Warm times and the rhubarb bellini

The upper reaches of the United States are at fifteen and a quarter hours of daylight and counting. My day begins at 6am with the youngest child, and I typically kiss the oldest goodnight between ten and eleven pm. It’s not a period with much sleep, but the outdoors are stoked with brilliant green, the furious buzzing of bees and wasps, sneech kasnitches of the crickets, and the casual side-eye of the garter snakes that shyly circle the yard. Wild strawberries are just beginning to turn red, and if you walk very slowly, you will see their garnet teacups, the size of baby fingernails, peeking out.

The interior of the house slopes into neglect. Dishes gather around the sink, laundry quietly piles up, the floors seem gently rugged with grass clippings and chip crumbs. Walking in from the brilliant sunshine outside the kitchen looks dimly lit–sleepy hollow at noon. No matter how tidy, the sensation of the indoors is a damp envelope compared to the rolling plateau of the lawn and trees.

As a month June is generously supplied with biting insects of many kinds. They come out and disappear again at certain times of day, so the only way to be sure you’re not missing a wonderful hour outside, is to constantly wander out to check. You take the wonderful hours as much as you can get them.

I have so many observations from this wildly vocal and informed time on social media, alongside the viscerally physical protests, marchs, vigils, rallies that I have scoped, as if with binoculars, through my screen from afar. I don’t have any particularly unique thoughts to share yet, but mostly mundanely, for myself, I took on the following delightful commitment: of those I follow on instagram, at least 15% of them should be Black. Such a tiny step, yet far beyond what I had. Therefore far beyond what my daily feed and intake of stories was mixed to reflect. It humbles me to share that with you, and yet I think it’s important to start honestly and begin with the stories.

Perhaps it’s too late for rhubarb in your region, but I’m putting this recipe here for next year anyway. We received three enormous starter plants from Joe’s mom, but my batch of eating rhubarb came from a neighbor–brilliantly pink and tart.

Joe’s mom told us she can remember as a girl sitting with a friend, each of them holding a cup of sugar and a stalk of rhubarb–dipping and biting. I treated myself to this same snack while chopping up the rhubarb for this recipe. Faintly jammy, wonderfully tart and but uniquely rhubarb flavored, you can put this in the bottom of the cup to pour soda or prosecco over. Kids and adults sipped with delight. And it is so pretty in the glass.

rhubarb bellini puree

  • 2 cups rhubarb (about 4 slender stalks) cut into 1-inch pieces
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • grated zest of a lemon
  • 1/4 water
  • 2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
  1. Place the rhubarb, sugar, lemon zest, water, and lemon juice into a medium saucepan, bring to a simmer, and cook for about 15 minutes. It will steadily break down as you check on it, and stir. Some of the texture will remain, but that’s the fun of it.
  2. Remove from the heat and place the saucepan in a bowl of ice water to cool it quickly, about ten minutes. (I skipped this step, just turned off the heat and left it alone for twenty minutes.)
  3. Place about 1.5 tablespoons puree in the bottom of the glass. Pour in prosecco one-third full. Stir well to blend in the rhubarb puree. Gradually top up each glass with more prosecco, stirring to prevent the sparkling wine from bubbling over.

Serve, share, be thankful.

From The New York Times Cookbook.

 

 

Curriculum and Homeschool Resources I Love

Let’s think broadly for a moment about what homeschooling in Fall 2020 might look like. It will be pieced together like a very homemade pie crust. You might be working in the mornings, and homeschooling in the afternoon. Your neighbors might be homeschooling one day a week (twice on Thursdays, as Eeyore likes to say). Your mother-in-law might take on dictation with one child. Your dad might take on science with all of them. You agree to some sort of co-op lunch program with your neighbor where every other day the kids eat lunch at the other’s house and hear a story read aloud.

Or, perhaps you will be handling quite a lot. You are totally by yourself. You do two hours a day, whenever it fits. 

The rest of the time the children are checking chores off a list, creatively playing/trashing the one room you conveniently never deign to look in, helping you prep lunch, staying up too late in their room telling stories to each other, and sleeping in. They wake up and tell you their dreams with enviable recall. They learn how to use wikipedia and tell you at dinner what they read. Likely, very likely, they take on projects of their own, like listing the personality traits of every character in their favorite book or designing bug traps that are eerily successful. 

