." Maybe I'll make something Christmasy for dinner tomorrow. Or maybe we'll grill steaks because it's almost 60 degrees and feels cheatingly like spring.

So. Lots of Max and Zoe these days to go with the end of the semester stuff.
Max can almost always successfully crawl backwards down the stairs so the level of danger-mouse activities is lower than it was last week. Max still checks out most of the world with his mouth, including your nose and your mouth which I guess counts as a kiss even though if you were trapped in the desert for months you could rehydrate with the amount of saliva that kid drools into your mouth. Zoe made him laugh the deep belly laugh today while she dangled her Zhu Zhu pet (early Christmas) from its name-tag by her mouth and let it drop to the table. Max was trying to eat yogurt at the time. Max likes to make raspberries while eating yogurt. Raspberries plus yogurt plus laughing at Zoe's amazing Zhu Zhu trick made for a delightful if yogurt-blown lunch.

We finally got Max to sleep and had our own lunch. I made a spinach salad from a giant box of spinach and gave Zoe the rest of the box. She laid on the TV floor and ate spinach by the handful. How this kid ever gets sick is beyond me. But apparently, her sickness and sleeplessness doesn't affect her--she was happy to go on a bike ride and is wondering when we're going shopping for this holiday that I am really almost ready, even though it's 58 degrees outside, to acknowledge exists.

Saturday, December 04, 2010

The Other Thanksgiving Food

I've written a long essay about Torrey in the winter but I imagine more people (6 people) read what I write here than they do in lit mags (4 people), so I'm not feeling incredibly redundant. In the olden times, the years of the great drought, Erik's parents kept the cabin in Torrey open all winter long. When you left the cabin after a long weekend, we had to drain the whole water system, including the water heater, put RV anti-freeze in the toilets and turn the heat down to fifty and pray that the amount of water left in the pipes wouldn't freeze. The cabin had suffered two major pipe explosions that resulted in much re-drywalling. Not even Erik, master drywaller that he is, likes to do the same walls three times so now they shut the house down completely. Rick, Erik's stepdad, hooks up the air compressor and blows every spot of water out of the pipes.
But they opened it up this year for Thanksgiving so we could see them and my mom and so we wouldn't have to drive all the way to Salt Lake.

It was cold. 1 degree one of the nights. All of the stores were closed. The only restaurant open was Tom's "Chillzz" which is more of a soda shop than a restaurant. If we neglected to bring whipping cream, well, then no whipping cream on your pie.

I did forget whipping cream but Erik's mom, El, brought three tiny cartons of it. My mom brought steaks, brussel sprouts and cranberry sauce. Rick brought ancho peppers and goat cheese and stuff for breakfast. I brought the turkey, potatoes, sweet potatoes, mushrooms, celery, butter, breadcrumbs, apples, pumpkin and evaporated milk. Nothing makes me think of cooking in dire circumstance as evaporated milk. I didn't know El would bring whipping cream so all along the drive I wondered how I might convert evaporated milk into pie topping. I also brought flour and sugar. So did El. She also brought potatoes and onions. A little redundancy goes a long way. She would have been redundant to bring whipping cream if I'd remembered mine but I didn't. She also brought beans, tortillas and sour cream. This would be key to our happiness later.

Thanksgiving went as thanksgiving goes. Everything was easier than it seemed like it would be and everyone ate faster than one thought humanly possible. Mom's cranberry sauce with pineapple was particularly good. I just cut the sweet potatoes into wedges and tossed half of them in cinnamon and black pepper and half in cayenne. That might have been a high point. The gravy I made like an hour early. That made finishing the mashed potatoes, the brussels and the rolls (El made rolls from scratch. I burned them by putting them on the bottom rack of the oven. Sorry El) totally easy. Gravy first. A good policy.

Pies were fine. I couldn't even eat any that night. Zoe and I had to take a short run down the street just to try to overcome the feeling that my stomach was full of rocks and on the verge of making me tip over like the wolf in Red Riding Hood.

The next night, we had steaks. Rick made them with a delicious roasted red pepper, ancho chili sauce. He cooked the steaks, topped them with goat cheese which didn't look like it melted but it had, and then a dollop of the sauce. In terms of flavor, maybe because it was new and maybe because it was spicy-ish, this dinner trumped Thanksgiving. I even loved the baked potato, with just scallions, butter and sour cream, better than the mashed potatoes. But maybe it was better because I cooked none of it.

The next night, we went to Chillzz for pizza and it was just fine. We got fries too which came with fry sauce which means that fry sauce is within a 6 hour drive rather than 8.5.

Speaking of 6 hour drives, we were supposed to leave the next day (Sunday) but a huge storm came in and the roads were awful. So we stayed even though there were no grocery stores open and we only had what was in the house. It turned out to be a surprising lot. El had made pinto beans. There was a box of vegetable broth and tomatoes and another can of beans and another ancho chili pepper equaled chili with bean burritos. This might have been the best meal of all.

I love Torrey in the winter. It's completely empty of people. Austerity measures apply. You have to make do. I love that. I also love hiking in the cold even though it was too cold for Max. His cheeks didn't thaw for an hour after one of the hikes. We did see the most amazing petroglyphs I've ever seen. The size of a Volkswagen, some of them (a small Volkswagen, maybe just a wagon. But still.)

And the pipes in the cabin did freeze a little--even with the heat on--but Rick caught them in time and with a very strong spotlight, he warmed the pipes and the dishwasher and shower worked again. Super-austerity averted.

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Good days, birthdays, catching up days

November is not the hell-a crush of October but it's not much less of a vise-grip type life. I remember thinking in September, my, this semester is going to be a cinch. And then October. November actually has as much going on but it's less of a surprise than October. Also. November has my birthday and Thanksgiving which are great reliefs, no?
Well, my birthday wasn't exactly a relief. Since I was pregnant last birthday, I decided to do this one up. 5 days of birthday beginning with Pinot noir tasting on Wednesday, happy Veterans Day mellow birthday day Thursday, Friday friends over for polpettes and orzo soup (they brought me Gerber daisies. I love gerber daisies) birthday, Saturday babysitter birthday, and Sunday, more friends for spanikopita, tatizki, tabouleh, falafel birthday. Much good birthday. Nice talking on the phone with my mom and mother-in-law, sister-in-law and cousin. Five days of happy birthday from Z and a lot of "but it's my birthday" voice to Erik. He survived all five of the days.
He also bought us a couch for my birthday (and Christmas and my Christmas present to him). We shopped around thinking we'd never buy one but then there was this perfect sectional with leather on the outside to keep the cat from scratching it to death and microfiber on the cushions so it's soft and warm.
There was no chance it would fit, Erik said. And I said, it will if we keep the sections apart until we move the cable to the other side of the room.
The couch came today. At first, we just shook our heads. Even the small half looked like it had swallowed the room. The bigger half? Well, we could keep in in the kitchen where it could serve as an island/flotilla/spanikopita-making rest spot.
But it did fit, sections apart. And then Erik got highly excited about his ability to restring the cable until someone official came and snaked it behind the walls for more elegant effect.
We moved the TV. We put the sections together. The couch fits. We haven't moved off it all day.
Well, that's not entirely true since I have still November to deal with which involves finding a new day care person for Max, hosting a second guest writer in as many weeks, responding to some seriously great essays in some newly fun ways for me, and making appointments with the center for biodesign in Phoenix. Also, AWP deciding and money-getting (I'll go if I get funding from the college), and furious grant-writing and planning for Thanksgiving and general undergrad advising and students who need advising and letters of recommendation and extra love because it's November and I'm happy to give it because they are such the loveliest of students.
Tomorrow's guest writer will be talking about research in personal essays which will be particularly helpful for me since most of my research is internet research that stands distinctly opposed to my personal essay writing but since I'm on my way to visit the biodesign folks, I had better learn this word "incorporate" instead of big stony text blocks that read, "research here!"
I had a food thing to mention. What was it? Spanikopita? I did indeed make triangles. Again, I thought, there's no way that whatever Tyler Florence is saying about "fold like a flag" makes any sense, but I folded and it did. And I made chicken stock using just drumsticks--that was good and cheap at $2.38 for 4 drumsticks (plus, I saved a drumstick for Zoe's lunch making me a frugal cook and a good mom.) But I can't think of any fancy cooking moments. Except the polpettes and orzo which I made twice in a week. With homemade chicken broth.
So today was great thanks to the couch configuration. Also, the Huff Post. Kind words from many folks made me so happy. Also, nice words about an essay from the book of food and Mormons and fertility which is very good news. Also, nice words about the whole book which just makes November so much better than October.
Oh, on the note of babies--kids were sick and so was I which was a drag (worst cold ever. Sleeping on one side, turning over, sleeping on the other, hoping I could breathe through that nostril). But Zoe calls Max sweetheart because he's sweet and he has a heart and Max walks like some sort of crab, three-legged dude with his left leg sticking out, propelling him fast along.
Oh and Zoe and I are writing a book and I asked her if it was OK if I worked some while she was at school since at this rate the book would be done when she was 23, and she said sure, as long as I mentioned it was "illustrated by Zoe." I promised.

