03 December 2013

Thanksgiving in Nashville (a photo essay)

So glad that one of us actually had our iPhone on hand to capture the great memories from Thanksgiving in Nashville. 

Caramel apples!
Like kids in a candy store. 

Our family + downtown Nashville


Grocery shopping with cousin Ainsley!

Quality time with Grandma Joyce.

Quality time with (Great) Grandma Sarah.
Happy 90th Birthday!

Cousin shenanigans.


How I Went Without My iPhone for Six Whole Days and Lived To Tell About It

Love these faces. 
The day before Thanksgiving we were scheduled to fly out in the early afternoon. We had two hurried stops to make on the way to the airport: first was Costco to pick up pictures to share with family; the second stop was the coffee shop nearby to get a cup of coffee to shore us up for the long day ahead.

When I scurried into Costco, I had my phone and wallet in hand. I got the pictures, hopped back in the car, jumped out at the coffee shop, and - standing in line for coffee - noticed my phone was no where on my person. I assumed I'd left it in the car, but when I got back with the coffees we couldn't find it. Sergio called it and we heard nothing. I assumed I'd left it at Costco so we sped back. It wasn't at the photo counter; it wasn't at lost and found. Costco was so busy that day; I just assumed someone had snatched it up for themselves.

By this point we had to go to the airport or risk missing the flight (for a phone? No way!) so I bucked up, endured that fiery twinge that you feel when you realize something is lost FOREVER, and called AT&T to report my phone stolen.

I couldn't stop wondering about my phone. Finally, about half way through the flight, a very plausible theory dawned on me: perhaps the phone had been in my lap when we pulled up at the coffee shop and had dropped out of my lap when I got out of the car. I could just picture it: me sitting inside the car while Sergio calls my phone and my phone sitting in the grass just a few feet away from me on the other side of the car door, ringing and ringing, but me unable to hear it.

As soon as we landed, I called the coffee shop and sure enough, someone had turned in a light blue iPhone: "it has a lot of missed calls from someone named Sergio," said the barista. "Yep," I told him. "That's mine." He kindly offered to keep it there until I got back from vacation...

…in SIX days. *sigh* How was I going to survive for six whole says without my iPhone in my pocket like it always is?

Well now those six days have transpired and I'm pleased to report that I have retrieved and restored my phone, that I survived just fine, and that I may even be better off for having lost it in the first place. Here are...

The Top Six Things I Learned on a Six-Day Holiday Vacation Without My iPhone. 

1. I spend a lot of mental energy worrying about my phone. It wasn't until I did without my phone that I realized how much time I spend thinking about it. Where's my phone? Did I leave it somewhere? Will it fall out of my back pocket and into the bathtub when I'm bathing my kids? Did I leave it in the car? Did I leave it at my desk? Will the phone run out of battery power before I can get back to a charger? I went six whole days without having to ask myself any of those questions. That was liberating.

2. I don't read enough. Maybe you use your smart phone to read really long and interesting articles about contemporary social issues or short stories by prominent authors. Or maybe you use your smart phone to like people's pictures on Instagram. Probably we all do a little bit of both. But not having my phone made me snap out of it and pick up a magazine. I have been so addicted to this little device and its connectivity; I am embarrassed that losing my phone is what it took to pull me out of the click-click, scroll-scroll vortex of my smart phone. Why I couldn't I pull myself out with plain old will power?

3. A lot of people are on their phones. A lot. Long before my phone ever went missing, we instituted a "No Phones at the Table" policy for meal times in our family, in the hopes that we could focus on each other without distraction and set a good example for our kids. Since we adopted this policy and then have dined with other people, I have been surprised to see everyone else on their phones during meals. You've seen it before, haven't you? The folks at the table next to you, all not talking to one another because they're on their phones. Well, let me tell you - if you haven't noticed that before, the way to discover it is to leave your phone at home while you go out of town for 6 days. This video - called "I Forgot My Phone" - does a great job of describing this phenomenon.

