Friday, February 24, 2012

Three Times A Day: Day Twelve

~~ Morning ~~
I came into the living room at seven this morning and saw that the temperature was 67 degrees outside.  I opened the doors wide, letting the fresh air and the sound of the birds morning songs fill the house.  The rain started by nine o'clock, and we stood in the open doorway and enjoyed the warm breeze.

~~ Noon ~~
Elvis saw the open door, and inched his way inside, spending much of his time wistfully looking outside, as if we had trapped him inside the [still open] door.  That silly big dog doesn't fool anyone.  When thunder shook the house, he tried to wedge himself into my lap.  

~~ Night ~~
Tonight's temperature is supposed to dip back down into the thirties again.  I was tempted to complain bitterly about that fact, but then decided to simply view today's warmth as the lovely gift it was.

Thursday, February 23, 2012

Three Times A Day: Day Eleven

~~ Morning ~~
Thursdays have been our out-of-the-house days this year.  Princess Hazelnut spends the afternoon with my mom and grandma, The Boy Wonder goes to his homeschool academy, and I juggle meetings with clients.  It has been good for all of us, these afternoons in which we go our separate ways once a week.  Their favorite part is snuggling up together to watch a morning cartoon while I shower and get ready.  Mine is the time spent impersonating an adult.  By the time we return to each other, four short hours later, we are excited to see each other again, and we hug and kiss and tell each other all the little details of our time apart, as if days have passed.

~~ Noon ~~
I was a beat or two off all day.  Clients weren't where they were supposed to be at the right times, I was still a little unsteady as a final decision was made about The Boy Wonder's educational plan for next year, and at least twice I swore everyone around me was speaking a different language.  As I left downtown, and made my circuitous climb up the flights of stairs in the parking deck, I suddenly realized that the seven-month-old 'Out of Order' signs were no longer on the elevator doors.  I was almost to the top by that time though, so I just shrugged and kept climbing.

~~ Night ~~
Six years ago, our little family suffered a loss that seemed to be insurmountable.  My sister gave me purple hyacinths during that time, and I will forever associate their heady fragrance with those difficult winter days.  When the four of us reconvened at dinnertime today, Princess Hazelnut greeted me with a grimy fistful of daffodils and the first hyacinths of the season, and I carefully placed them in my favorite corner of my desk.  The office seemed so full of love this evening as I worked my way through a pile of paperwork.  
Every time I inhaled their perfume, I smiled.  
Inhale, smile.  

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Three Times A Day: Day Ten

~~ Morning ~~
I hold so tightly to these sacred early beginnings to the day.  Time to myself, time for quiet and for exercise, for reflection and for matters of faith.  

~~ Noon ~~
After lunch, as we wind up the homeschooling hours and I transition to my office time, we take our coffee break.  The heathens have always come running when they hear the espresso machine firing its engines.  I make myself a vanilla latte with a double shot of espresso.  The children eagerly line up for their vanilla steamers (steamed, frothed milk with a wee drop of vanilla syrup, hold the coffee).  It is an absurd ritual.  Which descriptive probably sums up why we love it so.

~~ Night ~~
I should not have waited until I was tired and frustrated to plan the menu for the next week.  When time is short is when I most crave nourishing, healthy meals, but when we clearly don't have the margin in our schedule for leisurely time spent in the kitchen.  Balance is elusive.

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Three Times A Day: Day Nine

~~ Morning ~~
My well-established morning routine of late has fallen deep into disrepair.  After Princess Hazelnut's middle of the night insistence on lipstick (?) resulted in my lying awake for a few hours, I chose sleeping in over virtuosity.  With only a few minutes to myself before the madness commenced this morning, I poured a cup of coffee, and sat by my favorite window for a few minutes with the book I favor when things seem out of balance and I feel the need to focus my gaze into the center of what my life looks like right now.  Not what it used to look like, or what I wish it looked like, or what I strive for it to look like in the future.  
Right now.  

