12 July 2015

Radish Salsa

Michael Pollan would have us believe that we are a nation more obsessed with cooking shows than with cooking. And I think he's right to some degree. But I'm proud to report that my hours and hours and hours of watching Chopped is not for naught because it is on that show that I first heard about Radish Salsa.

Radish Salsa!

I jotted that down in my mental notes back in the winter when I was watching that episode. Now that radishes have been abundant and I've had my fill of my all time favorite Radish Sandwich, I decided to try this salsa at last.

I googled it and used the first recipe I found because it was a Mark Bittman one, so I thought it was reliable. Also, It was 6:00 when I was googling and I and my children were hungry so I wasn't about to go researching a bunch of radish salsa recipes and variations. Ain't nobody got time for that.

Mark Bittman's is nice and simple and makes a large portion - I made a much smaller portion, went easy on the crushed chiles in the hopes that the girls would eat it and wouldn't find it too spicy (ps: they did NOT eat it but Julia did tell me, unprompted, that she thought it was beautiful).

This salsa was the perfect high pitch accompaniment to go with the low tones of the Golden Summer Squash soup I made for dinner into which I added beans and lots of smoked salt. The soup was earthy, the salsa was bright. It was such a delicious combination that all my exclamations and exaltations while I was eating it convinced Julia to try the soup, even though she had initially refused it. And even though she never did try the salsa, she happily ate two full helpings of soup. I credit the salsa for that.

from Mark Bittman

Radish Salsa
Makes: About 2 cups
Time: 30 minutes
Radishes are a classic salsa ingredient in Mexico, and the technique—mixing a vegetable (or fruit) with onion, an acid, chiles, and fresh herbs—is downright common. 
2 cups chopped radishes, like daikon, red, or a combination (about 1 pound)
1/2 English cucumber, peeled and diced
1/2 small red onion, chopped
1 scallion, thinly sliced
1 teaspoon minced garlic
1 tablespoon minced fresh chile (like jalapeño or Thai), or to taste, or hot red pepper flakes or cayenne to taste
2 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice, or more to taste
1/4 cup chopped fresh cilantro leaves
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
1. Put all the ingredients in a medium bowl and mix thoroughly.
2. Taste and adjust the seasoning, adding more chile, lemon, or salt as needed. Serve immediately or cover and refrigerate for up to a day.

11 July 2015

The Odyssey

I really hope I can convince Sergio that we should name our van "Homer." 

About a week ago we became a two-car family. This is something we've been scheming for a long time. We held out as long as we could, enjoying our one car status for 11 years; especially enjoying our no car payments for 12 years. Having just one car was simple and clean. Well, maybe the car wasn't always clean. But the having of just one car was clean. You know what I mean. Anyway - it was very simple before we had kids. 

It has become increasing more complex with the addition of two children as well as (let's not blame the kids for everything) the addition of a number of extracurricular activities on the part of me and Sergio. In the last two years we would occasionally think, wouldn't it be nice to have two cars. But those moments were few and far between and not worth a car payment to solve when - with a moderate amount of planning ahead and some dependence on friends and public transit - we could get by just fine. 

This year we reached our transportation planning capacity. Not only did we run out of ways to solve our limited transportation hiccups on a regular basis, we also decided we would prefer to be able to travel in large groups on occasion. Whether it's grandparents visiting or cousins (out-of-town ones and in-town ones) - it seems there's often a good reason to seat 8 people in our car. 

Enter: The Honda Odyssey. Ours is a gently used 2013 LX model that still, if I'm honest, feels like a rental. A really nice rental. I still can't quite absorb that it's actually ours. Even though we've already smudged up the clean floor mats and learned how to work all the fancy doors, I'm still adjusting to A) having such a nice car (our other car is a fantastic, but quite minimally appointed Honda Fit) and B) having two cars. 

This morning I took Clara in the van with me one direction and Sergio took Julia with him in the Fit in another direction. These were short trips and we weren't apart that long, but this was perhaps the first time that we've split up like that. Maybe ever. The four of us are together a lot and, what's more, the girls are together a lot. So when Clara climbed into the van she asked where Julia's carseat was and said to me, sort of sad-like, "I can't talk to my sister?" Having two cars will be an adjustment for all of us. 

