November 2009


Today I had a fine time exploring, preparing, cooking, and eating a sugar pumpkin with the kids. Nearly the whole crowd showed up when I offered the opportunity to open up the small pumpkin, so many that some had to stand. We passed the cantaloupe sized pumpkin around so all the kids could hold it, and they were surprised how light it was. Then I cut it open and we saw it’s seeds, and pulp. I asked who was brave enough to help remove the seeds and pulp and nearly everyone was, so we passed out chunks of pumpkin and small metal spoons and the scraping began. It was harder than most kids thought, but they kept at it. Then I cut the pumpkin in small chunks, and by this time only one two and one three remained, and we got down to the intimate business of brushing each piece of pumpkin with olive oil. The three commented that the oil smelled just like the oil we use for pizza. I love that her sense of smell is so delicate and that she appreciates the scent of olive oil enough to comment on it to me.

After brushing each piece lovingly, the girls sprinkled each piece with brown sugar, then I added some orange juice to the bottom of the pan and we baked the pumpkin pieces in a baking sheet covered in foil for about forty minutes, until they were fork tender, in a 350 degree oven.

While the pumpkin was baking, the girls helped me to squeeze and pull the seeds out of the pulp, and we talked about feeding the pulp to the worms, and how the compost is so much less stinky and buggy with the leaves we added recently. Alice shared a recipe for tasty seeds, and we tried it. The two added soy sauce and vegetable oil to the seeds and stirred them up. I spread them out and we baked them along with the pumpkin. Lots of kids found them tasty. And crunchy is a texture we don’t have as often as we might.

After the cooking, one four did water therapy and really washed the dishes at the same time. He was so careful in laying things out in the drying rack I had to take a picture. And the two wiped the table, working on all those real work pieces. The she helped me toast English muffins for breakfast, and was treated to licking the spoon from the red raspberry jam her family made at the end of summer and shared with us. Breakfast was delicious, homemade raspberry jam, english muffins, and clementines, our first of the season, peeled with pride by the kids and enjoyed by nearly all. One three thought she might not want the jam, but when she saw how much the others loved it, she changed her mind.

The pumpkin for lunch was not super popular with everyone, but I liked it, and my nearly two, who doesn’t eat a lot of fruit and veg, devoured it. It also made the house smell lovely, which is a goal for me this winter, to have things in the oven or on the stove or in our midst that smell delicious or provocative, or at least pleasant and noticeable. Smell is an under served sense in child care and school.

What will be on the menu tomorrow? Applesauce later in the week, and maybe bread, if I get brave. Anyone out there would would like to come and get us started on that who is more experienced with yeast and dough? All my attempts in the past have been disappointing, but I am determined to prevail this time round.

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when my kids are home on the weekends I like to make mac and cheese. the recipe is from my friend Macky, who brought it once to Eric’s fortieth birthday party, when I made chili and rice and pizza and salad and people filled in the blanks. Now the mac and cheese is all we need, and some roasted brussel sprouts or steamed green beans, something green and crunchy to round out the carbs and fats. the nice thing about mac and cheese is that it is simple and it soothes and my kids will eat it, not the day care crowd, but my real kids. Try it if you like and see what your kids think. Stirring the sauce is the best part of the day sometimes, from oil and flour to milk to cheese to mac and cheese the process is smooth, like the sauce.

Start by heating two tablespoons of olive oil in a saucepan. Mix in two tablespoons of flour, till all the lumps are gone, then after a minute or two, add two cups of milk slowly while stirring vigorously. I have used buttermilk, which was delicious, whole or lowfat milk. Once the milk is mixed in and you have avoided the lumps or mushed them back into the sauce, add about 8 ounces or a little more of your favorite cheese, cubed. Our favorite is sharp orange cheddar, but today is  gouda and parmesan, as they were in the fridge, not likely our favorite, though. While the sauce is going boil salted water for cooking a pound of pasta, I prefer smallish elbows, but use your favorite. The pasta and sauce are usually ready at the same time. When the cubes of cheese have melded into the sauce and the pasta is al dente, drain the pasta and mix it into the sauce. Spray a largish baking dish with olive oil spray, spread the mac and cheese over the dish, and top with bread crumbs (I make them with bread ends toasted or dried and put through the blender) and spray the breadcrumbs with olive oil spray. Bake at 350 until the cheese sauce bubbles up through the macaroni and the bread crumbs are lightly crisp and brown. Enjoy with your kids in a sunny spot in your kitchen if you have one. If not, find a candle and come into the light. Winter is coming.

Good news, I made the 50,000 word deadline for National Novel Writing Month. I haven’t reread it, edited it, nor can I tell myself or anyone what it is about, learned some things I am sure, not yet sure what, learning is like that, going to let it lie for awhile and see what next. Today is my birthday, and crossing that line, meeting that goal, was a great gift to myself, to complement all the kindness and great little things from friends and family to celebrate this less than remarkable birthday, 43.