Would that be so bad? 

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Anything for 30 minutes

The sky was moody yesterday and my mood matched. I did that thing where you just sit quietly in the center of the action and respond to the queries that come to you, but you don’t seek them out. Don’t try to intervene in an argument, don’t redirect energy, don’t suggest other activities to try beside arguing about who sat on the white pillow first.

You’re just there, present, but gazing softly at your notebook.

Much to my dismay, time in the warp of social distancing seems to be speeding up. Weeks are the new state of being. I feel that without the book markers of the calendar–the festival, the birthday party, the spring parade–the months are’t being perceived. Are we entering an alter-planet, like that of the space voyager in interstellar (film, 2014), where a few moments spent too long evaluating a dust-storm on a distant planet means his missed his daughter’s high school years back on earth?

As part of their homeschool curriculum the girls memorize a timeline of historic events. Indus River Valley Civilization. China’s Shang Dynasty. Roman Republic. India’s Gupta Dynasty. Black Death. Seven Years War. Mexican revolution. President Nixon resigns. Apartheid abolished in South Africa. (I’m just sharing a few examples, there are 161 total markers on the timeline.)

I’ve relied on this timeline concept in recent weeks when we’ve had to announce camp weeks that will not happen, and the cancellation of festivals they were looking forward to attending. “This will be on the timeline, girls. You’ll tell your children about this year. And your grandchilden!”

It seems to help lend a bit of the perspective that is easier to come by as an adult. This is unique, and it’s not forever.

I was chatting with my sister the other day when I shared this incredibly clever cocktail with her that I had just invented: half a lime squeezed into a white ale beer. “It is very evocative,” I said. “Of what?,” she asked. “A corona with lime?”

Critics notwithstanding, I recommend to you simple riffs like this. Take a moment or two or ten to make something nice for yourself. I’ve also returned to the erstwhile negroni, that Italian cocktail that seems to taste best when the sun is setting. Evaluating the bar cupboard, I made the simple riff decision to replace the vermouth with chilled box white wine. I didn’t notice the difference actually, I felt it tasted better than the traditional vermouth version!

Whenever I’m feeling dread or intimidation over an activity a child has asked for help with, I remind myself: I can do anything for 30 minutes. Reading aloud book I don’t like. A sewing project I don’t understand myself, much more understand enough to explain it out loud. Standing sentry behind the toddler while she practices climbing the stairs. Surely I have thirty minutes for this child, right? Right.

I’m all for boundaries and saying no, but there are those projects that your child will insist on, with patience and eager hope in their eyes: please, please do this with me. I settle in, privately deciding if, at thirty minutes it’s as awful as I suspected it might be, I can be done. If we’ve done nothing but muddle the cutting and sewing project, it can be done. If the book is barely readable, if the experiment seems a meaningless mess, either way, we can be done. I can even have the presence of mind to say as the end approaches, “Just ten more minutes and then I’d like to do something else.”

The result is almost always that the child is satisfied with my time spent and very nearly on the verge of moving on themselves. I am satisfied that I’ve finally done the thing, and only thirty minutes has elapsed. It works very well. Try it, anything for thirty minutes, but keep it a secret from your fellow participants.

As for the way I like to sometimes spend thirty minutes, these brownies take about that to whip together, and they are exactly what I always hope brownies will taste like. They are steady staples in our stay-home dessert rotation.

Thick & Chewy Brownies from Canal House Cook Something

  • 12 tablespoons butter
  • 1 cup (120 grams) all-purpose flour
  • 2 cups granulated sugar
  • 4 oz semisweet chocolate, chopped
  • 2 ounces unsweetened chocolate, chopped
  • 1 teaspoon instant espresso powder (I do this, but I feel its optional too)
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 4 large eggs
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 1 cup chopped walnuts (very optional)

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees with a rack set in the middle of the oven. Grease a 9-inch square baking pan with some butter, then dust it with some flour, tapping out any excess.

Melt the butter in a medium saucepan over medium heat. Add the sugar, stirring until it has the consistency of soft slush and just begins to bubble around the edges, 1-2 minutes. Remove the pan from the heat. Add both chocolates, the espresso, and the salt to the pan, stirring until the chocolate melts and the mixture is well combined.