But a good adjustment. Last week, when I told Julia we were buying a minivan, the very first thing she said was, "you mean my cousins can ride in our car with me?!" She was delighted. 

And that's just what they've been doing as we've been tooling around town together as a family - especially this week - cousins, aunt, and Grandma Joyce visiting from Mexico, Sergio and the girls and me. It's nice to be able to all be together. 

23 June 2015

Old Friends and Fathers - a weekend in OKC

The hilly part of Kansas. Not that you can tell. 
Many months ago my friends from high school and I decided to gather from all four corners of the earth (and by that I just mean Boston, New York, Kansas City, and Oklahoma) for a mini reunion. (We have been friends for 20 years now. How is that possible?) We didn't intentionally choose Father's Day weekend as our timeframe for this event. But I'm glad it worked out this way.

The road to OKC was long - as always - but the drive was well worth it. At the end of that road was a very happy Honey & Papa, a couple of delighted cousins, some very dear old friends (and some new babies to meet!) ... and quality time with my dad on Father's Day - a treat not to be overlooked. 

On the way there, Sergio was able to get in a little early Father's Day affection when we stopped on the turnpike to get our wiggles out and the girls tackled him with a hug. Also en route, Julia whispered to me, "Mommy - you picked a good guy to marry." 

And of course she's right. 
Getting our wiggles out and our hugs in. 

mini harvest at my parents' house

Old friends. We are very old friends. 

my dad and me circa 1996

11 June 2015

Time Travel

I have been reading about Time Travel in this week's New Yorker. (Look at that - I've capitalized time travel. That's funny, isn't it?) Creative perspectives on the notion of time travel, I should say. In many of the pieces I'm reading, the authors contemplate going back in time to retrieve or capture something that has since been lost. Isn't that always the essence of going back in time? Something was lost and you can get it back fully - maybe even enjoy it more this time. (And maybe that's what's empowering about the possibility of going forward in time - that you would experience the future but would return to your now and relive it with new eyes, retrieve it.)

So I began imagining what I'd like to go back in time to retrieve or relive or repair. Did I imagine reliving those ecstatic milliseconds when I first laid eyes on each of my babies? Or did I want to retrieve a few extra moments of summer when I was a kid when there was nothing to worry about except mosquitos and sun burns? Did I want to go back and correct my major gaffes from college? Or prevent some painful mistake that can't be unmade, some words that can't be unsaid or some bell that can't be un-rung?

No. None of the above. Strangely, I imagined going back to the early part of 2012 (yes just 3 years ago) in order to retrieve the pictures of my Baja California sailing trip before they were mysteriously deleted from my iPhoto. I had 176 pictures from the spring of 2010 when I was pregnant with Julia and we made this once-in-a-lifetime journey; I came home from that trip more pregnant than when I'd left and \ I spent the rest of the year gestating, giving birth, and caring for an infant, therefore I never did much with my pictures except put them on Flickr. Last summer, I went to look for them again and discovered they were gone (they were deleted from Flickr, too). They were digitally wiped completely off the face of the earth never to be seen again. Even - ironically - Apple's Time Machine could not retrieve what was lost.

Using my time travel to get some pictures is - obviously - a failure of imagination (which has become a chronic problem for me, I'm learning). Perhaps someone less fixated on loss than me might have had their priorities in line enough to imagine going back to the actual sailing trip itself. Now there's an idea.

Time travel would allow me to relive the smallest details of that once-in-a-lifetime trip ... like that moment when I stood on the front of the boat and did yoga in the dim light of the clear night. Or to that moment when Sergio finished slicing a mango in its peel and splayed it out so the square straight edges of each piece jutted out into the bright sun. Or the day we went for a swim off the side of the boat or the day we all hunkered down in our berths because the waves made us nauseous. Or that day we took the tiny boat to land to eat at a restaurant and got soaked in the process. Or that moment when we found the barbed or serrated, double-edged tooth of some sea creature and Sergio held it up so I could take a picture while he invited us all to imagine how painful it would be to get this tooth stuck in our arm (thanks, Sergio). Or to that moment when we came back to land and I took the longest, most luxurious shower of my life after having taken nothing but a few 60-second showers here and there over the course of 5 days.

