Wednesday
Jan282015

Birthday Lasagne

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Today is Loretta's eighth birthday.

Why does that sound so much older than seven? Looking through photos tonight, I'm struck again by what a happy baby and toddler she was and what a happy second grader she is now. Recently, I watched this amazing Ted Talk where Jennifer Senior (author of the parenting book All Joy and No Fun) gave a rousing rebuttal to this idea that parents are responsible for their children's happiness. She says that's too high a bar to set and pokes a little fun at all the ridiculous parenting books out there that serve as "monuments to our collective panic." If I relax, my experience is that parenting itself is the antidote to all the "shoulds" that dominate us. Loretta wants me to get on the floor and play with her and the dog. If I say yes, I get a lot more fun in my day. If I say no, I still get to watch her do it! And that's fun, too.

More than anything else--vacations, basketball games, priceless photo moments--we get to be in each other's orbit. We get to brush our teeth together (especially since our upstairs bathroom is being remodeled!), argue over whether or not she stole my hairbrush again, do chores on Saturdays, share our imperfect lives together. Parenting is about relationship, not about performance. And for me, it's a relationship that gets me to take myself a lot less seriously. 

Happy Birthday, Big Girl. 

P.S. She requested lasagne for dinner. I've pointed you to my standby recipe.

P.S.S. I wrote this a few weeks ago after bedtime.

Daughter Sleeping

Walking past her room
after bedtime,
covers are tangled,
her hair is fanned
across the pillow,
and she’s finally stopped
asking questions,
doing cartwheels.
In this quiet minute,
the pressure is off
to be a good parent,
be wise, present, or funny.
She’s here,
I’m here,
that is enough.

Grandma's Lasagne
This is the recipe I've been using for at least ten years. Ripped out of a Food and Wine magazine, and everything you want lasagne to be. I swear by the no-boil noodles and never buy the curly kind.

 recipe 

Saturday
Jan242015

End-of-the-Week Thank You's

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I read somewhere recently that sometimes our focus on gratitude can just be another way of being privileged. "Hashtag blessed" for fame, fortune, and ease. 

At the end of this week, though, I do feel truly blessed. I got out of bed on two strong(ish) legs every morning. I had enough food to make my children breakfast, prepare their lunches, and eat together around our table at night. I got to help my friend Rita by taking care of her sweet, sweet dog, and I miss him now that he's gone. I got to help my friend Meril plan her 50th birthday celebration, coach clients, and have an almost two hour yoga class with Ingela at Yoga Northwest. (Thank you, Jesus, she is NOT your typical zenned-out yoga instructor.) I got to read poetry, write some, and do some PTA tasks. I got to to meet with a dear, dynamic group of friends in my house this morning, and we talked about the things we want to water and grow in 2015.

Right now, Wyatt is at a friend's birthday party, Loretta is holing up in her bedroom, and Yancey is picking out the Star Spangled Banner on the electric guitar we got WYATT for Christmas. (I knew this would happen. How do we get the boy himself interested?!) And, maybe best of all in our little world, both kids won their basketball games this week and I've got some sweaty uniforms to wash. 

Here's one of the poems I wrote this week. May each of you be truly blessed in the coming week--not the annoying Facebook kind of blessed, but the kind that comes from living in reality. xoxo

Coming Home

It just comes down to this--
our stories, so different,
are the same.
We want to be seen
and loved anyway,
or maybe especially.
We want to be moved
by touch, poetry, tall pines,
or the perfect formation of geese
in the winter sky.
We want to come home
at the end of the day,
take off our shoes,
and find that everywhere we step
is sacred ground. 

Sunday
Jan182015

Living the MLK Challenge

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Every year on MLK Day weekend, I have mixed emotions. 

I usually cry in church on Sunday (that's no surprise!) at both the injustice in the world and my longing for someone like MLK to come preach us out of it. I feel guilty for not planning a service project for my kids like we're supposed to do. I feel guilty that I haven't watched enough documentaries about civil rights, read all of MLK's writings, and been the kind of freedom fighter I should have been since the last MLK Day.

For me, it's sometimes easier to remember Dr. King, to deify him, even, than it is to face my own white privilege and to feel the deep sorrow and anger over the systemic racism that's still running rampant in this country. I cannot imagine how it would feel to be raising a young black boy now. Or to be driving while black.(Or shopping, applying for a loan, or finding a job.)