Put the eggs in a large mixing bowl and beat with an electric mixer fitted with the whisk attachment on medium speed. Gradually add the warm chocolate mixture, about 1/4 cup at a time, beating constantly until well combined. Stir in the vanilla. Add the flour and walnuts, if using, stirring until just combined. Pour the batter into the prepared pan.

Bake the brownies until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean, 45-60 minutes. Let the brownies cool in the pan on a rack, then into squares.

“Wear a mask. Wash your hands. Eat a lot of good food. Spend some fun evenings watching movies, reading with, and doing music with your kids.”  

Two homeschool master theorists came together for an hour long zoom chat this week. Susan Wise Bauer, author of the four volume Story of the World (a series that tells history in the most fascinating read-aloud-friendly way) and The Well Trained Mind: a Guide to Classical Education at Home. And Julie Bogart, writing coach and author of The Brave Learner, an energetic and creative go-get-em homeschool book.

This is something that may have happened at a conference in the pre-COVID days, but instead I was able to watch on my couch with a heated blanket and a mug of sweet black tea. I put it on my calendar, announced it to the family, and lo: I listened in at 4pm in attentive silence.

Both women homeschooled their 4+ children. Susan classically, and Julie in a free-form unschooling “magic,” yet intensive way. Their books are full of ideas for curriculum, method, and approach. I can become overwhelmed reading their work, saying to myself “I might do one of these twenty ideas.”

As intense as that sounds, in Thursday’s talk, they were commiserative about life these days. It was an excellent call. I definitely recommend watching it, no matter which stage of homeschool-acceptance you are in right now. Julie compared grocery shopping now to doing an errand in a foreign country: you go to the Italian post office and come back home, ready for a nap. That rang so true for me. I’ve been anxiously hyped before each grocery visit.

Susan said seven-year-old boys who don’t like writing were about as common as autumn leaves in the fall.

Julie said to pick one or two subjects every day, and plan for no more than two hours of academic work of any sort each day total. Susan said she wishes she hadn’t been so dismissive of video games and comic books when her boys were little.

“Take a super short view and say: what do I want to do over the next two months? For each child, what is my number one priority, over the next two months? Put it in your calendar, make a physical note for two months from now. Decide then–do I still want to focus on this, or do I want to focus on something else?”[…] “Wear a mask. Wash your hands. Eat a lot of good food. Spend some fun evenings watching movies, reading with, and doing music with your kids.”

I hope you have a chance to enjoy it as much as I did. Link to the video of the call, posted on facebook.

dreamy sheep farm image via Thankful Sage Farm School

 

 

The Garlic Pause

Even since Pamela Druckerman wrote about “le pause” in her hilarious memoir Bringing Up Baby, I’ve thought of it as her clever idea, though she attributes it to French parents one and all. Le Pause is a five-minute delay that French parents wait out (wine sip) when their baby begins crying. It’s an opportunity, given from the newborn stage on, to let the baby try to sort out what’s wrong on their own. It is a habit that ends up being intuitive for parents of multiple children (mostly because it takes you five minutes to respond). Both sets, the experienced and the inexperienced, often observe that babies will settle back in after a screech or two mid-nap.

A few years ago I met the curious culinary equivalent: the garlic pause.

Researchers into garlic’s immune-boosting strength discovered that if you leave garlic to sit for ten minutes before cooking with it, 70% of the allicin is preserved. If you use it immediately you destroy the heat-sensitive enzyme that triggers the reaction to create allicin. Allicin is a powerful anti-bacterial and anti-fungal property and what researchers often attribute to garlic’s cancer fighting potential. (I am not a nutritionist, I learned all of this from the fascinating book Eating on the Wild Side. <–that’s a link to where she discusses allicin!)

To recapture all the antibacterial allicin being squandered in my kitchen, I had to switch up my cooking pattern a bit because garlic is typically the first ingredient in the hot pan. Now, I chop up the garlic first thing, then do a few dishes, wipe down the counters, and come back to cooking. Thus, the garlic pause came into being in my kitchen.

