Friday, April 25, 2008

i love the smell of bay in my kitchen

bay leaves

There is a pox upon our house. A little over twenty-four hours after discovering a fresh crop of red blisters across her chest and stomach, my girl is growing tired of couch life. The littlest one in the house has surely been exposed, but has yet to show any symptoms. I mean, symptoms other than inexplicable crabbiness, which could be the start of something sicky or could just be my current taxed patience. Or could just be a being Two, with all the rights, privileges and frustration therein.

At any rate, this isn't my long awaited discourse on my take on the increasing eco-green industry. The whole Let's Save The Environment by Buying More Stuff! insanity. I've been meaning to write that all week, what with earth day this past week and all, and while I hope if you have some mind reading supertool, you're using your power for good, I don't expect that you've aimed it at my head and rifled through my random blog post ideas. Which is to say, by long awaited, I mean, I've been long waiting to write it, not you've been waiting to read it. And I'll write it later, which is why I'm mentioning it at all right now, so I remember.

So this is just what I'm having for dinner. An easy recipe to share, a variation on the old lentil and rice stand-by. From the Vegetarian Times Cookbook. I tweak it a little, you know I do, but this is the recipe as written.

Lentil-Chickpea Stew with Spinach

1 C dry lentils
3 tbsp virgin olive oil
3 C diced onions
2 tsp ground cumin
2 tsp paprika
1/4 tsp ground allspice
1/4 tsp ground turmeric
1/2 C uncooked long-grain rice
6 1/2 C water
2 Bay Leaves
1 1/2 tsp salt
freshly ground pepper
1 C cooked chickpeas

Cover the lentils with hot water and let sit. Warm the oil in a soup pot over medium-low heat, and cook the onions and spices, stirring, for 8 minutes. Remove 1/3 of the onion mixture and reserve it for garnish. Add the rice to the onions in the soup pot, and cook 1 minute to cat the grains. Drain the lentils and add to the onion-rice mixture along with the water, bay leaves, salt and pepper. Simmer, covered, until the rice and lentils are tender, about 30 to 45 minutes. Add the chickpeas and heat until warmed through. Discard the bay leaves.

Steam the spinach, chop coarsely and stir into lentils. Ladle the stew into bowls and top with a spoonful of yogurt cheese or yogurt. Add the reserved onions, lemons, pepper and parsley or cilantro.

Okay, so I didn't list all the garnish ideas on the ingredient list. I skip that part. Actually, I use fewer onions from the start and don't remove any to use later as a garnish at all. The people for whom I cook much prefer onions all cooked up in the mishmash of a stew, not plopped on top of everything. I think we'll be eating this soon with feta melted on sprouted wheat english muffins, for no other reason than the pickings are slim in my kitchen today and that's what I've got.

I like this recipe because it's so fast to make, everybody in my house likes it well enough to eat several bowls full, and it gives me a good excuse to pluck leaves off of the bay plant in my backyard.

Monday, April 21, 2008

suspended animation

my spunky daughter

It's been a while. I've been meaning to report here with some progress on some of my recent subjects. Namely, the haircut conundrum and the push-up endeavor. I actually titled this post 'progress report' but this week's This American Life episode about cryogenics is fresh in my head and it seemed fitting. It's been cold here. And I've been hovering, waiting, freezing. This might be a missive from the insulated chamber. Don't mind my choppy thoughts and empty complexion: I'm not completely thawed yet.

Exactly three seconds before I grabbed my haircutting shears and whacked off the front of my hair in some imprecise approximation of the same shorty-bang bob I sported six or or so years ago, I was convinced that I'd give long hair one last hurrah and see what braids are like come summer. But, oh, the allure of sharp metal on dry hair. The scissors were just right there. Okay, so I had to open the drawer and root around for them a bit. But then they were in my hand and I had a fist full of hair and when you have scissors in one hand and hair in the other, there's really only one thing to do. Because deciding could really take all day. And growing hair is so passive, it's a decision by default, a body tagging along on the ride of so many hair follicles, hoping it works out in the end. Vanity thine name is wonky-hormone induced existential crisis. I know all about decisions and defaults. Snip. And that first cut is always such a relief. Yes. I can do this. It's a little thing, but it's mine. I trimmed up the sides and back, too. Which isn't as bold and important at all as harnessing some new career or returning to school or creating some fantastic, inspiring piece of something worth remembering, but there are only so many decisions I can make while wearing pajamas in the bathroom.

For the first week or so after my push-up test, I faithfully practiced every day. I admit to having slacked some since then, but BUT! I am now doing ten solid, serious pushups every time I try. Near daily, not quite. I don't think I've built stronger muscles so rapidly, rather I think this experiment indicates that exercise is, indeed, partially a practice in muscle memory. My arms know what to do now. They drive down the street without thinking and turn into the driveway while my thoughts are elsewhere. I just personified my arms *and* gave them a driver's license. Which is the least I could do, really, since I've been secretly fond of my shoulders for many years, hushing my self-deprecation just long enough to notice how nice and strong they are (and the freckles, so cute, but, no, such worrisome little reminders of excessive sun exposure, shhh).

Tuesday, April 01, 2008

make your own kind of music, sing your own special song

There was a moment this past weekend when my daughter rushed by me, on her way outside, and I didn't so much take notice of what she was wearing. A few minutes later, I peeked out the living room window to see her marching in a circle in the front yard, a large cardboard box embellished with color and eye-holes over her head.

And it made me think of a recent conversation I had with a friend. She was relaying something her son did that might have made some of his friends snicker a little bit, or else, if there wasn't overt snickering, there could have been, but my friend's son didn't care. We talked about how admirable it is to do something, choose something, or maybe be someone a little unexpected, a little unusual, a little different, and be fervently and unabashedly okay with that.

The box on my daughter's head? Apparently some attention grabbing tree disguise, made with the intention of compelling questions (from neighborhood kids, I reckon, maybe something like, What are you doing with a box on your head? Weirdo!) so she could jump into a conversation about nature and conservation.

For the record, no children asked her what she was doing. Which, considering the veritable parade of costumes and funny play often present on our front lawn, is unsurprising. But she kept at it a good long while and then came back inside and wrote this:

The trees trees
that sway in the breeze
I stand by these.

Good and strong
they'd live long
if man would not destroy them.

Trees are not some toys -ahem!-
Man has no right
to toy them.

They are strong, they are true
they live not to make
boards for you.

So stretch a rope
from me to tree
and tie it very tautly.

You'll cut this tree down
over my Dead Body.

To get the proper delivery, you'll have to do like my girl and raise your fists in the air for the last line, bellowing it out loudly. Which isn't so over-dramatic at all if you know Freya, whose passions have always ran deeply. I love that about her.