Sunday, March 31, 2019

the pleasure of a rerun

I have wondered in recent years why Ed and I so rarely go out to dinner. (He'll ask, I'll say - no thanks...) And why, while in Warsaw or Paris I always repeat the restaurants. Same ones, again and again! Twenty years ago, I would have unabashedly called myself a foodie. Discovering new and exciting eating establishments was at the top of my list of indulgent pleasures. I moonlighted in a restaurant for several years so that I could be around food and ultimately, earn some extra money to spend on tasting new styles of cooking here or abroad. I looked forward with a passions to dinners eaten at carefully researched restaurants.

It's not that I do not like good food. And when I travel, I still look forward to dinners or even lunches, but something has definitely changed in my attitude toward eating. No, I'm not less adventurous in my tastes -- I still eat most anything that is fresh and honest. But what I really love is not the adventure, but the repetition of the known and loved.

And so it was with lots of smiles that I read this piece about eating by the former food critic of the New York Times today. It seems my habits aren't that different from those of the famous food writer Ina Garten, who is cited as saying that, at 71, she and her husband "go to the same restaurant over and over again until we just can’t do it anymore, then we go to another restaurant over and over again until we just can’t do it anymore. And that can last two years."

It turns out that at a certain point in life, new becomes less exciting than familiar and beloved. And I suppose that extends beyond food. Always Paris, always the same hotel in Paris, and even (when I can afford it) the same preferred room in the same preferred hotel in the same old Paris. With the same restaurant for lunch and a same one for dinner -- as if there weren't a million choices in this city of great eating.

To pull out another quote from the article, one wise old (or at least old-ish) person says this about eating out -- "I used to care about being entertained, and now being soothed feels more important. Life, it turns out, is hard." Indeed! Food and eating out serve a different function now. They are the balm rather than a new and exciting discovery. And if by some stroke of genius you find something that pleases all the senses -- you hang on to it. For a long long time.

I think the realization that we do a lot of repetition bothers Ed just a little. He'll mess with his salad a bit so that there's something new about it. And today, as I set out to do grocery shopping, he asked if I could look around for some nuts that are not the same old almonds peanuts and cashews. The guy's a real innovator! Perhaps if you stay home as much as he does, you dare yourself to at least occasionally step outside of comfy foods. Although when we do go to a restaurant, he'll look at the menu and if he finds mussels and fries, he'll order them. Always.

All this dinner talk comes on a day when I am not cooking Sunday dinner for the young family! It's a slow paced catch up Sunday for me. Plenty of sunshine, though still with that March nip in the air. A visit with the animals...

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... breakfast, of course (same old!)...

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And a lineup of farmhouse tasks.  Tomorrow, life returns to normal patterns. That is, until it surprises us. It's a given that there will always be surprises. Except (if I can help it) at meal time.

Saturday, March 30, 2019


In our family, birthdays are a big deal. It's not that they call for big parties. When the kids are young, there are friends, sure, but typically just a handful of close ones. Among the adults, the celebration most often centers on family.

We pull together on that special day: the person in the position of great honor is made to feel like it is her day. If she likes chocolate, there'll be chocolate. Or, if she is like Primrose and likes lemons, there'll be a lemon cake. We can't always all gather for a birthday, but for a grandchild, you can be sure that we all try our hardest.

And so it is no surprise that on Primrose's first birthday, the family descends. There are the grandparents who live in Chicago. And the grandparents who split their time between Florida and Minnesota. Then there is the young family in Madison -- all four of them. And there is me. And Ed. And a couple of best friend families who live in town. With babes. We all come together today to wish the girl a happy year ahead.

My post will be entirely on this topic because my day was entirely on this topic. Pictures here will be of people you know. (The others belong to a separate family album.)

Primrose, time to get dressed!


("What's mom doing??" Let's go see!)


You want to ride over? I can do that!


Mom is putting the finishing touches on your cakes!


Dad and one grandpa bring in the balloons!


The two youngest cousins eye each other...


This is the young couple responsible for it all!!