I imagine what MLK would want is not for us to eulogize him, but to carry on the work he started. Not just to think about the "giant triplets evils of racism, materialism, and militarism" (Wow) on a Monday in January, but in all the choices we make throughout the year. I'm white, and what I say to myself and to other white folks is this: Inform yourself. Take a training, read a book, watch some movies. Believe it when people of color tell you their stories. Talk to other white people about white privilege and start looking for how you benefit from it. Let yourself be sad for awhile about the trauma of racism in this country, and then turn that sadness into resolve. 

My pastor preached on #blacklivesmatter this morning. As usual, I created a giant pile of used tissue beside me. She talked about the story of Zaccheus in the Bible, how he went up in a tree to get a better view of Jesus. And how we, in our intention to understand, see the big picture, or analyze, get up in the tree. (Kind of like this blog post and lots of other well-intentioned things don't involve very much risk.) She challenged us to "come down from the tree." And she passed out copies of this article and challenged us to read it at halftime today. (Seahawks Mania here in Washington.) 

So I'm asking, "How do I come down from this tree?" How do I, as a white person who's bound to make lots of mistakes, make racism my fight? I re-read King's Letter from Birmingham last night. He was writing to white Christian leaders who were criticizing him for moving too fast, for stirring things up too much. About the role of the Church in the Civil Rights Movement, he says,

But the judgment of God is upon the church as never before. If the church of today does not recapture the sacrificial spirit of the early church, it will lose its authentic ring, forfeit the loyalty of millions, and be dismissed as an irrelevant social club with no meaning for the twentieth century. I meet young people every day whose disappointment with the church has risen to outright disgust. 

I'm proud of my church this morning for honoring Dr. King, proud of my pastor for saying things that I know are going to make some folks bristle. Or worse. She understands, as King did, our absolute connection to one another, and the vision of Oneness that King fought for:

I can't sit idly by in Atlanta and not be concerned about what happens in Birmingham. Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere. We are caught in an inescapable network of mutuality, tied in a single garment of destiny. Whatever affects one directly affects all indirectly.

Our survival, our happiness, our well-being as a species is one "single garment of destiny." Every major spiritual tradition says that the great lie is one of separation--that we are separate from one another and separate from God. We are in this together, and I hope we're closer to experiencing justice roll down like waters. Thank you, MLK, for your life, legacy, and love. We're still trying.

Tuesday
Jan132015

Putting on an Apron in the New Year

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I guess I'm an auditory learner. When I'm walking and listening, things really sink in, become part of me.

Yesterday I listened to this fabulous podcast--Evan Kleiman talking about fat shaming and interviewing some experts on myths about health and weight. I started it halfway through my walk, but kept my headphones in after I came home, finding little tasks to do around the house while I finished listening. I love getting hooked like that.

One of my pet peeves, though the landscape is definitely changing, is that food bloggers and foodie types either completely ignore the issue of weight and health or or it's all they talk about. And I'm just as guilty half the time! When I post a recipe for biscuits or cookies, I neglect to talk about how those things fit into an overall strategy. Or how my kids will just eat the biscuits and ignore the lentil soup and what's a parent to do? So I have to get a few questions and opinions out of my system every once in awhile.

Jamie Oliver, Mark Bittman, and others are starting and having fabulous conversations about this. At this moment in my 40 year old life, I'd chime in with a few things:

There's a reason (besides lack of willpower or wealth) that fresh fruits and vegetables are hard to eat. And it's because there's a giant food industry whose survival depends on getting Americans to purchase packaged, processed food that are cheap, available everywhere, and full of false health claims. Even those "healthy" snack boxes that I see advertised everywhere--why not eat an apple instead? If you're really trying to eat real food and you travel or work a lot, you know how hard it is to find anything besides carrot sticks. And dry, stubby ones at that!

Exercise is a totally separate issue from food. I get outside to stay sane, to keep my muscles, bones, and joints strong. I don't do it to lose weight. In fact, I eat a lot more when I'm exercising! Exercise is a dynamic way I care for my body, but I don't have any expectations that it will decrease my dress size. I used to, but I don't anymore. That took all the fun out of it. And it didn't work.

I'm categorically against letting kids choose their own diets. Sure, if all you have around the house are fruits, vegetables, and whole grains, go for it! Otherwise, I don't let my kids choose their own bedtimes. I'm not going to (knowingly) let them smoke or drink. So why would I let them choose their own diets? Of course they will choose sugar and white flour. They're kids! The biggest step is in just NOT STOCKING anything I don't want them to be tempted with. I'm getting closer to that, but I'm just like you--I want my kids to like me. And their meals. 

