Wednesday, February 29, 2012

The Second Time

You know how with kids, people sometimes don't take as many pictures as the first time around?  Well, turns out it's the same with chickens. 

We bought two more chickens to add to our little brood this year.  And since my children are beyond the toddler stage our basement has turned into a broodery of sorts for a couple of friends who wanted chickies, but couldn't keep them at their home until they are able to be outside.  It's sorta like chickie babysitting.

The broodery. (which spell check tells me is not a word, but I'm gonna go with it anyway because I like it.)

Our two chickens-Cinnamon Bun and JoJo.

Aidan has to sleep with the door closed because he was having trouble with all of the racket outside his room.  Night time is apparently play time for the little creatures.  Actually, last night, I was having trouble sleeping because I could hear them from upstairs.  (which must have been the reason I had that dream about finding a monkey in the backyard that turned into a seed that when you planted it would spread love around to everything near)The chickens were trying to sort out chicken sleeping arrangements by flying into each other's boxes for a sleepover which inevitably launched a cacophony of squawking and cheeping until things were sorted out and they settled down.  That is, until somebody else decided to disrupt the arrangements again....over and over.  

Ally's chickens. Rosie is the psycho motherly chicken who has taken on the role of protecting the two younger chickens by dancing and puffing and flying at anything that intrudes into her box.  The two puff balls are Lark (who is our personal favorite) and Henrietta.

Rachel's chickens. Two sweet little reds-Wubba and Flo.

They are in that awkward teenager/small freaky looking dinosaur stage. Everyday we pick them up and tell them what wonderful egg layers they will be, hoping the power of words will endue them with mighty egg laying super ninja skills.  It's worth a try anyway.


Friday, February 24, 2012

Rosemary and Remembering

I've been reading this book called "Season to Taste" by a girl named Molly Birnbaum.  She was training to be a chef when a freak accident left her with no sense of smell.  She was shocked by the numbing void and depression its absence left in her life, even apart from the paralyzing of her career. So she goes on a quest to both understand the place that scents wrap themselves into our lives, and memories, and to hopefully regain her sense of smell.  A lot of her memories are tied into the scents of meals.  Certain smells seem to become a sort of marker to hold things that our mind tends to forget in day to day life.

In Maman's Homesick Pie that I wrote about here, the author also makes sense of her journey through the memories of tastes and smells of her Maman's kitchen.  The thought that common meals together can be the fabric that anchors the shifting events lives, gives me the inspiration to not let our dinner table be what is sacrificed on the days when I feel like a full time chauffer juggling cello lessons, soccer practice, and tae kwon do.

I was sorting through clippings of recipes today, sticking them into the empty sleeves of a photo album.  The sight of many of the pictures brought sweet memories of friends and family.  Hasty Peasant Stew transported me to a forgotten memory of a huge pot of simmering goodness on a friend's stove, and the warmth of her kitchen that fed our hunger but also our hearts during a time when we stayed with them.  Some recipes brought memories that were bittersweet as a hand scrawled note brought memories of friendships that have faded.  There were recipes that my mom had clipped out to try sometime and never did.  One simple cut out was from the back of a flour bag, and had been Aidan's favorite meal and featured prominently in his early, messy high chair pictures.  There were several recipes for bbq meatballs as one Valentine's Day (?) my mom and I had tried to recreate a favorite meatball recipe for Chris and my dad.  Some of the clippings transported me to high school years, and a few hand written cards from Hungary brought thoughts of a friend who had traveled as a missionary and brought me back a precious vitamin bottle filled with a carefully hoarded supply of brilliant red saffron flowers. 

I think I'm going to make Hungarian Crepes tonight in honor of Amy who was our one time room mate and dishwasher.  Rosemary is still for remembrance.

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Valentine's Day

I've always loved Valentine's Day; even way back before I had a sweetie to share it with.  The idea of taking a pause to celebrate loving and being loved is brilliant to me.  I'm not talking about Hallmak cheesy, but the sweet joy in remembering, and taking notice.  But really, I love most excuses to celebrate.  Groundhogs Day?-I'm more excited than the kids.  Saint Patrick's Day?-I'm all over it.  Earth Day?-one of my favorites...(Whole Foods gave out free compost last year).

I'm a bit sad this year that 5th grade apparently has become too cool for the classroom parties with all of the heart shaped treats, hovering moms, and enforced valentines delivery.  Sigh.  They still get to bring in snacks, so I faithfully sent in my offering of heart shaped chocolate cookies, and stuffed a valentine into his lunch box instead.

Third grade for Chloe isn't much better.  They have valentine deliveries but -gasp-no party.  It must be the male teacher thing though because all of the other classes get a party.  Chloe came home bursting with importance to share the juicy news that their party had been axed, because she knew that my reaction would be worthwhile.  And I played my dismayed part to perfection.

