Monday, February 27, 2006

Dinner for a bad day

I'm in the middle of reading "The Man Who Ate Everything" by Jeffrey Steingarten. Although I love this book, I'm pretty well aware that it was published almost ten years ago and probably everybody else has already read it. I don't like to make a big entrance when I come to a party late; I'd rather sneak in. So I'm not really sure if I will review this book for you.

But I will tell you that between reading Steingarten and finding the most gorgeous fat bunches of rosemary on sale for 69 cents, I got a little inspired and cooked my way out of yesterday's fertility funk.

Rosemary Pork Chops

4 pork loin chops, about 3/4" thick
1 tbsp olive oil
1 tbsp herb vinegar (I used this in the Mixed Herb variety; it was yummy! I could drink it!)
Leaves from a big stalk of rosemary, stripped from the stem and minced or crushed
Salt and pepper

Mix oil, vinegar, rosemary, salt and pepper. Rub on chops. Allow to sit for a few minutes. Brown quickly on both sides in a hot skillet. Transfer to a 375-degree oven to finish for 20-25 minutes.

Garlic Roasted Potatoes

This is celestial food, folks. Eat it with ketchup.

5-6 russet potatoes
1/4 c olive oil
5-6 cloves of garlic, minced or pressed
salt and pepper

Wash and dice potatoes. Toss with remaining ingredients. Spread in single layer on a baking sheet; stoneware is good for this. Bake at 375 for at least an hour. (Yes, this means you should start this before the pork chops.) When you take it out the potatoes should be just beginning to brown on top and crispy and golden on the bottom. The garlic will be sweet, not pungent. You may need a thin metal spatula to serve them.

We had this little menu with steamed asparagus. I didn't even feel like dessert, and that's really saying something. Just more potatoes.

Ah, all better.

Sunday, February 26, 2006

This is psycho

So I'm having infertility issues. If you don't want to read a lot of hormonal whine and TMI, just move on right now.

For two years, give or take a few months, I have been waiting for my wonderful husband to get on the train about adding another child to our family. I have not been nagging. I've been patient. Not perfect, but patient. My husband might not say the same, but he is not the one with the persistent dreams about two children, who were obviously not my current ones.

This year he is finally on board. January was the time we agreed on to start making decisions. Because, after all, if you are going to adopt, you have to first decide exactly how you are going to do it. LDS Family Services? Private? International? Foster?

Well, I thought, no sweat. I choose a Fast Sunday, I pray, I get an answer. Or, I head for the temple. No, nu-uh, not this time. I get nothing. I am not used to this. I am used to at least getting some response, some feeling, some validation that I believe really comes from God.

In the past I have been so lucky. My answers have come as words whispered in my heart, as warm feelings, even as symbolic visions. When we first considered adoption, I saw two tunnels, one of which had a light at the end. When we considered moving to California, I saw wide horizons, lots of opportunity. When I was thinking -- no, agonizing, really -- about taking my current job, God whispered to me that I needed to do it for my future children, the ones I didn't have yet. We had to stabilize financially so we could bring them home; it made perfect sense.

Now I get nothing. I am sad, frustrated, and most of all scared that the real answer is that there are no more babies for me. That's the question I don't really dare ask.

So, no new tale to tell. I've lived in this place for twelve years now, on and off and in varying degrees. It sucks.

I'm thrilled to be an adoptive parent and to plan to adopt more, as long as that road is open to me. It's just when it's closed that I seem to revert to getting pissed about being infertile. It's not healthy or charitable or really even very faithful, but it's me.

So today as I was listening to an excellent Gospel Doctrine lesson involving the Abram/Sarai/Hagar triangle, I should have not have been surprised that I was increasingly miserable sitting by a young, single, expectant mother who has recently returned home from her prodigal adventures, sense slapped into her by her positive home pregnancy test. I overheard her mother on Friday talking about buying baby girl clothes, so I think she's planning to parent. (Baby girl ... rip my heart out, why don't you!?) Today in SS I actually rested my face in my left hand with my fingers up beside my eyes, so that I would not see her in my peripheral view. I'm so not proud that I did that. What a jerk.

I'm not proud, either, of railing and crying earlier this afternoon about the absurdity of God giving children to those who don't want or deserve them while those who do are left out in the cold. I know better than that. I learned so much while we were trying and waiting for Sam and Abe. I know that God give stones to his hungry children only as a distraction, a toy to divert their attention while He prepares their feast.

