Wednesday, January 13, 2010

The Bread of Life. (Yes, it's a cooking metaphor.)

It's been a year since I started Back to Me. Have I gotten back to me? Not really. It's damn hard. I have been making bread though and it's much easier than self-actualization.

Like every other middle class, northeastern, food-obsessed thirtysomething, I want less crap in my food. Less processing and packaging. I've also been preoccupied lately about what my children will remember about their childhood. Will they think of me on my computer all the time? Will they remember me always trying to figure myself out? Probably, so I at least want the smell of fresh bread as a sense memory distraction. (Maybe I should start spraying the smell of the beach in the morning while I'm screeching for them to GET. THEIR. COATS. ON. NOW.)

I was inspired by Catherine Newman, who you should really be reading. Aside from the fact that I aspire to be her when I grow up, her recipes regularly get me cooking, which is about the only thing I am accomplishing around here these days. She sheepishly shared a recipe for bread, because well, who makes bread? Ma Ingalls makes bread. And that's not us. Oh, and my friend Joanne makes bread. But she could also make the entire Bronx Zoo out of fondant and gum paste.

I digress. Bread. It's good. All you do is dump everything in a bowl and stir it up and then eat the gluteny, soggy dough straight out of the bowl. Ok, it's not that easy. Actually, the making part is easy, the baking, timing, finding the right vessel to cook it in part is trickier.

My first loaves, Mark Bittman's fast no-knead whole wheat, didn't rise right, because the yeast was old. They are currently in the freezer awaiting a second life as croutons. My second loaves were delicious, and not at all surprisingly, when I made a loaf substituting white flour for the wheat, it was gone in a day or two. I think Adam would make like Jerry Seinfeld and steal a loaf of bread from an old woman, if it was white and free of any kind of grain. Last week, I made three whole wheat brioches from Artisan Bread in Five Minutes that turned out nearly perfect. I made them in a cool stone crock and they produced giant slices of perfectly shaped bread. Maybe I am Ma Ingalls?

It's nice to start something and have it not quite work out and then approach it again and again, refining it each time. I realize that cooking as metaphor is all done now, thank you Julie Powell, but that kind of tenacity in other sectors of my life would be ok too. I would also love to make substitutions when necessary or start a second life as a crouton.

For now, we've got bread. We all stand around the loaf, soaking up the smell and the accomplishment. And if we're Mimi we explain the parameters of the butter spreading on the first steamy slice in excruciating detail, and then we dig in. Sense memories in the making.

Monday, September 28, 2009

The Beginning of Letting Go

I'm back to the blog. Why is this always such a long road for me? I spend my days thinking in prose with plans to write the definitive treatise on grief or saying good bye to my baby on her first day of school, but instead of writing I circle the computer, surfing Facebook, writing clever emails, and yelling at the Internet, feeling so uneasy that I won't even open my blog to have a look at what I last wrote about. A reminder of what I hadn't done. And here I am - finally - with more meta about writing. Or not writing. Maybe a treatise on writing about not writing is my niche. But let's have a go at the other stuff anyway.

I last wrote in May about the crazy my house was under. The summer in contrast, was calm and happy, laced together by my divine daughters dodging sprinklers, dock fishing and wave jumping. The summer between baby and big girl. Those beach towel cuddles growing ever less common. And then summer ended the way it does, with the first day of school. Up early, the girls put on their special first-day-of- school dresses and I braided their hair. We went outside for pictures; Mimi with her worried smile. And off we went. And a little bit of my heart stayed behind.

When I pick up Violet at school, she races into my arms and presses her cheek to mine, still fully surprised and thrilled to see me. It is the high point of my day. It is a primordial hug. It feels like the reason I was born. That's a lot for a 30 second hug, but this is my baby and she isn't home with me anymore and that makes me cry a little some days. She is so shy and I worried so much, but she's happy in school. She shares the stories of her day with such brightness and joy, sending my gut flip flopping with melancholy and satisfaction.

When I pick up Mimi at school, she flops her backpack and lunch at my feet, starts explaining why she didn't eat and can she go to the park and she's hungry and thirsty and hot and cold. Before all of this, I peek at her and see that serious face. So inside her own head. There are few running, leaping hugs from this one. It's the age maybe or the kid. She sat on my lap on the train recently and it occurred to me how rarely I get to hold her anymore. I also had a flash of missing Mimi the baby, the one that wasn't so complicated. The one that didn't need to clean up her own mess or figure out how to read and pronounce the, when th comes out zuh. The one that didn't get the impatient end of my patience.