Guests arrive. Snowdrop has been so excited all week long about this party. She and her family drove in to Chicago yesterday. Ed had been sick for several days, but yesterday he rallied and this morning, before dawn, he caught the bus to Chicago to join us.


Snowdrop brings her share of presents...


The cousins, all munching on toddler crackers.


Lunch includes quiche. Primrose loves eggs, which is terribly amusing as we now have three dozen eggs at the farmhouse. The cheepers are laying like crazy. I must bring this child here for a few weeks so we can make a dent in the egg supply! (Snowdrop helps with the balloon.)



... a classic: with egg on her lovely face.


My younger girl...


And now is the time for cake. Three cakes actually, but only one gets the important candle. YOu have to wonder what the little girl is thinking!


("Are you sure you can blow that out, mom?")


THE family.


Older sister joins in to admire, to love...


Primrose does a fine job on the cake. Most went in the mouth, some went on the floor, some went everywhere else.




Snowdrop, keeping an eye on things...


The Madison young family...


And unfortunately, there comes a time when you have to say good bye.


The wonderful thing about birthdays is that they mark what's to come, not what has gone by. Have a great year ahead, rather than -- my, the best is behind you.

As Ed and I take the bus back to the farmette, I have this whiff of nostalgia. We used to travel this way from Chicago, in the years when he and I flew to distant places from that city's O'Hare airport. We'd try for the front seat of the bus because there's where he could best stretch his long legs. We'd keep an eye out for seniors, because those front seats belonged to them, should they board the bus.

These days, we're the seniors. Returning from a birthday celebration of a grandkid.

A beautiful celebration of Primrose.

Friday, March 29, 2019

a Primrose day

Time in Chicago for me is 100% time with Primrose. Oh, maybe when she sleeps I'll turn my attention to the other members of her family but really -- they are known entities to me. Adults rarely change from month to month, whereas my one year old granddaughter -- she is a tidal wave of movement and transformation! Each time I am here, I discover new stuff about her.


(Primrose, if grandma loves oatmeal with fruit, it follows that you should love oatmeal with fruit too, no?)


When she naps, I eat my own version of more or less the same.


As she continues to sleep, I sit back and consider the past year: it's been huge for the young couple, but, too, for all of us. After all, another child joined the Madison family, my mom moved here from California, and Ed and I shifted somewhat in the way we do things: there is the realization that our small world is already quite full. Whereas in the past, I thought expansively about farmette life -- these days, I'm more content to keep things simple. As they are. No more growing of the flower beds. No huge projects. No new chickens. You could say we're growing, but internally. On the outside, we continue to downsize and declutter our lives.

Girl's up! Hey, little one, would you like to go for a walk?


It's a cool day in Chicago and so on our run to the store to do some errands for the young family, I'm back to bundling up. Aren't I a Polish grandmother after all?


("Is that everything, grandma?")


The store clerk gives her a flower...


("Do I play with it? Smell it? Eat it?")


Definitely time for lunch. Primrose is the only one I know who loves avocado as much as I do. I have a good chunk of one every night. She matches me, eating a whole half as well, in addition to her regular foods.


At this stage, sitting still for books is hard. But who's to say you can't stand and read?


("Grandma, don't you think chickens are overrated?")


She stacks, she makes cars run down a ramp, she bangs, tears, picks, throws, swings. But mostly, she is on the move.


And yet, she is zen like in her stillness when we go out in the stroller. So when grandma needs a break, we go for a walk, this time, to meet up with mom, who will be coming by train from that downtown area over there...


Home now. Primrose's home. Yes, the world feels perfect again. A mom's hand, a final walk to the bedroom...


Me, I take it easy once the girl goes down. The parents fuss, dinner appears, three cakes go in the oven. I listen, quietly enjoying the sounds of family life all around me.

Tomorrow, we celebrate!

Thursday, March 28, 2019

j'ai deux amours...

