Saturday, January 24, 2015

Saturday

A slow Saturday. You can almost hear the chug-chug-chug of the wheels of time grinding forward: deliberately, but with long pauses in between.

I blame it on the weather.

We wake to one of the warmer days of the month -- the predicted high will reach 40F. It's actually quite discouraging because, of course, this is tantamount to March weather. Meaning, it wont be any better than this in March. And it feels cold. Without sunshine, the outside world right now is uninviting.

At dawn, I am out setting the cheepers free. There is hope in the sky then...


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...but it quickly vanishes behind a thick cloud cover. I don't linger with the brood.


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I can't bear to see them so... featherless. (Butter is the worst. She stayed in the coop when I took out my camera, which is just as well. You don't want to see her defeathered frame.) I try not to worry about them in advance of the next week, when we're slated to get another arctic blast.


After breakfast...


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... I am determined to solve an emergent computer issue. A new emailing system (installed yesterday at the Law School) means new headaches. I get nowhere and have to get Ed who, in the end merely tells me that there is no solution and I will just have to live with a work-around.

The entire morning, devoted to solving an unsolvable problem! No wonder the cogs on the wheel of time seem so stalled!


The afternoon? A visit with little Snowdrop! She is as perky as could be. For half of my visit.


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The other half? She takes her cues from the rest of the world and closes her eyes.


In the near evening, Ed and I take a walk at the county park just east of us.


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We are rewarded. The clouds split into more delicate puffs. Owls hoot, geese honk, the moon comes out.


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Deer cavort.


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I am at peace with winter again.


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P.S. This is a response to a reader who asked for the recipe for the Brussels sprouts and bacon frittata.  I nearly always make a frittata for brunch. And though I did use a cook book to inspire this one (Huckleberry), it is also true that frittatas follow the same basic pattern and you need never crack a book again once you've memorized it: prepare and cook the veggie/meat base; prepare the egg custard; start cooking the egg custard; scramble in the veggie/meats; when half done, sprinkle with cheese and stick in hot oven for 8-10 minutes. For added effect, broil for a minute.

So having said that, let me give a few details of this particular frittata. If I am ever in Santa Monica  (unlikely), I will surely go to Huckleberry for all the recipes that place has given me! (In the alternative, when I am next in SF, I will hustle over to Tartine Bakery, a training ground for some of our best bakers, including the one at Huckleberry!)

The Frittata

Filling:
bacon (8 slices of thick slice; I used a pack of regular), chopped up
dash of olive oil and a spoon of butter
onion, chopped (I skipped it because one of my daughters hates onion)
salt
fresh thyme
about 2 cups Brussels sprouts, thinly sliced, plus abut 1 c of brussles sprout leaves.
pepper

Custard:
10 eggs (I used 11 and often go up to a dozen for 6-7 people)
2 tbsp of creme fraiche (you could use substitutes, but I had it, so I use it)
2 TBSP grated parmesan
chopped parsley

2 TBSP butter
3 TBSP grated Gruyere or some such cheese (I use more)

So, you preheat the oven to 475.
You cook the bacon and sprouts: saute the bacon in oil and butter until browned, add onion, salt and thyme and cook until soft (10 mins?). Add sliced sprouts and saute for 5 mins more (until soft: it took a bit longer for me). Set aside.

Toss the sprout leaves with a bit of olive oil and dash of salt, set aside.

Make the custard: whisk eggs, creme, parmesan, parsley, set aside.

Take your trusty (but not rusty!) cast iron 10 inch pan (or other oven proof lookalike), melt 2 TBSP butter, scramble egg custard into it, then add the veggies/bacon and keep on lightly scrambling until nearly half set.

Top with Gruyere and sprout leaves, stick in oven. (Broil at the end if you want that browned look.)

You can eat this warm or at room temp.

Hope this helps!

Friday, January 23, 2015

thinking back, looking forward

When I retired a year ago from the university, I didn't quite cut off all ties to the Law School. I transitioned to an "emerita" status and the assumption is that if I want to, I can continue to contribute in some small ways to academic life.

But I was so out of breath from all the years of teaching within all those substantive areas, that once I moved my office belongings out of the Law School building (11 months ago),  I couldn't even get myself to go near the campus.

Now, I'm less reluctant to step on university soil, though I still do not look for opportunities to go there. Even as sometimes, it's unavoidable. In a couple of weeks, I have a meeting with women law students about some of the challenges they're likely to face in their careers. And today I did something a little more drab and routine -- I went over to tidy up my email account and migrate my gazillion and one emails to a new system the university now uses.

That, in itself is not interesting. But the trip to campus was a bit of a shock.