~~ Noon ~~
There was no getting around the messiness of the day.  The Boy Wonder ate a bagel and dawdled through his math worksheet while Princess Hazelnut water-colored with nothing more than construction paper, water, and a straw.  I chose to let go these affronts to my sensibilities and focused instead on climbing out from beneath a pile of lesson plans, invitations that needed to be extended, and an email that needed an answer I did not have.  The math was accomplished, the artwork admired, the invitations completed, the email acknowledged.  
Nothing was perfect, everyone was satisfied.

~~ Night ~~
When I said, "Please keep your toys and assorted whatnots off this one little end table in the living room," I did not mean move the smallest pieces 13 inches higher onto the ledge of my reading lamp.  But I am impressed both with the clever circumvention of the rule, and the fact that a new Lego sculpture is hidden here almost every day. 
 Ingenuity of the little boy: 1.   Rules of the mother: 0.

Three Times A Day: Day Eight

~~ Morning ~~
Oh, reality, I hardly know thee.  I suspected today would feel strange, and it did.  I woke up at my usual time, automatically reaching for my exercise clothes, but then I thought better of it.  Better to ease back into Real Life, I thought.  Then I walked into the kitchen and found the shells arranged on the table.  Like a wink from the weekend.  
Oh.  It really did happen.

~~ Noon ~~
At least fifteen times before lunch, we made a break from the humdrum.  Two minutes of math, followed by jumping jacks in the living room.  One page of spelling, then a turn or two in the spinning chair.  I didn't have the heart to tell Princess Hazelnut that the daffodils she proudly brought inside to me were the ones from the front garden.  The ones we do not pick.  She was so happy to show me that she knows the ones with the orange center are Bita's favorite, and that she now knows the white ones are mine.  Methinks my mother may have given the little imp a gardening lesson.  I couldn't help but wonder if they also discussed my propensity for black tulips. 

~~ Night ~~
Sparklers on the front porch.  Because nothing about our day was normal.  Because I learned how to slow my shutter speed down so I could get the cooooolest shots of the light trail.  Because it was Monday and we kind of like the abnormality of our recent days.  Because tomorrow is Fat Tuesday and I'm not making a King Cake.  [Because there were sparklers in the basket of treasures that was put in our hotel room to welcome us to the wedding.  And because of course we brought them home to the kids].

Monday, February 20, 2012

Three Times A Day: Day Seven

~~ Late Morning ~~
We had said our goodbyes the night before.  Well, we said them shortly before dawn, that is.  We snagged a few hours of sleep, packed up the car, and walked a couple blocks down to a cafe for breakfast, stopping in a nature store to pick up some painted shells to bring home to the kids.  

KIDS?  We have kids?  It was still the late-nineties, wasn't it?  Had I finished college?  Had we gotten married?  Did we have a mortgage?  Re-entry was going to be tough.

~~ Noon ~~
When we drove in early Thursday evening, I said the same thing I used to say when we came here, "I don't know how you ever left."  By Friday morning, feeling more than a little worse for the wear after the first ridiculously late night, I whimpered, "I see why you left this place."  Driving away, though, I kept my eye on the For Sale signs, knowing how much easier it would be to buy in this down-market.  Not that I can figure out how on earth we could uproot two self-employed people with location-specific clientele.

     ~~ Night ~~
Seeing her in the window of my mother's house when we pulled up was just what I needed.  We collected the kids and came home.  Home, together.  

Sunday, February 19, 2012

Three Times A Day: Day Six

~~ Morning ~~
After an unnecessarily decadent breakfast of butter pecan french toast, a walk was in order.  The tide was out, and the sun was hidden, and the gorgeous gray moodiness of the sky and the water blended into each other until we came upon the Valentine's Tree.

~~ Noon ~~
We walked slowly through the cemetery, reading birth and death dates, marveling at the history of this ancient, lovely place.  There were so many children buried here, and each tiny grave marker, along with the gentle inscriptions gave us such pause.  One said simply 'Our Isabelle,' another nearly broke our heart with it's words of "at the age of six years, six months, and fourteen days."  Just as we were leaving, giving up on finding the grave I was searching for, he flagged down a guide to ask where it was.  We held hands and quickly trekked back through, finally finding one of the beloved writers of my teenage years, buried only a few yards away from the gravestones that had inspired some of the books I loved so well.