A lot of people think sugar is a kill-us-slowly toxin. And we should be taking them seriously. I'm not a nutritionist or researcher. But I believe the folks who are, and who are telling us that it's not full-fat yogurt or lack of exercise that's killing us. It's the insane amount of sugar that many Americans consume, often hidden in things like spaghetti sauce and "healthy" juices or not-so-hidden in soda and sweets. Avoiding sweets is a good start (though I'll still make a batch of cookies every Sunday), but the more sure-fire antidote is to cook more often. Which leads me to:

Making simple, mostly-vegetarian food in our own kitchens will save us. The incredibly sobering statistic flying around these days is that the generation being raised now has a shorter life expectancy than their parents. Wow. So there's reason to cook up a pot of beans or cut up some celery. Or learn how to make a couple soups, cook brown rice, and roast vegetables. It doesn't have to be about being super creative, buying specialty foods, or becoming an excellent cook. It's about getting comfortable with a few things that will keep our bodies alive, healthy, and ready for all the work in the world that's calling us. (Mark Bittman's article, The Truth about Home Cooking, is a favorite polemic from 2014.)

If you can't get out of it, get into it. Like I've opined a million times before, get an apron you really like. Find a good way to play music in your kitchen, and organize your things in a way that makes sense. Settle into it and see what happens. It's worth it.

P.S. Kumquats. That's what I'm into right now. This morning, I mixed a Greek yogurt with a little honey, then I looked around for what I might top it with. Muesli, kumquats, pomegranates, dates, and hazelnuts. 

Thursday
Jan082015

Dukkah

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I head Robert Thurman talking about "changing the channel" this week, the idea that we have the power to choose what kind of person we'll be in any given situation. We can't control how other people act (the great sorrow of my life!) or what happens to us. But just like holding the remote control and switching from the news to the nature channel, we don't have to be victimized by external circumstances or even by our our emotions. With practice (especially the kind that meditation affords), we can click into another, more freeing space.

Being creative in the kitchen is one thing that helps me change the channel. I'm doing something with my hands, getting out of my head. I'm providing for my family and taking care of my body. And I'm in touch with this earth, with the soil, farmers, and producers that touched this food before it came to me.

A few others things that help me change the channel:

  • Getting outside. This is number ONE. For many years now, I've tried to live by the mantra, "Go outside whenever possible."
  • Going in my office, shutting the door, and sitting down for 5 minutes.
  • Doing a small, satisfying home task, like sorting my ribbon bin or making the bed.
  • Texting a friend and telling her I'm thinking about her.
  • Making and sending a card.
  • Brewing a cup of tea.

And for a big burst of texture and flavor, sprinkling dukkah on top of everything, which I've been doing for a few months. The London Plane puts dried rose petals in theirs, which you might try also. That's like going from standard picture to HD. Yum.

Dukkah
Makes 2/4 cups, which will go quick of you're anything like me. If your volume of cooking is less than mine (very likely!), you can store the excess in the freezer to maintain maximum freshness. And I wouldn't dream of getting my spices in any form but bulk. Infinitely cheaper and fresher than anything you'll find in a bottle.

1 c. nuts (I like hazelnuts, but almonds would be delicious, too)
1/2 c. sesame seeds
1/2 c. coriander seeds
1/4 c. cumin seeds
1/4 c. caraway seeds
1/4 c. fennel seeds
1/4 c. black cumin (nigella)
1 tsp. coarse salt
Freshly ground black pepper

Toast nuts in a 350 oven until slightly browned. Usually takes about 10 minutes, but watch closely! If you're using hazelnuts, you can take the skins off after they're toasted by rubbing them in a clean dish towel.

Toast sesame, coriander, cumin, caraway, nigella and fennel seeds in a hot, dry skillet for 3-4 minutes until you smell their fragrance and hear some popping sounds. Remove from heat immediately and let cool.

Combine toasted nuts and spices in a food processor and pulse. The mixture may be find or coarse, depending on your preference. But don't overdo it or it will turn into a paste! You want it dry and crumbly. You can also chop your nuts separately and crush your spice in a mortal or pestle or spice grinder, and them combine then. Add coarse salt and fresh ground pepper to the finished mixture.