But I can be really bitchy when I'm hungry.

Friday, February 24, 2006

A way to use your high school French

I have a nice rambling story for you!

So we were at a ward dinner tonight. The menu was Stouffer's lasagna. Not that I am complaining, it's not like I want to be on the activities committee. But this is the big adult dinner for the year; usually it is tri-tip and the lasagna was a bit of a letdown to say the least.

Also, I signed up to bring a green salad and somehow got volunteered to be a "hostess." This means you set the table and usually bake the lasagna. I didn't have to bake the lasagna. I'm a working mom so the RS president did it for me. Huh? My husband was home all day, he could have put the darn foil pan in the oven. Anyway, everybody else had a very fancy table with chargers and goblets and cloth napkins. We had our everyday yellow stoneware, IKEA glasses and paper napkins. You wanna volunteer me for a job you take what you get.

Actually it was quite a source of contention, because we were going to have 9 people at our table and I only have 8 yellow stoneware plates. I was going to go to the dollar store and spend 9 dollars on plates. My thrifty husband thought this was a dumb idea. I told him that first of all, he should be glad I am not buying goblets and chargers. Second of all, I am not going to goblet and charger land with 8 yellow stoneware plates and 1 hand-me-down white Dansk plate. (Though I do adore the white Dansk plates I got from my mom, I only have 5 of those. And I have some fabulous antique Noritake, but only 6 plates and about a million teacups.)

Anyway, seriously, you cannot comprehend the tension between DH and me on this dish issue. I told him I was very hurt that he did not trust me to solve this problem in a way that was both financially reasonable and acceptable to my sense of aesthetics. It didn't help. About 3 p.m. he called me to tell me that our whole fight was for nothing, because the ninth person at the table just backed out.

Apparently he did not hear the whole trust thing, but whatever. We ate on the yellow stoneware, a happy coincidence since the church-provided centerpiece was a bouquet of daffodils. Quite lovely, and matching.

So, on to the story from the title.

Around my very everyday table, we were talking about wishing we spoke Spanish. It would be very very helpful to speak Spanish, especially in our Young Women's group, where several girls come in from the Spanish branch attached to our ward. I mentioned that I had ignored my spanglophone mother's advice (I just made that word up) and took French instead of Spanish throughout high school and college. Several people confessed to the same sin and regretted that they had never used their French.

I in fact have used my French, and gotten paid for it. I freelanced for a translation service after my first son came home. I was editing an English translation from a French science dictionary. It had lots of funny Frenchisms, like if an entry was about a particular invention or discovery, it would end with a triumphant little, "Et c'etait un Francais qui l'avait accompli!" And it was a Frenchman who did it! Exclamation point!

(Sorry, I don't know how to do accents here. But you get the idea.)

And then I said, "And when I get my baby from Haiti, I'll use my French then."

Everybody gave me this blank stare. "What?" "Haiti, Haiti." More blank stares. Finally the lady next to me, who also happens to be my friend and the YW president I work with, said, "I thought you said Hades."

And I said, "No, I already have my kids from there."

A fact proved true when I came home at 9 and they were all wired on dye and sugar from 2 Scooby Doo popsicles each. Can't believe I actually paid that babysitter.

Wednesday, February 22, 2006

A trip list, because I have allergies

I love spring, except for the sneezing. I am so miserable today! I started taking my Claritin, but it usually takes a day for it to work up to full strength in my system. Itching! Sneezing! Watering! Cloudy brain and exhaustion! It sucks!