~~ Night ~~
Now that the last of his old crowd got married tonight, he joked that they would have to start dying off in order to get them all together on the island again after this final hurrah.  Granted, this wedding would be hard to top.

Saturday, February 18, 2012

Three Times A Day: Day Five

~~ Morning ~~
I would very much not mind being able to walk out on this balcony every morning.  Although, now that I think about it, morning was very close to being over before I actually made it the four steps between the bed and the balcony.  The last time I stayed out that late and had that much fun and acted so much like I was still 25, I was, well, still 25.

~~ Noon ~~
If you ever have the chance to sit on a pier and watch a ballsy pelican groom itself, I highly recommend it as a source of never-ending entertainment.  I finally resorted to giving a running commentary from the pelican's perspective.  And of course I took about 425 pictures so that I can show them to the kids as a sort of flip book.  He never did manage to scratch that part of his neck that seemed to be bothering him so badly.  But he tried.  Boy, did he try.

~~ Night ~~
Irony, defined: Standing in the middle of a dive bar packed full of people singing loudly along to (wait for it...) "Praise the Lord.  I Saw the Light."  

Friday, February 17, 2012

Three Times A Day: Day Four

~~ Morning ~~
There was so much to get done this morning.  I awoke early to squeeze in some yoga time.  I needed to finish packing, wash the dishes, gather together all the supplies the kids would need for their sleepover at Bita's house, make sure all of my bases were covered with clients, and I desperately wanted to have some quiet time with the children before saying goodbye.  I did not want to yell or make them hurry.  Then, while I was wrapping my hair in curlers and mentally reviewing my checklist, I heard Princess Hazelnut getting the basket of nail polish.  "Mama, can you please paint my fingers and my piggies?"  Of course I didn't have time for that.  But of course I painted them anyway.  Each tiny little nail.  Two coats of princess pink.

~~ Noon ~~
The drive was kind of perfect.  It was just the two of us, such a rare occurrence these days.  We laughed, listened to music, stopped in Macon for coffee, took a detour through some old neighborhoods just to admire the architecture.  We had been looking forward to this trip for so long, and the preparation was intense and hectic.  Now time began to slow down and the easy, relaxed tone of the upcoming weekend took hold.  Spanish Moss began to appear on the trees.  We were getting close.

~~ Night ~~
This was our first time back since we had kids.  It's been, what, nine years?  Ten?  It was dark when we arrived.  The party was in the back garden of someone's beach house.  Sand underfoot, Low Country Boil for dinner, old friends and new ones, a guy with a guitar, the sound of the water just past the rocks.  Laughter and music and a night that was only just beginning.

Thursday, February 16, 2012

Three Times A Day: Day Three

~~ Morning ~~
I am not the only one chasing the morning light around the house these days.  In these colder months, I watch Elvis as he stands up every few hours and moves to another side of the house, seeking the warmth and the sunlight.  This is his new morning spot.  

~~ Noon ~~
I declared a homeschool holiday, in honor of the need to pack three days of work into one six hour stretch.  The kids cheered and headed straight for The Boy Wonder's room, right next to my office.  There was elaborate role-playing, quiet time with puzzles and Legos while listening to Vivaldi's Ring of Mystery, a heated discussion about dragon training, and a whispered, sort-of-secretive excursion to the car to abscond with my umbrella.  

~~ Night ~~
Every day should end with a handful of chocolates from the Valentine's stash, some quality time with one's pet lizards, and an episode of Pokemon.

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Three Times a Day: Day Two

~~ Morning ~~
Good morning, quiet house.  Good morning beautiful, glowing light.  
Yoga, scripture, coffee, a little time spent watching the children cuddle each other in their sleep.

