Sunday, January 15, 2012

Oh Tannenbaum

This is how I found our gingerbread man this morning.  I swear...
A gift from Lois oh so many years ago

Our Christmas tree is still up.

Yup. Today is January 15 and our Christmas tree is still up. 

When I was a kid I would beg my mom to let us keep the tree until my birthday on January 9. She always said , "no". It would make too much of a mess. Denial on the other hand likes to keep the tree around until my birthday, which I love about him. All I know is that it remains up, a homage to our busy lives. Sure, after I get home and pretend to make dinner, get Gusty to do his homework, practice the cello and make sure that his music theory homework is done then put him to bed I COULD go to the basement get the boxes and wrap all of those small precious ornaments but it's all I can do to knit a few stitches, wash my face, brush my teeth and throw myself into bed.

Don't get me wrong, I like the tree. It's festive and smells good. The problem is that it's in what is supposed to be my crafting room. That's right. I actually get a crafting room. It doesn't matter though because when the tree comes down I'll be able to look at that space and marvel at how little I really use it.

I have plans to sew, make myself a dress form and design beautiful things to wear, sell and give away to deserving friends. I want to go through all of my photos, organize them and seriously get rid of the ones that mean nothing to me at this point. Oh goddess please afford me the time and energy to indulge my creative side.

Who am I kidding? I can't even find time to dismantle a tree. It is Sunday. I think today's the day.

The corner without the tree.

Saturday, January 14, 2012

Au Revoir Marie Christine

 On Christmas Eve I learned of the death of a dear friend.

We met in the late 80's when I was just out of school and was working at ELLE Magazine. She had been aquatinted with my boss and was trying to get some work as a stylist. My boss, Regis, didn't care to hire her but somehow she and I managed to strike up quite a friendship in the process. I can't even remember how it came about really. She was significantly older than me. She had me to dinner at her home. I met her then husband. She went to France, came back, got divorced. She stayed with me and hosted me in Paris. I began raising a family and she rediscovered her stepdaughter. Childless, she fell in love with my son and her stepdaughter's son and showered them with gifts. She spent time with my family on Shelter Island and had great respect for my mother. She was at times frustrating but her giant heart and love of life always won out with me. For 23 years she made me crazy and we loved each other.

On December 8, while living in Paris (which she hated) she had a heart attack and died. Even thought I hadn't seen her in two years my world is different without her. She used to say to me, "Oh Tracy, getting old really sucks." Always attractive, even at 70 she would show up in leather pants and decked out in black. 

I have keepsakes. She used to wear all her rings on a chain around her neck. One day she took the chain off and removed a Cartier ring from it. "Mais tu est folle," I said. "C'est un Cartier!". "I have others," she said. "This one I want you to have.". Because of her I now wear my rings on a chain around my neck. When she last moved back to France I got to ransack her apartment. Among the items I got from her at that time is a small Le Creuset covered casserole which I have never used. It's perfect for confit and roasting small birds. Living as I do in my veg household I don't have opportunities to make such things so in her honor I have prepared this confit of cippolini onions.

If anyone out there has ideas of what other yummy vegetarian things I can slow roast in this beautiful casserole let me know. In the meantime I will savor my onions and lift a glass of Cotes du Rhone in Marie Christine's honor. Salut mon amie... 

Sunday, December 18, 2011

When I have a plan...

Thursday night went really well. That's what happens when I have a plan. Even though Gusty had street hockey until 4:30 and we didn't get home until almost 6:00 we managed to get all the homework done, practice the cello, have a real home cooked meal, watch a 1/2 hour of Boomerang and and still get to bed at a normal hour.

Dinner was braised tofu sticks with green beans and rice. I had never made tofu sticks before and was unsure what to do with them. If you've never seen them, they're available at Asian markets. They come in a bag and look like giant, yellow, gnarled witch's fingers. I have gotten them before and they languished in the cupboard and ended up in the garbage. Not this time. Inspired by Gusty's desire for a reproduction of the roast "duck" served at the vegetarian Chinese joints, I looked into their preparation. Suffice to say that they will become a regular on the meal roster.

I put them to soak in the morning before we left the house and when we returned home I put them in a pot with star anise, cinnamon sticks, sugar, rice wine, soy sauce, a few dried chilies and ginger. After a 40 minute simmer they were ready to eat along with simple preparation brown rice and some garlic sautéed green beans. Gusty, who originally complained that he would be eating something brown (huh?) ate them with wild abandon and we all enjoyed the chewy texture along with the sweet and savory broth. A topping of garlic chili sauce didn't hurt either.

The braising broth was complex. It had some spice, some sweet, some savory... I wondered what it would taste like if I simmered it until a reduction ensued. After refrigerating the tofu, I put the pot back on to simmer for about 45 minutes and I wasn't disappointed with the results. The broth reduced to a more pungent version of itself and I tried it over vanilla ice cream. That was good too but next time I'll sprinkle on a few sesame seeds. The plot thickens.

When I make the tofu sticks again I'm going to soak them in a more flavorful concoction, maybe some tea and peppercorns. They absorb a ton of liquid. Why shouldn't that liquid have some taste.

On Friday night we had tofu pups and popcorn for dinner. I definitely did not have a plan.