My darling husband had to be out of town all this week so he made up for it by giving me a whole week of pre-valentines love.  For an engineer who sets monthly reminders into his phone to do something special for his wife, (otherwise he might get lost in a fascinating world of pumps, compressors, and ISO 9000's)Valentine's Day is a great big reminder and he did not disappoint.  He spent a week surprising me with little reminders that he's been listening after all. 


Of course, I didn't deserve it at all having possibly been a tad bit cranky about all of the traveling, but I guess that's the beauty of love, isn't it?

Friday, February 10, 2012


The other day I painted a chair yellow.  I discovered something amazing.  Michaels has these little bottles of Martha Stewart paint that can purportedly paint on just about anything-metal, glass, wood, fabric.  The shelves were arranged with the most delicious colors lined up in little rows like rainbows.  The problem was picking one color.  I exercised great restraint I thought, and only bought two.  One was glittery Feldspar.  It's sort of a blueish-greenish color with sparkles.  I have no idea what I will do with it, but a girl has to be prepared, just in case.  The other color was Jonquil.  Which is apparently, "a narcissus with clusters of small fragrant yellow flowers and cylindrical leaves". (I thought maybe it was French for "yellow". ) It turned out to be just the right amount, and color to paint my now cheerful looking chair. 

I've been reading this book called "Maman's Homesick Pie".  The story is the the author's (Donia Bijan) attempt to tell the story of her heritage through the prism of food.  ("A Persian Heart in an American Kitchen")  Every memory is laced with a beautiful recipe that symbolizes a certain sensory awareness.  It makes the kitchen table feel both magical and inviting, the kind of warmth that binds together cultures, and cements life when everything else may be shifting.

I made the Orange Cardamom Cookies from her book for my littles as they stomped in from school sprinkling a trail of snow in their wake.  I have no doubt that my shapeless little cuts didn't look the way the author had in mind.  But both children, and the two extra neighborhood kids, burned fingers and lips as they hastily tried to shove the bites into their mouths.  After the first taste, they judiciously divided up the rest to insure that everyone got a fair amount, and then used fingers to scrape the rest of the crumbs off of the pan into mouths.


I'm grateful the Donia Bijan shared some of her story so that I can take some of the warmth from her Maman's kitchen and translate it into mine.

Orange Cardamom Cookies (adapted from "Maman's Homesick Pie")
1/2 C butter plus 1/2 C coconut oil
1/2 C organic sugar
1 egg yolk
Grated zest of 2 oranges
2 C unbleached flour
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp ground cardamom
1 T poppy seeds

~Beat butter with electric mixer until it whitens. Add sugar and blend well. Add the egg yolk and zest. Combine flour, salt, cardamom and poppy seeds then fold into butter mixture-mixing just enought to combine the dough. Form into 2 logs, wrap in parchment paper, and chill for about 30 minutes. (This is where it went wrong for me. I have the same trouble with pie crusts-they don't stick together and all fall apart. Which is why my cookies look all crumbly instead of neat little rounds! I had to end up using my hands to smash little cookies together. I'm sure it's an operator error) Using a sharp knife, cut the logs into 1/2 in thick rounds and place on cookie sheet. Bake at 350 for 12-15 minutes.

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Rainbows and Old Barns

Last night I sat here and tried to work on processing some pictures while one child was rythmically smacking a punching balloon in my left ear, and the other small person was hanging on my right shoulder to peer over and see what I was doing.  I prefer to work in quiet.  I like my routines and I'm introverted enough to want total silence while I am focusing.  I don't even like the radio on when I'm trying to focus.  But last night I intentionally tried to embrace the noisy joy and find my place in the midst of the distraction. 


We went out this weekend to take some pictures of some old barns I had been eyeing to fulfill a request made by my brother.  I told the kids we were going adventuring.  We loaded up the snow shovel in case we got stuck, and the dog just because. 

Aidan and Chloe are true teachers in how to embrace the moment.  Exploring open spaces in knee deep snow is an adventure.  They can find joy in the most mundane of moments, turning something ordinary into a treasure. 


I think life should be like that.  Because if we are always looking for rainbows or our happy place somewhere else-when things are quieter, or different, or better; we're going to miss the special in this very moment. 


Sliding down a huge muddy embankment and then getting stuck because it's too steep, plus you forgot your gloves and your hands are too cold to dig in the snow, could, I suppose, be a reason to become frustrated and angry...or it could be an adventure and a rescue story.  Because then your mom will have to send the dog down after you and he will earn his kibble by hauling you back up the slope and then everyone can go get some chai and somosas at the new Indian chaat house and it ends happily ever after.  (Except maybe for the poor guy who had to mop up all the mud we inadvertently tromped in).


I guess the point is maybe, that life is a story.  And we have some say in what gets written in the pages of our memories simply by the way that we choose to view things.

Happy rainbow hunting.  And for the record, old barns and cows with their faces covered in snow, make me happy.