Sunday, November 07, 2010

Conferences and Breathers

I really wasn't going to go. It was so far. A 2 hour drive, 3 hour flight, another 2 hour drive. Three nights away. Four whole days. It wasn't really worry about the kids that made me want to stay home. I knew they'd be fine with Erik and, since his mom came down to help, that no one would really notice my absence. It was a kind of laziness and a kind of tiredness of the writing business. And I would miss my people so much. I knew they'd be fine without me but not so much vise versa. Plus pumping. For four days. Ick.

But I made myself get up at 4:00 a.m. and drive in the dark down the mountain, looking out for elk and training my eye on the white line on the road. Once, the white line disappeared. I almost drove off the road. I hit traffic. I didn't care. If I missed my flight, I'd turn around and come back. But the traffic was due to an accident and abated pretty quickly.

Conferences are good for several things--especially this one. A chance to read your theories about creative nonfiction, a chance to hear others read theirs. Alison Bechdel, one of my heroes, spoke. I got to act like a grown-up or, rather, an adolescent, and go to too many bars and stay up past midnight (I know! Past midnight!). I saw people who I miss all the time and have deepened friendships that were slight before my conference going. I made new friends. I represented, as I said on Facebook, the crazy woman who has a baby and still goes to conferences. Not many folks at the just-had-a-baby-stage went. There were young-uns there, just out of grad school. It may be insane to travel while pumping and leave your ten month baby at home but it's also a choice you can make and survive, I wanted to tell them. Plus, they're a good audience to complain to about the 4 days of pumping. They've lived in Iowa. They've been to the state fair. They've seen the dairy contraptions attached to the udders of cows. They understand my pain. So did Margot. Thanks Margot! I want to say publicly, for hanging out with me and for listening me to also complain about the pumping. It's also good to go for the new ideas and new projects and general sense that at least 400 people in the world care about nonfiction and of those 400, at least 6 wanted to read again the paper I'd delivered and want a copy of their own. A little positive encouragement goes a long way these days.

And I admit. It's good to take a break. I didn't know it was a break. It was work in its own way. But, when you get home and you have to feed the people and there are no servers and very few excuses to go to lunch. I swear, if one didn't have to feed the children, they would be nothing but a breeze but they like so much food. Dinner, breakfast, lunch. And I like food too so then I cook for me and for Z and for Max, similar foods but delivered differently and by the time I'm done the kitchen is undone, I think, hmm, airplanes don't suck entirely.

But the way Max leaped out of his grandma's arms and tried to fling himself across the room at me and the way Zoe ran over to me to give me her notes that she'd been writing each day I was gone, I remember why I may well never go to a conference again.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Rough Week

It's been a rough week around here. Rejections all around. Plus some additional rejection that I wasn't even looking for. I mean, I go out of my way to get rejected for the most part but sometimes, rejection seeks me out. And bureaucracy. I had some. I wanted to apply for a grant because I like rejection but it turns out the university would like to protect me from myself and prevent that from happening by inventing and installing a device called grants and contracts which makes sure absolutely nothing can happen--even rejection--which is usually so easy to come by.

But it's amazing how resilient one can be. Yes. I will pat myself and the we's in my house for our resilience. And then I will say that kids are a good source of resilience. A) Even when they reject you, you can roll your eyes and tickle them and then you are quickly returned into most-loved status and b) they want so much (not rejection) that it's hard to get mired in your own morass.

Mas is curious. Possibly dangerously so. He likes to look under the stairs, crawl to the middle stair, fling himself off the stair onto the tile because he wonders what that might feel like. That we told him it wouldn't feel good is not so interesting to him. The humans yammer. The tiny bits of Starburst wrapper on the floor speak to him in a language he understands. Mostly--eat me. You can't hold him without him trying to crawl over your shoulder to see what everyone else is doing, including himself in the mirror or how, if you're holding him while you pee, he might propel himself into the sink to see exactly how the drain might work. Perhaps best by tonguing it, he thinks. The computer is good for typing but even better for pulling the keys off the keyboard and the pencil is good for drawing on the floor and stabbing yourself in the eye and if you're not a curious creature, however will you figure out that eye stabbing and floor drawing are equally interesting although perhaps one is more fun than the other.

So the week sucked enough that I sang Paul Simon's American Tune without irony. Also, Bob Dylan's Hard Rain although I don't know all the words. Tonight, I'm resilient enough, I think, that I can sing Frog went a Courtin to Zoe although only after we read Wigger--William Goldman's kid-story about parents who die in a car crash and Susanna holds it all together until a robber steals her blanket (Wigger). Then she cries. Then she's told to stop crying so she starts to flood. On the inside. But in the end, the undertaker adopts her which means it's a happy story, similar to this one.

Thursday, October 14, 2010

The Trouble

I thought I'd have several hours to work on revisions. My only certain obligations were to take Max to day care and work in the advising center for two hours. But what actually happened between 7 a.m. and 5 p.m. is what happens every day. First of course are the emails. The Huffington Post. The Facebook promotion. That takes an hour. Zoe wants hot lunch, thank goodness, but she also wants me to help her pick out clothes that are not too hot and not too cold. Max loves mornings and likes to two fist eat cheerios in his high chair and then, with those same two fists, pound the tray full of Cheerios until the Cheerios bounce off onto the floor. This leads to some, although not much, cleaning up of Cheerios. Then we go for a run which takes fourteen minutes to find the dog collar for, my shoes for, my sunglasses. Oh wait. My sunglasses are broken. Blind running into the sun.
Then what happens? Max goes to Taysha's at 11:30. If we get back from our run at 9:45, there's little time to sit down and write. Max needs to breastfeed. He would also like to type. He is not a horrible typist but he does have a bad habit of pulling off the keys from the keyboard which is contraindicated for future typing. He falls down one stair which requires much soothing and then he tries to pull the breastpump onto his head which requires much rethinking of cord-electronic arrangements. There is some kind of hurried cleaning up of bowls and electronics and other things that shouldn't be on the floor but are. Then more emergency emailing. Then emergency saving Max from certain doom. Then picking Max up because he does not like to be put down for more than 10 minute intervals (but those 10 minute intervals. They are productive ones! But not so good for sustained thinking about revisions). Taking a shower, getting dressed. How can these things take so long? There must be something slowing me down. Perhaps it's the 10 minute interval baby. Perhaps it's email. Perhaps it's the new eyeshadow I bought. Either way, I feel nearly Hollywoodian in how long it takes me to get ready these days.
Lunch. I just heat up stew. And yet that takes a good 20 minutes to heat and eat too. Max likes broth. Both time-consuming and messy. And yet, I have time to wonder if a baby is born and his mother dies/goes missing, could the baby survive on beef/chicken broth. I think so.
I put Max in the jumper thing and sit on the floor with the laptop to type. This totally gives me 20 full minutes of revising. Then. Finish getting ready (It's been an hour since I started). Get Max dressed (somewhat quicker but not entirely).
Then there's the driving. Or even getting to the driving. Max's everything needs to go into the diaper bag. I have things to remember (what things? I've forgotten by now). And then the car seat transfer and the finding of keys and the sunglasses. Oh wait. No sunglasses.
It only takes 20 minutes to take Max over to Taysha's. But it's sad and hard so that adds minutes and relativity that make it seem much longer than that. The drive to school. Longer than it needs to be.
Office hours are nonstop. I have students from my grad class, from classes last semester, from classes two years ago, from another advisor who gave incomplete advice, from administrative assistants, and from head-poker-inners just saying hi.
By the time I get home to work, it is 2:00. The kids will be home at 3:40. That gives me 1 and a half ish hours.
And then I remember I have to pump.
And eat dried apricots and almonds.
And check my email.
And Facebook.
Still, I get30 pages of revision done. I have 50 more to go today and tomorrow. Deadline. Friday at 5:00.
But this next section is chunky and problematic and won't go as fast as yesterday. And today I teach. And apparently blog.
In comparison to today, yesterday is beginning to look in retrospect like the freedom day it at first seemed like it was going to be and then wasn't really.
Off to prep a lesson on sonnets. And to sneak a page or two of revision in before I eat lunch.
Perhaps it's the eating that's slowing me down. But like all things these days that are slowing me down and keeping me from, I like them quite a bit. So really, I'm not complaining.

