family

What we do when we don't know what to do :: {new poster and postcards}

 

My daughter just had her second birthday earlier this week.  It's unsettling to think how much she's accomplished in a year compared to how little I have.  Now I know, helping her accomplish all of those things was an accomplishment for both of us, as parents, but nonetheless, I stand humbled and reflect in wonderment at what she's managed to do.

 

I was aided in my self-reflection with two horrendous earaches that lasted the better part of a fortnight which rendered me almost completely deaf.  Actually, rather than say I was deaf, I would say that my hearing was inside out, so while I could not hear Heidi squeal with glee at her birthday cake, I could very much hear my own jaws chomping down on a huge slab of it (okay, two huge slabs).  I'm afraid I got a bit dramatic about the whole deafness thing, and plunged full-force into a Beethoven-like state where all I wanted to do was feverishly work.  I guess the big difference here, aside from the (obvious) real-vs.-temporary deafness, oh, and the genius factor, is that drawing doesn't require hearing at all, where music really, well, does.  
We're also approaching a precipice of uncertainty, with unemployment popping its ghastly face up from around the next bend, so all I can think to do is draw, draw, draw.  And, really, I guess that means I have made progress in the last year -- towards doing more of what I should be doing, and relying on it more to bolster me in times of distress and doubt.  Next on the chopping block is that crippling perfectionism.
If you haven't seen it yet, here's the finished alphabet poster of musical instruments:
An A to Z of Musical Instruments -- available in four color stories.
The next thing I'll be rolling out very soon are some postcards.  They're all about the color yellow and how much I love it right now.  (But of course, we'll do the rest of the rainbow as well!)  Here's a sneak peek:
What?  Béarnaise is yellow!  I'm sure you know someone who would appreciate this postcard.

 

 

 

Life in a Patty

Some generalities can always be made: about women, men, seagulls, you name it.  And then there are always the exceptions to the rule.  My exception to one such Generality About Being a Woman is that I'm a horrible multi-tasker. When I was in my twenties, I deluded myself that I was one capable of multi-tasking, and now that I'm safely thirty I have admitted to myself that I am a one-thing-at-a-time kind of person.  Your twenties are for pretending who you want to be, and your thirties are for realizing who you actually are, I've decided.  Now I can congratulate myself on my newfound maturity, and, at once, painfully wave farewell to the times gone by when I had the option of doing one thing at a time.  Really, that time ended when I had a baby.  Then I was doubly reminded that that time was over when she started walking.  And then triply when she began climbing...and you see where I'm going.  (You may also draw the logical conclusion when you see what time I posted this and every other blog post).  I see other women juggling children at the grocery store, with their coupon binder, washed hair, and unstained clothes, and marvel at them.  If you are one of these women, I salute you.

Of course, in a household with an actor, an artist, and a toddler, there's never one thing going at a time.  And not only do I try to take the best care ever of my little girl, but I also try to do some things for myself (writing here, drawing there, bathing), then I have to earn some money (freelance graphic design work, helping out my photographer friend with some shoots), and still find time to put breakfast, lunch, and dinner on the table.  It's at that time -- when the actor shows up for his far-to-short dinner break, and I realize I have no idea what to serve up, and the toddler starts getting cranky, and I realize that the day is almost gone and I've gotten maybe one thing done -- that's the time when I want to consolidate everything in my universe into a big life-shaped patty that I can eat one. mouthful. at. a. time.

Not possible, I know.  But I can make dinner into a patty, and that's what I'm going to do:



I'm starting a project called Life Burgers.  I'm going to take all my favorite (mostly meatless) meals, put them into veggie-burger format, freeze them, and serve them up when all else fails.  I'll be sharing the recipes here, of course, and I'd like you to weigh in, via the comments section, what you'd like to see in burger form.  First up will be a Punjabi Red Kidney Bean Stew gone life burger: kidney beans spiked with ginger, garlic, coriander and cumin, with bits of bright tomato and a squeeze of lemon juice.  Serve it up with a dollop of yogurt and a sprig of cilantro (you know me).  Then after that: a Southern Black-eyed Pea Life Burger with bits of bacon and ribbons of kale mixed in.  Are you getting the idea?  Stay tuned.

