Tag Archives: beautiful

elijah

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One of my best friends turned 13 today. He also happens to be my grandson.

I once said to him, “We have the best conversations.”

“We DO!” he agreed, grinning.

Yesterday we discussed the fine points of finding a clean restroom while on the road. I explained how I manage to avoid touching the seat and he told me about a retail chain where the facilities are always pristine.

“Do you realize,” he said, “that we just had a 30-minute conversation about toilets? And that we didn’t say anything disgusting or offensive?”

We marveled at that, as we frequently do when our queries and conjectures take us deep into the mysteries of the universe.

I called his phone this morning and sang “Happy Birthday” in a voicemail. He called me back to give me times and directions for the day.

The last thing he said to me was, “I can’t wait to see you.”

I feel like I’m the one having a birthday.

Happy day, beautiful boy.

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little girls

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I am getting a pedicure. The technician has lulled me into a stupor with her gentle, rhythmic foot massage.

Nearby, two little girls are chanting one of those pat-a-cake rhymes that every generation has had since there were little girls.

My version had something to do with a cookie jar.

As I watch them I remember my own daughter, giggling with her friends about nothing. And a single tear escapes from each eye.

This seems awkward in a nail salon and I discreetly brush them aside. And smile.

Little girls.

tribute

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You sleep on the sofa because you put the sheets in the dryer this morning before work.  Tonight you’re too tired to put them back on the bed.

You go to work with bronchitis because you used all your sick days nursing your kid through his cold.

You went to your kid’s soccer game last night instead of going to the grocery store.

So you’re drinking your coffee black this morning because you gave the rest of the milk to your kid at breakfast.

There’s a 33% chance that you spend more than half of your paycheck on rent.

You pay on average a third of your income on child care. In New York, Minnesota and Massachusetts, if your child is 3 or under, it’s more than half.

This is because you’re paid less than single dads or married men with the same education. If you were paid fairly, your income would increase by 17 percent and your poverty rate would fall by half.

You’re a single mom.

Some folks say, well, you’d be making more money if you’d opted not to have a child.

Some of these same folks want to limit your birth control options.

It’s tough for you. But your love, unlike money, can buy happiness, and it comes to you through hugs and butterfly kisses and nite-nite prayers.

I’m proud of you.

Jalapeno Cheddar Cornbread

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bread My advice: read this post all the way through before starting.

Cornbread making is a true kitchen art, and even the best cooks have to practice it.  So don’t freak out if your first attempts are disappointing.  The secrets include a hot oven, a hot skillet, and a moist batter.

These ingredients are liable to vary widely: the dryness of the meal, the moisture content of the sour cream, the size of the eggs. So you have to be willing to guess a lot. Eventually you’ll do this without using measuring cups or spoons. You’ll just throw everything into a bowl and mix it up.

I’ve never used anything to make cornbread but a large, well-seasoned cast-iron skillet.  You can certainly adapt this recipe to your favorite technique.

And it’s easiest if you mix all the runny things first and then add the dry things. But you want to start with eggs, then oil, and then milk. If you add pickled jalapenos and/or sour cream to your eggs it might curdle them.

Ingredients

2 large eggs
1/4 cup vegetable oil: see my note at the bottom***.
Milk, half&half or cream — whatever is on hand.
1/2 c sour cream
Self-rising corn meal mix (yellow is best, but white is OK. If you can get the buttermilk kind, that’s even better.)
1 cup grated cheddar cheese (sharp, medium or mild — your call)
Diced jalapeno pepper (I like the small cans already diced.  If you’re brave, you can dice your own fresh ones.)

Construction

Put 2 T oil in your skillet and put into the oven to heat at 400 degrees.  You want a hot oven and a hot oiled skillet to start with.

Crack the eggs into your mixing bowl and stir lightly with a fork.

Blend in 2 T canola oil and about 1/2 cup of milk. This isn’t precise and I’ll explain why in a minute.

Add in sour cream and a heaping cup of corn meal mix. Don’t be afraid.

Add cheese and jalapenos.  Start with 2 T of the peppers, unless they’re fresh or unless you’re new at this.

Finessecornbread-batter-l

Now here’s where the artistry comes in.  There’s almost no way to mess up this cornbread, especially if you have no preconceived idea of what it’s supposed to be when it’s done. But you do want it to be moist.

