Monday, June 29, 2009

The "Magnetic Gray" lining

I have never known true poverty. I have never had a doubt about the fact that I will always have a roof over my head and food in my children's mouths. I know that when I was young there were "lean" times for my parents. Times when venison stew or some other stew was nearly always on the menu. My mom has always been a savvy shopper and our clothes may have had nice labels but I know that much of what we wore came from a thrift store or was found on "deep sale". And even back then, there were times as a little girl that I thought that maybe we were secretly wealthy and my parents just wanted us to grow up "down to earth"( because in the North Country, we were surrounded by people who truly were poor and in need). And yet, we were probably always middle class and my grandparents were there to help out when we needed them. I think this was around the time that my aspirations were to become a "saint", like ya know, St. Catherine, St. Agnes, St. Kelly.
Even now, when Matt and I use food stamps and we travel down the street to get food from the survival center, we pass our local CSA farm and are reminded that we had enough funds to get a share there. And we know that in a few years we will most likely have two incomes instead of the piddly amount we live on now. And like our own parents, we have family to help us out. So however " low-income" we are right now it is not and never has been "real".

Our biggest issue lately has been our car. Ideally we wouldn't have a car. We would live in a place where we could walk or take the bus everywhere and to travel long distances we would have access to cheap public transportation. We know a lot of people here who don't have cars and they make it work. But for us , it has been a trial. Bus/train tickets to NY are not cheap. and getting to Henry's appt.s in Noho every week would require an hour of travel and a bus transfer. And on and on. Our Camry has treated us well for many years but lately it has been threatening to blow up and I feel pockets of ozone bursting every time we start the ignition.
And so...... drum roll........
A new car. Wow. Ours is Magnetic Gray (more charcoal than this silver one)

And now we can go to school for the next few years and finish without having to deal with car issues. It is fuel efficient and has 6 air bags and is cute to boot. We are officially spoiled.

P.S And so, yes you can expect us in NY in a few weeks after all.
I have never known true poverty. I have never had a doubt about the fact that I will always have a roof over my head and food in my children's mouths. But growing up

Saturday, June 27, 2009


Garden in back
newest part of backyard garden
Hostas, ferns and calendula in backyard
front yard
front yard

Matt getting prepped for a bike ride/overnight camping trip.
Ezzie is in a sugar daze.
Henry is wondering if he can have another marshmallow.
The boys and their friend roast while the adults chat.

My friend left. I know, I know, I know. We live in a transient community. Every year that we have been here, someone dear to my heart moves on. This time, Dawn and her family will be in Florida for a couple months and then they will move to an apt. complex down the road. They are coming back. So why am I completely bereft? 

 Dawn has this mellow voice and attitude but as you get to know her, the feisty Latina surfaces. Dawn is one of those special people who can not only cook delicious food but set a festive table ( like my late Nana Kitty). Dawn spots you walking by her house and immediately pours you a cocktail in a vintage glass or some iced tea in a jelly jar. If a crowd of children is gathering outside, Dawn will put together a tray of bite sized goodies for the kids to nosh on while playing outside. Her backyard is the place to be for little kids: slip n slides, barbecues, kiddie pools and bubbles.  She is a very involved mother of two amazing kids (who I love) and she is getting her PhD., she writes about women in Academia. Dawn is a smarty pants and yet, so easy to talk to about anything. She is one of the few friends I have that feels more like a big sister. Now that Dawn has left, I have no one to wax on and on about gardening with. She gave me all of her plants and rocks. And every time I sit outside and work in my garden I think of her. 

So, my gardens are expanding, thanks to Dawn. Although I assured her she can have it all back when she returns. In N.V, we are required to make a rock border or put up some kind of fence for our flower beds, they can not be any wider than 36 inches. We do not have any storage so grills, bikes, toys etc. all have to have a place in the backyard as well, which can make finding room for a garden, difficult. We are not supposed to grow any vegetables but people break that rule pretty frequently. Many people grow scallions, garlic, onions, snow peas, herbs and cherry tomatoes. And when someone moves, it is all fair game. It generally takes 3 days for the scavengers to clean up the rocks left behind. I consider myself a scavenger so I use that word with all due respect.

