Thursday, March 26, 2009

Future Flamenco Dancers of America...Unite!

Currently this is my favorite picture. That dress! That expression! I caught her mid-twirl in a new hand-me-down dress up dress. It is really too big for her by about a foot's worth of growth. She does not care. She wants to wear this dress, which she calls her Snow White dress, all the time.

And, really, can you blame her?

Sunday, March 22, 2009

Food. It's all about food.

(I really didn't think I would write this much - I had planned just to capture a few recent thoughts about White House gardens, meal planning, etc. And then...)

Earlier this week I was really excited to read about the organic vegetable garden that is being dug into the White House's South lawn - just down from the swing set, I believe. I found this exciting for a couple of reasons. One is that, like the swing set, it makes the White House seem like much more of a home - a place where a real family lives. Maybe it's the presence of schoolage children in the WH (when is the last time that happened?), maybe it is the politics, maybe it the point we are at in national culture, I don't know; whatever the reason, I like it.

I also like that everything grown there will be actual food - it isn't just a show garden or a school project. It's a working, family-feeding garden. Reading about all the different things that will be grown there - especially the lettuces - really made me think about the state of our own gardenspace and about food. I also like that Mrs. Obama knows not everyone has a green thumb or the space to flex it. “You can begin in your own cupboard,” she said, “by eliminating processed food, trying to cook a meal a little more often, trying to incorporate more fruits and vegetables.” (I got my quote from the NYT.)

Reading Animal, Vegetable, Miracle last summer sparked a mini-resurgence in my efforts to make our eating a little more health and earth friendly. And this idea continues to grow. Of course, we are also in the midst of Cora's toddler diet - the one where her likes and dislikes are entirely unpredictable. She used to like dressing on her salad. Then she didn't. Then she didn't like salad. Then she did. Then tonight she asked if she could have some of my "syrup" on her salad, too. And ate it all. Except for the piece she put on the floor for our cat Arvo. Who ate it. And later threw up.

So we have the usual dilemmas: to what extent are we okay with fixing her a separate meal? I try to either make things we all will like, or overlap our meals. So, while I might put spicy jerk sauce on our baked chicken, I leave hers plain or just use lemon juice and oregano on hers. Or, if we have mutter paneer, she has plain paneer and rice, with maybe a side of pb&j. Some of the same, something to round it out. But, of course, sometimes there is no getting around the fact that she won't eat enchiladas, refried beans, and rice. But, she will eat a quesadilla, and we will all have some guacamole. If we really want to eat something totally out of her league, she can usually bet on getting her quesadilla and guacamole, with a side of banana or applesauce. (And, I do plan out all our meals week by week. The shopping is mostly easier, but mostly it is easier on me because I don't have to make as many decisions throughout the week.)

This summer I plan on a few tomato plants, and definitely herbs. We're going to try some radishes and carrots, but I think we will be fighting the squirrels and odd rabbit over them. I would love to grow some lettuces, because I love lettuces. But, I think for it really be a success I would need a cold frame, and that isn't in the cards this year. So, my grow-my-own plans are fairly limited. But, I continue to try to eat more locally - I made a valiant attempt at getting us a CSA share this year. Unfortunately, finances and jobs are too uncertain to commit to one.

But, we do cook our own meals almost every night. I try to make each dinner also serve for lunch the next day, either as leftovers or as starter ingredients for something else. Breakfasts are mostly cereal or oatmeal. My big plan for once the berries start rolling in is to make some granola and have it with berries and yogurt most mornings throughout the summer. (Will I make my own yogurt? Tune in next season to find out!) We do still eat meat, though I keep trying to reduce the frequency. I'm intrigued with Mark Bittman's idea of being vegan until dinner time. I think being lacto-ovo vegetarian until dinner might frequenly work for us, except for those lunchtime leftovers some days.

We try to avoid processed foods, or at least choose "better" processed foods, like Annie's mac and cheese or Amy's frozen dinners, things like that. We had an interesting experience earlier this winter with high fructose corn syrup and Cora's digestive system - no more fruit snacks! Back to the Whole Foods brand cereal bars! Still, sometimes we all have a craving for chicken nuggets. Sometimes that cheesiest mac and cheese that comes in the blue box fulfills a nostalgic yearning. Sometimes I don't have time to make my own cookies.

Because we do like cookies. And cake. And boy am I anxious to make some pies this summer. And I do believe that when these things are homemade, they are less evil. And I am all about less evil in my pantry.

Saturday, March 21, 2009


Cora is sitting on the first step of our staircase, in her Sleeping Beauty shirt and pink tutu over her dress of the day, with her new pink princess shoes on. Chris walks by and says, "Don't you look like a nice princess!"

Cora's response? "No, I'm a dirty kitchen wench."

In a diagram of Cora's daily thoughts, Cinderella would overshadow pretty much everything else.