4. I don't need to photograph something to truly enjoy it; but I do like taking pictures. For most of the trip I borrowed Sergio's phone to snap some pictures of the girls when "necessary," and I am grateful for that and for the ability to capture funny little scenes, poignant moments, etc. But one afternoon, several of us went on a hike while Sergio stayed in the car with Clara, who was asleep. No Sergio meant no phone which meant no camera. The hike was beautiful - the tall barren trees, the sunlight at just the right angle, the green moss, the brown leaves, the red blazes on the tree trunks, and of course Julia with an eager face, her red puffer coat, and her bright aqua gloves. It was picturesque. I wanted so badly to photograph it. But do you know what I did instead? I just enjoyed it. And it was good.

5. Social media can wait. Since I wasn't checking my phone (my Facebook, my Instagram, etc.) every hour or every half hour, I missed out on a lot of social media. But … I wouldn't exactly say I "missed" it, if you know what I mean. When an opportunity arose to catch up using Sergio's phone, I would log on to my email or Facebook or what not and look for something important that I might have missed. There wasn't that much. One friend's announcement; another set of great pictures; a clever post here or a funny comment there. You know what? It can all wait. I caught up later and spent the rest of the day doing something else. Like going on a hike.

6. I like being connected. Here's another video, a portion of which echoes the "I Forgot My Phone" video by asking "Is it easier to connect? Or harder to stay close?" and contrasts images of loved ones video-chatting or texting with one another from far far away with an image of a family of five at dinner, each absorbed in their own electronic device, oblivious to each other. I have felt precisely those feelings. Every time Julia chats with her grandparents on one of our iPhones, I love them. Every time someone I'm trying to talk to won't stop looking at their phone, I hate smart phones. And when it was Thanksgiving and I didn't have my phone with me to write to my family or post a message of gratitude to friends, I was a little bit sad. I used Sergio's phone to text my family so it's not like I was completely disconnected. But I did feel a little bit out of touch and I didn't like that.

Tonight when Julia saw my phone for the first time (after I picked it up at the coffee shop this morning), she exclaimed very excitedly, "Mommy! Your phone! Are you happy?" Okay, if even a 3-year-old knows how connected (addicted?) you are to your iPhone, then maybe you really are hooked.

I am tired of being mired down by the worst of my smart phone, but I think now I can appreciate the best aspects of this technology. I can already feel some New Years resolutions coming on.

Addendum 1: I have just learned a new word - "nomophobia" which is short for "no-mobile-phone-phobia." I didn't know that word existed before, but I definitely think I had that phobia and conquered it head on when I lost my phone. I'm glad to know I can survive without it.

Addendum 2: Here's a new ad by Apple that makes the case for technological immersion. It is sentimental and beautiful and represents some of the best that a smart phone has to offer. An interesting consideration in my continuing examination of how we use our phones. Apple ad

04 November 2013

Our 10th Annual ThanksVegan (TV10)

Well, to be honest, many years ago, when we realized that our ThanksVegan tradition was going to be around for a while, I sort of assumed that we'd be really well off by the time we reached our TENTH ANNUAL ThanksVegan (which seemed so far away). I figured we'd be wealthy enough to fly off to Vegas or Chicago or, come on, at least Fort Worth and have a Destination ThanksVegan like we've always talked about doing, where we gratefully enjoy fine vegan dining in a top notch restaurant prepared by stellar chefs and served to us with little or no effort on our parts.

Instead, we celebrated TV10 with these little rascals on board. And you know what? It was perfect.

Dylan, age 11 months - Clara age 14 months

Rascally Julia was around too, but she is increasingly hard to photograph as she hardly ever sits still. This was now her fourth ThanksVegan (really? No… well… yeah, I guess it is!) and with the addition of the babies, we now amount to a pretty intrusive entourage in the grocery store, and grocery shopping as a group IS an important part of the tradition. That's 7 people shopping for vegan groceries. Oh, and did I mention that Jon was in a wheel chair because he'd just had knee surgery? That's one stroller, one wheel chair, one kids' car shopping cart, and 3 very distracted adults with grocery lists. Fun for us. Perhaps less so for the other shoppers trying to scoot past us. 

the entourage
At home, while the children napped (there were about 5 minutes when I think all 3 kids were asleep at the same time) we reminisced on past ThanksVegan meals (the "tofurkey" at TV1 - never again; our all-breakfast ThanksVegan at TV9 - our most untraditional) and tried to remember what it was like to have so much time to cook and no babies to chase around. Can hardly remember!