The kids ate a disgusting amount of marshmallows the other night. I mean, for once, I did not count them out. I just sort of let it go and let them eat as many as they want. (this is likely the result of that one beer I drank and the company we had and for the  curious fact that if Matt and I are both present the responsibility of sugar monitoring falls to me because I am a woman?). It was the first time they (and a friend of theirs) had toasted them without help from an adult. And what fun they had. The adults had fresh organic strawberries and vanilla ice cream. Life is good if you have access to fresh local strawberries. right? I mean, how can I complain anymore about anything if I can walk down the road and pick the most perfect, sweet and red strawberries.

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Destitution and Broken Bowls

This week's CSA strawberries.
Bachelor buttons in the backyard.
Heirloom Whirly Bird Cherry Rose nasturtiums.

Just when we were starting to count our chickens, we found out Matty did not get that job. He placed 2nd, out of 74 people. So, we can still be proud of that. And the whole experience was good practice for him. We were just getting so excited about being middle class. Funny huh?

The silver lining is that he will not lose his academic momentum, hopefully he will start writing the big D. And he will be home to help with domestic stuff while I go to school.

But boy. We were starting to get used to the idea of losing our Food Stamp status. And it felt kinda nice.

And then Henry, with his literally, buttery fingers, broke my second favorite bowl. Tears.

But my garden is blooming.
Just in time to be trampled by a bunch of middle aged men wielding power washing hoses and paint brushes.

Okay, Kelly. Enough already. Buck up.

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Proof that Matt is a thoughtful husband

Before recycling our EW, he tore this off the cover and put it on our bed. Christian Bale. I know he has a nasty temper, I don't care.

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Another meal done right

I'd like to think that my grandpa and his Basian mother are looking down on me with a bit of pride for serving this combo of tropical fruit salsa, fruit glazed chicken and roasted sweet potatoes. The truth is I love chicken and I love black beans with sweet potatoes/yams and it turns out that these are very traditional Caribbean foods.

Fruit salsa is hella easy and so scrumptious.

2 mangoes or what have you..
red onion, diced, about 1/4 cup or more
cilantro about 1/2 cup, depending on your devotion
half a sweet pepper, of the non-green variety, diced
juice of 1 lime, or lemon
hot pepper flakes, or a dash of your favorite hot sauce, my current fave is a Korean hot sauce.

You can make this into a meal if you add shredded chicken.

Peach/Apricot Lacquered Chicken, courtesy of Gourmet magazine

3 garlic cloves, grated
1, 3 inch piece of ginger, grated
2/3 cup apricot/peach preserves, we scored some Bonne Mama on sale
1/3 cup soy sauce
dash of hot pepper sauce

I used 4 large-ish pieces of bone-in chicken, do I remember what cut? No. I am so not a meat person. All I know is that it was organic and I hope, treated pleasantly. The recipe is for 4 lb.s of chicken wings. But clearly you can just use this sauce on lots of things to great effect. As long as you reserve some sauce to baste and broil it at the end, so it sticks a tad and gets a bit crispy. I think it would be astoundingly delicious if grilled. The boys went nuts over this stuff.

Saturday, June 13, 2009

new post

Scroll down for my garden post. Why it is down there...not sure. 

Friday, June 12, 2009

Scallion Pancake Obsession

Lately (since preschool ended), I have been lucky enough to attend our North Village Community coffee hours on Monday morning. They are a treasured affair for me.  Free coffee and tea, fresh fruit and vegetables, baked goods from my favorite bakery (Henion) and conversation with my diverse neighbors, most of whom are mothers. Since I started working I have not been able to go much and it has since morphed into this frenetic, cooking extravaganza. One week, Maria, from Greece was making spanikopita and this eggplant cassserole thingy. The next week, the Chinese grandmothers were busy making dumplings and this sweet porridge/soup. I love walking into our little community center and being enveloped by delicious smells and dimpled children from all over the world. And I love the fact that with gestures, smiles and food, surfaces the realization that we are essentially all the same.