Sunday, September 26, 2010

Kids, parties, practicality

I don't know why I felt compelled to do it. Mostly, I was afraid that the weekend would go by un-weekended. I would go back to work on Monday thinking, wow, I did a lot of laundry this weekend. Erik left with his parents to hike down the Grand Canyon on Friday. I probably then was suffering from a small case of hutzpah. Something like, not only can I watch the kids by myself for three days but I can entertain as well.
So I invited some people over.
I started small at first. My good friend Erica. She knows the kids. She understands I may disappear to put Max to sleep or might have six dog hairs in the guacamole. She has dogs too.
But then I got bold and invited three more people--one a new lecturer, another who was hired at the same time I was, and a new grad student who has kids. I didn't mention kids in the email. I figured we'd work that out later.
Of course, by Saturday morning I regretted it. Max had woken up every hour and a half the night before. While I was talking to my mom, he was trying to get my attention by screaming ever so gently in my ear. How would I talk to other people if I couldn't hear over Max? How would I cook dinner if I couldn't put him down?
Fortunately, the woman who runs the day care where we may put Max called. I had asked her to watch Max for a couple hours so she could get to know him. She said she could. Sweet. Then, Zoe's best friend's mom called to see if she could go to the park. I would miss Zoe's fine mopping skills as I tried to do Saturday housecleaning but I thought perhaps Zoe shouldn't have to focus on the party all day long. Especially since the woman with the kids hadn't responded to my email yet. Zoe may have no kids to play with later.
She went to the park. Max played while I cleaned. I picked Z up and we went to the tiny cart store (New Frontiers, where they have/had tiny carts for kids). We bought fish for the tacos and gingersnaps for dessert and salad bar for lunch.
After, we took Max over to the day care lady's. I'm glad we went. I'd had a little (lot) of trepidation about putting there. Not so much there as anywhere. But here's the deal--they do a lot of fun stuff--Kindermusik, gymnastics, sign language--that's not exactly appropriate for Max's age group but so much more fun I imagine than staying home watching me type. I felt extra ridiculous taking him there on a Saturday afternoon for no real reason. But once I got there and he launched into her arms, I knew it had been a good idea. Not only would I get ready for the party but I would stop freaking out about whether or not this woman would be good to Max.
Z and I ran home. Z swept the porch, I finished vacuuming. I cut up onions for the chipotle sour cream and cabbage for the tacos. By 4:30 when Max got home, we were all relaxed and ready for the people. We watched a half hour of Househunters. That's how ready we were.
Erica showed up first. Thank god. She fed Max hummus while I made guacamole. Zoe's friend Dain, her 15 month old brother and her mom came by. Good. Kids. The woman with the other kids had called earlier. She was coming. Could her husband come too? I said, there will be only other women there but sure why not?
Everyone was here by 5:45. The guacamole was gone by 5;50. I cooked the fish, put out the sour cream, cheese and cabbage and threw some forks on the counter and called it dinner. I couldn't eat right then because Max was melting down a little. But I took him to lie down and fed him. He returned happy. I ate my tacos and then more fish with sour cream. I don't know if the food was delicious but everyone seemed to eat, even the kids.
The adults went into the living room and the kids watched a movie. There was more chaos than usual--kids running back and forth to tell us about the movie, to freak out about the dog, to wonder where the one piece was to the Lego set, but I think the chaos was good. Without a little chaos, how would I have even known I had a weekend?
Today, a little less chaos. We're heading to the farmer's market and then I'm taking the stroller and the bike to the park to see how far this one path goes.

Friday, September 17, 2010

A week in food

So after the Sam's Club caving in, Erik challenged me (and himself) to spend only $75 more dollars in food that week. That included going out. And wine. And, in fairness, beer. After having spent $240 at the Sam's Club that seemed like not so big a trial (a box of wine and 24 Sierra Nevadas went a long way to cutting our "food" costs). But as you know, Sam's Club is good for meal planning but bad for actual meal making. Too much broccoli, absolutely no celery. You can buy 4000 cloves of peeled garlic but note just one head. I really did not want to go to the regular grocery store but I had CSA and the Farmer's Market. Celery, which rarely makes an appearance at any farmer's market I've been to, would be out.

In Sam's Club fashion I bought 2 packages of 40 oz ground turkey. Oh my, the ground turkey we ate. The first thing to make, along with grass-fed, locally raised ground beef, was bolognese ($5/lb.) I had bought 2 pounds of roma tomatoes at the farmer's market too $2.50/lb) and sweet onions. (I had chicken livers in the freezer (almost free), cream for my coffee (so that counts as free) and boxed red wine (also counting as free). But I did not have any celery. The last time I made bolognese, I didn't have any carrots. I also had some accidentally bought "fat-free" cream" which made the sauce corn syrupiriffic. This time, I was closer. It was almost perfect-- everything fresh and already at the house. So I substituted zucchini for celery. And, I do believe it was fine. Using fresh tomatoes instead of canned was also fine although maybe the sauce turned out a little less tomatoey-than you'd expect.

The next thing to do was to roast a roast. I made mashed potatoes and sauteed some amaranth greens from the CSA. Suffice to say, the roast, mashies and gravy (helped by cubes of beef bouillon (oh the humanity, bouillon cubes!)) were great. The amaranth greens tasted like sauteed caterpillars.

But the next night, more ground turkey awaited (I froze one of the 40 oz packages). Erik made turkey and shitake mushroom mini-meatloaves. What did we have on the side? That's right, leftover mashed potatoes and beef gravy with poultry seasoning tapped into it. Also, we had no worchestershire for the meatloaves so we substituted vinegar, fish sauce and a titch of sugar. Whatever. It was fine. On Facebook, people recommended tamarind paste. I can't imagine the amount of tamarind paste Sam's Club would sell me, if they had any, which they didn't.

The next night. Ground turkey tacos. The nice thing about all this ground meat was that since "the flavor profiles" (sorry, I just gagged a little typing that. Too much Top Chef) were from such distinct cuisines, it never tasted like you were eating the same meat. Plus, the 40 oz of ground turkey didn't go bad. Bonus.

Then, on Wednesday, I roasted a chicken (one of two bought from Sam's Club for $8.61. At the Farmer's Market, free range ones were $3.85/lb. Maybe next time). I brined the chicken for half an hour in salt water and then stuffed the bird with rosemary and thyme. Salted and peppered the outside and stuck that chicken on top of carrots (farmer's market $3.00 a bunch), red potatoes (CSA) and onions (I need to buy a case of onions). An hour and a half later, voila, best chicken ever. The potatoes were a slight bit salty and I think I would salt the already brined chicken a little less next time. It was possibly the easiest dinner I ever made. One pot! I've heard of these one pot dishes but they always make me think of casserole. This was more of a one roasting pan dinner and that I can abide.

Then out for pizza for dinner on Thursday--$35 (including wine and beer).

