a thought

Sketching nine month old Stella while she lay napping one day, I never finished the drawing, because I got caught up in the flowers on her little onesie, and then she woke up. I got lost in the details, as it were. Attention to detail is both a blessing and a curse, isn't it?


round up: meanwhile, back at the ranch

School starts soooooon. I'm mortified about how fast this summer has flown by. Two weeks of camp plus two and a half weeks of (wonderous) vacation doesn't leave much time in between to be as lazy as I'd like us to be. We live in a bubble, provided by David and created by me, and the thought of Stella going back to school in three weeks brings tears to my eyes whenever I think of it. We are SO spoiled, I know. We've been doing what we do best over the last two weeks: nothing.





Dinner, sliced and roasted.

The first night of Stella and my new tradition, midnight snack + giggles. 

I added palpable space to our small kitchen by moving the booze. Who knew?

A day at the California Academy of Sciences. Here they are there a little over a year ago. They have grown!

Twenty nine day old baby ostrich. Wow!

After seeing Brave. How beautiful.

He's a toy robot.

I struggle all the time with the fact I'm not bringing in any money, or really living a modern grown-up woman's life at all, and that I am happy as a clam here all day while David is commuting and working his ass off. It's the best for our kids, it's certainly the best for ME, but is it the best for all of us in the long run? It's a big deal. I don't have a single minute of regret, except for David's commute, but I wonder if one day I will. I wonder why I find it so easy be lying on the floor with the kids all day, playing this or that. What is this? Sometimes I seriously wonder if I am some strange woman-child, and if people see me that way. I bought the book Maternal Desire by Daphne de Marneffe years ago to try to sort through (and justify) some of these feelings, but I was always too busy to read it. Sometimes to assuage my guilt over my good fortune I remind myself that I worked SO hard and SO long for very little for a very long time, and that right up until Oliver was born I was still pulling all-nighters. Taking care of these two kids has been the biggest respite I could've hoped for. Not really having to use my head is a very peaceful place to be.

I can't really imagine feeling bad about having taken complete advantage of these last three years to be with these two, and to grow myself exponentially. But what if, years down the road, we end up with less to give Oliver and Stella than we would've liked, because I stayed home. It's really hard to see what hindsight will look like then. It's a tough one. I am (we are, really) looking for ways to start to tip the scales a bit. It's been a GREAT ride, but like I've said before, it's probably time for me to put my big girl pants back on and just NEVER forget how lucky I have been. Too bad I can't get my thighs into ANY pants, at the moment.


donut pan idea no. 30: jell-o rings

The 30th Summer Olympics begins today! What better way to celebrate than to dive in and make some donut-shaped Jell-O rings, arrange them on a plate like the Olympic symbol, surround them with a laurel basil wreath, and take home the gold? Did I really just write that?

Jesse Owens, quadruple gold-medalist at the 1936 Summer Olympics once described his experience as "a lifetime of training for just ten seconds". This reminds me of the effort I put into these Jell-O donuts, only to have them poked and picked at as soon as I put my camera down. I hope you don't think I've lost my donut-loving mind with this one. It is a little crazy. Jell-O donuts don't have to be just for the Olympic symbol, of course. I think hospitals should start serving these instead of Jell-O in a cup. It would be good for morale.

Speaking of morale, Jell-O making in and of itself is actually a pretty quick endeavor, thankfully! Boil, pour, and stir. And I had two very eager assistants on the job. Here's what you need.

One box each, the smaller the better:
•Blueberry Jell-O
•Black Cherry Jell-O
•Cherry or Raspberry Jell-O
•Lemon Jell-O
•Lime Jell-O
(I just like typing "Jell-O")
Black food coloring
(for greasing the pans)
Boiling water
Oliver branches or other greens
(I used basil stems I had already in the refrigerator)

This gets the kids really excited. The specter of all this powder is almost too much.

That black cherry Jell-O isn't black at all, thus, this.

Listen to me. DO THIS to your refrigerator beforehand, or just forget the whole thing.

Using a clean dishcloth or towel, thinly but thoroughly coat the pans with mayonnaise.
I tried olive oil, but mayonnaise worked better. 

Taste testers.

Look, my fleet has doubled recently! The mayonnaise-coated pans
are in the rear. Those are the ones you want to go with.

Attention! Here is some very important information at this juncture. Make the "jigglers" recipe on the side of the box. This uses much less water (only boiling, not cold), therefore you'll have a firmer donut. This is really important. We had 6 oz. boxes of Jell-O, so each box got 2 1/2 cups of water. That's it! 

Make the jiggler recipe or go home. Add the black food coloring to the black cherry
flavored Jell-O. It took about twelve drops to turn our 6 oz. box fairly black.

