Sunday, September 23, 2007

appropriate use of cheese cloth

"Do you have any cheese cloth?"
"That depends, are you going to use it make cheese, or adulterate it in some way?"
"Adulterate. But in a positive way."

It was three weeks ago when I paid way too much for u-pick blackberries only to come home and make a dreaded phone call turning down an inspiring job. Taking the misfortunes in stride, I headed to liquor store. Turns out a fifth of vodka is about 2 1/2 cups. To double the recipe I'd need 4, so I took a second walk up to 23rd and Union, wondering if I should avoid eye contact with the clerk who sold me my first bottle just a half-hour earlier.

I can't find my sewing kit. My guess is that it and the cheese cloth I remember packing away, are at the bottom of the closet I can't bring myself to dig through. Not until the hall is free of the bed frame and dresser and Goodwill box. No rush now that the man at Kitchen Basics approved our use of the cloth.

Yesterday, after a morning of soccer with toddlers, an almond latte followed by a sunny afternoon in the dahlia garden and climbing the camels at Volunteer Park, we strained the berries and toasted the birthday Joan Jett and I share.

Blackberry Liqueur

1 pt Fresh blackberries
2 1/2 c Vodka
1 Vanilla bean
1/4 ts Whole allspice
1/2 c Sugar syrup (2part sugar/1part water, boil, cool)

Select full colored and plump berries. DO NOT wash until ready to use as water causes mold to form. Rinse berries and place in a mixing bowl, lightly crushing to release flavor.
Add vodka, vanilla bean, and allspice. Stir and store in bottle in cool dark place for 3 weeks.
Strain mixture through dampened cheese cloth, squeezing as much juice
as possible.
Pour back in bottle adding sugar syrup to taste (1/3 to 1/2 cup
per pint) and age another 3-5 weeks.
Yield: 1 pint plus.

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

celebrate, matey!

Today be Aslin`s birthday. She`s been countin' th' days an' be thrilled t' finally b 11. Yesterday, at Izilla, she spent a bit o' her cat sittin' treasure on a gift fer herself. A new lanky cat. Mashimaro. Marshmellow. "Because three of her paws are white and the rest of it is the color of a toasted marshmellow, and, she's just cute and fluffy."

(We're still looking for a Japanese language class for Ukiah. In the meantime, he's teaching Aslin what he knows.)

Also celebrated today, International Talk Like a Pirate Day.

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

elf + elf =


Yesterday, after a very wet hike near Olallie State Park, we made tea and settled in for some arithmetic from the Wayside School.

After experimenting with our own spelling/algebra rules, we solved the first chapter, including:
  1. stays + say = trust
  2. dell + ewe = woods
  3. seed + iced = spice
(each letter represents a different number between 0 and 9)

Saturday, September 15, 2007

second breakfast

Home fries at the Crocodile Cafe are fresh cut red potatoes, not too greasy. The cinnamon french toast has the slightest hint of nutmeg. For some, it's hang-over food. For us, it's an almost clean table with a view of the Sunday morning puddles and people of 2nd/Blanchard and second breakfast. Today it includes free samples of Izzy Essque sodas. Mandarin is light on sugar/calories, soft on flavor.

The tables are full, there's a shortage of soy milk, the coffee is fresh and a steady stream of two-headed dolls, re-crafted vintage wear and beaded jewelry are making their way into the cafe. I heard a rumor that I Heart Rummage was on hiatus, but we didn't cross paths with it in our time on the road. Anyway, it and its hand-crafted pillows and lemon verbena soap are back. With a vengeance. As displayed by our super-fantastic new Ninja pint glasses. Thanks Miss Val!

Thursday, September 13, 2007

blog o' the day

We turned here when the cookbooks failed. Because what else goes so well with tomatoes from the garden?

Note: the garbanzos cook up well even if you're tired, a little nervous about your new job and forget to soak them over-night. A day long bath works just fine. Which is especially important now that Aslin is down one of her finest chewing teeth.

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

we heart plums

Most of us, anyway.
I exhausted my usual plum resources last week with the first batch of plum sauce. At the park, hillside trees hold their branches just out of reach. Until we return with milk crates. Ukiah and I stack them in various combinations, knowing the incline is too steep, but figuring the mud should give traction to the boxes. Still, as is always the case in fruit picking, the best plums are just beyond reach.

Down the ally, a single tree offers what could make a dozen coffee cakes. The neighbor says she "can't possibly eat them all" and from the fruit-littered pavement, it seems as though she's not even trying. So Aslin and I carried over the step stool, scratched ourselves climbing the tree, lost our footing sanding on top the fence, felt a bug in our eye, and eventually brought out the 8-foot ladder.