So did we spend less than $75? We did. Would I do it again? Even with the distinct flavor profiles, that was a lot of ground turkey to plow through. And there was something kind of regimented about it. And, I still have a lot of food leftover. All week, roast beef sandwiches. More bolognese in the fridge. There's still that much turkey and another chicken in the freezer. I have enough tortillas to see me through the End of Days (although I fear they'll go bad before that).
Zoe has enough juice boxes to last until Halloween (ACK the waste! I hate the juice box. But can I send her to school with a sippy cup full of big-bottled apple juice? I don't know!). We still have enough tissues, paper towels and toilet paper to line the outside of the house with absorbent pulpy products in case a giant vulture sneezes on us. Also, do you have any laundry? Because I have some laundry soap.

Today, I gave in and went to Safeway. It wasn't as painful as I'd remembered it. Maybe my expectations were low. I bought just a bottle of wine. Just a pound of carrots. And some celery. Zoe got a single doughnut. I felt so minimalist. I spent $60. Already, if I were on the $75 plan, pizza would be out this week. But really, the main problem with the regular grocery store? I think I have to go back tomorrow.

Monday, September 13, 2010

A non-anonymous day

There's too much exciting happening today to pretend I'm pseudonymous today. First, on the Huffington Post there is a great photographer riffing on my favorite poet, Bob Hicok's, piece about asteroids. Does Bob know Zoe's name is Zoe? I don't think so. Does Erik share my dark sense of foreboding about the end of the world? I don't think so.

And, Sean Lovelace, great writer, extreme nacho-eater, marathon runner, and htmlGiant contributor, interviewed me about This Noisy Egg on htmlGiant.

To you all who already said amazingly nice things on the Facebook, I say I am so lucky to know so many great people. Thank you.

Thursday, September 09, 2010

Sam's Club

Perhaps you know my feelings about Sam's Club. If you're like my friend Lydia, who upon reading my food book, said about my Walmart screed, "why don't you tell us how you really feel?" I've only been inside a Walmart once and that was in Hawaii and I just went in to pee. I would have peed on the floor but I'm a lady. Or something.
But also. If you know anything about my feelings about the impending global food shortages, you know how I feel about Costco. Costco is one of our few weapons against the apocalypse. How will you survive the End of Days? With 24 boxes of Macaroni and Cheese. With one full pound of Parmesan. With a case of canned tomatoes.
(Two side stories. Once, for Renn Fayre, the final party of the year after theses were turned in at Reed College, I was an assistant to the makers of the hummus. Or the tabouli. Not, sadly, the meat smoke. Still, I promised the hummus makers that Costco carried a 32 ounce tub of peeled garlic. When we arrived at Costco (my mom sent me to college with a membership), they had no tubs of garlic. We had to peel our own. That is one problem with the Costco. It doesn't always have on the shelves this week what it had on the shelves last week. The second story is also about college and my mother. She sent me to Reed with a case of pencils. I ran out of those pencils just a year ago. That's like 18 years worth of pencils.)
Here's the problem. Flagstaff has no Costco. I emailed Costco the first thing when we moved here. "Will you be moving here soon?", I asked. "There is no "public" information about that," I was told. I took it to mean I just had to wait a couple of weeks. But now, two years later, there is still no Costco.
I was out of parm. I was out of contact cleaning solution. Out of Benadryl and shitake mushrooms. At some point, and, after I had to pointedly boycott Target for their particularly anti-gay attitude lately, I could not go on without. Is Sam's Club worse for the world than Costco? Is there more packaging, more stuff made in China, more jobs lost, more small businesses put out by Sam's Club than Costco. Probably not. And, these are dire times. The food. It is short.
So I went. I paid the $40 for the membership and bought organic nectarines, two pounds of shitakes, grapes, chicken thighs, 24 Sierra Nevadas for $18, six boxes of spaghetti, 5 avocados, pine nuts (oh how I've been holding out for the full pound of pine nuts), two bottles of wine (the Sam's Club in Arizona has benefits over the Sam's Club or the Costco in teetotaling Utah), bread, tortillas (more than we'll ever eat), cold cuts, and Greek yogurt, laundry and dishwasher soap.
The packaging was no more disturbing than at the regular grocery. And, the bonus is, I didn't have to go to the regular grocery store all week. Which is the main goal. Besides providing provisions for the end times. Also, now I can invite you over for dinner. For tortillas. with butter.

p.s. Erik went back two days later and got tissues, paper towels, milk and butter. So do come for the butter.

Monday, September 06, 2010

I love oysters so much

And yet, with that happy title, I must say that there are no oysters here. Or, rather, I've had two oysters in Flagstaff at a place called Buster's which is part Denny's, part country club and really confused about what a seafood platter should offer. I'm still wiping the smell of the smoked salmon off my hands. The two oysters weren't bad but it's hard to enjoy them when you know eating them is probably a bad idea. Oysters in the middle of the desert, in a town where planes fly only to Phoenix, not to the oyster-bearing ocean are probably a bad idea.
We went to Lake Powell.

[Redacted for bad attitude. Val did have a nice bikini.]
We got home Tuesday afternoon at 1:30 just in time for me to teach at 3:00. Some of the teaching was clear and precise. Some of it was a little bit hazy. Like the rest of my mind.

The next night, Wednesday, the trace of the trip , like zebra mussels stuck to the bottom of your boat, was revealed. We went to dinner since we had a coupon and no food in the house. We sat down. We ordered edamame. Zoe laid back against her chair and then sat up quickly. And then she threw up all the edamame she'd just put down. Waitress! Actually, first I used every red, non-absorbent napkin I could find to sop up the goo. Then I asked the waitress if we could get our order to go. Erik took Z to the car and stripped her down and waited for me and Max to come out with dinner, after I took the napkins back to the kitchen so the server didn't have to touch them. Still. I don't think there's tip enough in the world. We hurried home, got Zoe in the bath and sat down to eat. Nothing better than sushi post vomit-cleansing.

Two days later, Max. Same thing. All night. Poor baby. We missed the fair but we did manage to have people over for dinner. We warned them about Max's stomach bug and Zoe's incubating head-cold. They came anyway because they're adventurous, disaster-ready souls. Perhaps we'll take them boating next time although the next boat I go on will be on a boat that heads toward an oyster bed. And a real bed. And a real bathroom.

Tuesday, August 31, 2010

No, no, that's not what I meant

There are no comments on my last post, and rather than say something not nice, you said nothing at all. Perhaps you're correlating the baby not sleeping with the fact that I feed him sticks and rocks. But no, it's not true. He eats other things. Mainly hummus and bananas. The sticks are just flavoring.

Friday, August 27, 2010

What I'll Miss Most about Summer

In the late afternoon, Erik and Zoe water our new plants. We have Russian sage, echinacea, holly hocks, daisies, sunflowers, lavender, pentemmons, maguerites, locoweed, blue beard, flag grass and a lot of wildflowers that I can't name. Our neighbors, excited about our interest in plants, divide theirs and send them over. Erik rehabilitated a wind-blown blue beard of theirs. It came over as a stick and now is a full fledged plant.
I take Max's comforter out and plop it on the dirt next to the honey locust tree where Zoe has established fairy land. Mushroom, angels, bunnies, frogs, mermaid and even fairy figurines. I bring a glass of wine and sit on the blanket while Zoe flies the fairies by me and Max. Max likes to eat sticks, pine needles and pine cones. I sometimes let him gnaw on rocks but fear that might be bad for his teeth. Pine cones are deceivingly messy. Almost as bad as teething crackers but I sense they taste a little better. When Max has peeled the bark of the stick, it's time to start cooking dinner. I've learned to grill broccoli so if I'm lucky, I can stay outside longer. Sometimes, grilled broccoli tastes like sticks but it's still better than doing any dishes.

Thursday, August 26, 2010


I think I saw more people yesterday than I saw all summer. This meant no sleep for me. When people talk, I listen and then I fret. No fewer than six people asked me what Kindergarten Zoe was going to. When I told her public school, they turned their faces away. They couldn't look at my shame. Also. One student emailed to say he was sorry he called me by my first name. Also I asked for red wine instead of a martini on a hot day in June. I remembered two of the nineteen names I learned. I ate a sandwich standing up, meaning I ate mayonnaise off my fingers.
I'm not quite ready for school to begin. I need to submerge slowly rather than dive in. One person on Monday. Maybe two on Tuesday. By November I can probably handle the attention of a full class.
In other non sleeping news, Max does not do it. Why sleep when you can pretend to eat all night. He doesn't eat. He nibbles like a bunny rabbit. He falls asleep nibbling but when I dare to suggest he go sleep in some way not attached to me, he wakes up indignant. Like I'm starving him to death. I've started putting him in his crib. This helps 1%. He still wakes up every two hours. I have resorted to saying "no more milk" and "go to sleep" which has the effect, usually, of making him say, oh my god, I would like no more sleep. Perhaps I can have some milk. Advice appreciated, although from what I understand, boys are like this and I may never sleep again. Which means when, in November, I do have the full attention of the class, I will be fully sleeping on my desk.