Below, my three very favorite pasta recipes lately (two out of three contain garlic). I’ve included my favorite pesto recipe. Controversial. There are so many pesto recipes out there! This one is from Simply in Season (shout-out to the humble Mennonites cooks) and the proportions are perfect. To save money I always use walnuts in pesto, instead of pine nuts.

  • Julia Turshen’s sausage & caramelized onion one-pan dish from Small Victories (pictured above, thanks for the photo, Rachel!). I’ve made this delicious dish for countless dinner parties. It is packed with favorite things: sausage, greens, cream, lemon zest! It also seems to make one box of pasta go a long way. You can see the recipe as it is written in the cookbook right here.

A Pesto recipe, from Simply in Season

  • 1 cup / 250 ml packed fresh basil leaves and tender stems
  • 1-3 cloves garlic
  • 1/3 cup /75 ml pine nuts, walnuts or hazelnuts (toasted)
  • 3-6 tablespoons parmesan grated
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt or to taste
  • 2 springs flat parsley (if you happen to have it!)

Finely chop all of the above together in a food processor.

  • 1/3-1/2 cup / 75-125 ml olive oil

Add gradually while food processor runs to make a thick paste. Serve at room temperature with any kind of hot pasta. I like to retain 1/2 cup of pasta water in a mug, and dribble a bit of it in when I add the pesto to the pasta. It makes the pesto creamier. Add a bit at a time until it looks how you’d like.

  • Jon & Vinny’s fusilli alla vodka. This is a new one for me, I learned of it from my west-coast sister Joanie (thanks for the photo, Joanie!). After she shared it, several members of my family all made the same dish in their homes! Is that happening in your extended household during quarantine? I love the minimal ingredients and honestly, fusilli is my favorite pasta shape. Recipe at bon appetit. 

 

the birthday edition

Here I am, 35. Weaning my fourth daughter, thinking about buying a lamb. Saying “last baby,” in the way that people who believe in last babies say, because they want to see it coming and say goodbye.

Baking bread, simmering beans. Wish I cared less about messy corners.

Once I believed in no shampoo. Once I believed in all shampoo. Now I believe your body changes what it needs and you should look in the mirror and decide then.

Did I ask for anything for my birthday? yes. I asked for new slippers because I wore mine nearly every day last year and they simply gave up on day 360. I asked for oysters and a cake by mail. I received a handwritten book (“My Story” by Lux Ringenberg), a cherry wood platter sanded to gentleness by Joan, and a small box for my drawer of chaos crafted from wood and glue by Alma. There was also a sawdust cake topped with real candles and sprinkles (ferried away from the kitchen without my noticing), with frosting made from flour and water.

This week the girls learned about valkyries and watched The Ring Cycle opera which is available on the Metropolitan Opera’s streaming service. The fact that the Met has a streaming service is a thing I never would have bothered to google if not for this being week six of family quarantine. Thanks to Ronia (Netflix/Astrid Lindgren) the girls already love harpies. The valkyries seem to be an even fiercer inspiration for them to contemplate.

I did not watch it with them but I listened from the other room and overheard the selective reading aloud of subtitles. “Giant. I think that’s a giant? ‘Unless you are honest and keep your word. A simple minded giant tells you this–wise woman, heed what he says.'”

I came in to watch a few minutes. “Mom, you’ll love this, it’s so cool. It’s freezing cool.” said the four-year-old who cannot read subtitles.

If you can’t make a list of what you love in life on your birthday, when can you? A few things:

I’m in love with the anti-fragility of google forms right now. I feel like everything wonderful has migrated to a google form of one sort or another. Sign up. Volunteer. Spread the news. Let me know.

example: This farmer in Southern Vermont grows the most beautiful and obscure flowering plants of all sorts in her greenhouse, and then sells them from her front yard. She has a google spreadsheet order form posted up for spring orders. Place the order, drive and get your plants sometime in May. Bunker Farm Plants (click the link in her instagram profile for the order form.)

Bon Tucson: such a classy shop that seems to carry only the most lovely things presented in the gentlest way. I so admire their style.

The cookbooks story on Tonke’s instagram account. What a pretty collection she has, and her reviews are wonderfully precise. It’s the most recent story listed.

Our monthly coffee subscription from my hometown coffeeshop Madcap (Grand Rapids, Michigan). It is the best most delicious coffee I’ve ever had, they strive to pay more than fair trade prices to their growers, they are obsessed with quality, and they ship three bags once a month. It’s been perfect for the last year and I’m so thankful for it.