But lest we think I'm totally short sighted in asking the time traveling genie to get me back my pictures (mixing metaphors - sorry), let's consider this. Consider that by using my time travel to retrieve pictures of my trip, I was - in essence - asking the genie for more wishes. Because what do I do when I look at pictures? I go back. Whether it's the picture of my kids from last night when they were being memorably cute or a picture of me as a child doing something I don't even remember doing, it's always going back. It's always a retrieval process of some sort.


After wishing to have my Baja California pictures back, I began to treat that sailing trip as a forever lost thing. But I decided to change my stripes when I realized that some of my most favorite moments from that trip were never even photographed - doing yoga in the moonlight for example - and I remembered, as my wise mother would say, that it's not a forever lost thing; it's a forever gained thing.

Indeed so many of the things I most want to remember in life are not only not photographed, they are unphotographable. Like the smell of my grandmother's roses. Or like sneaking up to the crib late at night in the dark and quietly reaching in to put my outstretched finger into my baby's loosely furled fist and feeling the soft warm palm of her hand while she squeezes her fingers around my finger and stays deeply asleep.

There are no pictures of that. But it is mine. And I time travel to it all the time.

05 June 2015

Red Day

Yesterday after school I asked Julia if she had a good day. She said she had a "red day." I asked what that meant and if that's good or bad? (I was thinking she was channeling Holly Golightly and the "mean reds.") She explained that a red day is a bad day.

So I asked what color she would use to describe a good day (green) and if this is something they do in school (no). I thought it was a Montessori thing; I'm still not sure on that. She wasn't very clear. But I went on to ask her about what other colors mean and here is the full roster according to Julia ...

thinking about the rainbow
red - bad day
yellow - slow day
green - great day
blue - dancing day
orange - fast day
purple - not listening day
pink - listening day

This week was difficult. For me and many others at Hallmark under the dark cloud of layoffs. As we each waited to hear our fate, we all had some yellow days. Once we got our news, it felt like our days were orange. Some people had red days and some had green. And for 165 people who are embarking on something new, the next few days and months will probably cycle through any and all of those colors - the full rainbow. It's hard to say goodbye to coworkers and it feels strange to feel the company shift so much again for those of us that remain employed. One thing is for sure: Hallmarkers are empathetic people. It's what makes us good at our jobs. The outpouring of support that I have witnessed this week is nice to see. I think there have been some good pink days.

Last night we had so much rain and a very loud thunderstorm, too. As if we need more rain. (I'm quite sure that the clouds are having some purple days and are ignoring our requests to lay off with the water works already.) The rain is making for some really, really red days for our farmers. Many will suffer great loss.

I would like to think about hope instead. The rainbow after the rain. There are no promises. But at least the sun is shining today. Maybe soon we'll have a blue day.

31 May 2015

Mema's Birthday (observed)

Today would have been my grandmother's 94th birthday. She passed away in February. She is always in my heart and on my mind. She was 100% amazing.

I continue to remember #arliememagandy on Instagram
All day long the girls and I have been singing "Put me in your pocket" - which we do pretty often anyway. You can Google it and listen to a few other folks sing it. But if you want a real treat click here to listen to Mema herself singing this to my aunt Joy last year on the cusp of Joy's relocation to Colorado. How I love to hear Mema's voice. I'm so glad Joy captured it.

Tonight when the girls took a walk with Sergio they sang the song again and he texted me the following dialogue...
Julia: Do you want to sing it again?
Clara: No.
Julia: But it'll make Mema so happy in heaven!
Clara: Ok.

And on top of all that sweetness, Julia also suggested that we sing Happy Birthday to Mema and we did. That felt really nice. I never expected my toddlers to help me grieve. I had assumed it'd be the other way around.


About 10 days before Mema passed away, we decided to go down to Oklahoma for a last visit, not knowing how much longer she'd have. When Sergio and I were debating when to go, he suggested that we go quickly urging "every moment is precious." He meant every remaining moment and he was right. But the truth is, every moment was already precious. I am beyond fortunate to have had Mema in my life.

I will forever be grateful that Sergio's spontaneous "let's just go to Oklahoma this weekend" suggestion overruled my penchant for scheduling things way in advance. We visited that last weekend in January; I spent an entire day simply being with Mema. I sat with her. I held her hand. I listened to her sing - so many hymns and all of them about Heaven. Every moment was precious.