This one sings school songs with her sister though and admits mistakes to her friends, inviting them to play after previously excluding them. She has held on to our secret mission to get frozen yogurt with a precious persistence, and she made a bookmark for a new friend, telling her she could change out the stickers or color it a different color if she wanted to. She's magic and mayhem.

I'm holding on and they are scrambling down my legs to go play. I push them out the door and they cry to stay home. Holding on and letting go.

Regina Spektor, rad singer, philosopher and writing muse, sings a deceptively peppy song about taking the best of what you are, loving it and then putting it into someone else's heart, and then doing it again and again. We listen to Regina while I cook dinner, which is a happy time of day for me, and as is often the condition with parenting, I don't think of Adam when I hear these lyrics (he who has so gracefully carried the best and the worst of me in his heart for 13 years), I think of Mimi and Violet.

I am home alone now. I am here to get a life of my own now. But their faces are always in front of me. I have tucked myself into their bursting hearts and now I wait.

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Blame Greensboro

My poor blog. I've let it down so. It was there for me. It was called Back to Me! It was a symbol of my reemergence into grown-up life. A life that included things like writing and, um, watching TV and cooking bulgur. Well, it's a symbol for sure. A symbol that the shit that moves me isn't necessarily the shit that comes first. (Clearly, I've honed my exposition skills since my last entry.)

When I wrote those early entries so full of excitement about the year and the start back to being a whole person, someone who might someday work at something other than raising decent children, I didn't anticipate that it might be something else that derailed me.

Did any of you ever find yourself with a man so good that you forget how good he is? You forget about the same train he takes to the same job every day to sit at the same desk to bring home the same bacon every day. The bacon he fries up every Saturday so you can sleep in? Did you ever flip through pictures of your kids as babies and see that look on your good man's face? The one that says, damn, this is a great kid. I've got a man like that.

And he's trying to figure out how to leave his cleats on the field. And this maybe means leaving our comfort zones. And we talk about this everyday. And my head could explode. And it's hard to write.

I probably shouldn't chat up Adam's life anymore than I already have, but needless to say, having endless conversations about big change is a lot easier than committing to it.

Some facts:

Am I spoiled princess that likes my yellowfin and lattes? A little bit.

Am I also 34-years old with two children and no career to speak of? Check.

Am I also trying to figure out how to be more than that. Check. (Well, I've perfected aging. It's the career part that is supposed be to going somewhere.)

Do I obsessively worry about this, but actually do very little to change? Very much so yes. And so does Adam. Obsess that is. You see how the endless conversations might be, oh, endless.

Am I doing that right now? Of course.

Do I want to leave my cleats on the field too? Some days more than others.

Does this cause a domestic collide? Some days more than others.

I've got this kid and she's 4 and she's quirky as hell and she yells 'scramble!' when you least expect it and she treats minor injuries like impalements, but during the free dance portion of her ballet class, she totally lets go. She feels the music. She uses the whole space. She's understands how to release her body and just be. She's free.

Around our house lately we've had a tough time being free.

We want more. More time; more creativity; more doing; more space. Less of the same-o. A little more life in our life. And maybe Adam wants it more than I do. For today, at least. And it casts a shadow. And so we turn away from the conversation and proceed as we have. The life we have is pretty nice and we are damn lucky. But soon we are going to feel the music and let go. Soon. At the very least, I know we will talk about doing it.

In honor of my birthday and all the agita 'round the house, plus the general wackadooness and code-talking in this post, I think a little Dr. Seuss is in order:

If we didn't have birthdays, you wouldn't be you.
If you'd never been born, well then what would you do?
If you'd never been born, well then what would you be?
You might be a fish! Or a toad in a tree!
You might be a doorknob! Or three baked potatoes!
You might be a bag full of hard green tomatoes!
Or worse than all that.....
Why you might be a WASN'T.
A Wasn't has no fun at all. No he doesn't.
A Wasn't just isn't. He just isn't present.
But you..... You ARE YOU!
And now isn't that pleasant?