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Beer Fest

These are probably the worst pictures ever taken but I only had my Blackberry. And it's shaky. And I'd had some beers.

As you can see, it was raining. Did I mention that we live in the Pacific Northwest now? In July, it rained every day. We woke up to rain. We went to bed with rain. Some days, it rained so hard there was rain up to the bottom slat of the siding on the outside of the house. The back patio still has a layer of once-mud.

We went to the beer fest anyway. Last year, they canceled the beer fest because of the economy. The economy we couldn't ignore but the rain we could. It turns out, we don't own an umbrella but we do own hats so we hatted up and headed out. It rained as we walked to the festival and it rained as we deliberated how many tickets to by. Because the economy is still rough, I thought we should go with the bargain--ten bucks for twenty pours. Erik questions my economic path and also how much help I'm going to be with drinking these pours. But I've lived in the Northwest! I know how to do the beer fest. (ooh. rhymey).

It turns out twenty pours is about sixty ounces. That's about three beers each. But there's something about the beer fest that suggests quick drinking. So we drank quickly. The sun came out. Zoe made some friends (a very in-your-face girl that went up under the brim of Zoe's hat and said: "HI. DO YOU WANT TO DANCE?" Zoe recovered eventually and danced in the mud. We drank a little more beer. I don't think I drank my full thirty ounces but, judging from the high quality of the pictures, I might have.

Wednesday, August 04, 2010

The crush of days

I don't know what happened between Zoe's birthday, July 16th and now. I do know that my computer is trying to kill me. Or, possibly computers and the internet together. First, Erik's Mac died. I know. Macs never die. And yet? Where is it? At Mac Docs or some Flagstaff knock-off, trying to be resuscitated. Then, four days later, while using Internet Explorer, which is not my browser of choice and therefore, doesn't have all the anti-virus add-ons that I use for Firefox, someone (not to be named) clicked on a website that instantly brought on a virus of death. It was the kind of virus that any time you tried to open an application, a pretend "we'll save your computer with our antiviral software" window appeared. I cried real tears because this is the week the Huffington Post collaboration project goes live. I had nothing to do BUT computer stuff. Email editors, my collaborating friend, artists. I had no back up plan. No Erik computer. Well, I did have my Blackberry, which I do recall crying about for getting for my birthday. I was pregnant and thought I needed no more internet to help me neglect my children. But, apparently, I did! Erik is full of forethought.
So, using my Blackberry and Middlebrow's computer (who promises to blog again, because he and Dr. Write were visiting, I was able to contact my people. And, with their company, I was able to distract myself from all the internet that was passing me by.
On Monday, I got a loaner computer. It took 35 minutes for it to power up. It had no wireless card. It had no Photoshop and no way to open more than one window every six minutes. But, like any good drug substitute, it could access the internet and let me make the first Huff Post response. Yay.
Other internet badness ensued. Both MSN and my university's email system decided to "improve" themselves. Such improvement copied Gmail's "conversation" system, meaning all the emails with the same subject compiled themselves. That's one thing when you're creating the conversations but it's entirely another when it does it after the fact, all the emails whose subject read "grad question" or "thank you" were compiled into one conversation. Only the latest email was replyable to. The internet has driven me to use the word replyable. It also makes me end sentences in prepositions.
On top of the technological difficulties, Mr. Max has employed his own technical difficulties. At night, he seems to think that having a nipple in his mouth is the same thing as sleeping. While fine for him, for me, nippling and sleeping are opposite activities. I blame Erik because months ago, he frowned on giving Max a binky. Now, when certain babies need binkies most, it turns out I'm the binky. I'm working on a technological fix that will allow Erik to be the binky.

The good news is, in between all the business and disaster, I was able to make Zoe's birthday dinner, put up some peaches from our friend's peach tree, and make the best pork chops ever. Perhaps, if my children will let me ignore them further (Zoe is joining me in complaining that Tiffany, not Kevin, should have won Top Chef and Max is surfing on his stomach on his boppy pillow), I will post the recipes at NVP.

I also plan on posting all the stuff that I have to do now that, I gather from the way I'm getting emails in my now-mostly-unusable university email, summer is mostly over (sorry Hightouch. I have been following your plan to not mention summer's demise until it's really over but I couldn't help it.)

Edited to add: I forgot the biggest crush. My laptop had a hairline fracture in the screen. Annoying but hair-like and entirely see-through-able. After it went in to the University computer doctors, it came back with green, ugly splotches where the crack was. This computer is not long for this world. We pray that we need not bury both the Mac and this Dell Latitude together in the backyard. What would the children do with all our attention?

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Max and dinner

While I'm cooking dinner, Max sits in his high chair, dangling the stethescope we accidentally stole from the hospital when Zoe was there for her RSV. He's fascinated with the way it hangs from the table. He drops the stethescope and makes the honking goose sound that reminds us of Zoe. Erik feeds him two plums he mashed between his fingers. I overboil some extra cauliflower and Erik purees that in the Cuisinart. Zoe feeds it to him until she gets "so tired" that I take over. He also eats some plain cous cous. Except for the pork chop and the plums for peaches, Max ate a lot for what we ate for dinner. He needed a bath after. So did the floor but it was very good that everyone could sit at the table and eat together. After his bath, Erik handed him to me. He tried to eat my shoulder. He's a nestler. And he's always hungry but I think that runs in the family.

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Pho for Ali

This is a recipe I have adapted from a Martha Stewart cook book.
For the broth:

4 oz rice noodles.
4 cups Beef Stock.
3 tbsp Nam pla (Asian fish sauce)
5 star anise
6 cloves
2 cinnamon sticks
2 rounds of ginger
1 tsp. ground pepper

To accompany:
1 pound very lean sirloin of beef.
small onion, sliced thinly
jalapeno, sliced
1 lime, quartered
Sriracha Sauce
Hoisin (optional. Makes it too sweet, I think).

Freeze the sirloin for a about an hour so you can slice it thinly.
Soften the noodles in a bowl with hot water.

Combine stock, water fish sauce and spices in a large pot. Simmer broth for one hour (this should reduce the stock enough that you don't need more salt but if you do, add some.)

Slice sirloin as thinly as possible and pop it in the hot broth. Garnish with limes, basil, sriracha, onion and jalapeno. And hoisin if you must.