On that Sunday we had to leave and that was the hard part. When we said good bye we knew it was Goodbye with a capital G. And even though we all knew that it was her time to go (even Mema knew it), it didn't mean my heart wasn't breaking. I stood on the threshold of that room, reluctant to put one foot in front of the other, to step out of that sacred space. What do you say when you know it's your last goodbye? We had had one final tea party that morning - the girls sharing their little cheerios with Mema. And when Mema starting saying "I'll meet you in the morning," which is a reference to Heaven, Julia piped up, "Mema! We won't be here in the morning! We're going home!" And we all let out a tearful chuckle.

That night when we got home we discovered we'd left the heat off in our house and the temperature in the house was 49 degrees. By bedtime it had only risen to 50.  When I put the girls to sleep I told them that as they're falling asleep they should think about how much Mema loves them. Julia said, "I know how much Mema loves me. A lot a lot a lot a lot a lot a lot." Then I snuggled Julia and she felt cold so I asked if she wanted another blanket. She said, "maybe I want my quilt [which Mema made for her] because my quilt has Mema's powers in it. And if I sleep with it it will put Mema's powers into me and then I'll think, 'Oh yeah, that's what it was like at Honey and Papa's! I remember Mema!'" Yet again, my small child shows me the way. 

Mema really was an example to us all and a treasure. And she did have powers you know - Mema the superhero, as Tyler put it. Given how frail Mema was there at the end, that notion is funny. But I think we all know it was truer than true. Her super power was love. No matter how frail she was at the end, she had a powerful pull on all of us.

That room where Mema died - it was the "sunroom" at my parents' house - was bathed in light and love and that was the image I carried with me back home as I waited for another 5 days before I got the news that she'd passed away peacefully early in the morning on February 6.


Last night I had some friends over, one of whom was celebrating her birthday, also on May 31. She requested a chocolate cake - so I made her a chocolate cake but I also made a big double batch of Berry Dumplings in honor of Mema's birthday. Now it occurs to me that that'll be a great way to celebrate Mema for years to come. She always did love celebrating and remembering with food.

A few days before Mema died my mom texted us all to say that Mema had woken from a dream and asked my mom if she wanted to eat pie with her. (Mema is generous with her pie even in her dreams.)  We all texted back and forth imagining which pie she must have been enjoying in her dreams. Mama Taylor's chocolate pie, perhaps? Or Mema's pecan pie? Or her famous pumpkin streusel?

Wouldn't it be nice to sit down with Mema for pie just one more time?

27 May 2015

Memorial Day (or Too Many Funerals)

In the last two years I have attended more funerals than I can ever remember attending. Which is to say not that many but more than usual. The tally is four. That's four funerals since Memorial Day 2013. (Four funerals and a wedding, actually.) I keep thinking "that's too many funerals" and then wondering what is the "right" number of funerals?

Perhaps these circumstances are unique because three of the funerals I have been to are those of people who were too young to die. (But what is "old enough?" And where did I get all these strange rules and limits? As if matters of life and death ever play "by the rules." We hold up our ideals anyway.)

This year we spent Memorial Day with Beto and Lindsey, our dear friends and, oh yes, family, too. They are freshly grieving the loss of their sweet son Beckham. Their pain is unbearable. But their spirits are indomitable. It was so good to be with them.

Next month I will get to see my friend Ricki Lea who, in the 9 years that her son battled cancer and in the 21 months since her son died, has always impressed me with her fortitude.

My aunt Jetta would have been 63 earlier this month. This year on her birthday we had not mentioned to the girls that it was Jetta's birthday. But out of no where, Clara said, "I just saw Jetta! Driving that white car!" We chose to pretend that Clara's vision was real.

In February, I attended my grandmother's funeral; the days surrounding that event were what I called a Mema Memorial Bubble. It was more sweet than it was bitter, to simply remember and relive. I think of her so often, especially now that the flowers are in bloom and her birthday nears. She would have been 94 this weekend.

Just today I caught Clara playing in the other room and singing Put Me in Your Pocket - incorrectly but sweetly. Julia chimed in with accurate lyrics and they both carried on singing.

We are all thinking of those who have gone before.

Put Me In Your Pocket (click through to hear Mema sing it)
Put me in your pocket so I'll be close to you
No more will I be lonesome and no more will I be blue
And when we have to part, dear, there'll be no sad adieus
For I'll be in your pocket and I'll go along with you.