What you want is a batter that’s about like sour cream.  You want it to flow into your skillet with the help of a spoon, but you don’t want it to be too thick.  Nor do you want it as runny as pancake batter.  So here you’ll add a couple of tablespoons of milk to thin it down, or a couple of tablespoons of meal mix to thicken it up.

You can’t go wrong.  The worst thing that can happen is you’ll end up with too much batter, and that just means more cornbread.

When the oven has reached 400 degrees, remove the hot skillet.  Be very, very careful at this point.  Remove children, pets, and clumsy relatives from the area.

Gently spoon the batter into the skillet and bake for 10 minutes.  Then check the bread by jiggling the skillet handle.  If the top of the bread shivers, give it another 2 to 5 minutes.  The bread is ready when it pulls away from the sides of the skillet.

Finishing

If you’re happy with the way your bread looks when it comes out of the oven, or if the idea of flipping makes you nervous, you can just serve it straight from the skillet.  If you’ve used an aluminum pan for your baking or you’ve made muffins, you can just skip this part.

To finish the bread, you want to flip it out onto a ceramic plate, upflippedside down.  Then slide the bread back into the hot skillet, bottom side up, and leave it for a few minutes.  This gives the top a nice color.

Flip the bread back onto the plate right side up to serve.

Don’t forget to turn off the oven.

Serving

I always put butter and honey on the table.  But sometimes we just think they’re superfluous.

And if you’re easily distracted and tend to burn things, it’s a good idea to have a loaf of French bread on standby.

***A word on oils

Canola oil seems to be the food snobs’ latest whipping boy.  It comes from rapeseed, which gets people all aflutter.  Rape is the Latin word for “turnip” and is a plant from the mustard clan, which is high in erucic acid.  So somebody reengineered both the oil and the name to let folks know, hey, this is CANadianOilLow(erucic)Acid, abbreviated CANOLA.  My advice is to read both sides of the argument and shop carefully. A good organic canola oil is great in recipes where olive oil is just wrong.  Or you can pay more for something else if it makes you feel better.

 

walking the dog

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So I have a regular gig about four times a year, spending time with Gustavo. He is an Italian greyhound who thinks he is actually reincarnated 17th or 18th century royalty. I haven’t quite pinned down the family yet, and I believe his demise was quite violent.  Hence he has alarming separation anxiety in this life.

However, he must have laughed a lot with his friends and family.  Stav has a great sense of humor and is the life of the party.  He’s a little subdued right now, because he’s trying to remember where he’s seen me before.  But it’ll come to him eventually.

So far it has been a bittersweet reunion.  We are both grayer and calmer than the last time I was here.  We both take more supplements with our meals.  He is positively portly and waddles when he walks.  I have acquired a muffin top from excessive use of chocolate to get me through the recent breaking news and subsequent long hours with CNN.

But somehow the heavens and the Mother called a truce with the calendar and gave me a glorious first day with Stav.  The sun was brilliant on our walk and the breeze just right, free of impertinent insects and subwoofers.  The sidewalk felt like carpet and my feet seemed to skate along the few blocks of our route.

I wanted more. I wanted to abandon work and throw my phone into the bushes and walk with Stav until we could walk no longer. But his folks left crab cakes in the fridge and experience has taught me I will eventually want my phone back.  So we’re back in the living room, sitting in the quiet that’s as rich and thick as cream cheese frosting.

It is enough. I am content.

Permanent

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I am not a boy.

I have straight, dark hair.

I am four.  My best friend is beautiful. And I am not.

She makes me sit in a chair.
She pulls my hair and twists it around tiny plastic things.
I like to play with the little sheets of tissue paper.

Sit still, she says.
Here, you can hand these to me, one at a time.

I feel important.  I am helping her.

I don’t like the cold dripping down my neck.
I don’t like the smell.
It’s hard for me to breathe.

But she looks determined and certain.  This will make you beautiful, she says.

The plastic things are sticking into my head.
I want to scratch but she says no.
Just a little longer and you will be beautiful.

I want to be beautiful.  Then she will love me.

She pulls a chair to the sink and pushes my head under the faucet.
The water is warm and feels so good I want to stay there forever.

But I have to be neutralized first.

I am wet and cold and the skin of my head feels like a blister.
But she squirts the neutralizer onto my head.
We’re almost done, she says.

The sun is shining.  I can see the lawn through the glass door.
My friend comes to the door.  She is beautiful.

But I cannot go outside.

I am not beautiful yet.