Valentine’s Day

DSC_1330 DSC_1287 DSC_1297 My sweet mother always made Valentine’s day special for my brother and me when we were little.  There would be a pretty red tablecloth, little heart shaped doilies, a special breakfast, gifts.  And even though Will is still a bit young I decided this year to do something for Valentine’s Day.  Partly because it has been so, so cold.  I knew we needed some splashes of red and treats to help us through these days of single digit weather and endless snow. So we made heart shaped pancakes and ate raspberries and got Will a red helium balloon, aka toddler crack. Pretty simple, but it was a sweet morning.  Wishing love and warmth to you all.DSC_1323 DSC_1325 DSC_1302 DSC_1326

Budgets and Beauty

DSC_0598

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:

DSC_0620

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

Kelley’s Blue Book, What’s the Deal?

Image

John and I bought a new car on Monday.  And by new, I mean 11 years old.  I am in love with it.

So we’re selling my dear old Toyota Corolla (pictured above).  And by old, I mean 21 years old.  A 1992 with only 179,000 miles on it.  I never thought this day would come, or at least I thought it would be in about 5 or 10 more years.  My dad bought this car for me in 2004 (thanks again, Dad!), and it has needed literally as little work as you can imagine a car possibly needing: mainly brake pads here and there, the water pump once, and John made me get new transmission fluid when we lived in Beaufort.  I am trying to remember, but I think in 9 years that is all we have had to do. I love this car with an unholy obsession.

But get this!  I just looked up my Corolla on Kelley’s Blue Book to see how much I should list it for on Craigslist, and I discovered that they only give values back as far as 1993!!!! Are you kidding me? What is the deal here? Anyway, I don’t need some random online car valuing algorithm to tell me what I already know: this car is priceless.

This Happened

DSC_0607

My baby was born on Monday.  William Emeth (the ‘h’ is silent), 7 lbs 7 oz, after 12 hours of labor.  John is basically the best dad ever– he is literally the baby whisperer, somehow a lactation expert (multiple times he’s come over and re-attached the baby for me, shown me a better way to hold him, etc.), and also has changed 99% of the diapers so far.  And is waiting on me hand and foot.  Amazing.  My precious mom has been in town for a few days and has been selflessly washing every dish, doing all the laundry, and giving our little place a thorough scrubbing down.  So thankful and completely in baby heaven.  It might be awhile before I write more, but I just wanted to let everyone know.

Ravenous for Oranges, and Snow.

DSC_0565

DSC_0566

DSC_0574The piles of snow that greeted us when we got back to Ithaca are still here, though much of it is blackened by exhaust from all the cars, which breaks my heart.  It’s like a Hopkins poem.  Or this one.  These pictures were taken from a drive at dusk that John and I took a few days ago, when the snow was a little whiter.

I’m 23 weeks along now, and I can feel the baby moving, which is bizarre and really beautiful.  I feel different when I bend over, and heavier when I try to get out of the car.  It’s strange to be inhabiting such a different body.  When we were at the grocery tonight trying to find some ripe avocados, I had to run back to the produce section after we checked out to buy a bag of oranges.  Suddenly I was dying for them and could hardly stand it.  As soon as we came home I sliced two right up and ate them both, and I don’t know when, if ever, I have tasted anything so perfect.

Basil, Mint, and Kiwi Sorbet (no sugar added)

I bought a few kiwis at the grocery this week, planning to cut them in half and eat them out of their skins with a spoon.

But then I decided to make some sorbet.   I didn’t add any sugar, so the end result was pleasantly tart.

(Kiwi is packed with vitamin C and contains fiber, potassium, vitamin E, and the antioxidant lutein.)

Basil, Mint, and Kiwi Sorbet

(serves 1-2)

2 kiwis

1 T chopped fresh basil and mint

(optional– 1 t. raw honey, agave nectar, or sugar, to taste)

Scoop the green flesh (including seeds) out of the kiwis into a bowl.  Using a small knife or fork, gently chop/mash the kiwi (or blend/food process for a smoother consistency if you’d like).  Add chopped herbs, stir, and freeze for an hour or two.  Depending on how frozen yours gets and how you want to serve it, you might want to run a little lukewarm water on the outside of the container to loosen the sorbet.

Variations:  Try half and half kiwi and avocado (add some lime juice and a teaspoon of finely diced, seeded, jalapeno?).  Or kiwi and banana.  Or kiwi plus some pineapple.  Make in popsicle molds or freeze in individual serving cups.

beautiful day of chocolate (and a good book)

What a day.  It’s 75 degrees outside.  This time of year, here, it should be about 40. Such a gift after so many cold, cold cloudy days.

I signed up to bring some dessert for a thing tonight, and today I tried two chocolate cakes from 101 Cookbooks.  For the first one, I substituted coconut milk for cream, and I wasn’t sure if it would work, so I decided to make a second cake as backup.  (These photos are of the second cake, which turned out to be impossibly delicious.) So for the past three hours I have been melting chocolate, stirring flour and sugar and salt and eggs, and dusting flour on my jeans to take photographs.

Lately I’ve been re-reading my copy of French Women Don’t Get Fat, sort of part of this insatiable longing for France I’ve been feeling.  The book, of course, talks about ways to not get fat, but it is also just a simple manifesto about how to love food. Love it so much you want to eat less.  Love it so much you want to savor every bite as long as possible.  The book also contains wonderful recipes for each season of the year.   It’s gorgeous.

One thing that is noticeable about it is how unapologetic the french are about enjoying quality chocolate and other rich foods.  Guilt is just not an emotion (typically, it seems) that French women experience with regard to food.

I have been embracing this mentality and enjoying my time in the kitchen, with open windows and the chance to scrape almost-black melted chocolate out of bowls and into pans lined with butter and parchment paper. Licking a spoon here and there, and eating a few bites of one cake just to make sure it turned out alright, but not overdoing it.  Just enjoying small bites and absorbing all the beauty of the tiny cake.

Tomorrow I will write about the recipes and some of the adaptations I made.

(“my soul will be satisfied as with the richest food” psalm 63)