Plum Sauce

In a medium pot, combine-

5-6 garlic cloves, minced fine
1/2 ounce fresh ginger, minced
1 small onion, minced
3/4 cup brown sugar
2 cups water
2 teaspoons sesame oil
1/8 cup soy sauce
1 teaspoon crushed dried chilies
3 lbs plums, pitted & chopped
1 lemon, juice of, fresh

Bring to a boil, simmer for 30 minutes

Strain, returning liquid to pot

1 tablespoon cornstarch
1 tablespoon water
Add to solids and blend/process until smooth

Return plum puree to pot, simmer until thickened

Serve with noodles, spring rolls, rice, tofu, stir fry
I suggest freezing or canning some extra, cause plum season is just about over

Ukiah generously donates his share of the family plum treasury to Shell, who enjoys them in a salad with fresh kale and earthworms from the garden.

Thursday, September 06, 2007

Real World

At what point is it acceptable to swear in public? To/at your children's doctor?

A couple of guys joined us at the back of the bus last week. Not entirely sober at 10am but friendly. "Look at the little man," the one on the aisle gestured to Ukiah. And they looked at Ukiah, apparently charmed by his "training to be a little man" posture. "Hey, you gonna be a lawyer?" Ukiah shook is head, politely. "No, really. What you gonna be? Cause if you a lawyer you ain't never gonna lose a case. I feel sorry for that district attorney, cause if you just smile, it's all over. You got a good smile, little man. How many cavities you got?"

Aslin pretended to sleep as Ukiah graciously nodded, smiled, met a high-five and turned to me for reassurance. "No cavities."

"See that?" the aisle man asked his window friend. "See, you got somebody who loves you. You know that? I want you to know..." Window man was unsuccessful in getting his friend to shut up or leave the nice kid alone. Aisle man continued, "Your mamma take a baseball bat to the back of the head for you." He smiled at me, approval of my parenting. "I'm not trying to be graphic, but she'd move right in at get hit for you... I'm just trying to tell you how much love you got...You guys all right..."

The unlikely family-support workers left the bus a few blocks before us.

More highlights from our recent weeks in the real world-
  • A cross city walk from Belltown to Seattle Center, to Pike Place, to the International District, to a different bus to Ranier, where we walked to collect the truck from the shop.
  • Meeting Rasta the rooster
  • Cat sitting Suri
  • Evaluating diversity in gaming and the Army's presence at PAX
  • Pickin berries, apples, flowers and feeding goats
  • Suffering through the "worst game of capture the flag ever"
  • Turning down a dream job
  • Helping Grandma move furniture, boxes and files
  • Reserving a dozen manga titles at the library
  • Cooking pizza, stuffed peppers and plum sauce
  • A bike ride to the dog park
  • Mowing the neighbor's yard
  • Hosting a veteran of the 1st Gulf War, learning of his recently discovered uranium bone-poisoning
  • Inventorying the My Little Pony and Magic card collections
  • And a bad encounter with the doctor

This whole resumption of normal has proven challenging, especially as we opted not to return to our routines. Brad's making bloody ducks and severed limbs. My new job comes with Sounders tickets but with out a classroom. We're experiencing a prolonged/delayed broken heart in Clearwater's move out of town. I miss preschool and we all miss the staff discount on groceries. In two weeks Dawn and Kalin will move next door. And we've already eaten more than half our winter supply of blueberries.

Adding to the challenge and self-doubt of putting our lives back together, "well child" check-ups that included the question, "how long are you going to protect them from the real world?" Height, weight, blood pressure, spine check and "That's not a judgment, I respect home and alternative schooling, but why don't you just put them out there?"

I've been wondering what shape our lil' blog might take as we resume a settled life, not especially anxious to join the masses of family stories already floating around. In part because writing with our names attached, means censoring to protect the subjects and/or audience. And partly because with out the built-in drama of the trip of lifetime, what could there possibly be to say? Then I remembered that scenes from the real, day-to-day lives of ordinary people make some of my favorite stories.

So, I confirmed with the doctor that I did feel judged, not at all supported. I listed a half dozen of the kids' real world engagements and kindly told him, "don't fucking push me on this." My eloquent response would have sounded a little something like "I can talk educational philosophy and developmental psychology for hours, probably weeks and surely the rest of my life. You've only got about 5 minutes, so listen to the kids' lungs, answer their questions and offer me some resources, if you'd like." I think he heard my message even in its abbreviated form.

For the record, Ukiah's 5'3, Aslin 5'1.75. Both appear healthy despite my unwillingness to allow them to participate in the real world. Maybe because I'd take a bat to the head for either of them. I'm not trying to be graphic.