A Shiksa on a Mission

Balaboosta (n.)(bah-lah-b00-sta) A Yiddish term meaning the perfect housewife
I'm a shiksa on a mission...
It may not be perfection but it's the journey that counts

Sunday, July 17, 2011

Garlic Scape Pesto

When I was rewarded for cat sitting with two weeks of fresh produce from the local farm, I faced the challenge of not letting my good fortune go to waste. When given garlic scapes, I made pesto. It has garlic scapes, hazelnuts, spinach (fresh from my garden) and olive oil. I think I even threw in a handful of basil leaves from my plant. Of course, it also has salt and pepper. And it's good to the last drop.

It may not seem much like summer outside but it tastes like it with this pesto.

The Great Skirt/Apron Debate

I found these two pieces of fabric at the thrift store and thought they would make a cute skirt for Flannery. So, of course, I promptly bought them, took them home and put them in the basement for several months. I'm very methodical in my procrastination. The other day Flannery found them and wanted to make the skirt right now yesterday. She's very methodical in her impatience.

Unfortunately she's also very opinionated. We often try to pinpoint where we went wrong with the girl child and we're pretty sure it was encouraging her to learn how to speak. It has been downhill since that moment. Flannery wants a skirt but she has certain things she wants it to have. She wants a skirt with big pockets to put chicken feed in and a tie in the back that holds it on. So basically she wants an apron like Cinderella wears. I've spent enough time with her, learning her flanguage and understanding her flogic to know what she is trying to say. But when I ask if she wants an apron, she gets a little annoyed and reiterates that she wants a skirt with big pockets for chicken feed to spread gingerly along the ground (she actually mimes this action as if that's what I'm not comprehending) and a tie in the back where the skirt crisscrosses. In other words, she wants an apron. Now we're both annoyed. And I haven't even attacked the notion that whether it's a skirt or an apron, it's purpose will be carrying chicken feed all over the house. I think I finally see a glimmer of logic flood her flogical brain when I ask her why she wants a skirt that opens in the back to show her butt. Her explanation is, duh, she wears another dress under it all and just ties the skirt around her waist. Duh.

I feel the need to also mention that she knows what an apron is. I've made several and have a plethora of them hanging in my kitchen. She wears them to help me cook. She identities them by name: the red apron, the heart apron, the apron Sarah made for you. But she's stuck on this idea of the cute little country girl (who undoubtedly has a horrible mother) feeding the chickens from her skirt/apron while she sings.

It's not easy to explain to her that cartoons are not real. I mean, she gets that....sort of although I'm pretty certain she still wants her hair to flow like some Disney princess which is hard to accomplish being that she's a real live person and not drawn. It's not like she wakes up in the morning and songbirds help her comb her hair or mice make her skirt/apron although I'm starting to wish they would.

Finally we settle on a skirt that has the requisite chicken feed pockets but no opening in the back. The compromise is I'm also going to make her an apron that I'm sure will need big pockets in the front for, I don't know, dog food?

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

The Girl Gourmet

It would be an understatement to say that Flannery likes cooking. She's in the kitchen as much as I am. It might be the bottomless pit of a stomach she has. Or her desire to open a restaurant before she reaches the ripe old age of 8. Or it could just be that she likes to cook. Whatever it is, she is always asking to make something or other. She has her own Easy Bake Oven and a set that is play baking set mistakenly titled Girl Gourmet but should be called High Fructose Corn Syrup Meets Red Dye #5. If you can't tell, I really hate that set. Mostly I hate that it's a "toy" but it doesn't keep a child occupied as much as it keeps me hovering and assisting. Maybe it should be called Pain in Mom's Ass. When it entered my house (that's how I see it), I raised an eyebrow to Reg who reasoned with what he thinks is a sturdy explanation that she picked it out and spent her own money. What was I supposed to do? Even though it is a rhetorical question, the answer is SAY NO. Just Say No. Yup. Nancy Reagan was right. And Girl Gourmet is just the gateway drug to fake cooking in my kitchen. Just Say No.