Speaking of cookbooks, Tim of Lottie and Doof told me about Midnight Chicken and it’s one of the books I happened to have with me during quarantine. My quaran-team. A thoughtful reflective cookbook filled with short memory-essays and encouraging ideas. Extremely British. It is the single reason I buy more expensive butter for toast now (strictly for slathering) than I did before.

Papers of All Sorts

We are in day two of deep engagement with scantily clad golden age Greek paper dolls. Scraps of paper are blowing hither and thither around the house, but the girls are loving cutting and coloring these detailed creatures and as previously mentioned, I have zero better ideas. They are using ones copied out of the Story of the World Activity book, which I unfortunately can’t find scans of online. But the blog Practical Pages has fun detailed ones which you may print off for free.

I’m feeling disinterested in making meals right now. I think perhaps I’ve parceled them off too much? Taken the glamour out of the evening meal? It might be the gradually more meager supplies at the store influencing me too. Simplicity feels smart. I only want to eat pesto, bread, pink pickled onions, and cheese on repeat.

I finished my book this morning and I miss it already. Girl, Woman, Other. A collection of chapters each about a different human, often related to each other as friend, child, mother, grandmother. The writing was lovely and poetic and the chapter style made it easy to pick up and put back down. The characters were so interesting and most of their stories had quiet endings as if of course, isn’t life itself interesting enough?

I’m codependent on books right now so I’ve already ordered another. The local bookstore is offering porch drop offs (lovely!). I ordered Weather by Jenny Offill. Went for the hardcopy, because maybe Joe will want to read it too.

Aloud, I am reading the Railway Children to the girls. We love it. The writing is fabulous, and the family is isolated and self-entertaining like the rest of us.

In a rare moment of prescience I bought the supplies for egg nests back in February and saved them until now. These are so easy to make but the girls turned them into a really lengthy project this time–spooning the sugar into the bowl by spoonfuls, trying different designs of nests. I typically expect projects of being 1:1:1–equal ratios of time spent setting up and cleaning up, to the time the project was actually engaging. It’s unexpected when it turns into something longer. The girls each selected one nest to save for Easter morning.

descend on our whole horizon

I keep waking up with a feeling of profound anxiety. When I wake the anxiety momentarily balances, like a hat resting on a doll, upon something I am not truly anxious about–the state of the kitchen dishes, a friend I forgot to call back, I never did write that thank you note…then the soapy water of sleep swirls away and the thin drain appears: the pandemic.

In general I am not an anxious person but I do like to forecast forward, and I am pessimistic. I have realistic projections of situations, and because of this I am rarely surprised by things. Though we read the news of the virus, the lockdowns, and the rate of infection in China in January, looking back if feels like we treated it as deeply other, as a nearly fictitious level of science reality. The way in which the pandemic has been handled by American federal authorities has been so outrageously bad that it feels like no projection can get too dark. The lack of oversight of infections and travel, the lack of ventilators for the hospitals, the untruthful  communication and lax restrictions. The time they had, that they wasted. Putting our healthcare professionals on the front lines, as if as innocent sacrificial lambs for the sin of arrogance.

It is an astounding experience to be in.

In April of last year I had an infant, a big messy house, three children at home all day and a thick layer of snow on the ground. One early morning, predawn, I was sitting under the blankets, nursing the baby in the dark, with my layers of socks and frozen windowpanes. A vision appeared: waking up in the morning with the baby, making our coffee, Joe and I sitting on the porch in the sun. Birds singing. Grass growing before our eyes. Though it seemed unbelievable, it was a totally attainable vision. A month or so later, as soon as it warmed up, we woke up earlier, crept downstairs more quietly, made our coffee and sat outside. Every day. For nearly the whole of the summer. And it was glorious.

I often wonder if we would have bothered to get out of bed, or ever discovered the beauty of that thirty minutes, had I not had that vision in the darker spot. It is the case that you can hold both dark and light projections in your hands at the same time.

