Just This.


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DSC_0647Look at this sweet little face. And how he’s holding my hand.  Also, it is finally warm here. Like really, actually warm.  Not just 46 degrees which feels warm relative to 20 degrees, but real, honest to goodness warmth is in the air.  Praise the Lord.  More to come soon.

[4.16 update: I take back everything I said about how it was finally warm.  It went back down to under 20 last night and snowed.  But whatever, who needs spring when you can have perpetual winter?)

Little Red Riding Hood (11 months)


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My dear readers, I am sorry for the complete lack of posting lately. Life is so busy, and I’ve been doing other things in my very few minutes of spare time.  (Right now, reading this and this, and writing three sermons in the space of 5 weeks.) Will just turned 11 months and breaks my heart every day with his cuteness.  I hope to start writing more here soon, but until then, here are a couple of pictures.



Chai Tea for Cold Days


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[This is a re-post from last winter.  Apologies to all, but it's so cold here I thought I would share my recipe again because, as I wrote last winter, "at least in upstate New York, this is the time of year when you just start getting tired of being bone cold all the time, and you know that there's still a long time of coldness ahead, and you realize that you need to cling to the little graces of winter, mugs of soup and hot tea and the warmth of your best friend next to you at night." Here's to searching out little bits of joy in the depths of winter. L'chaim!]

Chai Tea

4 c. (about 1 liter) water

2-4 inches of fresh ginger, unpeeled* (exact amount not necessary)

7-10 whole cloves*

10 black peppercorns*

2 sticks of cinnamon*

10 green cardamom pods* (Optional. I’ve never actually made this with cardamom because it’s so expensive, but it is traditionally one of the dominant spices in masala chai)

1/4 t. loose black tea

milk of some kind (real or almond or whatever. preferably not skim)

sweetener of some kind (optional– 5 or 6 drops of liquid stevia work nicely with this)

* You can use powdered spices if you want, though the fresher they are, the better. (Also, if you are going to buy any of these spices, please, please check a natural grocery store’s bulk section first. You can save a ton of money buying any of these in bulk rather than the tiny, overpriced containers in the grocery store. When you buy in bulk, the price per pound is dramatically less, and you can buy smaller quantities of spices that you aren’t going to use much of.)

Bring water to a low boil and add ginger, cloves, peppercorns, and cinnamon. Boil for about 15 minutes (longer for a stronger chai) and then add a pinch of black tea. Continue boiling for a minute or two more. Strain the liquid and discard the spices. While the mixture is still warm, you can add a sweetener if you want. Add just a little at a time.

Serve hot with a splash of milk or refrigerate and serve cold with milk. (Milk helps the tea to be more easily digested.)

Some Pictures


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This adorable baby pulled each of these toys out of a box and arranged them around himself in a near-perfect circle.  And then looked up at me with this victorious smile.  Coincidence? Accident?  Or display of incredible genius? I leave it to you, gentle readers, to decide. Also (below), this is how he fell asleep in his crib the other day.  I cannot even handle how adorable this little lump of sugar is.

photo-9 copy


Falafel Salad with Avocado & Beets


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Y’all.  My world has been transformed.  A few weeks ago we had a dinner party at our house, and one of our friends brought falafels with roasted beets and plain yogurt.  She has a friend who is from Iraq and she said that Iraqis traditionally eat falafels with beets and yogurt.  So we ate, and it was delicious.  Super delicious.


But THEN.  The next day I was trying to figure out something to eat and I found some nice baby salad greens, some leftover falafels, some chèvre (also leftover from the gathering).  And an avocado.  And you guys, I decided to put the falafels on top of the greens, sort of crumbled up.  And I crumbled some of that chèvre right in and then diced up the whole avocado in as well.  And then I drizzled it with olive oil and a generous sprinkle of salt. And it was honestly one of the best things I have ever eaten.


Until I made the same salad yesterday but with the addition of roasted beets, because after that dinner party I have been craving beets. (Yesterday’s salad also lacked the goat’s cheese but I just gave it a generous dollop of plain yogurt, and if I had had a lemon I would have given it a good squeeze over the whole production.) Anyway, it is delightful and filling and so, so simple. Greens, falafel, avocado and/or beets, chèvre or yogurt.  Generous pour of olive oil and generous sprinkle of salt. Best salad ever, the end.