Pho Dai Loc

I was going to write a list of all the things I should have bought in Salt Lake: pants and duck liver, pork belly and pancetta, pajamas for Max and underwear for Zoe, apricots and tomatoes. I should have eaten at the Korean restaurant and at the noodle house but then we got back and I remembered, if I go to many stores, I will be able to buy most of the things I need. It's not the food, really, that I miss in Salt Lake. What I miss in Salt Lake is the people who take Zoe on picnics and feed Max cereal and bananas. I miss the people who grill non-COFC steak for me or love it when I cook them mushrooms. It takes a little while to adjust to being back and not being surrounded by Zoe players and Max admirers. However, I am catching up on Top Chef, Chopped and Next Food Network Star.
Watching those made me starving since I never really watch food shows in the day. All the things I had regretted not eating or buying in Salt Lake paraded in front of me. But I remembered (I was gone for two whole weeks and had forgotten) that if I apply myself I can get most ingredients, maybe even more cheaply and maybe even more locally grown, than I can get in Salt Lake. I can't get my mom, sisters or mother-in-law here more than a couple times a year, but I can get lemons for a dollar a pound. I went to Randall's the Butcher for chicken, bacon, eggs, ground sirloin and pork. Then, I went to the Farmer's Market store for those cheap lemons, even less expensive broccoli and cauliflower. As opposed to going to evil Safeway where I would have spent $125 on the same things, I got more and better for less. $20 at the Farmers Market Store and $28 at the butcher. Yay.
So Zoe, who came with me on these errands, deserved a treat. And we were still starving. We wanted soup. What's her favorite soup? Maybe Tom Gha Kai, but I had just finished writing a story about how Pho Bo cured her of one of her worst coughs. She doesn't have a cough but Flagstaff does have a restaurant that serves Pho. So I took her there. She was cautious. It had been a long time since she'd had the soup. We went to Pho Dai Loc last over a year ago. I worry about this restaurant. It's in the front of one of the run down motels on Route 66. This might not attract the downtown eating folks. And I'm not sure the people who drive down Route 66 in their restored Corvettes are looking for Pho. But today, it was still open. So we went in. There are two other people there at 12:45. Not entirely promising for its future.
But the ingredients are fresh. When we order the Pho Tai and the fried shrimp in case Zoe's palate has regressed (or progressed or gressed in any direction), it came with perfectly thinly sliced sirloin, fresh, not slimy, bean sprouts, lime and great thai basil. The broth is spicy and star anisey like it should be. I give Z some rice noodles and just a little broth to start. She loves them. She asks for more broth but I've already put sriracha sauce in mine. Oh well. She likes red hot peppers on her pizza. So I give her more broth. She drinks that up, along with her ice water, and then asks for more. She eats most of the soup and none of the fried shrimp. Those were left to me which were extra amazing--crunchy, toothy, and with a sweet and sour sauce. I called Erik to ask if he wanted some Pho to go. He did so we ordered another batch. On our way out the door, someone, perhaps one of those restored Corvette drivers, asks how the food is. I tell him delicious. I hope if 10 people go there a day, it won't go out of business.
An additional bonus, inside, they sell Asian Food products that you might not be able to get a Safeway.
Here's what Safeway's good for: milk, cat litter, beer, wine, cheese. And yogurt. Maybe one day, Flagstaff will have a Winder Dairy like Salt Lake does.
But the good news is, you can get Pho in Flagstaff and it's good. It's also just as good at home. Zoe wanted half of Erik's Pho too. She's full of Pho and sriracha like all good five year olds, downtown diners and Route 66 drivers should be.

Monday, July 12, 2010


Zoe is almost five. We're celebrating her birthday in Salt Lake with fried chicken from Meier's, homemade cupcakes and potato salad made by our fine relatives. I should have no gifts but I forgot. Zoe's at a kind of hilarious age where she tells everyone who asks that she would like the same thing. She will end up with 14 hula hoops on Friday.

I saw a picture of her from last year and I said to El, my mother-in-law, that's not from last year. She said, that's Italy. And it was Italy which was last year but in the picture, she still looks like a baby. She is the opposite of a baby now. She has a song that goes like this: Candy apple on a stick, makes my heart go 246. Not because I'm dirty. Not because I'm clean. Just because I kissed a boy behind the magazine. That's right. Hiding her naughty romance in the periodicals. That's my kid at 5. Thanks Mountain Jacks Camp! She also learned to swing, hula hoop and go under water in the swimming pool these past two weeks. She's learned that all grown ups do is talk and that if there are no kids around, it is no fun. Also, she says that unless you're dirty, you're not really playing. She has run through the sprinklers and eaten popsicles and complained about not having pretty enough shoes or a pretty dress for her birthday. She wants a princess backpack for her birthday even though she knows I hate princesses. She just looks at me until I come to my senses and say, OK, fine, it's your birthday.

Yesterday, she wouldn't talk to Erik's aunt or cousin in some super shyness but alternates super shyness with moments of true brazenness, like when she asks my mom's boyfriend for a taffy cookie. Sugar and sweets will draw her out with almost anyone.

She just ate a new cereal. Mostly, she just eats Frosted MiniWheats but this morning she said, I'm worried I'll still be hungry after Miniwheats. We gave her some fancy GoLean Kashi cereal instead. She thinks she's full for now.

When she's talking and telling a particularly long story, she'll pause for words she's forgotten and say "whatever it is" with open hands. That's how I see her mostly. She's open to the answer and she'll figure it out. I worry that she's so open that the world will crush her, but I imagine all parents worry about that. It's like being worried you won't be full before you even eat breakfast. Eventually, you just have to eat.

She still eats well. She's kind of off meat right now but still likes sweet potatoes, watermelon, peaches, blueberries, cherries, canteloupe and ice cream, cookies (Mother's Taffy) and regular, salt water taffy. She does not like french fries or ketchup.

She asks that people please don't bring anything yucky to her birthday. Yucky includes ketchup. It also includes mustard to which my mom agrees.

Zoe likes to help feed Max which means everyone is twice as messy as they would be if only Max were feeding himself. Max likes trout, salmon, peaches, blueberries and peaches and rice cereal. After the troupe of cereal eating monkeys sprinkled granules of rice on every surface and in every crevice, Erik asked her wash her hands and then to please go get his camera to which she said to me, my goodness he needs a lot of stuff. It's better just to want one thing--like a hula hoop.

Wednesday, July 07, 2010

Car Food, Summer Food, Salt Lake Food

So far, they all have one thing in common: hamburger. Something happens in the summer that makes me treat red meat less like dead animal to be served with some sort of reverence and thanks and more like potato chips. I can't eat just one and you just open the grill and out pop pre-made patties that are tossed out onto buns. I eat mine without a bun with a little salt. Just like a potato chip. I can eat two without noticing I ate anything. Sometimes, it requires a hot dog to inform my stomach that dinner is already over. I try to celebrate red meat like I do in the winter by making a more gourmet version. I'll do fancy hamburgers stuffed with jalapenos or with a little frozen pad of butter stuff inside, or, as Val made the other night, lamb burgers with delicious tzatziki sauce. But I'll also just eat whatever brown round thing comes my way. I'm not discriminating, at least in the summer, when it comes to burgers. On the drive up to Salt Lake, I had a double, plain Wendy's hamburger. Then last night, a plain burger from the Training Table. It was delicious dipped in Salt Lakean fry sauce* (making it, I guess, less plain). But I'm feeling cow sad and like I should take a break from the potato-chip like frenzy and eat something less dead and more healthy. Like potato chips. Except I think my in-laws are grilling hamburgers for dinner. Maybe I'll join my mother-in-law and have a garden burger. With fry sauce*.

* Fry sauce is made basically with ketchup and mayonnaise and some secret spices like at Hires Drive-in but at the Training Table, it is made with barbecue sauce and mayonnaise. Homemade versions never compare. Restaurants must add MSG or some other delicious, nearly illegal substance to make it taste so good and keep it so secret.

Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Grocery Shopping in Flagstaff

I went out for a glass of wine with my colleague from the department last night. She divides her time between here and Oakland. We were talking about how Flag housing is as expensive as Oakland (OK, only almost as), and I said, it's not just the housing, it's the groceries. I cannot buy feta for less than $5.99/lb. If I do see it on sale, it's always that ridiculous kind with basil and tomatoes already somehow filtered in. My colleague said, that's true, when I come in from Oakland, I bring my groceries. When my friend came to camp, she brought pancetta, goat cheese, yogurt, all from Trader Joes. Her pancetta cost less there than store-brand bacon here. I don't even think there is pancetta here.
One can shop in Flag and find most things, it just takes a trip to three or four stores. If it's summer and you can include the farmer's market, then you can find most good things fresh. I shop at Safeway for Frosted MiniWheats and Fruit Roll Ups, Tillamook Cheese, boneless, skinless chicken thighs and butter, Randall's meat market for steaks and pork chops (he does have good bacon, but no pancetta), the store called the Farmer's Market for almonds and apricots, cheap herbs, tortillas, jalepenos and bell peppers, New Frontiers for fish and organic produce (when in season, it's not astronomically expensive), and the CSA/farmer's market for coffee and eggs and surprising vegetables and fruit.
It takes half my life to shop for groceries. And the Farmer's Market here? I have to say, meh. I bought carrots, melon, tomatoes and somehow spent $20. Talk about half my life. I mean half my paycheck. People call Wholefoods Whole Paycheck. They should call Flagstaff Whole Paycheck except that it's neither funny nor full of pun.
Anyway, the pain in the ass that is the grocery shopping in Flagstaff can be made up for in Flagstaff's commitment to concerts in the park. Free concerts where you can bring a blanket and a picnic and snack and hide your drinks for hours. There's a concert a week plus extra fun festivals downtown every other week.
For the picnic tonight I'm making tarragon chicken salad, something with leftover goat cheese, and a salad from Food and Wine. Oooh. I just found the Food and Wine salad--Summer Chopped Salad with Quick-pickled vegetables. It calls for 3 oz goat cheese. Done and done. The goat cheese was on sale at New Frontiers so I bought some. Call it serendipity.

