Thursday, November 29, 2007

secret ingredients

I have been experimenting with spices lately. The results have been both weird and wonderful. Here are two experimentations with wonderful results: adding a dash of nutmeg to the ricotta cheese mix for lasagna and adding allspice to lentil soup or lentil pilaf. You need balance the second one with acidity like a little lemon juice or tomato paste. Happy experimenting!!

things I love: freecycling and microfinancing

I believe that optimism is important and at the risk of seeming naive, I will say that I believe that almost all people are basically good (sometimes ignorant, but not evil). But, life is difficult at times and stressful and we need to reconnect with our goodness and our desire to do good. I think that most people want to do what's right for their kids, their health, the planet and their communities but they have no time, information or support.
So, I want to share two things that I found recently that tap into my inner goodness and keep me hopeful about humanity. The first is freecycle. Freecycle is basically a free Craig's List. People want to get rid of things they no longer need and other people want their stuff. You can also post stuff that you want and someone may let you know that they have one they no longer need. It reduces garbage, reuses valuable stuff reducing the need for manufacturing and makes good neighbors. So far, I have given away one old Halloween costume and received wooden blocks, children's magazines, outdoor play equipment and a microwave for my mother-in-law. Freecycle exists all over the US.
It also makes me happy to know that the Internet can be put to such good use.
Another such good use I just found out about and I plan to use it soon. Kiva is an online organization that allows you to directly loan money to entrepreneurs in developing countries and receive your money back while getting information about what the recipient did. I believe in empowerment not charity. The Kiva website also offers holiday gift certificates and I think a great opportunity to teach kids about the world and helping others. It is based on the principal of microfinancing, lending small amounts of money to people who otherwise would have no access to loans. The winner of the Nobel Peace Prize in 2006, Muhammad Yunus, created the first micro-financing institution the Grameen Bank. He is one of my heroes.
So, be merry this Christmas season and do good.

Friday, November 23, 2007

giving thanks

Happy Thanksgiving to all!! I really enjoy Thanksgiving; a celebration of the harvest, kindness and generosity and a true American holiday. We don't really do a traditional Thanksgiving meal, no turkey or cranberry sauce. But we celebrate the season's bounty and being together with family, my own small family and my husband's extended family.

Our menu yesterday was roasted squash soup; lasagna; braised, lemony spinach and pumpkin pie for dessert. I made my first pumpkin pie and we took it over to be shared with my husband's uncle's family. It was great feeling to see my early morning work disappear into appreciative mouths. Jove had helped me make it and asked about it all day; he was so happy to finally eat it and tell his cousins all about the ingredients.

We went to a late-night Thanksgiving meal at my sister-in-law's house and I felt very grateful to be included in their family celebration. It was very traditional in terms of what was served, but a very festive celebration for Thanksgiving, a lot of dancing, singing and love. It seemed to me to be the best of both cultures, a beautifully prepared meal and then a clearing of the tables for a lot of dancing.

At our own meal and at my sister-in-law's house everyone shared what they are thankful for and I thought I would leave you with a few words of gratitude:

Jove's List (not in order of importance)
hot chocolate
chocolate cookies

My List (not in order of importance)
A growing family
Amazing friends (chosen family)
Not working and being with my children

Friday, November 16, 2007

one fall day

Today we froze and frolicked with friends at the botanical garden. We also put the finishing touches on our cornucopia which included the many loves of Jove: acorns, a school bus, a piggy bank and a garbage truck. On Thanskgiving, we'll add some flowers from our still blooming garden.

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

last night's dinner: black and green

Black Beans and Rice
Cabbage Salad with Cilantro Dressing
Fried Egg (optional)

When I plated up last night's dinner, the colors on the plate reminded me of mint chocolate chip ice cream. The flavors, however, reminded me of something else. I love the black beans and cabbage salad combination from my days living in Costa Rica.

Cabbage Salad Recipe

3 cups shredded or thinly sliced green cabbage (1/3-1/2 of a head of cabbage)

1/2 cup finely chopped cilantro
1/3 cup of olive oil
1 lime juiced
1 teaspoon salt
a pinch of freshly ground black pepper

Whisk together the dressing and pour over the cabbage right before eating. Toss to coat.

Jove and Miranda

When Miranda was born, Jove was very excited. But, of course, Miranda being a newborn meant she couldn't really interact with him. All of that has changed and Jove and Miranda are loving it. Jove loves talking to and entertaining Miranda. He's excited about her two teeth, he retrieves her toys when she drops them from her high chair and he cracks up when she squeals, holds her sippy cup, flubbers her lips or babbles. When Miranda and I go get Jove from pre-school she is so excited to see him.

People ask me all of the time if he is good with her and I must say he truly is a good big brother. He hugs her and wants her at his bedtime storytime. When he hears her wake up from a nap he goes to her crib to lean over the edge and greet her. I am amazed by how much love he has for her. I cherish the siblinghood in our home.

Sunday, November 4, 2007

On Motherhood

In a moment of both temporary insanity and utter devotion to my son I decided to hand make part of his Halloween costume. He wanted to be a fireman, at least until his actual fireman costume was being made and then he decided he wanted to be a garbage man. "Next year," I said.

A friend of ours lent us the suit, another friend lent us the hat and I was to make the truck out a cardboard box. As Halloween approached I started to worry that I didn't really know what to do and Jove would be haunted by appearing before all of his little pre-school friends in a pretty crappy piece of artwork. But my mom saved the day. She drew the firetruck outline onto the box while she was visiting. All I would have to do would be paint it and add some interesting details: dvd wheels, rubber tubing for hoses, suspenders so he could wear it, etc.
After at least ten hours of work, it was finished and I was quite proud of his firetruck. Papa brought home a flashing bicycle light and his costume was now done. Jove loved it and he had such a great time wearing it. During some of those late night painting sessions I vowed to never, ever take on such a task again.
Then, when he was wearing it I realized that the whole experience was really a metaphor of motherhood for me. The self-sacrifice of this project is what mothers do all day, every day. The emotional roller coaster I was on during the project (smiles, near anxiety attacks, sleep deprivation, gratitude) is representative of feelings I have all of the time. Luckily, my daily life is filled with a lot more smiles and gratitude and only minor anxiety and sleep deprivation. I also realized that although Halloween only comes once I year, the amount of both actual work and emotional work I will be doing as a mother has only begun.
I also see my mother in a new light. I think of all of the projects, costumes and worry my mom went through to take care of us. She's not even completely off duty now; she came to visit us and see the grandkids and I ask her, "will you draw Jove's firetruck for his Halloween costume?" "Sure, honey," she says. Here's to mothers everywhere. Yay, moms!!