Things that come to mind, and the people who come with them :: {Portugese Bread and Garlic Soup}

Christmas tree pick-up was this morning.  We dragged ours out to the curb, and looked up and down the street at the other dejected trees patiently waiting in the January drizzle.  Christmas decorations have all been stowed and the house looks a bit empty, like it's waiting for the spring sunshine to fill the empty corners. 

This is the time of year that I wish I remembered how to knit.  I've learned a bunch of times.  Once when I was very small I managed to complete a set of wrist-warmers.  These might be a Swiss phenomenon, but if you can remember that fingerless gloves still can keep your fingers warm, imagine how hand-less gloves might keep your hands warm.  The point is, they do.  Another time I learned to knit was my freshman year in college, when one of my hall-mate's dad's taught us.  It was January term, which meant we only had to take one class, and it was pass/fail.  We had lots of time on our hands.  In the evenings, we would all gather in one room, listen to Barry White, and knit.  I have absolutely no recollection of what I was even working on.  I doubt any of us do.

My great aunt, who had a story more harrowing than most, was a great knitter.  She knit me an army of pink sweaters when I was little.  I especially liked it when she chose yarn that had sparkles in it.  Throughout her difficult life she managed to maintain a child-like joyfulness, so I wouldn't be surprised if she chose the pink sparkly yarn for her benefit, as well as mine.  She was also a great maker of Schnitzel, and I fondly remember going over to her apartment to eat a huge steaming platter of it, decorated with lemon slices and served with potatoes, bread, and a salad.  After lunch, she would knit while all the grown-ups talked.  She's the only person I think I'll ever meet who actually kept her current knitting project tucked in her bosom.  This fascinated me as a young girl, and it was as good as a magic trick when she would reveal first one arm, then two, then the entirety of a full-sized sweater from her voluminous cleavage.
 

Tante Emmy and Onkel Paul ready for feasting.  Note the amount of Schnitzel she prepared for three people.

She left our family a great legacy -- she was the only one of her siblings who was strong enough to recount the stories from the war, the only one brave enough to face life with perpetual cheer and generosity.  Perhaps one of these Januaries I'll relearn how to knit again, perhaps when my daughter's old enough to do it, too.  Until that happens, I have a big box of pink sweaters, some with sparkles, that I hope Tante Emmy sees my little girl wearing, wherever she is.  They would have had a good time together, those two.

Portuguese Bread and Garlic Soup
This soup is many things: it is fast, frugal, a good use for stale bread, delicious, simple, comforting, and healthy.  As with most simple things, the quality of the ingredients is crucial, but these are all things that you either have on hand, or are easy to find.  You can have dinner on the table in 10 minutes.  Adapted, barely, from The Mediterranean Kitchen.
Cut thick slices of day-or-two-old crusty bread, a piece or two per person.  Heat a soup pot (or a small pot if it's just you) over medium-high heat and add a pretty generous glug of good olive oil (probably about 1-2 tablespoons per person).  When the oil is hot, fry the bread in a single layer (do as many batches as it takes), on both sides, til nice and golden.  Remove bread and rub with the cut side of one clove of garlic (per serving).  Place bread in soup bowl.  Add another glug of olive oil to the pan, roughly chop the garlic you just used, and add it to the pot.  Garlic burns quickly, so stir it around for only about 30 seconds, or until fragrant.  Add a soup-bowl-full (per serving) of chicken or veggie broth (homemade if possible) to the pan and bring to a simmer.  Lower heat to medium and crack an egg (per serving, and one at a time) into a cup or small ramekin and carefully slide into the simmering broth.  Use a spoon to nudge the whites around the yolks.  Cook for 3-5 minutes, or until the whites are completely opaque.  Repeat with as many eggs as you need, but cook no more than two eggs at a time.  Ladle an egg into each soup bowl, adjust the seasoning of the broth with salt and pepper to taste. Divide the broth evenly amongst your soup bowls.  You can enjoy this as is, or you can garnish with chopped parsley or cilantro, red pepper flakes, or Parmesan cheese.