In blogging news (yes, I am reinstating this feature): IDOL!!!! And FNL, Gossip Girl and maybe sad, dying Izzie and George.

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Going, going

Aw, Riggins. You break my heart. 

You want it all — in that Dillon, Tx kind of way. You want the hero worship that comes with football. You want to not be the guy that's stuck in Dillon. You want the gorgeous girl. And bless your deep waters, you want to grow old sitting next to your brother at his chop shop, even if he literally takes a leak in the sink when the bathroom is occupied. 

After the Panthers lost the State Championships, our boy Tim took a few minutes to leave his cleats on the field. It was a hand on the heart moment. These characters are too real. This is all our lives. We come and we go and we break and we heal and we fuck up and we wonder who we are and where we fit and you can put us on Mars or in Dillon, Texas and we still want to do something and leave our cleats on the field and say, I was here and I did this and it changed me.

Want and change were certainly the themes of this episode. Tyra wrote the college essay to slay all college essays with the help of her good knight Lance Landry. Her dreams for her future had the weight and passion that I think is often missing from people who feel trapped and can't imagine their lives anywhere else. Her mom's pep talk last week, allowing that Tyra would and could surprise them and be more than a pretty face, was hopefully ringing in her ears. Her mom isn't much, but she got that right. The last line of her essay: "I can't wait." Go Tyra. 

As Landry was helping Tyra organize her thoughts, I (actually Adam) wondered if he would become a teacher and I think it fits. Landry is a very smart and kind kid. Maybe a bit of a pushover, but I'm sure Tyra repays him in sexual favors, since they did hook-up again in this episode. I assume that wouldn't happen with other students.

Also, Landry getting a touchdown was exactly as it should be. Sometimes I think it's a good idea for good things to happen to good people. Go Landry. 

What does JD want? The push-pull with his dad and his coach is tearing him up. Saracen got pulled in as QB for the second half of the championship game, because JD couldn't get his head in the game. He's furious at Coach and scared of his father and for his father, since CPS paid the family a visit. Tami was legally obligated to drop a dime on the McCoy parents following Joe's temper tantrum on JD's face. I felt for Tami. I think she wanted the chance to counsel the family and help them through what she hoped was a one time thing. I'm not sure where I stand. 

In this case it further pissed off Joe. Alienated JD from Coach and ended Tami's friendship with Katie. And that doesn't help anyone. In other cases, maybe it would be the intervention that a family in crisis needed. It looks like in the next episode Joe goes after the whole Taylor clan. I'm looking forward to seeing how Coach handles that one. Go Coach?

Last episode of the season coming up this week.  

Now what am I going to talk about ...

Oh, Lost! How amazing was Evangeline Lily last week? The sobbing at Aaron's bedside did me in. So good. 

Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Resolution and Blog Check-Up

I am overdue for recaps. Clearly, I have become a bit bored writing them, hence the weekly delays. It's not that I don't love FNL and GG anymore. In fact, the last two episodes of Friday Night Lights have been outstanding.

The McCoy family has been fertile ground for all sorts of mind-blowing acting. I couldn't have been more wrong about poor, little JD. And I think Coach knows a little something about being JD. I think maybe Coach's dad wasn't so different from Joe. Just a hunch. Also, Janine Turner is killing. Seriously, she is perfect. Between bad TV movies and eye drop commercials, I forgot what this chick was capable of, but Maggie O'Connell broke my heart a thousand times, so I shouldn't be surprised.

I was very moved by her scene with Tami after Joe hit JD. She was just as surprised as we were (never mind that the previews show too much). She isn't afraid of Joe and he doesn't bully her. She speaks her mind; tells him to cool off, and as much as she might try to protect JD from his father's intensity, we have never been given the impression that she was choosing Joe over JD's safety in the typical TV-abuse arc. She really didn't see where it was headed, which made the whole horrible mess that much more brutal. In good news, FNL has been renewed! Hopefully, the great writing will continue as some characters move on.

Gossip Girl hasn't been so great lately, actually. There is something missing. It's not as fun. Blair and Nate have no chemistry, which makes them boring to watch. Although, Chuck and Vanessa do, which helps. Rufus has discovered information three weeks in a row, by reading someone else's mail, which is really pathetic. The writers seriously can't think of any other way for him to find something out? I don't have much else to say about GG right now. Maybe that's why no recap?