The meal

The truth is that we are old hands at this ThanksVegan meal now and those long hours in the kitchen fly by with ease. Jon, hopping across the kitchen on one leg (Hoppin' Jon!), determined to do his part, did most of chopping while the rest of us took turns cooking, setting the table, or wrangling babies. We did outsource our main course and the gravy. Since we are just minutes away from the beloved Eden Alley, we made arrangements to get our very own Spinach and Mushroom Loaf and Mushroom Gravy; it was a perfect main dish. 

I still can't believe it's been 10 years. And yet - in some ways - I can. We have very happily come a long way since then. And I, for one, am grateful. 

The Meal
- Eden Alley's Spinach and Mushroom Loaf
- Eden Alley's Mushroom Gravy
- Mashed Potatoes
- Roasted, Spiced Sweet Potatoes (Smitten Kitchen)
- Sauteed Kale
- Asian Green Beans (a la Erin)
- Butternut Squash Soup (Teany - from this book)
- Jellied Cranberry Sauce and Whole Cranberry Sauce … yes, from a can. Don't judge!
- Fennel Raisin Bread from The New Traditionalist baker who just happened to write to me the morning of ThanksVegan and say, "Can I bring you some bread today?" Um, yes! Perfect!
- Peanut Butter Chocolate Vegan pie for dessert

01 November 2013

"Hayoween" (Halloween 2013)

Ghost entourage: we hung these in our car for Trunk or Treat
and in our house for Halloween night.
Julia helped me decide what kinds of faces to give them.

Our second Halloween in this house and I am still marveling at how fun this neighborhood is on this holiday. The picturesque blanket of fall leaves, the funny little costumes, the steady stream of revelers.

Having children + living in this neighborhood
= a love of Halloween I never imagined. 
On my door step I greeted all kinds - kids who were too shy to say "trick or treat" and kids who were too distracted to say "thank you" and kids who were too old to be kids and too cool to have costumes but who wanted candy anyway. 

Not to mention my own children who have taught me that it hardly even matters what costume a kid wears; when that kid is yours and she puts on a costume and smiles at you, you will think she is - without any shadow of a doubt - The Cutest Thing Ever. And you will be right. 


Clara soaked up the whole experience happily. And mostly kept her bear hat on. Julia loved being a dinosaur (even if she didn't love wearing her full costume completely all the time). She did a good job and made a lovely little roar when prompted.

Oh, and I just remembered my favorite trick or treater last night - a little girl who got her candy, said thank you, turned away down my steps, stopped, picked up a bright red leaf from among the thousands of leaves on my lawn, and turned around to come back and give me the leaf ... as if it were the most important thing in the world.

And for that split second, it was.

30 August 2013

Tibicos (or Water Kefir)

This is our new favorite drink. There are lots of names for it; most people call it Water Kefir, but we call it Tibicos. And the cutest thing ever is Julia asking for "teebeecosh!" It's a probiotic beverage made with kefir grains. Which sounds so weird when I explain it. So I've started just saying that it's like home made soda but it's good for you instead of bad for you.

It's good for you the way that yogurt or milk kefir are good for you - because of the good bacteria that grows. You start out with kefir grains (not real "grains" - they actually look like giant salt crystals). You feed them sugar (and a few other things). They grow and grow during the first ferment; then you flavor the tibicos in the second ferment, after you've removed the grains. And in just a matter of days you have some lovely and delicious "soda" (so to speak).

Our favorite flavors are peach or apricot (flavored with tea), lemon juice, or ginger. (Oh and we made a black currant one once that tasted just like a Clearly Canadian!)

See below for the "recipe" we received from our friend who got us started in the world of water kefir. We have (miraculously!) kept our grains going for a couple of months now and while we did have to slow down production, we have kept a steady cycle going. And when we've gone on tibicos hiatus in order to leave town, I have missed it so much.

Julia likes it pretty well, too. Clara is still deciding. But I'm glad to have some probiotics to give them to balance out the antibiotics we had to give them a few weeks ago. Gotta keep that balance.

We will have extra grains up for grabs periodically. Happy to spread the Tibicos gospel and the grains!