I am savoring these words of Brian McLaren’s, quoted on the Center for Action and Contemplation’s blog yesterday:

Anxieties can gray the whole sky like cloud cover or descend on our whole horizon like fog. When we rename our anxieties, in a sense we distill them into requests. What covered the whole sky can now be contained in a couple of buckets. So when we’re suffering from anxiety, we can begin by simply holding the word help before God, letting that one word bring focus to the chaos of our racing thoughts. Once we feel that our mind has dropped out of the frantic zone and into a spirit of connection with God, we can let the general word help go and in its place hold more specific words that name what we need, thereby condensing the cloud of vague anxiety into a bucket of substantial request. So we might hold the word guidance before God. Or patience. Or courage. Or resilience. Or boundaries, mercy, compassion, determination, healing, calm, freedom, wisdom, or peace. . . .

From Brian McLaren’s Naked Spirituality. Quoted on CAC.

the garden congress

I’m carefully picking my way through spring tasks like thinking about the garden and typing up the girls’ portfolios for the year of homeschooling to send into Vermont state. The state office that oversees home studiers invites parents to begin submitting portfolios in March. Though most of my friends submit in the summer, last year I submitted ours in March and now I think it’s become a tradition for us. Something about acting like the year is already over helps me see how much we’ve done, and what I’d still like to do. And the change in perspective, the “this is all extra” reframes things as special and fun again.

Raising children has so much repetition, it’s so helpful to find these mirror-flip moments for yourself, catching the light and flinging it back on what you’re doing, in a new way.

Like when the four-year-old asks “to do potions” versus when the eight-year-old tells me she wants to do a science experiment. One sounds delightful and easy, the other sounds intimidating and fraught with possible errors. In reality, they are same experiment, the same work, the same amount of engagement.

Back to that other spring task: thinking about the garden.

I could list all sorts of things we did wrong in last year’s garden. It was neglected, beloved, dehydrated, crowded, and much of it was planted in too much shade. But upon looking through the seed catalog one last time before ordering, I realized I could at least claim to be totally different than the person who went through the seed catalog, for the first time ever, last year. I read for different details, paying more attention to things like days to maturity and transplanting than I did before. So even though I don’t think I’ve learned all that much, I can tell I’ve learned a little bit. And that’s how it goes.

Whenever I talked with the neighbors about the garden, I naturally listed all the things that weren’t going quite right. But then I always added, “I just love it though.”  I noticed that all the time I spent in the garden, I enjoyed. It was a deeply relaxing place for me to putter around. it was a place that was quiet, patient, and tranquil, three attributes to which I constantly aspire.

In our part of Vermont, gardeners wait until the end of May for a last frost. People plan to plant on Memorial Day weekend. So I still have some time to get things going around here. Last year I learned that all of the major seedling sales are in May, so I’ll be prepared this year to buy things that I don’t want to start from seed, like broccoli, tomatoes, eggplant, and pumpkins. Another thing I learned: those sales happen once, and then they are done! If you see them, it’s very nice to buy a few strawberry seedlings and put them in a container on your porch.

young corn

borage, post bloom

The other day my friend Bridget asked me what I will plant again, so here’s the list of what I’m thinking through. I link to Johnny’s because that’s who we primarily ordered from:

  • Zucchini: I’m linking to the type that we planted, I loved it. It had lovely coloring and the blossoms were gorgeous. Several times I fried the blossoms up (never bothered with stuffing them) as a pre-dinner snack.
  • Basil: I loved having several rows of basil. Such abundance! I could use as much as I wanted, and make as much freezer pesto as I wanted. I pinched off the flowers whenever I saw them beginning to appear and was able to eat off that first planting all summer.
  • Beets: Our beets did not get big enough in time for the season. I cook with beets infrequently, and anyway I do like getting them from the farmer’s market, where they seem to spill over with abundance.
  • Borage: an easy plant that shot right up and was soon covered with dozens of soft purple and blue edible flowers. The bees adored it and the kids did too. We’ll do this again. 
  • Kohlrabi: This is a forgiving cheerful little plant that we like to eat raw. I planted too much of it, and will likely just do a small row of it this year.
  • Beans & peas: These were planted in an area with too much shade. I will try them in a new area this year.
  • Tomatoes: I had terrible luck but I will try again, of course. Likely with the Sungold cherry tomatoes, which are so delicious
  • Carrots: I spent quite a bit of time replanting carrot seeds after rain downpours, so this time I will buy pelleted seeds that (should be) easier to keep track of.
  • Corn: The five stalks of corn that we grew did not provide us with more than a meal or two’s worth of corn, but it was so fun to watch it grow. The plants are fascinating, tall lean Abraham Lincolns standing stately in the garden congress. We’ll try a few more varieties this year, just for fun.
  • Lettuce: I only planted one type and it thrived. I was totally bored of it within a week or two. I’m leaning into greens this year. They are so interesting and relatively easy to grow, mine seemed to do well because they got shade from the afternoon sun.
  • Kale: Same as above, but I never tired of our kale, beginning in July on through September. It was so delicious.
  • Herb bin: all the herbs, besides the basil, were in a container near the kitchen door, which was lovely. I encouraged the girls to eat whatever they wanted from the container. This year I will plant basil and dill in the garden, but keep parsley, oregano, mint, and chives in the handy container.