Decisions Decisions

Over the last month or so I have been strugglinh with a decision to let my Mother's storage space go. I had been paying for first 3, then 2, then 1 storage locker since 2007 when she got sick. In the process of eliminating lockers we eliminated a lot of stuff. Stuff from Shelter Island. Stuff from her office. Stuff from her home. So much stuff. I hope I never have that much stuff.

A few months ago it became prohibitive for me to pay for the locker and unable to even get into the space I stopped fretting over the contents. I started wondering how much I had spent over the years to keep this stuff and while there were a few things I really would have liked to retrieve the thought of forking over $700 to spend a week going through boxes of books to locate a few photos and old 78's was not worth it. Over the years most of what had meaning for my mom or myself had been removed and most of what was left was expendable. Of course there is that word; most.

I have to remember that I have my memories, her few special pieces of jewelry and what's left of these plates which I'm pretty sure were a wedding present to my parents oh so many years ago. I think I'll put some corn and little yellow tomatoes on them in her honor but that will have to wait until summer.

Sunday, December 11, 2011

If you only shoot close ups...

When you begin occupying a new space all you can see is the big picture, rooms full of boxes and the detritus of your existence.  As you work to put things together you begin to see close ups of normalcy, a corner that has come together with art and a certain grace, or a bedroom you can actually relax in (especially if you can't see the rest of the house).  Then you pull focus to see that there is still disarray.

It's ok.  The doorways are clear, I can walk from one room to another without tripping (as long as some family member hasn't left something right smack in the middle of the floor) and there is space to play and for me to lie on the floor and enjoy my little bed of nails. Small pleasures.

This week Gusty was sick and so I stayed home.  "Yea," I thought.  We'll sit and do some art, maybe make something out of Sculpy, I can find a new knitting project.  Instead I relocated glasses, vacuumed, emptied more boxes, went shopping, made dinner and played Cranium.  It was still a good day even if I didn't make any money or lovely little items.

Dinner was a simple affair.  On my walk I went to Pastosa's Ravioli where I got some extremely yummy fresh angel hair and some surprisingly vegetarian pasta and bean soup.  The angel hair was excellent topped with pesto and chopped toasted walnuts and served with fried broccoli.  Producing a meal is definite sign that things are on an upswing.  The leftover angel hair and broccoli went to my lunch the next day, a spaghetti omelet topped with extra sharp vermont cheddar cheese.  I love spaghetti omelets.   Gusty got the pasta and bean soup.

Today fresh waffles for breakfast and quinoa cakes and more fried broccoli for dinner.

On Wednesday I went out with some girls.  More signs of normalcy.

Sunday, November 20, 2011

It's Hard to be a Domestic Goddess When You're Moving

I hate moving.  In the last four years we've been in three different apartments and two different art studios.  Our first move occurred just before Thanksgiving 2007 and now it's Thanksgiving 2011 and we are moving yet again.  I guess that makes four apartments in  four years if you include the one we moved out of in 2007 and the one we're moving into now.  All this after living in the same apartment for 15 years.  We're a frustrated family.

Last night Gusty spent the night with a friend and Denial and spent the evening watching films noir and arguing.  We didn't even go out for a drink.  Now it's Sunday morning and we need to get down to the serious business of putting our life in boxes, again.  I guess the good part is that we're pretty good at it now.  Denial is "no nonsense" packing like a machine.  I tend to be slower and more sentimental about it.  Oh well.

When the house is in such a state of disarray it's hard to think about meals, knitting, writing or any creative endeavor.  The Christmas hats are on hold.  The maple pecan pie is on hold.  Homemade pizza, macaroni and cheese, quinoa cakes, coconut tofu curry all on hold.  Heck everything is on hold.  No two ways about it.  This sucks.  Having said that Ill get on with my day.

The good part, in two weeks this will be over.  We'll be moved in and semi unpacked.  We'll have more space although we will certainly fill it up fast.  I'll have my own crafting corner.  This apartment will be cleaned up to the landlord's liking.  Christmas will be on the way.  The new apartment will fill with the smell of chocolate chip cookies and maple pecan pie.  Until then boxes.

Sunday, November 6, 2011

My friend David is a gem...

My friend David is a gem.  He fancies me to be some kind of domestic goddess when the truth of the matter is that I just scrape by.  "Write a blog!" he says, "You'll have lots of followers."  I remain skeptical.  Still I try. 

How does one go about this?

I take photos of stuff, document moments when I see beauty in the mundane, try and make dinner worthy of being photographed then forget to photograph it.  Blogging moment missed.  I am however undeterred.

I ask myself questions:  How candid should I be?  How much should I praise my family and partner?  How much should I kvetch about my family and partner?  Is this dish, action, anecdote good enough?  How do I take photos of myself or myself doing stuff?  I can't trust anyone else to do it consistently and well.  Denial is a fantastic painter but often his photographic prowess as far as my creations are concerned is lackluster. How do I make interesting salads every night?  Actually, how do I make salads every night interesting or otherwise?  Should I aim to entertain, educate, or become educated myself?

As I ponder this and more there are fries with garlic in the oven and there will be Gardenburgers with cheddar cheese.  Sometimes you have to just get by.  I haven't been to the store for a decent shop for ages and our pantry is suffering.  We even need olive oil and garlic.  This week.  I promise.