Water Kefir

Basic ratio:
1 Tbsp grains
1 Tbsp sugar
1 cup water

First Ferment:
In a jar, add sugar (ideally sucanat/rapidura/turbinado; organic raw cane sugar works), some raisins (about 10), a splash of lemon juice, a tiny pinch of baking soda, and water. Stir to somewhat dissolve sugar. Add grains. Can be left covered lightly with a cloth or a lid. Let sit in room temperature - not in sun - for 48 hours or until brew no longer tastes like sugar water. You're aiming for the sweet spot between sugar water and vinegar. you can drink the water kefir now or do a second ferment to add flavor and carbonation.

Second Ferment:
Strain out grains and raisins. Discard raisins (or eat them!). Set aside grains. Pour water kefir into bottle with swing-lock top or mason jar with metal lid. Add flavoring. Close bottle/jar, let sit for 48 hours. "Burp" to safely let out a bit of carbonation once or twice a day. Grains can be used again to start a first ferment, as above.

After 48 hours, serve over ice or refrigerated and enjoy!

For more info: http://www.culturesforhealth.com/water-kefir-frequently-asked-questions-faq

25 August 2013

The Week of the Sibling Discount

This was Clara's first week at Julia's daycare/school. But it was also Julia's last week there before starting a new school on Monday. So I celebrated the one week of them attending the same school (and the one week of the sibling discount!) by dressing them in matching clothes each day this week.

I use the term "matching" very loosely because I'm really limited in this regard. For one thing, I don't buy them matching clothes (because I shop a lot of thrift stores and consignment sales). Another challenge is that Julia is a toddler and has very firm opinions on what she wants to wear. Fortunately she likes to match with Clara.

Monday: "chomper" shirts (that is, shirts with aggressive,
teeth-baring animals) and polka dot pants.

Tuesday: a true match! Frog shirts with button fireflies,
a gift from Honey.
Wednesday: tie-dye shirts from Honey (that don't match
but are both tie dye shirts and are both gifts from Honey.)

Thursday: Another true match!
Beats for Beckham shirts in support
of their sweet cousin Beckham.

Friday: another stretch - it was the end of the week, but I
found shirts and pants that were all stripes!
Never mind the mismatched colors. 

06 August 2013

Watermelon Popsicles - a very short "recipe"

Watermelon Popsicles
Watermelon Popsicles - a very short "recipe"

sugar (optional)
basil, chopped (optional)

1. Chop the watermelon; remove the seeds.
2. Blend in the Vita-mix (or blender).
3. Add sugar and/or basil if desired.
4. Pour watermelon water into some sort of popsicle maker thingy. If you are a nursing mom, consider utilizing the empty breast milk storage containers that are collecting in your cabinet. They hold 2.5 ounces and are skinny.
5. Add appropriate popsicle sticks if you have them. Or, if you are nursing mom who didn't plan this ahead very well but who hoards, you can rummage through your catch-all drawer and unearth some plastic wear from previous take-out orders. If you can find 6 plastic forks or spoons, make 6 popsicles.
6. Place onto a plate and into the freezer.
7. Wait until a super hot day or a day when your toddler needs a distraction or - ideally - both! To remove popsicles from breast milk storage containers, dip them in a glass of hot water.
8. Have camera ready.

Note to self. Buy popsicle sticks so you don't have to use forks which become kind of hazardous as the popsicle melts. Duh. 

Another note to self: take children outside and strip them naked before giving them a popsicle. Or be prepared to clean. A lot. 

Julia takes the first bite. 
Sharing with her sister. 
Neither of them capable of waiting their turn, they opt to share simultaneously. 

17 July 2013


Well, we got a dog. 

Daisy, 6 years old, miniature schnauzer 

It was a surprising turn of events for us, instigated by an unpleasant surprising turn of events. Daisy was my aunt Jetta's dog. After Jetta was diagnosed with cancer and we realized that Daisy would outlive her, my family and I began to wonder what would happen. Sergio and I discussed the possibility of taking her - I was delighted to discover that he liked the idea! As long as I've known him, he's always said, "I like dogs, I just don't want to live with them." But with Daisy it was different. He developed a soft spot for her and was totally on board with the idea of adopting her. After Jetta died and we proposed this plan, everyone agreed that this was the right idea and that it's what Jetta would have wanted.

My biggest concern was taking Daisy away from Mema, who had been Daisy's companion, or maybe it was the other way around. Mema told us everything we needed to know to care for her, including Daisy's special "Say your prayers!" trick. I will always think of Jetta's voice when we do that trick with Daisy. 