When I toddle between the households of my two daughters, spending, say, a morning with one, here, in Madison, and the evening with the other, in Chicago, I find myself humming that tune about having two loves ("J'ai deux amours"). In the song, the singer is split in her affections between her own country and Paris. Ha! I get that as well, but right now, I'm just thinking how it's impossible for me to not miss the Chicago clan when I am here, or the Madison clan when I am in Chicago.

So perhaps you'll have guessed that I am on my way to Chicago. But might you guess why? Let's go back a full year: 365 days ago (meaning on this day last year), I was in Paris, waiting, waiting in a state of utmost anxiety for the news of the birth of my granddaughter. And finally, just as I sat down to a dinner, I got the news that she was out and about and doing well!

In other words, Primrose, claiming her Ocean name after the riotous bloom of primroses in the Luxembourg Gardens just at that very moment, was born a year ago today. I did not see her on the first day of her life, but I made it to Chicago in time to take a peek at her sleeping self briefly tonight. The sweet girl will be celebrating this weekend. But officially, she is one! Happiest of birthdays, little Primrose!

*     *     *

This morning, I am up early. First order of operations: admire all that's coming up!!

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... and, too, admire the beautiful blue sky!

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I pick up Snowdrop a little earlier than usual. I have this idea that we should have lunch at Madison Sourdough Bakery. You know, the place with the interesting murals by the parking lot.

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She is just a little tired still (Gaga, people say that I am the kind of girl who likes to be carried...), nonetheless, we have a pleasant few minutes eating foods that are heavy on bread and not especially nourishing. I vow to make up for it when we get to the farmhouse!

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Since Snowdrop was heavily into books this week, I introduced a couple of chapter series and today's triggered a whole play acting afterwards. Here we are, driving (not too fast, Gogs!) and looking for a missing dog...

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Soon after, her father and brother come to pick her up. I do a final bag check before heading out to the bus that will take me to Chicago.

*     *     *  

It's remarkable to be pulling into Chicago while it's still light! Though living on the farmette makes me very keenly attuned to seasonal changes, coming to Chicago once a month is like hop scotching my way through the highlights and peculiarities of each new month. Today, I am just entering the best of the best: the days are longer, the yards are displaying first signs of new growth. Two visits ago, a warm scarf and a wool cap were barely enough to keep the chill away. Today, my jacket is light, open, the cap and mitts are left back home. I'm keeping an umbrella though, because it may well rain.


I come into my daughter's home, take a peak at the sleeping birthday girl, then settle in for a late supper with the young couple.

*     *     *

A great day is one that has a little of everyone in it. Place it all in the arms of spring and you have something uniquely magnificent! Happy day indeed!

Wednesday, March 27, 2019

spring work

Think how far we've come! Our thermometer stopped the climb at 58f (15c), but still, remember what we had here two weeks ago? A frozen landscape covered with snow. Today it feels as if we've stepped into another world.

(I can tell what time it is: the door to the coop opens at 8:10 and with that grand swing, the cheepers burst forward, instantly marching to where the action is -- around the garage and writers' shed.)

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Ed, are you up? 
I am now... (the usual response)
Don't you need a beard trim?

(Breakfast: he's not nearly as grumpy as he looks!)

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All morning, I work at clearing the garden. It's not grueling work -- cutting back spent flowers, pulling some garlic mustard invasives, removing debris from the flower beds. But it is never ending. I cannot do a perfect job -- I learned this a long time ago. I do as much as feels right for the day.

And then I pick up Snowdrop at her home, again taking a few minutes to visit with a guy who never sports a grumpy expression.

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As Snowdrops gets out of the car and moves to visit with the cheepers, I am delighted to see that Happy the rooster does not see her as a threat. So far, this guy is all that the books say he should be.

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(Can you tell the girl is feeling better?)

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There is always lots of pretend play. But not only. Today, she designs a sequences for a necklace...

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... and paints a picture of Moana on a beach...

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... and as always, has her sweet playful times with the big guy.

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Later, much later, there is a flash of lightening in the dark sky. And another. Rain comes down. Nothing huge. A spring shower. A refreshing, lovely spring shower.