A Pearl from a Clam


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So John spent about 5 hours yesterday making a pot of this incredible Manhattan clam chowder for me for Valentine’s Day. I’m telling you, there were real clams and chopped and diced onions, peppers, carrots, tomatoes, celery, garlic, and about 6 different kinds of herbs, and bacon, all of which he prepared very neatly beforehand (while also watching Will) and arranged into little bowls according to when each type of thing would need to be added. (I was working yesterday afternoon and came home to find him with this perfect mise en place situation, and I asked him if that’s what he had been doing, and he was like, “I have no idea what you’re talking about, it just made sense.” This man. He also bought me two candles from anthropologie for the occasion, but I didn’t want to turn this into a whole thing about how my husband is the best ever, so I’ll just stop with that. Except he also whipped us up some omelets this morning and asked me if I knew that Valentine’s Day was actually 3 days long, and that we were on day 2 today. Ok, I’m done.)



Anyway, back to last night.  Will fell asleep like the little sack of sugar that he is at 6:15 and we watched an episode of the West Wing while we waited for the soup to finish.  It did, and we sat down and ate, and it was of course completely delicious in that way that food often is when it has more than 3 ingredients, which is not something we see around here very often. So we were eating and talking about life and enjoying the Trader Joe’s vinho verde when John suddenly shouted out with pain, pulled a chunk of clam out of his mouth, and from that piece of clam….. pulled out……….. I am not kidding you…………… a pearl. 


True story. I didn’t think clams even made pearls, but as it turns out they do. And they are more rare than pearls from oysters.  It kind of looks like a BB pellet, and I am still a little skeptical, but by golly I am taking this pearl to the jewelers and having them make me a little necklace or ring out of it.  When I told John this plan, he said in a very irritated tone and I quote, “Maybe in 50 years you can make a ring out of it. I’m not paying to have that done right now.” End quote.


Also, I’m keeping it in this little box along with two treasures of mine from childhood, a little pitcher from a tea set I played with at my granny Laurie’s house when I was tiny, and this strange fertility goddess and baby that I fashioned out of clay at age 6 or 7. That is all.



Health Benefits of Beet Kvass


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I started a batch of beet kvass (a nourishing tonic of Ukranian origin) a few days ago and it was ready today. It turned out to be not as terrible as some kvass I bought at the health food store a few months ago, so that’s good, right?. It tastes a little salty but rich and beet-y and bracing.  We don’t have the space in our kitchen for a big kombucha production, so this is a good (and simpler) alternative for those who want a refreshing probiotic beverage to help them feel superior to other wealthy, overeducated, urban-homesteading Americans who are obsessed with esoteric, fermented, “traditional” food and drink. (Ok, I don’t really know where that uplifting sentiment came from, but it’s aimed at myself & I guess stems from a deep self-consciousness about even posting about beet kvass in the first place. Existential angst still going strong at the ripe old age of 31. Sorry, y’all).

So anyway.  To make this, all you do is roughly chop a couple of beets (skin on), and put them in a glass jar with a little salt and some whey (or extra salt) and let it sit out at room temperature for a few days before storing in the fridge.  One recipe I saw said you could let it ferment for up to 2 weeks. You can also let it sit in the fridge for several days after the fermentation, which gives it a stronger flavor.


Health Benefits of Beet Kvass

*cleanses the liver
*alkalizes the blood
*assists digestive system
*used in cancer therapy in Europe
*boosts energy
*great source of probiotics
*plenty of B vitamins and minerals

See here for recipe.  (Here’s a recipe that doesn’t require whey.) Read here for health benefits of beets.  Next time I make it I’m going to add some pieces of fresh ginger and see if it makes it nice and gingery.  I hope so.