The most amazing thing is how much Daisy loves Sergio AND how much he loves her. He is her favorite. When he invites her to his lap she bounds onto him eagerly without giving it a second thought. When I invite her to sit in my lap, she looks at me as if to say, "hmmm. I'm still considering other options. I will let you know." When Sergio leaves for the grocery store, she barks and yelps for him and waits on high alert for his return. When I step outside, she says "meh..." and goes to curl up with Sergio.

All of which is fine with me. I don't mind playing second fiddle. I'm just happy to have a dog again.

Second Fiddle

We brought Daisy here by car right after fourth of July. A long car trip, but she handled it well (thanks to Sergio). Just before driving away from OKC, Sergio reminded us all that when he proposed to me, my dad said, "will you take the dog, too?" That was a long time ago and the dog in question wasn't the same dog. But  just before we carted Daisy off, Sergio was quick to point out that, even if it took him 10.5 years, yes, he is taking the dog. 

24 June 2013

Urban Grown Farms and Gardens Tour - 2013

Switzer Neighborhood Farm
This year marks the 5th biennial urban farms and gardens tour, hosted by Cultivate KC, and the urban growth (pun intended) this city has seen is nothing short of amazing. In 2005 when the tour began, there were 6 farms on the tour and 300 people who attended the whole tour. Every tour since has seen an exponential increase in both attendees and farm sites on the tour. This event now boasts 60 sites and has spanned to cover two days; the small number 300 is more likely to describe the number of attendees in one day at one farm. By now the tour has reached the status of The Largest Urban Farm Tour in the nation. 

All of which means, this city has a lot of food growing in a lot of unexpected and important places. 

chard on the westside

Urban farming - popular enough now to merit its own magazine - is more than just the trendy thing to do. This movement goes beyond the offbeat juxtapositions: the dilapidated buildings next to lush raised beds of kale, rusted art and radishes, municipal chickens and downtown ducks. This is about growing food in precisely the spots where people are everyday. This is about revitalizing wasted land and making it livable, beautiful, and productive. This is about knowing where your food comes from and seeing it for yourself, whether you're a little kid, a grown woman, an old man. For some of these sites, this is about serving the underserved, about communities pulling together to take care of themselves, and about volunteers working to feed others. Whether a site is an oasis in a food desert or growing the freshest food right outside the restaurant kitchen, this tour is about "cultivating change." 

When I volunteered four years ago, I hurried all over town to help and see as much as I could in one day, but I could only make it to 5 farm sites. And that was before I had kids. So this year I was pretty proud when - over the course of 2 days, while Sergio was unavailable, with both girls in tow, stopping for potty breaks and diaper changes and breastfeeding - I made it to 5 farms again! Of course, that leaves 55 farms I wanted to see but couldn't. I'm not complaining, though. Too many urban farms and gardens is a great problem to have.

The Five Sites I Saw on My Tour

The first stop on my tour was Hoop Dog Studio on Troost. Almost every morning we take Troost to take Julia to school, so I had noticed this place with its turquoise doors, its ransom-note like "Obama" made of old neon sign letters, its particular tall bird on the side of the building. But I never would have imagined that inside is an intricate maze of hydroponics, livestock, vegetables, flowers, and discarded materials turned into art. While you may need to steer your toddler clear of the rusted nails emerging from the rail road ties or the shards of (intentional) broken pottery, you will come away in awe of the majestic mess of growth and life - vegetables, fish and flowers - coming out of urban castoffs - rebar, upturned muffin tins, oxytetracyclinehydrochloride barrels. Maybe that "skelebird" on the side of the building is supposed to be a phoenix. 

Hoop Dog Studio on Troost 
Julia and Skelebird
Crown Garden
In the summer of 2010, I was an insignificant member of a small team of people helping to make plans to start an urban garden - to be maintained by volunteers at Hallmark - at the Ronald McDonald house right across the street. That summer the idea was just a seed. I went off to have a couple of babies over the next two years and then next thing I know - voila! The garden is going so strong that they are on the Urban Grown tour. There are some incredible master gardeners and volunteers at Hallmark who have contributed their time to this farm's success. And all the produce grown (organically, by the way) in the Crown Garden goes to the families and patients staying at the Ronald McDonald house. Which seems to me like such a really nice thing to do for people you don't even know.