Ay yay yay. Today was the day for deals. I had to return my son’s blazer for a smaller size and every thing on sale in the Gap was an additional 40 percent off, yikes, crossed off some birthday and Christmas gifts there, dragged them back to the beat up car parked half a mile away, to some looks from passersby, three growing kids, three birthdays, plus Christmas, and one wedding, hate to even think of the ethical implications, but for now, I took advantage of the sale.

Then after dropping off the loot I hit the Whole Foods around the corner, still thinking of food glorious food and how to share it with my kids. There I found more Roxbury Russets, just a few small bags, and I bought one, will bring some to a friend’s for dinner tonight so we can all taste the treasures, also found some sugar pumpkins, to cook for the kids and see how pumpkin tastes fresh roasted, and clementines and navel oranges and some little tiny oranges with deep green glossy leaves, now spread like a centerpiece on my dining room table, forgot the flowers, just as pretty, and some for the day care, too, to look at and to see if we can taste the difference between these three beautiful orange fruits, and seckle pears, tiny hard green and red delights, to taste and admire as well.

I was wondering how to show off the bounty of these fruits in the day care, wish for a dining room table there to show off the produce, for now the kitchen counter and fridge will have to do, but something to think about for down the road. And good news, the paperwhites one mom brought last week are growing, shoots coming up out of the bulbs submerged in water and marbles. Who says gray skies mean the end of growing things?

Looking for inspiration this weekend, I returned to my nearly 400 unread messages from Spirituality and Practice. This poem stuck, thought you might like it as we make our transition from fall color to November gray, when the wind has started to howl and the leaves are all gone, good to remember the roses and the bees. They’ll be back.

Enjoy.

To see Mary Oliver’s spacing of the words, which is much nicer, and which due to technical weakness, I cannot reproduce here, go to the Spirituality and Practice site directly: http://www.spiritualityandpractice.com/books/excerpts.php?id=14854

An Excerpt from New and Selected Poems: Volume Two by Mary Oliver

Forty-two new poems and sixty-nine of Mary Oliver’s favorites from previous collections. Here is a poem on the spiritual practice of wonder.

 

Hum

 

What is this dark hum among the roses?
The bees have gone simple, sipping,
that’s all. What did you expect? Sophistication?
They’re small creatures and they are
filling their bodies with sweetness, how could they not
moan in happiness? The little
worker bee lives, I have read, about three weeks.
Is that long? Long enough, I suppose, to understand
that life is a blessing. I have found them — haven’t you? —
stopped in the very cups of the flowers, their wings
a little tattered — so much flying about, to the hive,
then out into the world, then back, and perhaps dancing,
should the task be to be a scout-sweet, dancing bee.
I think there isn’t anything in this world I don’t
admire. If there is, I don’t know what it is. I
haven’t met it yet. Nor expect to. The bee is small,
and since I wear glasses, so I can see the traffic and
read books, I have to
take them off and bend close to study and
understand what is happening. It’s not hard, it’s in fact
as instructive as anything I have ever studied. Plus, too,
it’s love almost too fierce to endure, the bee
nuzzling like that into the blouse
of the rose. And the fragrance, and the honey, and of course
the sun, the purely pure sun, shining, all the while, over
all of us.

Liana sent me a link to this piece by Maira Kalman, who has lifted my spirits before with her words and pictures and her worldview, makes me smile and laugh and cry and think, all first thing in the morning.

She knows about lots of things. In this piece, she put all kinds of hard ideas about fairness, democracy, land, food, children, families, education, delicious food and committed individuals and societal trends, craziness and heart and happiness and junk food and east and west coast and middle of the country, past and present, sixties and 2009 into one big long, lovely piece.

Enjoy it. She says it much better than I can, and thankfully, to many more.

http://kalman.blogs.nytimes.com/2009/11/26/back-to-the-land/?emc=eta1

When my kids were little, one of my favorite books to share with them was My Very First Mother Goose, edited by Iona Opie and illustrated by Rosemary Wells. One of the rhymes that sticks comes back to me today, as it did the day I attended the funeral of one of our day care children’s aunties early this summer. Today the rain comes down outside. It is a gray and leafless November day, after a long and glorious colorful fall, and I am on my own on the third floor trying my best to get back on track for NaNoWriMo, where I have fallen very far behind, if not hopelessly so, in writing 50,000 words by November 30th. The rain on the rooftop is just right for my quiet day, and so is the rhyme. Hope you enjoy it.

Rain on the rooftops,

Rain on the trees,

Rain on the green grass,

But not on me!

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