~~ Noon ~~
A new knitting project.  Yarn from a friend.  There are so many moments during the homeschool hours when The Boy Wonder will become distracted if I wander off to accomplish something while he practices his cursive or works on his math, but I will go mad if forced to sit still while the to-do list continues to grow.  Enter knitting.  The movement of the needles hypnotizes Princess Hazelnut, and the steady doing - the creating - fills this downtime with a sense of purpose.  Besides, I can always use another market bag.

~~ Night ~~
The kids are asleep.  The dishes are done.  The work is as complete as it is going to get for now.  There is this pause at the beginning and the end of each day, this time to marvel at the peacefulness that bookends these days of pure chaos and madness.  Now we rest.

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Three Times a Day: Day One

~~ Morning ~~
The calm before the storm.  Maybe I should let the children sleep for just a few more minutes.

~~ Noon ~~
Math lessons, emails from clients, requests for paper hearts.

~~ Night ~~
Piles of work, books to be listed on Paperback Swap, more piles of work, tax forms, another pile of work.  Daffodils on the desk.  God bless the daffodils.

Monday, February 13, 2012

Morning, Noon, and Night

Being intentional about my time is a comical pursuit these days.  I wake up early, and start moving too quickly, too loudly, too soon.  The day and the evening pass in a blur of homeschooling, housekeeping, working, and living.  And with the particular lifestyle we have chosen, of home education and self-employment, all these activities can happen within the same four walls.

I didn't even make it outside today.

I am still in my yoga pants from my predawn workout.

Something must give.

Oh, don't get me wrong.  I do not plan to change anything concrete about any of this.  But I would like to pause occasionally, at least long enough to notice what is happening in the occasional moment.  Or two.  Well, three, to be exact.

I think right now, during what will perhaps be my busiest season yet, I shall focus on a new project with photographs.  A simple succession of daily pictures taken during the morning, noon, and night.  Photographs that capture a few moments of our day.  Sometimes with words.  Sometimes without.  Most days - but not all of them.

There is beauty in the mundane.  There is life in the details.  And I do not wish to miss a minute of it.

Saturday, February 11, 2012

Opposite Ends of my Kitchen

I am participating in an online workshop right now, a little something that felt so right to me when I was deciding how to allocate money received at Christmastime.  Whole Foods Kitchen is just the sort of intentional use of my free time that centers me, especially at a time of year when my work schedule and its associated tax deadlines threaten to spin my brain into a knot.

It is times like this when I wonder why on earth I am focusing my energies on the Registered Tax Return Preparer Competency Test (yawn) when what has lately been occupying my thoughts and dreams is pursuing certification in holistic nutrition.  

And while I immerse myself in research on distance learning programs for holistic health certifications, along with lively online workshop discussions of healthy foods, my children are busy picking out just the right sticks with which to roast marshmallows in our fireplace.

Do you see the sticky, white, gelatinous substance at the top of that stick on the far right?

Marshmallows (insert interrobang here).  Oh, the irony.

Monday, February 06, 2012

When the Morning Comes

It is impossible to be in a bad mood after watching this video.  I dare you not to smile in the first 30 seconds.  What's even better, is that after you have seen this a few times, forever after it will only take the first few opening beats of the song to make you happy.

Not just a little bit happy.  A lot happy.  It is my Monday gift to you.

It was a day filled with goodness.  A good song.  Good news about a friend.  There are daffodils blooming in the front yard, the side yard, the back yard,  everywhere.  There was plenty of quiet time this morning to exercise, to read scripture, and to read my favorite daily moment of beauty.  Nobody cried during learning time today.  (Not even me).

I didn't have the heart to tell her she had jam all over her face.  She said, "Mama, was I pretty in the picture?"  I said, "Baby, you were beautiful in the picture."

Saturday, February 04, 2012

Fresh Pear and Blue Cheese Salad

The busier things have gotten around here lately, the more I find myself creating new, necessary rhythms to see us through our days.  It helps to set some things on auto-pilot so that there are fewer tasks to remember, and less details to tend to.  Less things to forget.  Less items to cause stress.  