Hallmark's Crown Garden
Julia's and my favorite. 

The Beanstalk Garden has a little bit of everything - several varieties of fruits, lots of vegetables, flowers, herbs and a fountain. I'm not sure if the water feature is meant to be toddler entertainment, but it sure was for us after a long hot day of touring. Jasper and Julia went wild with the water while we sat under the grapevines and fed the babies and imagined what we might grow in our own gardens even though we are not the skilled master gardeners who run these places - nevermind that. Seeing it all blossoming and blooming and making fruit makes you think - surely I could do this, too! And the truth is, with the help of KC Community Gardens, you probably could!

Beanstalk Children's Garden - and fountain
Pretty please with a cherry on top?
Herb'n Gardener
I wanted to stop in at Lew Edmister's place because Julia and I see Lew every Friday night at Badseed (for that same reason, I wanted to go to Urbavore, too, we just couldn't get there). I thought it'd be fun to see what he's growing so maybe Julia can put two and two together when she sees him at market. Lew also makes bread and - for that matter - made his own bread oven! "Fire!" said Julia, when she saw Lew checking the flames inside. While Lew got his dough ready for a demo, Julia and I ate mustard greens from the field and tried to keep Clara from eating the mulch. Lew brought us some nasturtiums to eat; Julia would have none of it, though she liked eating the little yellow mustard green flowers.

Clara at Herb'n Gardener 
Julia and the mustard greens

Switzer Neighborhood Farm
From Lew's I thought I'd head to the Westside Local to see some vertical gardening by Anti-Hero Landscaping, but I got sidetracked on the way when I passed what looks like a giant hole in the ground full of an urban farm. Chickens, ducks, geese, bees and butterflies; vegetables, flowers, and herbs. This place was literally a dumping ground for a long time before, 3 years ago, some folks in the Westside Community Action Network came along to clean it up. It's amazing and lush and complex and gritty and the kale in that raised bed was the heartiest I've seen. (And I have seen a lot of kale.) Julia loved the livestock and watched with rapt attention as the chickens responded to our "cock-a-doodle-doos!" and "kiki-ri-kees!" This neighborhood has really embraced this bit of blight and brought it back to life.

Switzer Neighborhood Farm
in the shadow of the abandoned Switzer school

Julia and the chickens

17 June 2013

Father's Day

Some pictures in honor of the holiday:

Me and my dad (three pictures in one, actually). He is a wonderful father and I love him.

c. 1991, c. 2003, and 2012
Me, Sergio, and the girls who made him a dad. He is a wonderful father and I love him, too.
Impromptu Family Portrait
Oh, and here's an extra picture of the girls which is representative of the regular old rascally behavior we have come to know and love: Julia being wild and Clara being entertained.

15 June 2013

Strawberry Bread Pudding

If you're anything like me, you may find yourself with a good chunk of leftover Italian bread and an overage of fresh, local, organic strawberries (because you can never buy just one quart since one quart is what you eat on the way home from the market and you'll need a lot more than that once you get home). And in this fortuitous moment, you may think to yourself, "Is there such a thing as strawberry bread pudding?"

You may do a Google search and find out that, Yes, there IS such a thing! And you may sort through a lot of recipes before finding THIS ONE and emailing to your husband one morning suggesting it for dessert that night. And you may even get home at the end of the day and offer to make that Strawberry Bread Pudding only to discover that he has already done it! 

And then you may find out that not only is there such a thing as Strawberry Bread Pudding, but it is delightful. 

The next morning your husband may have the brilliant idea to slice the leftover bread pudding and fry it a little like a french toast or something. And then you may justify eating Strawberry Bread Pudding for both dessert AND breakfast. And you may be delighted yet again. 

If you're anything like me, that is.