This last week the Chinese grandmothers and some daughters (there are probably more Chinese in my community than Americans) were making scallion pancakes. I have been lucky enough to have sampled these deliciously simple crepe-like treasures a few times. After having one at H2  our community center, I realized that I could not wait to have another! I simply must make some myself. I got busy looking for recipes on the internet. None of the recipes online required ladling the mixture into the pan ( like the folks who made them for H2) so I took the matter in my own hands. I knew they required flour, eggs (although eggs can be optional), water and salt. I basically adjusted a standard pancake recipe from Mark Bittman's How to Cook Everything book (adding some more liquid to make them thinner, omitting sugar and adding soy sauce). Then I chopped up some scallions (to add to the pancakes while they were cooking), seasoned some ground turkey with garlic, ginger and soy sauce, tore up some crunchy romaine, sliced some red peppers and placed bowls of all of the accoutrements on the table. The result was so delicious and quite easy. I made all the pancakes ahead of time and kept them warm in the oven. I also made a sauce with soy sauce , grated ginger, garlic, honey and vinegar. Any bottled teriyaki sauce would work here. We sprinkled the sauce on top of the fillings. 

At H2 the pancakes were filled with romaine and beansprouts and that was quite yummy but I remembered having lettuce wraps at an Asian restaurant once with seasoned ground pork inside and I wanted to try to use that idea.  Sorry I don't have a proper recipe here but hopefully you can be creative and figure it out with a bit of tasting and experimenting....

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

un giardino semplice

This year we have two gardens. Our flower beds surrounding our apartment, which are the home to: zinnias, cosmos, calendula, Hungarian Breadseed poppies, nasturtiums, maiden pinks, Columbine, cardinal climbing vines, Morning Glory vines, yellow pansies, hostas, ferns and a few mystery perennials.  

Our vegetable patch is situated a couple blocks south, in the community garden. It measures 10 x10 and does not receive ample sun which is why we joined our local organic CSA farm, located a couple blocks north. So far, it has been great fun being part of our CSA. We have been picking beautiful strawberries and eating delectably tender mesclun mix, arugula and garlic scapes. And it feels good to walk down a busy street and end up in a tiny eden that you somehow feel part of. 
Our garden plot houses: lettuce mix, arugula, basil, cilantro, dill, blue lake beans, yellow summer squash, 10 varieties of tomatoes, sweet peppers, hot peppers (our own and our neighbors'), sunflowers, cucumbers, eggplant, garlic, leeks, a tiny watermelon variety that I don't have much hope for, and a pumpkin plant. Sometimes, after an early dinner, we will find ourselves on our bikes cycling down Pleasant St., watering can banging, on our way to our little garden. Is there a sight more wholesome?  

The boys climb down the muddy slope towards the shallow creek with an old bucket and the metal watering can. They emerge muddy and wet and spill half the contents before they return to the garden. We have little conversations with our garden neighbors. Sometimes these conversation are non-verbal, in the form of gestures. As in the time I defended myself against the teasing scolds coming from a Chinese grandmother who was questioning my beans' sad lack of trellises. Somehow I explained to her that I was going to build some, and soon.  

ridiculous cuteness

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

pasta per un giorno piovoso

The step you don't see here is the cutting of the noodles,  by then my tiny kitchen had 3 boys in it and there was no room for a camera...
The finished product, a bit stuck together, but yummy with butter, parmesan and garlic scapes. 

Today is a rainy, wet day. The gardens need the rain so I hardly mind the damp. And yet, Ezra being confined to our tiny dwelling is less than peaceful. So, I decided to take my Atlas pasta maker* for a spin and have Ezzie do the cranking. I have fresh local, asparagus and we are due to pick up our second Simple Gifts Farm CSA bounty, so I am anticipating a simple supper of salad greens with fresh radishes and egg pasta with butter, parmesan and local asparagus. I know, how very 'Alice Waters' of me.  This is my favorite kind of meal; cheap, easy, simple, healthy, local and seasonal.

Mark Bittman's Egg Pasta (from How to Cook Everything, Vegetarian)

2+ cups of all purp. flour
1 tsp. salt
2 eggs
3 egg yolks

mix flour and salt
make well in dry mixture and use fork to mix eggs
slowly add flour to eggs
use hands when dough becomes too tough to use fork
knead until flour is incorporated
dust with flour, cover with plastic and let sit for 30 min.

The pasta took less than a minute to cook, so be careful with timing. Our scapes were not quite ready to eat when our pasta was done. Which meant the noodles were starting to stick together. But, they were still delicious.

Ravioli, here we come...

*Thanks mom, for the pasta maker you undoubtedly found in Salvation Army in a wet cardboard box full of mismatched shoes, mildewed vintage Goldenbooks, Gordon Lightfoot records and torn hosiery.


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