~~ Groceries are picked up on the way home from meetings with clients on Thursdays.  
~~ Laundry is done on specific days.  Showers on alternate days.
~~ The coffee maker is reloaded every evening when the dinner dishes are washed.

~~ The bread machine is set up every Friday afternoon to make pizza dough for dinner.
~~ Lessons are planned a week in advance, with worksheets copied and books obtained (ahead of time) from the library.
~~ Soup, salad, and baguette are the standard for Saturday night dinners.
~~ Extra dark chocolate is purchased and hidden in the cabinet for emergencies.

Oh, the humdrum of the routine can be thrown out at a moment's notice to take advantage of a friend's perfect idea to combine families for an evening of chaos and stove-sharing and laughter, and nothing ever has to be set in stone, but knowing that there is grace in this weekly rhythm is comforting, grounding even, when schedules start spinning out of control.

Grace is good.  

I have already prattled on enough about my love for the Moosewood Restaurant Daily Special, but it has been such an ideal winter cookbook these past weeks, keeping our Saturday evenings warm with nourishing soups, and providing a welcome rhythm in knowing I will naturally reach there for my inspiration for new soup & salad recipes and pairings.  

There have been hits and misses, of course.  Tonight's soup was perfectly dull and disappointing.  Last Saturday's salad was head-scratchingly odd.  But the winners have been divine, and tonight's salad of arugula, pears, blue cheese, and a bracingly acidic vinaigrette was downright stunning.  Gorgeous to look at, and worth fighting each other for the last few bites.  

It was so simple to make, and the lack of extra ingredients in the recipe allowed each individual flavor to shine brilliantly.  The arugula was sharp and bitter, the pear slices were firm and sweet, the blue cheese was meltingly rich and savory, all of it drizzled over with a bright, tart vinaigrette.  I have known good salads, but this was one of the very best.  No extraneous textures, no flavors thrown in for complexity's sake.  Just four perfect notes.

As suited as it was for a first course followed by soup and bread (the bread all the better for mopping up the leftover bits of blue cheese swimming in vinaigrette), it would be extra winsome served alongside a good, fatty fish like salmon, or with a rich omelette topped with sauteed mushrooms, really anything full-bodied or creamy enough to act as a foil to the bright, clean flavors and crisp textures of the salad.

I live for salads like this.  And given the squabbling at the table over the last few bites, so do The Carnivore and The Boy Wonder.  


FRESH PEAR AND BLUE CHEESE SALAD, serves 4 as a side dish
(adapted from Moosewood Restaurant Daily Special)

  • 4 cups arugula (or other salad greens if you are averse to the assertive flavors of arugula)
  • 1 large firm Bosc, Bartlett, or red D'Anjou pear
  • 3 Tbs fresh orange juice
  • 2 Tbs fresh lemon juice
  • 2 Tbs olive oil
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/3 cup (or more, to taste) crumbled blue cheese
  1. On a large platter, arrange the greens.
  2. Core the pear, slice it thinly, and lay the slices atop the greens.
  3. In a small bowl, whisk together the orange juice, lemon juice, olive oil, garlic, and salt.
  4. Immediately before serving, drizzle the dressing over the platter of greens & pear slices.
  5. Sprinkle the crumbled blue cheese on top.

Thursday, February 02, 2012

Beauty is only Fork Deep

Have you ever been excited about a recipe you just couldn't wait to try?  So excited that you wanted to run right out and get the ingredients you would need?

And then it turned out to be really rather easy to make, and it was absolutely stunning to look at?

But it tasted, uhhh, you know, meh?

Or you make the perfect souffle, suffering through the agonizing oven time, watch as it deflates slightly around the edges, but still looks handsome, and then you can't quite get past the distracting fact that it has the texture of baby food?

Happens to me all the time.  And every time it happens, I wilt with disappointment.  I calculate the cost of the ingredients, I look with distrust upon the source of the recipe, and I leave the table still a little bit hungry.

Especially when it wastes one of my favorite ingredients.

{sigh}  There should be a special graveyard for food photographs that are yummier than their recipes.