Budgets and Beauty


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I’ve been using cash for groceries the last few months, so as to help me stay within our already more than reasonable budget and so that I do not spend $20 extra each week on roquefort or special tea or some kind of new herbal supplement that might solve all my problems. It’s back to basics for us, by gum. Beans and eggs and bread and potatoes and onions. And it’s oh so difficult staying in budget but good in that way that hard-but-valuable things like marriage and sweeping the floors and folding laundry are good. (And ok, so maybe marriage is just a small bit different than sweeping floors, but there is a certain discipline and necessity and dailiness to both and maybe either one can be a joy or misery just depending on how much grace you are able to see it with. Also, by using the word “dailiness” I do not wish to convey the impression that I sweep our floors every day.  I’m using that word in a very broad, generous, metaphorical sense.)

Anyway, I went to Aldi for the first time a couple of days ago. It felt strange being in a new grocery store, and the overall atmosphere was eerie and disconcerting, but oh my word a head of cauliflower cost only $2.29 and they even had almond milk and cashews.  And I bought 6 roses for $3.99.  I’m not sure if that’s even a good price for roses, but I bought them because in the midst of staying on a strict budget it can be easy to lose the joy. But the beauty of staying on a strict budget is that the little things, like $4 worth of flowers or a cup of Celestial Seasonings tea or the morning coffee, become treasures. It made me think of this passage from A Tree Grows in Brooklyn:


Francie, Neely, and mama had a very fine meal. Each had a thick slice of the “tongue,” two pieces of sweet-smelling rye bread spread with unsalted butter, a sugar bun apiece and a mug of strong strong hot coffee with a teaspoon of sweetened condensed milk on the side.

There was a special Nolan idea about the coffee. It was their one great luxury. Mama made a big potful each morning and reheated it for dinner and supper and it got stronger as the day wore on. It was an awful lot of water and very little coffee but mama put a lump of chicory in it which made it taste strong and bitter. Each one was allowed three cups a day with milk. Other times you could help yourself to a cup of black coffee anytime you felt like it. Sometimes when you had nothing at all and it was raining and you were alone in the flat, it was wonderful to know that you could have something even though it was only a cup of black and bitter coffee.

Neeley and Francie loved coffee but seldom drank it. Today, as usual, Neeley let his coffee stand black and ate his condensed milk spread on bread. He sipped a little of the black coffee for the sake of formality. Mama poured out Francie’s coffee and put the milk in it even though she knew that the child wouldn’t drink it.

Francie loved the smell of coffee and the way it was hot. As she ate her bread and meat, she kept one hand curved about the cup enjoying its warmth. From time to time, she’d smell the bitter sweetness of it. That was better than drinking it. At the end of the meal, it went down the sink. — A Tree Grows in Brooklyn, Betty Smith

Beauty of Beans


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DSC_0613 DSC_0617So, grocery budget.  We’re down to $191 for the rest of February. Which isn’t terrible, and it’s a short month.  But there are going to be many days of beans ahead of us.  Including today. John’s office was closed because of snow, which doesn’t happen often up here. So I cooked up a pot of rice for lunch and heated up the rest of the pinto beans I had in the fridge. And we had an avocado because I keep buying them for Will because how could a baby not love avocado, but somehow it is his least favorite food of all time. He will eat broccoli, collard greens, and liver like there’s no tomorrow, but creamy, mild, delicious avocado? Hates it.

Anyway, there was something so good and comforting and simple about a big bowl of rice with a scoop of beans and some avocado on top.  Here’s how to cook dry beans, and here is a post about the best corn tortillas to eat them with, if anyone is interested. Hoping that some of you might have the great fortune to be eating beans and rice today, too.


This Boy. 8 Months.


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DSC_0667DSC_0652DSC_0651DSC_0646DSC_0611DSC_0605DSC_0650Actually pulled out the real camera for the first time in awhile.  He’s 8 months old and just more delightful by the day.  He’s been able to pick up beans and small pieces of food with his thumb and pointer finger for the past few weeks, and it is delightful to watch the process. Little bits of steamed carrots, banana, beans.  Today a smidgen of miso paste.  (He would make a face of, “What in the world is this?!” which if you’ve ever eaten miso paste you will understand, but then would go for more.) I love meals (and every other part of the day) with this boy.

p.s.– The kidney was terrible.  Beyond terrible.  I feel utterly betrayed by kidney. Just for the record.


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