Of course, I finally had to give in too. Mainly because cooking real food keeps the Girl Gourmet set safely packed away in the depths of her bedroom. But also because she does kind of charm me with the way she keeps saying gourmet with the hard T sound. I'm a sucker for mispronounced words (under a certain age, folks, because the rest of the time it is horribly unattractive). And this kind of cooking yields food I can eat.

So we pulled out the Big Girl Gourmet
which is really the Gourmet Magazine Cookbook to make these Peanut Butter Cookies (with the added bonus of dark chocolate chips). I'm also a sucker for anything involving the brilliant combination of peanut butter and chocolate. I still have to hover a bit and assist but I can fully get behind the idea of using food as opposed to processed realistic food stuff by-products now with more flavor!

The results?
No Girl Gourmet monstrosity to choke down and pretend to enjoy.
Very little clean up.
Delicious cookies.
Win. Win. Win.

Cuatro de Julio

Every Fourth of July is spent with a group of friends who know their way around a kitchen and can put together a powerful party. Although this year was scaled down (as in no bounce house for the kids and half the amount of people), we still had plenty of good friends and food to enjoy. This year had a bit of a Spanish flavor--you know, the Spanish sent Columbus here and then.....whatever, it tasted good. I made these Roasted Cauliflower and Manchego Hand Pies. It's worth the effort especially if you like cauliflower which we love and you like anything in a pie crust which we do.

The roasted cauliflower
The combination of hazelnut and garlic
Cheese and dough

You put them all together and stick them in the oven. Really. It's pretty much that easy. I have to admit that I did not create the little flowers on top like Martha. I folded them over like empanadas because I'm traditional and stuff about my Fourth of July Spanish tapas.

Saturday, July 9, 2011

Reading at the Speed of Light

I did it. I read The Glass Castle by Jeannette Wells in about 2 days. It's that fast. It's that interesting. And it makes me incredibly thankful that I didn't have THAT childhood. If you are looking for something to read that will keep your interest and moves along at a steady clip, this is the book. It's sad but it's not nearly as sad of a memoir as Angela's Ashes (which really doesn't make you grateful about your own childhood as much as it makes you want to go to Ireland and then throw yourself off of a bridge).

On the other hand, I also read another book is about 2 days and it's funny. Mike Birbiglia's Sleep Walk with Me. He's a stand up comedian and story teller. I first heard about this book on NPR's Fresh Air and I knew I wanted to read it. I've heard his storytelling on The Moth podcasts (storytelling--check it out) and he is sometimes a contributor to This American Life. The book is easy to read and pretty hilarious at times. And if you are interested, listen to the interview with him on NPR.

Thursday, July 7, 2011

Chair Repair

I had this chair that was headed for the chair cemetery and I had long ago lost any desire to fix that. Sorry, Chair, but it's true. Then I decided to give it a new job. No longer would it heave and creak under our body weight. I did the best Portlandia thing I could do. I put a plant on it. (P.S. Plants are the new birds)

Chair with its chair-ness removed (translation--no seat)

Spray paint. . . .oh how I love thee
Chair Planter

And soon I will plant something super duper vine-y to crawl and twist around it's arms and legs and envelope it in even more life. Live, Chair, LIVE!

Now I have an inkling of what Dr. Frankenstein must have felt like.

Reading In My Hammock

Summers always offer me the long, lazy days to spend reading especially in my hammock. Unfortunately my reading can vary wildly. Sometimes I'm in a phase where I have the time but not the inclination and I can't concentrate of anything more intellectual than Stars! They're Just Like Us! (hint--they're not at all) along with really in-depth articles about nail polish or belly fat. It's during those times that I simply tune out my brain and embrace the mental wasteland of magazines. But most of the time, I am in the good phase where I'm reading voraciously and all the neurons are firing. That's a great time because I can't get enough of books and I still manage to find time to catch up on Who Wore It Better and Entertainment Weekly's Must List (okay, I'll admit that I can always find time to read the entire EW magazine).