Thursday, March 19, 2009

The Ballerina and Me

I'm not sure exactly when I started taking dance lessons, but I do remember my mom picking me up after school in our old yellow station wagon. This was my grade school, so I must have been seven or eight. I would sit in the way back (without a seat belt!) and change into my tights and leotard as she drove me to ballet class. I added tap classes later on. Dropped tap after a few years. Added jazz and then modern dance. Eventually dropped ballet (jr. high brought the harsh reality that I would never have a "ballet body") and added more modern dance classes. At the height of my dance "career" I was probably taking three or four classes at a time. Plus the occasional workshop in new and exciting dance techniques like, um, breakdancing.

Well, as much as I loved dance, I was never really best in class (most flexible, yes), and it would never have been a real career. A big family move, high school, and a spectacular knee injury eventually pushed me into different fields, too. But, I really loved dance. I would spend hours in my room choreographing dances to my favorite songs and I devised a kind of shorthand with which to notate my choreography. I know I spent weeks on one dance to a medley of Fine Young Cannibals songs, at least. (That coupled with the breakdancing should enable you to pinpoint the year of my birth with near lethal accuracy.)

Sure, I loved the costumes and the French vocabulary and the studio crowd and the various fashion and social aspects of dance. But now, looking back, what I most remember is that I had a much better opinion of and relationship with my body. I knew what it could do. I could make it do it. I had a kind of confidence in my legs, especially, and my sense of balance and muscle memory. I still have really good muscle memory. I don't have a great sense of balance if I'm moving (though I can still stand on one leg for a while). I have almost zero confidence in my legs. Partly I think this is traceable back to the knee injury, and part of it is due to that flexibilty. Can you take much pride in your flexibility when it turns out you just have spaghetti tendons? I liked having the belief that my body was a thing of power and capability in action.

I've been thinking about all this again because Cora is moving into the next stage of ballerina love. The Nutcracker - the Clara music - is still part of her nightly bedtime ritual, and she still watches one of the movies once a week or so. And there's the tutu fetish. And the developing slipper fetish - sometimes she has a hard time deciding if she wants to wear the "glass slippers" (her good white shoes) or the "ballet slippers" (a pair of red Robeez). And then she started tripping merrily in a circle, on the balls of her feet (demi-pointe) with her arms in a near perfect second position.

And that's when I hunted up a video that would show her the positions, of feet and arms, and some simple steps. I found one at the library, called "The Ballerina and Me". We put it on last night. It was an aged video, the sound quality was awful, the video quality shaky, the overall production values painful to an adult, but she was transfixed. She tried to do the positions, the arms, the steps. She had me demonstrate them. We tried to get Daddy to do a plie. She used the arm of the glider as her barre. She tried to say the French words. She was wearing a diaper, a tutu, a pink long-sleeved shirt, a Cinderella dress-up shirt, and a constantly changing variety of footwear.

It made me yearn to dance again.

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

The Hero Factory

Google it. Do it. It's fun!

Monday, March 16, 2009

Happy birthday, Dad!

Today is my Dad's birthday - and I'm sorry we aren't there to celebrate it with him. To make up for that, we made the same kind of cake he's having. Really, it was Cora's idea! (And steaks...not these ones, but ones that look similar. That's how much we love him! In his honor we will force ourselves to eat steak, baked feta, arugula salad, chocolate-peanut-butter cake, and drink some red wine. We are SELFLESS when it comes to celebrating those we love!)

I think I've written here before about how great my Dad is, how much I love him, how supportive of me he has always been. But maybe I haven't mentioned that one of the reasons I love him so much and have so much appreciation and respect for him is that he is a good friend and partner to my Mom. He reads the books she reads for bookgroup. He has become quite knowledgeable about quilting. He likes to cook with her.

I think one of the iconic images from my childhood is the family grocery shopping trips. We usually all went together. They still do the grocery shopping together as much as possible. Because they like being together, even during one of the most repetitive (oh really, milkbreadeggscheese again?) and time-consuming chores on earth. (You know, for those of us not threshing our own grain.) I like that in a father and a husband - I think that counts for a lot.

So, happy birthday, Dad! Enjoy it - and I promise to send pictures of your granddaughter tonight.

Saturday, March 7, 2009

If I could go back in time...

I would make sure that 2009 came with a subscription to the Bourbon of the Week club.

Who's with me?

Sunday, March 1, 2009

Square One: in which bad news and good news are received mere hours apart

So, we know one place we're definitely not moving to this year. (Bad news)
Chris has another phone interview this week. (Good news.)

I know, I know. Maybe it isn't bad news! Maybe the good news is that we're not moving to TX this year, because it would have been disastrous. Who knows but that the universe has spared us misery and sunshine in the interests of something much better still to turn up. It is supposed to be a comforting idea, and it is, really. Most of the time.

The rest of the time I can't help but think about those poor characters in novels who really suffer some drastic setbacks and misery, while the novelist toils away toward some happy ending, or some meaningful ending, or just an ending that could have been worse, so we decide it is happy. You know what I mean?

If my life is a novel, I hope it is more along the lines of Jane Eyre, say, than The Road.

I really, really hope my life is not a postmodern novel.