Quick American Idol shout-out: Adam Lambert is the one to watch. His version of "Tracks of My Tears" was the best performance of the season and one of the best on Idol ever. I like him in queeny mode too, but this broken-down version of a song we have all heard a 1000 times really laid him bare and made him a lock for finals. Now that I have someone to watch on Idol, I can get interested. Of course, the fact that it is on at the same time as Lost is still a problem. (Speaking of Lost: Holy shit, Sayid!)*

And now a recap of my resolutions. I'm scared.

1) Write at least 3x a week.

I was doing really well with this one for about five weeks and then it dropped to 1-2 times a week. I can still crank it out and enjoy it if I actually. open. the. damn. file. and start writing. It's getting from Facebook to there that keeps tripping me up.

I actually have a lot I'm mulling right now and I'm trying to figure out if I want to say it here. One of my favorite bloggers, that is also a mom, has been writing a lot about figuring out the woman inside the mother (she says it with much less cheese than that). This is on my mind too. Everything gets so mixed up in marriage and parenting and loving people, that it requires a surgical instrument to separate out what part of all of that is still, well, me, and frankly, sometimes I think I approach the project with a hatchet. Anyway.

2) Send one pitch a month to some sort of magazine about something.

Haven't done this. Need $. Will try harder.

3) Do 20 squats and 20 lunges everyday.

I actually have started doing this! Well, sort of. I've added weights, and plank exercises that I'm sure I'm doing wrong, that could almost make me cry, but I'm doing them! I've been enjoying working out lately, so that's a resolution I can be happy about.

4) With Mark Bittman's new cookbook, Food Matters, serving as inspiration, and to be both frugal and healthy — I want to cook more vegetarian meals. This is counter to Adam's resolution at birth to eat meat with every meal, so we will see how it goes. 4a) Cook more. 4b) Plan the week's menu every Sunday and try to use what is in the freezer. 4c) Go an entire month without eating out or ordering in or buying any food other than groceries and Starbucks (I have to live!). I think April is the designated month.

Wow, that was a big one. I am cooking a lot, using what I have on hand and being a conscientious shopper, and I've tried to make more whole grain dishes — I'm all about the bulgar salads these days. (It's like the oldest wheat ever.) I wouldn't say though that we are eating more vegetarian, and it's not even Adam's fault. It seems I am quite carnivorous. I will keep trying — after this week's Mexican pot roast, that is.

Alas, tomorrow is April 1st, which is when I am technically supposed to start my 'only eating in' experiment. I'm not sure I'm in the head-space to make this happen. Let's take it day by day, shall we.

5) Learn HTML.

Still just strike-throughs

6) Do more crafty stuff and baking with the kids. Winter-behavior has already started, and I want them to live to see spring.

The girls did live to see spring and they do help me cook a bit. Seriously though, they do enough crafts at school to fill half a closet. Literally.

* I didn't love Adam Lambert's performance tonight as much as last week. Not sure who I loved tonight.

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Bad Blair

This was the episode with Bad Blair, who sits in her negligee and drinks whiskey with scuzzy guy. Bad Blair also wears hot Herve Leger dresses and spills society secrets. But really now, Bad Blair and Everyday Blair are more or less the same. Obsessed with college; teasing Chuck; being a bitch to everyone? That's the same Blair as before, right? I think we are supposed to believe that in some universe, Blair was a good girl, but all of that was back when Serena was a bad girl. Hey, Gossip Girl, we weren't watching the show before it was, um, on television.

After all of the ridiculousness about Yale, I actually feel bad that Blair is college-less, although I can't believe that Constance Billard would let her only apply to one place. Also, the hazing of a teacher thing is so bogus. She gave Rachel the wrong time for the opera! And the whole "Dan Humphrey did the teacher thing," while not technically true at the time, was obviously prescient. That should count for something. I don't believe 99% of colleges would give a flying headband what Blair did.

Bad Blair — who kind of morphed into Sad Blair — hooking up with Happy Nate is an interesting development I suppose. His pep talk to her was very sweet and was the most Nate has spoken in months. I think he represents stability and comfort to Blair, which she is craving right now. This was all happening while Nate was reconciling with his blindingly rich grandfather, who apparently ditched him after the minor life-hiccup of Nate's coke-head dad losing all their money, running away to the Islands, leaving his family as squatters and ultimately going to jail. Nice one, Grandpa.