Strawberry Bread Pudding
from the kitchen of One Perfect Bite, inspired by the Daily Loaf 
click here for full details and a recipe for caramel sauce

4 eggs
2 cups whole milk
1/2 cup white granulated sugar
1/4 cup golden brown sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
1/4 teaspoon salt
12 ounces crusty stale bread, torn or cut in bite-size pieces
2 cups fresh or frozen (thawed) strawberries, sliced

1) Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Lightly grease an 8 x 8 x-2-inch pan. Set aside.
2) Combine eggs, milk, sugar (white and brown, vanilla extract, spices and salt in a small bowl. Whisk until blended.
3) Place bread pieces into a large bowl. Pour milk mixture over bread and toss to combine. Let sit for 15 minutes to allow milk to be absorbed into bread.
4) Fold in strawberries and pour mixture into baking dish.
5) Bake for 30 to 40 minutes, or until raised and puffy. Insert a toothpick into center and if it comes out fairly clean, it’s done. Let cool for a few minutes before serving. Yield: 8 to 10 servings.

The French Toast Treatment for Breakfast

leftover Strawberry Bread Pudding

Slice the pudding into 1-inch or 1 1/2-inch slices.
Heat butter in pan.
Fry the pudding slices (that's a weird phrase) until golden.
Ignore the fact that you just made something unhealthy even unhealthier.

10 June 2013

A Tornado, a Birthday, and a Funeral

My Aunt Jetta

We went to OKC recently to attend my aunt's funeral; the weekend before we'd gone to celebrate my grandmother's birthday (early) and to see my aunt Jetta who was very sick. She had been diagnosed with late stage cancer just after Easter. We had no idea how rapidly she'd decline. She only had one cycle of chemo that lasted just three weeks. She died before her hair even had a chance to fall out. 

I had no idea that Memorial Day weekend I was saying goodbye for the last time. That weekend she said no more than five words to me, which in and of itself was a feat. She was virtually non-communicative towards the end. That weekend when I reached out to her she responded, whispering "Thank You," "Love you," and "Pretty," (that last one was her acknowledgement of the bouquet of flowers I brought her from Mema's garden.) I am grateful for the visit I had made earlier in May when she was doing a little bit better and when I brought her a birthday gift and a card, which I know she treasured; she wouldn't even let my mom throw away the envelope that her birthday card came in. She passed away peacefully on Wednesday morning, May 29.

I struggled with how to tell Julia that Jetta passed away. She knew something was up ("Jetta doesn't feel good.") and had already asked some poignant questions (“Who hurt Jetta?”). But she is too young to understand death. When we went back for the funeral, I worried that Julia would inquire after Jetta or want to know why we were all sad. She IS in the “Why?” phase, after all. We used our best euphemisms and our simplest language and I think in some fundamental way, she understood just enough. The truth is that her child-like view of it all brought some levity that I found to be refreshing in the most stifling parts of the mourning process: “She’s pink!” (Julia said, at the funeral home where there was a pink light shining on the body) and “Jetta has a new bed!” (after the viewing) and “Is Jetta hiding?” (at the graveside service).

In many ways I was helping myself understand death as much as I was helping Julia. This was the first death in the inner circle of my mom’s family since the year I was born. I’ve never had to face it so forthrightly. I questioned what it all meant each step of the way.

The night of the viewing of the body, there was a big storm brewing. Being tried and true Oklahomans, we all knew something big was coming. You could just feel it in the air. (Also, we were watching the news and the meteorologists said something big was coming.) We proceeded with the evening’s plan nonetheless; my mom took Mema to the funeral home and many other folks arrived. Sergio and I came with the girls and were able to have our moment to say “Goodbye” and “We love you, Jetta.” Before long the storm had progressed and we realized we needed to take cover. We hustled out of the funeral home and piled into our caravan of cars as the newscasters on the radios advised us all to take shelter. We were headed across the street to go into the basement of the church. It felt so weird to leave Jetta behind.

The viewing of the body is peculiar. We know in our heads what has happened, that our loved one has died, but our hearts want to believe that maybe it’s not true. Our hearts want to believe the way Julia probably believed - that Jetta was just asleep. It certainly looked that way. She looked beautiful (no small feat after her illness) -- and pink, even! -- as though she were just resting for a moment. But let me tell you - nothing drives home the reality of your loved one’s condition like having to leave her behind in the funeral home while the rest of the family takes cover from a tornado.