After a leisurely breakfast...


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... I left my "do things leisurely" hat behind and rushed to campus. To my usual parking lot, from which I almost always, in the past, ran to my office. This time, I restrained myself, but I remembered the feeling of hurry. Of arranging lecture thoughts in my head. Of wanting to do a triple check of a fact before class.. oh, do I have time? Maybe! If I run! -- I remembered all that.

At the school itself, I kept my curiosity in check and stayed away from the main offices. You can only give an answer to "how's retirement?" so many times and even in my small orbit, I ran into enough people that the word "great!" started sounding empty and a bit boastful.

After, I went out on Bascom Hill. A version of this had been my view for a number of years...


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Before I moved to the farmette, I watched the seasons display their extraordinary colors here. This winter, there's too little snow to make for a beautiful canvas, so I walked on toward our main lake -- just steps from my former office. It is perhaps our greatest treasure, this huge lake of ours and even on a cloudy day, it looks sublime.


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Too, I walked along a bit of State Street -- the eclectic street of shops and eateries, linking our campus with the Capitol...


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...and I thought to myself how much more walking I did when I worked in the city. And so that part of my return felt especially nice.

But after a while, I was done. I tested the waters and decided that my work at the farmette,  my love of travel and writing, and of course, my heavy preoccupation these days with little Snowdrop -- they all warrant (with very tiny exceptions) a continued break from campus life.

It felt exceptionally good not to hurry after that. I made my way home slowly, never once going over the various speed limits, not running, not counting the minutes of the day in my head.


Back at the farmhouse, I did turn on my engines a tiny bit: the house needs a solid once over in preparation for a very special visitor tonight. Little Snowdrop is spending an evening here while her parents go out.

I cannot wait!

The music boxes are wound up. Two new books await her. Burp cloths are washed and folded, the pacifier scrubbed, a new baby lotion with calendula and oatmilk stands ready at the changing table (because the air is so dry in winter!).  A froggie pajama is there, too -- in case she wets whatever she is wearing.


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Later:

And again I am transported in time -- a more distant time, when my youngest was a baby, in need of attention, especially at our dinner time and so I learned to cook and hold, sing, stir, anything to accomplish the dual goal of serving a fresh and honest meal and keeping a baby happy. This is when I learned the importance of mise en place: translated to mean -- get your ingredients ready when the baby is resting!

Little Snowdrop is so young that she has a good dose of sleepy in her -- at least in intervals, so you can count on her looking like this for a little while...


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Isie boy is not convinced of her innocence.  I encourage him to check her out and he does...


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...but then quickly retreats to the bedroom upstairs. At least he doesn't hide under the bed -- he reserves that for storms and dangerous looking people.

And so we ate and she slept and she woke and we played...


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and played, and played...


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and it was a delightful evening. Utterly delightful. And because I'm just the grandma, I get to ponder life with a glass of wine now, while the young couple takes on the task of taking home a very tired little baby and putting her to sleep. Where's the fairness!


Thursday, January 22, 2015

Thursday

Ed tells me this morning -- oh my God, you've gone into full grandma mode!
It's just a small musical elephant. Without battery. Cheap. For when she visits.


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Ed will not admit it in public, but he has told me more than once that little Snowdrop is a fine little girl! He laughs at me now as I place a book and the toy in her crib.


The skies cleared today, right after breakfast...


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And perhaps this is what put everyone in good spirits.

Friends stop by, hoping that maybe Snowdrop would be here. She isn't, but I managed to talk (probably far too much) about her and, too, about this period of time when things are going so well, when no huge worries loom over us. It doesn't last, this period of rapture, I know that, but for now, we coast on the sunshine and the clear, defined tasks that put us all in a fine frame of mind.


I should tell you that I visit little Snowdrop only when asked to do so, never wanting to wear out that welcome mat by her door, but right now, she is so young and so full of newborn needs that it turns out to be a daily event, which totally thrills me.


Of course, there are always new developments. A more consistent focus, a new love for a pacifier,  more play time than nap time...

Sometimes little Snowdrop seems utterly overwhelmed by the enormity of the tasks awaiting her.


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Most often it doesn't take long to soothe her.


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And then she is ready for more. Here, she is bonding with the musical panda.


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All this is a lot for a tiny one to handle. But she soldiers on, one step at a time.


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I'm sure that these are such tiny events to the casual observer. But they are tremendously important to a grandma. To this grandma.


Back at the farmhouse, I again serve leftovers. How many days now of a chili cooked last week? Hmmm. Time to do something special for dinner. Just not this week. Not when the newborn is still less than three weeks old.