an August evening.

This is Hard

Such homeschooling! No homeschooler I know would voluntarily sign up for a homeschool devoid of libraries, parks, friend meetups, rousing trips to the coffee shop and long days at the museum.

Not to mention we’re all walking around like pale atlases, trying to hold up under the relentlessly grim news.

This isn’t homeschooling; this is HARD.

Let’s get that straight now, before we spend the next eight weeks doing it.

Now, when we should be bolstering our natural immunities, I’ve been craving sweets. Typically I live and breathe a savory palate—salt, vinegar, fries, oysters, etc. When I crave sweets it’s a sign that I’m feeling denied. Mind controlled. Like the word CANT is stamped on my forehead. Craving sweets told me my psyche was truly battling with all the NOs flooding my inbox. Closed. Done. No idea. Shouldn’t.

(That photo is banana bread which was good, but a tad mushy on day 2.)

As an extrovert at home with our outings cancelled, I immediately began hunting for further intellectual engagement in my daily life.  I can’t believe I didn’t grab more books from the library when I was there three days before they abruptly closed. I had one giant bag of books for the girls—couldn’t I have grabbed a few novels for myself?!

That’s how you become the generation who always carries six books around with them. “What if these were the last books I could check out for weeks?” we’ll tell our grandchild when they ask why granny insisted on carrying the bag to lunch.

But I found some other projects in short order…. I’ve wanted to understand naturally leavened bread for FOREVER. I have the Tartine cookbook. I understand patience, dough, and staying calm when everything is sticking to your fingers. I own flour. The last time I read the cookbook it seemed unintelligible. What was it saying? Why did single step directions seem to take pages to explain?

But this week I took a look at it again. All of a sudden it didn’t seem so hard.

If there’s one thing teaching kids has taught me, it’s that the first draft should be sloppy. Gratuitously sloppy. Pool splash sloppy. Round two might be a little better. Round three—just imagine!

Here’s round two. It was super sloppy. First draft style. On to the next batch! Honestly I’ve never cared less how my bread turns out. I just want something, something else, to mull over for a little while.

In the spirit of adult engagement, here are few more things I’ve been enjoying lately:

These soft spoken interviews with fiction writers. They may make me fall in love with reading fiction again. This fall I read The Incendiaries by R.O. Kwon, a fiction set around the romance of a zealous Christian and a former Christian, and a circling cult leader. Her interview was superb. Here, on her sense of being since losing her personal faith: “I’ve tried to find more value in ephemeral joy than I did when I believed I would live forever.” The most recent Jenny Offill one is so good.

Signs of Bloom’s anything & everything pinterest board. Such a pretty collection.

Bright orange zinging ice cubes of immunity. You can do whatever you like with them, I like throwing them into green smoothies.

The titles of Lullatone songs. There is one Lullatone song that Esme falls asleep to sometimes when we’re driving–Falling Asleep with a Book On Your Chest–but reading their titles is like a perfume squeak of happiness to your wrist. Going to Buy Some Strawberries. Here Comes Sweater Weather. Adventures Songs for Migrating Birds. Finishing Something You Worked Really Hard On.

Bright orange carrot dressing with ginger and turmeric. Try it on soba noodles, and relish the flavor of anti inflammatorys!

Let me know if you have a favorite mental mulling escape to add to the list!