But I still want to blog about my holiday weekend trip. I'm going to fall back on my old friend, the list, since it does not require me to do the difficult work of making my ideas actually relate to each other. I leave that task to you.
  • We went to Las Vegas over President's Day weekend. My sister lives there. My friend Tandy had some sweet hookups for me and we got to stay in a beautifully furnished 3 bedroom apartment right across the street from my sister in East LV. How lucky is that?
  • The children's museum in Vegas is pretty fun. I got a big kick out of watching my scientific 6-year-old cooperate with a bunch of bigger kids on building a golf-ball track out of PVC pipe and flexible tubing. My 2-year-old nephew, whom I adore, loved the sound room.
  • My sister's ward leaves something to be desired. My sister and her husband have been there almost 6 months and still feel new and somewhat friendless, and it's not for lack of trying. They are serving diligently in their callings and going to activities as much as they can. But everyone seems to have more money/more kids than they do, and not to be very interested in associating with a little family that is just starting out. The "mom" activities occur in the daytime, weekday hours, and my sister is a working mama like me. And they live in a tiny apartment -- not the best for entertaining. If they were to invite a family with four kids over the place would probably blow up. A lady came up to my BIL on Sunday and asked him if he was there for the Xyz's baby blessing. He's in the freaking elder's quorum presidency, lady! Open your eyes! And I hope some of you people read this!
  • I'm a slightly protective older sister. Did you notice?
  • Said sister gave me a whole stack of food memoirs to read. Watch for some yummy book posts coming up.
  • If you are driving from Las Vegas to California at the end of a holiday weekend ... just watch out. It's wicked.

Friday, February 17, 2006

How do others see you?

So you think you know me by now? Go here and test it! Do you see me the same way I see myself?

This is really fascinating!

Thursday, February 16, 2006

Incredible, lucky, wonderful

It's one of those great work days.

I just had a meeting with a living historical figure. Photographer David Johnson was one of the primary chroniclers of the San Francisco African-American community in the mid-20th century and of the civil rights movement. Jazz greats, prominent leaders and politicians, and beautiful children and ordinary people all figure in his amazing body of work. He lives in our community now and will exhibit his work here at our university later this spring.

He said to me, "It's time to consider where we go from here. The work is not completed. We are on the threshhold. Our country needs to learn to be what we say we are. It is a critical time for America as a superpower. How will we resolve our conflicts in the Middle East? How will we relate to the Muslims in our world, to the growing populations in China and India? We are in transition from a particular moment in history. My peers are passing. I'm the only living photographer featured in the book, Harlem of the West. It's a great moment to be alive and pass on the stories, pass the torch to another generation."

He said to me, "I'm probably the only person you'll ever meet who was there at the 1963 March on Washington. I was there, and I was photographing." He's right -- I've never before had the privilege of meeting someone who was present at that time. What an honor!

I told him about my little boys. He gave me a postcard of one of his photographs. In it, a young African American man sits on the lap of Abraham Lincoln in the Lincoln Monument, pensive, a little sad maybe, holding an American flag. Lincoln looks ready to stand, and he seems to be pushing the boy to stand, as well, as if to say, "Get up! We have work to do."

Wednesday, February 15, 2006


Yesterday I got home and the whole idea of eating a cold ham sandwich was completely grossing me out. Sally had called me to ask me a question about rice for her stuffed-cabbage casserole, a recipe I really want now (ahem!). So I called her back and she gave me the idea to make some pasta primavera with ham. It turned out good and was much better for Valentine's Day than a dumb ol' sandwich!

Pasta Primavera Alla Salla (That's Italian for Sally)

1 lb spiral pasta (Eden Organics Kamut for me but you already know that)

1 tbsp olive oil
1/2 cup baby carrots, halved lengthwise
1 small red pepper, diced
1 small zucchini, sliced
1/2 lb lean ham (or proscuitto would be great but I didn't have that), cubed
1 c frozen petite peas
1 can chicken broth, or some white wine would be great but I don't really keep that around right now, not even for cooking, as it would confuse the children (we are teetotalling Mormons, don'tcha know!)
1 tbsp flour
basil to taste
black pepper and salt to taste

lemon wedges
parmesan cheese

Cook pasta. Meantime, saute carrots with ham in olive oil just until color of carrots deepens. Add peppers and zucchini and stir. Add half of the broth and reduce heat; simmer until carrots are tender. Shake remaining broth with flour in a closed container. Add and stir until thickened. Add basil, salt and pepper. Stir in peas and heat through. (I cannot abide overcooked peas!) Serve over pasta with lemon and cheese.

Great celebration of our mini spring. It's supposed to get cold again later on today.