Friday, June 25, 2010

The World's Most Expensive Tomatoes

I have delusions of grand tomatoes. Really, growing tomatoes in Salt Lake was easy, even with the bottom rot and the blight, the arid climate, the clay soil. There, I had a sea of grass to combat. I followed a composting regiment I read about from the Salt Lake Tribune. Using the Salt Lake Tribune, I covered a plot of grass with newspaper, topped the newspaper with peat moss, added a layer of compost and topped with top soil. You could plant directly into the layers and the grass would eventually die. I'm not sure it was easier than rototilling up the grass but the hummus the layers made was lush. The tomatoes were happy, red and plentiful. Although the peat moss was expensive, the plants produced a lot of tomatoes to compensate for the cost. I'd say $1/tomato, which is better than the grocery store and they taste infinitely better than the grocery store.
Here, it's tougher. Instead of clay, we have volcanic rock in the soil. It's warm and sunny enough in the day but it drops to almost freezing at night. And, in my fence-less neighborhood, we have deer. The neighbor's spray fake cougar piss on their plants to keep the deer from eating them alive. Essentially, I bought today some deer food. Not only tomatoes but basil, rosemary, sage, tarragon, and them. Delicious deer foods.
So I planted the tomatoes ($4.99 each for really big already plants--I do realize it's almost July) in pots ($14.98 each just for plastic!), and bought 1.5 cubic feet of garden potting soil ($4.97) to fill the pots. If I get a lot of tomatoes, this will be worth it, if I get ten tomatoes, which I expect, I will pay about $4 each. But I've paid that much at the Farmer's Market before. I put the pots on the deck though in order to keep the deer away. This might just invite them up which, if the deck collapses due to heavy-deer mass, that will make the tomatoes ridiculously expensive and then, even more delicious.
I still need to buy tomato cages. Perhaps that will keep the tomato-eying deer at bay.

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Fires fires burning bright

That night, after checking one more possible camping spot (read: Erik is stubborn), we came home at a box of Mac & Cheese and wondered if we should bring the cooler in. We decided not. The friends got in by nine and we stayed up much too late drinking wine and talking about art and writing and kids. I thought, now, why should we remove ourselves from this nice, wine-filled place and go to a place that was potentially bug-filled and at risk for running out of wine. But we got up early--like at 5. I made a breakfast that was not as delicious as the one I had planned to make in the woods. We were in the car and on the road by 9:30. A record for camping for sure, and, except for the one crazy time Erik and I got the kids in the car and left for Salt Lake at 5, a record time for us getting on the road anywhere.
We had a camping spot by 11:00. No bugs. And yet, it wasn't time to make dinner. And we had two babies and two kids. The hiking options were somewhat limited. Still, we managed to occupy ourselves by holding each others' babies, finding sticks, leaves and rocks of certain dimensions and qualities in the woods around us.
Finally, thank god, it was time to make dinner. I made trout fried in bacon fat, served with a side of bacon, potatoes tossed in butter (I restrained myself and did not toss them in bacon fat), and cauliflower, feta and olive baked in the dutch oven, tossed in butter and olive oil because one fat did not seem sufficient. Everything tasted slightly oversalted but was essentially fine.
At dusk we looked for owls.
We slept in our new tent on our new air mattress. I'd been up since five and yet couldn't fall asleep. I had anxiety over what I cannot now remember. Something deep like how much butter is left in the cooler and did we put the garbage in the car or were the bears on their way right now. Erik says he fell off the side of the mattress because he's the heaviest of us four (the kids being in the middle). His weight created a little slide which he slid off and into the tent. He woke up breathing nylon. My neck had a crick in it but otherwise, the sleeping on the mattress far beat out the sleeping on the thermarest which is really just a pillow for the rocks. Good night cozy rocks.
The LA woman friend made the food from here on out but I helped. The first morning, she made delicious croissant french toast. And bacon. For dinner, she made salmon burgers with cucumber, fennel, apple coleslaw and goat cheese, wasabi and yogurt sauce. So even more delicious. I envied the creativity and wanted to eat the sauce all by myself (which I got to, later).
We went on a good hike even with the many kids and LA man friend played guitar by the campfire. Zoe, Max and I slept on the air mattress with Erik in the middle and everyone slept well, for the woods. In the morning, LA Woman made ham-cream, spinach, gratin with poached eggs. Does anything get more perfect than that?
No. And yet, all wasn't perfect. When we started driving out in the morning, my phone finally charged enough to tell me I had three messages from my housesitter. They were garbled with the mountain-reception but I got: fire. evacuation. pack important papers. Poor housesitter was my first thought. What in god's name do you pack for other people?
I finally got good enough reception to get the details. There was a fire behind the Little America. People in neighborhoods close in had been evacuated and in my neighborhood, we were to be ready to go in 15 minutes. Good thing we already had our camping gear.
When we got home, the housesitter said the firemen had come by, and, when she asked what to do if the fire got really close, told her to "spray down the side of the house facing the fire." I pictured the housesitter with the hose, looking around for the firefighters, hoping someone would come by and say, "OK. It's close enough. You can leave now."
The housesitter was amazing. Not only was she there when I'm sure she would rather have been anyplace else so she could grab Box the Cat if need be, she gathered up all our pictures, our computers, Zoe's drawings, Erik's collectible cameras and whatever important documents she could find. She did a better job than I would have done. She remembered Zoe's art. I am thinking of ways to repay her. Possibly I shall buy her her own hose.
The LA folks were coming to stay at the house so they could leave early in the morning. Who wants to stay in a stand-by evac situation? I felt like a horrible hostess. Also, for dinner I made carne asada tacos which were fine but compared to what LA woman made, entirely easy and kind of lame.
We're off stand-by evacuation now although another nearby fire has forced other neighborhoods to evacuate. Ahh, Flagstaff in June. Remember how I complained about Italy last year? At least the ocean was nearby so if fire threatened, you had the option of jumping in.