After a touch football game, in which I expected to see their blood run blue, and some group hugs, Nate got sucked back into the rich family vortex and left Vanessa and their planned Eastern Europe backpacking trip for an internship with Mayor Bloomberg. From what I can tell, Nate can barely read, so I'm not sure what he is going to do for the Mayor. It was nice to see him happy and in possession of an actual storyline though. He and Chuck are going to step though. Chuck wants Blair bad. Bad enough to turn down her offer for cheap, public sex at the Vandy mansion. He loves her. Awwww.

Who else was in the episode? There was an idiotic story about Rufus and Lily making lists of their past conquests. Lily's included Slash and Trent Reznor. Rufus' included 13 people, which is about as believable as two adult parent(ish) — where the f is Eric?— people making lists like this. Serena has probably slept with more people than Rufus. If Dan Humphrey keeps bedding the faculty, he could be up to 13 in no time. I was kind of happy that Lily didn't apologize or try to make too nice with Rufus. He's such a baby.

Dan Humphrey inexplicably got invited to all of Nate's family functions and can apparently play football. Not to mention ask his sister for something cold to put on his sore ankle! When I was Jenny's age I would have required payment to remit that sort of assistance for my brothers.

Dan Humphrey also got slapped by Serena for the costume-closet incident with Rachel. I've been thinking about these two and I feel kind of ripped off. They had this great courtship and sweet romance and one mad and one sad break up and since then have had lame reconciliations followed by lame break-ups with lame lovers in between. I know this is the model for the teen show, but it's sucking the wind out of Danrena.

Rumor on the Internets is that Serena is going to tap her inner Anne Hathaway and get involved with someone interested in creative financing. Timely yes, but I'm sure Dan Humphrey will save the day and we will have another tepid reunion to take us into the summer. I'm a bit like the GOP about this, I have no better ideas, just venting.

It looks like next week real life loves Vanessa and Chuck are going to attempt to make Nate and Blair jealous by hooking up. Jesus, I sure hope this group uses protection. Chuck alone could cause a terrible outbreak.

Sorry this recap is so late. I'll do better next week. Or not. xoxo

Monday, March 23, 2009

Status Updates

I'm just going to launch into this one without a lot of preamble. We all know what status updates are, even though it's called sharing now. We all know my blog is having an identity crisis, so let's play along. (And please allow a little creative license, while I stretch this conceit beyond the point where it makes any sense.)

Sarah is doing a lot of research about Greensboro, Alabama. Intrigued? Stay tuned.

Sarah is just finished a most annoying, but nicely written book, Breakable You, by Brian Morton. Am I losing my tolerance for reading books about middle class New Yorkers that are miserable?

Sarah is also not sure why she battled through Netherland. It was the 5-page long descriptions of cricket that did me in. At least Breakable You was an easy read.

Sarah is in need of a book she is going to love.

Sarah is worried about Sawyer's goodness.

Sarah is frustrated by Idol.

Sarah is happy that Grey's Anatomy seems to be making a comeback.

Sarah is in love with these chilean lime chips. They are cooked in avocado oil, which means they have 30% less fat than your average chip. Avocados are really good for you; chips are fun and these are really, really tasty. Super-salty, tangy, crispy and great with sandwiches. I promise they don't taste like cardboard. One caveat, the bags are smaller than an average chip bag, so the risk of eating the whole bag is high. Unfortunately, doing this would still be around 80 billion calories of chip consumption, despite their 'healthiness."

Sarah is counting the above item as a product review.

Sarah is obsessed with this perfect sandwich:

Soft grainy bread

Soft avocado, spread on one piece of bread
Goat cheese spread on the other piece of bread (if I don't have goat cheese, I just slice up gruyere or cheddar)
A couple slices of tomato
A few pieces of pancetta cooked until crispy

Smush it all together and eat. You can add egg for extra yumminess and obviously take out the pancetta for meat-free action.

Sarah is sure that TV bloopers watched on YouTube are the cure for any bad mood. The Seinfeld bloopers are really great.

Sarah is happy her husband is home.

Sarah is happy she blogged today and thinks she will do it again tomorrow.

And yes, I would like to share.

*photo by Adam Saynuk at StudioSaynuk