Tuesday, February 14, 2006

My funny Valentines

Some Valentine's holiday moments from the last couple of days ... with some links to keep you busy for a while.
  • Sam has 7 girlfriends, but his box of Incredibles valentines only had 4 big cards. He had to pare down his list. And he insisted on doing his valentines in private so no one would know which girls he loves. (He's only 6! WAH!)
  • There is a boy in Sam's class that he doesn't get along with. He didn't want to address a valentine to Zachary. I made him do it anyway. But I told him he didn't have to put a sticker on it if he didn't want to. That seemed to satisfy him.
  • Abe (age 4) has 4 girlfriends. "But I don't love them, they just love me," he says.
  • Abe made smiley faces with the heart stickers on his Batman Begins valentines. He loves the Dark Knight but I don't think he quite gets the Dark part of that.
  • Do I need to do something to curb my young ones' polygamist tendencies?
  • I gave the boys yoga mats for Valentine's Day. My primary motivation was to get them to quit crowding my mat when I'm yogaing in the family room. This morning they were so excited to use their new red mats that they did Pilates instead of breakfast. I don't know why it's so cute to see their little boy bodies trying so diligently to follow directions. But it is. They are so eager to do it right!
  • Maybe I should try to be more like a fitness instructor and see if it helps me get more compliance out of my kids. All cheesy smiles and praise. That's probably not a bad idea, but dang, it's hard when you're trying to get dressed in the morning and they're pounding on the door and yelling.
  • I managed to stuff a couple of bites of Eggo in each kid before taking them to school so the candy binge could start.
  • I gave Glenny a couple of bags of chocolates by Chocoholics, the company that makes the yummy body frosting. My main motivation: the packages said you have to share with a willing partner. Chocolate involved? I'm willing, baby!
  • We had a nice dinner out on Saturday. Tonight it's ham sandwiches for all of us, Mutual for me and a temple recommend interview for Glenn. Ah, romance ...

Thursday, February 09, 2006

Cure for a day of pain

It's hell day today, otherwise known as cycle day one, the arrival of Aunt Flo, whatever. I was on the elliptical trainer this morning and at precisely 6:28 a.m. I got dizzy. This has happened before. About once a year I have a period where the pain is so intense that it nauseates me. I was so afraid that I was going to throw up right there in the gym, but blessedly I escaped. The cold air outside snapped me out of it. (And hey, I still did 22 minutes on the elliptical, so that's not bad!)

Nonetheless, it's a bummer of a way to start your day. Add in cranky kids, an overwhelming task list, freaky hormones, blah blah blah, and you get the picture.

But my husband just called to see if I could have lunch with him. And for some reason that makes everything better.

Along with a whole lot of ibuprofen.

Tuesday, February 07, 2006

Pie, pie, pie, pie, pie

What better than a sinful dessert to beat my blog boredom?

This recipe comes from an old Farm Journal cookbook that I got from my grandma when she moved from a tiny town in northern (very northern, like walk-to-Idaho northern) Utah to a retirement community in California in 1995 or so. My grandma says if you ever see a Farm Journal cookbook, buy it. I think I've said that before on this blog. I still agree.

Peanut Butter Chiffon Pie
1 envelope unflavored gelatin
1 c cold water, divided
3 egg yolks, well beaten
1/2 c brown sugar (my change)
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 c peanut butter (my current favorite: Maranatha organic chunky)
1 tsp vanilla (my change -- 1/2 tsp is never enough)
3 egg whites, unbeaten
1 9" pie crust (recipe calls for crumb but I used pastry)
whipping cream
chocolate pieces
peanut halves

Soften gelatin in 1/4 c water.

Combine yolks, 1/4 c brown sugar, 1/4 c water and salt in top of double boiler. Blend. Add gelatin mixture.

Place over boiling water. Whisk vigorously 5 minutes until thick and foamy.

Mix peanut butter with remaining water, then stir into egg yolk mixture. Stir in vanilla; chill.

Beat egg whites until foamy; add remaining sugar gradually, beating until stiff peaks form. Fold in peanut butter mixture. Turn into crust. Chill until firm.

Serve with whipped cream, chocolate chips and peanut halves.

I served the peanuts and chocolate chips scattered over the cream in a haphazard, 21st-century kind of way. Farm Journal suggests creating daisies with chocolate chip centers and peanut petals. Which is absolutely charming in a 1950s kind of way. If I had a diner style kitchen with formica and chrome everywhere, I'd do it.

I make desserts, I just realized, because it's the only time I can put in a lot of effort on something and actually get appreciation from my kids. They're not so much into the other funky stuff I like to play with, like the white bean and basil pizzas from last night. But that's a recipe for another day.