Monday, June 21, 2010

Camp Fires

It's hard to complain about sleeping outside when you're sleeping on a queen sized air mattress but I'm sure I will find a way. Oh. Here's a way: Our friends were driving all the way from LA to camp in our general region. Erik and my job was to find a camping spot. Erik wanted to camp where we'd been hiking a couple of weeks ago, near Sycamore Canyon. That was a good plan until the Eagle Something fire started. It was neared the Grand Canyon than Sycamore but still, a little close for comfort.
So we had heard about this great place, West Clear Creek, reminiscent of the Pacific Northwest where the water runs like water, something that doesn't so often happen in the driest month in one of the driest states. Erik bought a book about Arizona Wilderness areas--West Clear Creek was supposedly the most remote region--perfect for camping with kids and dogs. So we drove out Lake Mary Road, past the swampy Mormon Lake and past Happy Jack. We took a right according to the Wilderness book and drove to the end of 81E where we saw a great overlook, a massive canyon where the earth had been peeled back to show all the planet's hard work of layering rocks. It was cool, driving up to the edge. Down at the bottom was the Creek. It didn't feel so northwesty up on the edge although there were plenty of ponderosa. Also, it turns out, plenty of bugs. We were outside of the car for six minutes when we were swarmed by gnats, no-see-ums, mosquitoes. I have never had a bug bite in Arizona--one of the benefits of the waterless world--and yet, I was sticking Max under my shirt and running for the car. Maybe there was something particularly buggy about edges of canyons. So we climbed back in the car, smushing gnats and mosquitoes against the windows, and driving inland. I texted the person who had been camping on West Clear Creek. She texted me an hour's worth of texts. It was much further away than any of us could have thought. I thanked her for spending all her texting money trying to get us to the Pacific Northwest through Arizona back channels but told her we couldn't go that far that night. So we looked on around there.
The next spot, you couldn't even see water, definitely safe for an itch free camping experience. I got out. Erik got out. We got the tent out because damnit, we've been driving for hours, we're only an hour a way from our house and it's getting late and it's our job to find the camping spot for our friends (who, because of their late start, wouldn't be getting there until after dark). Three poles of the four stuck into the tent, Erik said, this is a lot of bugs. We should go, I said. But we've been driving forever. But our friends will never find us back here in the dark, and we'll all be eaten alive. But where will we go? There were bugs everywhere. Mormon Lake, which we'd passed just a few miles before did have water in it--something Erik and I tried to find last summer and couldn't. It had been a wet winter. Wet enough to encourage five million mosquitoes and, since it was so remote, offer them only 4 pink bodies to feast on. We were the only lunch around.
Do you know where we went? Home.
In some ways, this is the biggest success of our camping life. It is hard to admit defeat. The car was packed to the ceiling and the roof rack box was packed to 200 times past capacity. But there was just no way to justify 1000 bug bites just because our mission was to camp.I couldn't imagine inviting these friends from LA to drive all that way to camp in I what was, upon further investigation, just a few weeks ago a swamp.
I texted the LA friends and told them to meet us at our house. They were relieved. They'd been driving all day and still had hours to go. I apologized to the house sitter and as we drove home, counted this as an accomplishment. It's hard for me to change plans in the middle, it's hard for Erik to give up on finding that perfect, and it's hard to get over the frustration of what felt like a wasted day. But it wasn't really wasted. Now we know where the creek is and how to get there. Now we've seen three (Grand, Sycamore and West Clear Creek) vast, revealing canyons. Now we know (and still know, scratch), that there ARE mosquitoes in Arizona. We've seen Lake Mary almost full and Mormon Lake with water. We know our car can, with Tetris like organization, fit 75% of our house in it.
We ate instead of trout pan fried with bacon, roasted cauliflower, olive and feta, and potatoes tossed with butter and Parmesan, Kraft Macaroni and Cheese. It was delicious. Our friends showed up at 9 or so and we all got to sleep on regular, airless mattresses.
The next night, we weren't so lucky. More later.

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Trail Monkeywrenching

I went running today in the forest. Three deer were standing off the side of the road, panicking when they saw Cleo the dog. Cleo, who thinks all animals are just smaller or larger versions of dogs, nodded in their general direction. They still panicked and jumped high over the fence. Little did they know we were heading into the woods too.
There were tree branches, logs really, dotting the trail. They had been pulled onto the path along with large stones and other driving hazards. These people must have been anti-OHV since sometimes, when you go back there, there are the sounds and smells of ATVs. I've never been harassed by one although a motorbike once felt compelled to do wheelies while Z and Erik and I were walking.
I didn't notice any real violent monkeywrenching. There were no caltrops. It added some very low-lying hurdles which added challenge and yet no danger for my low-lying legs. I like the idea of subversive activity in the forest although for all I know, the people in the forest were just gathering firewood and got too lazy and dropped their haul in the middle of the trail. But the placement of the logs seemed too deliberate for that.

Lupine is blooming. So is Indian paintbrush. The forest smelled strangely of dill (dill=food blog consistency?). After my run, I had to go to Target because Zoe appears to have lost the bottom half of her swimming suit. On the way, I first saw possibly those same three deer hop across the street in front of the car. Then, I saw a giant white eagle/sea eagle hovering over lake Elaine. At first I thought it was my gray heron (my because I see it almost every other day) but then I noticed it's sharp, curved beak and waved hello eagle instead.

At Target, I gave in to my desire to sleep while camping and bought an air mattress. Oh the decadence. And it might not even work. Last year, our friends brought their air mattress and I think I teased them about it when it lost air. Now I fear the karma will get me and I'll be sleeping on the un-airy ground without even my thermarest.

Still, if there are monkeywrenchers, deer, eagles and herons in my neighborhood, really must I go sleep in a tent on an unre. liable mattress when my mattress here is so very reliable? Apparently, I must.

Monday, June 14, 2010

Back from Tucson

The nether regions of the state proved culinarily delicious. Or at least interesting. We got to our friends' house and they sustained us with delicious sirloins, potatoes and asparagus. Sirloin from Costco is as tender and flavorful as tenderloins elsewhere. We also went to a new In and Out burger for lunch the next day, further ensuring that I die of a heart attack or guilt from eating so many cows. Our friends also made a breakfast of overnight-egg soaked bread and cinnamon apples and baked it into French Toast.
We went to Maynard's Market in Kitchen which was in an old train depot--possibly my favorite restaurant venue. Their Black Box special was pork loin sous vide meaning it was boiled (I mean vacuum sealed and immersed in a water bath preheated to an exact temperature--like 160 degrees although I'm guessing at the precise number). It came with apples and potatoes sauteed with pork belly, meaning you couldn't go wrong there. Overall, it was good although not to-die-for good. A fine texture. We'll see if I follow through with this month's Food and Wine magazine's lesson on cooking sous vide. They say you can do it with a regular pot and a candy thermometer although they suggest that buying a $450 sous vider is the way to go. Overall, a thumb sideways for the restaurant overall because the poutine had no gravy and just cheese curds which meant the fries were strangely unflavorful and $16 pizzas. The pizzas were delicious but $16! Zoe ordered one!
Speaking of which, here's a difficulty: Zoe, Erik and I ordered food and drinks. Our friends, kid-less, ordered pizza. Erik and I ordered regularly priced ($25 plus) dinners. We divided the bill evenly because, unlike in Grand Rapids, the servers frown on the practice. We got the tip but still. They paid $70 bucks for two pizzas, poutine and 2 drinks. Erik went to the store after for more beer and wine but still, things did not, in this case, come out in the wash. Next time, I'll just bring my sous vider (or candy thermometer) to their house and boil them some meat. And serve it with bacon, which will make everyone happy.

Thursday, June 10, 2010

The Last CSA for the season

Zoe said she would go with me to the CSA even though she’s “so tired.” She perked up when she saw the apricots. They were on sale, separate from our weekly pick up. I told her she could pick out a pound and left her to gather up our vegetables. This is our last CSA for the season. I’m sad. I like the challenge of figuring out what to cook with wheat berries, turnips, kale and rapini. In the middle of January, there’s nothing as sunny as a bag full of strange vegetables from the valley. I have a lot of thoughts about Phoenix, but my thinking about the vegetables is, if you’re going to water something, it may as well be food. And here, up at the very tip of Arizona where extreme weather means very difficult vegetable growing, I was grateful for the CSA.

As Zoe piled apricots into the Ziploc bag of pretzels she had just finished. I put the heavy potatoes, grapefruit and the green and yellow squashes on the bottom of the nylon bag I sometimes remember to bring and reuse at the CSA. It’s a stellar day when I remember those bags for the grocery store. On top of the squash, I put the sweet onions, and then had to arrange the tomatoes, peaches and arugula so none of that would get smashed. The eggs I bought were extra. I asked Zoe if we should get some sprouts. She said, sure. She liked sprouts. There really wasn’t a vegetable she didn’t like. I actually think it was she who first ate raw turnips and inspired me to taste them. She was excited about the peaches and the squash but was still piling in the apricots.

“I think that’s all that will fit in that tiny bag.”

“But I like them so much.” How can you argue with an apricot lover?

There is a summer CSA. Should we sign up or avail ourselves of the Farmer's Market? Am I still supporting my agricultural community by buying what I want at the market or is it better just let the CSA challenge my culinary skills. I do like a challenge.

So what should I make for dinner? The best thing about the CSA is that it upends your expectations. You go with what you’ve got. I was going to make the oven-fried chicken again. Maybe I’ll also oven-fry some of the zucchini. Or maybe I’ll plate the chicken on top of the arugula. Corn always goes with chicken but so do potatoes. Maybe we’d count the corn as a vegetable instead of a starch. I’ll take the zucchini to Tucson, where we're going soon, and saute it with butter and some other surprise there. I can’t wait to find what they grow on the netherside of Phoenix.