Oh and did I mention that this was my grandmother’s 92nd birthday? What a strange way to spend your birthday. That night, Mema powered through the visitation and the tornado, broken heart and all. We all even managed to share some cake together and reflect on those 92 years. But it was far from a happy birthday. We found out later that the tornado that came through that night was the widest tornado ever recorded in US history - about 2.5 miles. The wide-reaching path of destruction was an apt metaphor for the ripple effects of Jetta's death - of anyone's death, I am sure. It has both a broad (for many) and a personal (for each of us) impact. However, no one felt Jetta's death quite the way Mema did. As she told me later on, tearfully, at the graveside service, "It just cuts so deep."

The next morning the sky was clear and beautiful. The funeral for Jetta was perfect; she would have loved it, I am sure. Family came to town and my parents' house was full of warmth and full of flowers and full of food. There was an amazing outpouring of support from my parents' friends and co-workers, my aunt's friends and co-workers, my friends - more generous that you could imagine. If quantities of food delivered to the bereaved are any indication of how well someone was liked, then my aunt was extremely well loved. The remainder of the weekend was part hustle and bustle of family gathering and part quiet reflection. And lots and lots of emotion.

Jetta was a giver of great gifts, a baker of amazing birthday cakes, and a taker of great photos. She was patriotic - didn't care who you voted for in any election just so long as you voted. And she'd give you The Raised Eyebrow of Consternation if you didn't. She was a loyal Hallmark Gold Crown shopper and invested a lot of time in finding the right gift. She was a bit of a wallflower. She was full of tact. She never said an unkind word. She loved iced tea. 

It is so hard to believe she’s gone. We are all better off for having had her in our life. We miss her so much.

“I had rather be shut up in a very modest cottage, with my books, my family, and a few old friends, dining on simple bacon, and letting the world roll on as it liked, than to occupy the most splendid post which any human power can give.” - Thomas Jefferson

(a quotation framed and hung on the wall at Jetta's house)

16 May 2013

Mother's Day and Quiche

What a wonderful day on Sunday (as if I deserved anything extra - on top of the regular, run-of-the-mill happiness that I am so fortunate to enjoy). Sergio and the girls delivered me some lovely cards and a gift certificate for a massage (Solaris is the best!) and let me pick our dinner spot (Spin! because it's next to Glacé).

a happy mother on Mother's Day
We went to the lawn at the Nelson-Atkins to see a puppet show by the Stone Lion Puppet Theater troupe. Great stuff, truly. You must make an effort to see them if you haven't already. Puppets of incredible proportion and messages of great import! I loved the crane; Julia loved the turtle; Sergio loved the snake; according to Julia, Clara loved the snail. (We'll take Julia's word for it.)

Later that night while she was playing outside, Julia brought me one of the plastic flowers from her wheelbarrow set and said, "Happy Mother's Day!" It melted my heart. Then she brought the other plastic flower inside, gave it to her daddy and said, "Happy Mother's Day, Daddy!" And since bucking gender normativity is a favorite past time of mine, well, that melted my heart again.

Oh, and I forgot the most important meal of the day - Sergio made quiche for breakfast! Two years ago on my first Mother's Day, Sergio insisted on serving me breakfast in bed. I carelessly told him that I did not like eating in bed and he was crestfallen. He replied, "if I don't bring you your breakfast in bed then today won't be any different than all the other days when I make you breakfast." He was so right. He is always in charge of the morning meal. I had forgotten to be grateful for that. It was a good reminder.

Anyway, this year he wanted to do breakfast in bed again but let's be honest - breakfast in bed when there's a bouncy toddler and a grabby infant nearby is just a big load of dirty laundry waiting to happen. So we ate in our kitchen at our breakfast nook, watched for birds in our new bird bath, and enjoyed our quiche. Or as we call it ... "gheesh." Sergio's been getting into ghee lately - it is lovely and makes a stellar quiche. Here's his crust recipe.

Ghee Whole Wheat Pie Crust 
(for a 2 crust 8” pie)

½ tsp salt
2 2/3 c. flour (1 1/3 c. white flour & 1 1/3 c. whole wheat pastry flour works nicely)
2/3 c. melted ghee (clarified butter)
4 TBSP cold water

Mix dry ingredients. Blend in ghee with a fork or pastry blender. Slowly add water, blending. Roll out.

Julia wanted to take her "umbeya" on our walk.
(Note the outline of the shadow of her hair.)
The bush to the side of the garage began to bloom.
Turns out it's spirea! Clara approves.