Recently I've hit a winning streak. Everything has been a good read. I may be jinxing it by saying that and end up back in the shallow pages of Life and Style but I'll take the risk since I started a new one yesterday that is also fantastic.

Here are some of my favorite ones so far:

We met Maile Malloy at a reading in LA when we were there for the Modern Languages Association conference in January. I know. Book publishers. Authors. Teachers. It was a raging party 24/7. She read from her book of short stories entitled Both Ways Is The Only Way I Want It and that title just about sealed the deal. Actually she won me over in two ways. She read from a wonderful story, Liliana, about a visit from a recently deceased grandmother and I simply fell in love with the story. Then she graciously signed a book for my mother who was home in Portland with my kids, writing "thanks for sitting." I read her book while I was in Mexico and I was really inspired by her writing. I think she's incredibly talented.

A friend of mine gave me Everything Is Illuminated by Jonathan Safran Foer which I also took to Mexico to read. Apparently I was thinking that I'd do very little in Mexico besides sit around and read. I was right. I did a lot of that which is in no way a complaint. I loved every sun soaked minute of it. The friend who gave it to me loved the book. A friend I made in Mexico at the wedding was disappointed in the book. I found myself torn between these competing ideas. At times I loved the book ferociously. It had the quality of magical realism that amazed me and the writing was sometimes so breathtaking that it surpassed the lapses in plot or story. Other times I felt worn down by the voices of some of the main characters and I'll admit that it made me slow down my pace. In the end, the book is worth reading to discover for yourself whether or not you like it. My own opinion is the man is a super fantastic premium writer (and to understand why I would call him that, you will have to read the book).

Sometime around March (bear with me because I know that doesn't count as summer--and not even close in Portland), I was lucky enough to get to hear Reza Aslan speak. I really admire and kind of adore him. Okay I have a big, fat crush on him. I had read his first book No God But God and was hooked. I saw him on The Daily Show and I was gone. I even got his autograph on his latest book Beyond Fundamentalism which I didn't read until the beginning of summer. Regardless of your beliefs (which I'm not asking for here--just sayin'), the book is educational, well researched, intellectually stimulating and astonishingly balanced. I had just read The Alphabet vs. The Goddess (read about that here) so I was kind of on a religious kick. I learned so much from his book plus he wrote that he was glad to meet me when he signed it and I'm sure he doesn't say that to just anyone.

The one I just finished yesterday was The Imperfectionists by Tom Rachman and it tells the story of an English language world newspaper headquartered in Italy. What I liked about the book is it is crafted much like a book of short stories but they are all interconnected by the newspaper and it all culminates to a rich ending. It is like several strands of string blowing independently in the breeze and then twisting together to make a rope. Some of the stories were downright devastating. I'm looking forward to reading more of his writing.

And now I'm onto a book that has spent years on the bestseller list. I understood why that is only a few minutes into the book. And I'm sure to finish it by tomorrow since I think I read half of it yesterday. The book is The Glass Castle by Jeannette Walls. If you haven't heard of it, the story itself is quite fascinating even at a superficial level but the book is proving to be hard to put down. It's a memoir that is quite memorable.

I think I'll go read.

Summer Staples

In an effort to eat my way through summer and enjoy everything it has to offer, I have been savoring the flavors of the season and make the most of the garden along with the local farmer's markets.

fresh herbs mixed with goat cheese

toast with the goat cheese, turkey, lettuce and tomatoes--my breakfast of choice
juicy, ripe cantaloupe
strawberries meet rhubarb

And there is more to come!
Today is supposed to be cooler in Portland so I'm thinking we'll be making jam today at the Five Cent Farm.