Wednesday, January 21, 2015

Wednesday

Looking out the upstairs window, I'm thinking this morning the farmette appears like someone had unevenly poured a sack of salt over it. Yes, it snowed, no, it didn't improve the landscape much.


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There is, however, always breakfast.


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The cheepers are back to hanging out in the barn. No outdoor runs for them, not when there's any white stuff on the ground. It's just as well. I cringe when I see them in their molted stage. It's all wrong for this time of the year, though I am grateful that it is only a "soft molt." A hard molt would expose their skin. I've seen pictures of it -- it looks like someone started plucking hens for the kettle and then, for some reason, changed their mind halfway through. I can't imagine them surviving winter with exposed skin. Right now they look depleted, but still feathered.


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In the afternoon, I visit little Snowdrop. Now, there's a source of color and joy for you! I find her in her dad's lap, looking this way and that...


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Okay, girl, gotta give your parents some time to catch up with their stuff!

It goes without saying that she and I have terrific adventures in the hours that follow. Of the type you can have with a 2.5 week old! (It includes a nap on grandma's tummy.)


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Such beautiful days! It's hard to believe that with each week, they only get better.

Tuesday, January 20, 2015

Tuesday

It would be greedy to long for sunshine, for grand meals, for the constant chatter of your loved ones coming from the living room -- all these are grand, but they cannot be at the root of every day. At the same time, you could say that my regular day has bits and pieces of the grand, sprinkled throughout. True, there is absolutely no sunshine today, not even a wisp and a hope and the farmette looks more like a spotted cow than a winter wonderland...


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... and our cheepers really do look like a lawnmower has rolled over them, plucking out copious amounts of feathers...


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And so yes, things are looking a bit scrappy on the outside.

Ah, but the inside! The farmhouse is warm and cheerful, breakfast is relaxed...


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... and in the afternoon, I do have someone in the living room. Not a whole herd of visitors like yesterday, but one very important little person, coming over for a bit while her parents attend to their stuff.


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Ed takes a close look, as if still figuring out how this whole baby thing works.


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I try out the crib for Snowdrop...


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...and Ed busies himself figuring out how long the windup music box can play its gentle song...


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It's an important piece of information, no? Answer: three minutes. Now you know why people like batteries, he tells me, as he winds it to its maximum...


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... and Snowdrop kicks her legs in appreciation as the little animals dance over her.


Sure, this new environment puzzles her a bit.


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... but there is enough of the familiar to keep her happy. And that makes me happy.


Monday, January 19, 2015

Celebrate!

Two weeks ago, little Snowdrop made her way into the world. So you could say that she has reached a milestone: she is two weeks old today!

Ah, but she must always share January, because on the 19th, thirty years ago, my little girl was born.


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(and now she is 30)


And with multiple twists and surprises, her husband arranged a weekend of wonderful moments, including a chance for her family to gather on this day for a celebratory lunch. I hosted it -- at the farmhouse. Her dad drove up as well and so with Ed, we were eight: daughters with husbands, the older folk and of course little Snowdrop.

A brunch (or is it lunch if it's at noon?) of this magnitude takes time to prepare and so I was up until midnight and then again before dawn... (yes, Ed, I'll surely let the cheepers out!)


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(hey, why are we up so early??)


... baking the requested cake (an old family favorite: almond, orange and chocolate) and, too, brioche loaves...


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... roasting potatoes (these herbs grow magnificently all winter long on my eastern window sill):


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... with a pause for a morning pre-breakfast with Ed, in the sun room:


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Then back to the real meal prep -- plating all those baked goods, along with a brussel sprout and bacon frittata, plus the usual cheeses, melons, prosciuttos and celebratory beverages.


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It was little Snowdrop's first party and first outing to someplace other than a doctor's office and of course, she radiated charm!


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aunt, little Snowdrop, mom



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in uncle's arms


Politely, she slept through the meal, so that the adults could engage in banter (we are known for an endless string of teases)...

She let everyone have a turn at holding her (there definitely was a line for that!), but was equally content to sit (well, more like slump) in her bouncy chair...


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And so the party continued and my little girl opened gifts and blew out all 31 candles (in Poland, we always stick an extra one for the year ahead)...


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... and it was such a joyous set of hours that I cannot fully grasp how a day could be this beautiful.

Just a few more photos -- because they conjure up moments of such tenderness for me...


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mom, dad, little Snowdrop



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aunt, uncle, little Snowdrop


Happy birthday, youngest daughter of mine! Yes, you are still my little one, no matter how many grand-babies perch on my lap!


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And thank you, both of you, for driving such great distances to spend these precious hours with us!


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