My turkey baster worked well for filling the pans.

You're practically done, now. Carefully stack your pans if needed in the refrigerator and let sit for four hours. When ready to release the rings from the pans, dip the bottoms of the pans in warm water for 15 seconds. I then loosened the inner and outer edges of the donut from the pan by pressing gently. You can tell when one is ready to slide out, it starts rotating a bit in the pan. I released them into my hand, one at a time, and placed directly on my serving plate. They are firm enough to move a few times, but Jell-O is volatile stuff, you've gotta be careful!

Tip: If for some reason you get in a really big jam and they are not coming out of the pans (I had this problem on my olive oil coated pans), you can put the pan in the freezer for 20 minutes or so. THEN press down around the edges of the donut before trying to twist and release. These will be a little wet. If you can first set them on a clean kitchen towel to thaw just one minute before moving them to your serving plate you will end up with less water to wipe off of the plate.

Arrange the donuts to match the Olympic symbol colors on a plate or platter, and surround with greenery.

Now for the eye candy. Also, U.S.A! U.S.A.! U.S.A!


the barn

We spent part of the Fourth of July in my super sweet Aunt Kate's super sweet back barn, the "third" structure on her property. This was a total joy. Spending quality time with my aunt, who I never get to see, in this amazing little barn structure, hiding out from the heat and lunching on sandwiches made with delicious thin slices of Pepperidge Farm bread (that's something you don't find on the West Coast) and drinking a few liters of pink lemonade. All awesome.

Growing up, we had a screened in porch on the back of our house and spent so much time there in the summer. If I lived at my Aunt's house now, I'd probably move the whole family out to this barn until the leaves started to change. It was an oasis in an otherwise predictably busy and loud (and new to both of the kids, born and raised in foggy, cold San Francisco) Fourth of July.


checking in

Back to the vacation log!

On the first Monday of our trip, we packed our bags, said goodbye to our friends in Troy, and set out on the four hour drive to Wolfeboro, my home town. We stopped in Brattleboro, Vermont and ate sandwiches in the car while the rain spat. Poor Oliver had some freak allergy attack at our friends' house and half his face was swollen like a balloon, which made him such a sympathetic little character. That day was a sweet, cool memory, driving across the entire bottom of Vermont on a route I've driven hundreds of times in my life.

We made it into Wolfeboro mid-afternoon, checked into our sweet little cottage, and headed out for dinner and a drive to the beach. The view in the photo above is one I will always remember. In the summer my father used to meet us at this beach for cheese sandwiches after work, and it's where my mother would take us all weekend long with her posse of work friends, and it's where I lifeguarded for several years. I've stared at this view for more hours than I can even imagine, I'm sure.

Next morning? Dunkin' Donuts! While I am mortified that a shop like this has made its way into a small town like Wolfeboro, and while we live in a city rife with places like this, the temptation was strong. It was right up the road!

After gorging on donuts we headed to the beach for the day, and after that did some late afternoon grocery shopping, and after that took a stroll into town and back in the warm evening weather. This was the day I'd been fantasizing about since we last visited Wolfeboro in the summer, six years ago. Some days things feel too sacred to pull out the camera much, this being one of them.

I have taken so many photographs of donuts lately, I just couldn't help myself.


composite (+ plain ol') butter donuts

Donut shaped butter. Butter rings. Whatever you want to call them, they are a super-simple way to serve butter at your next gathering. A small plate with a ring of butter, garnished with herbs, or maybe the center filled with chutney, depending. Scatter several of these around the table and everyone's got pretty butter.

I mixed up a few batches of my favorite composite butters (curry and anchovy) from Martha Stewart's Hors d'Oeuvres Handbook, and I made a set of plain, unsalted butter donuts, too. In general, one stick of butter will make two donuts. Please note right off the bat, as ridiculous as this sounds, that you must oil the donut pans! Otherwise, you and your donut pans will be in a world of hurt. Maybe I found this out the hard way. Also, you want your butter to be truly at room temperature, to be sure you can press it all the way down in the pan and not end up with gaps and bubbles. Also possibly learned the hard way.

So, you'll need parchement or wax paper, tin foil, as much (unsalted) butter as you wish, herbs and/or spices, salt, and olive oil, to grease those pans!

Here's the play-by-play:

 Curry butter provisions. Butter at this point can be slightly lower than room temperature.

 Fold ingredients together.

 Using two spoons can help assure the spices are fully integrated into the butter.

 Minced anchovies and butter.

Work until anchovies incorporated and butter smooth.

HERE IS THE MOST IMPORTANT PART! Lightly but thoroughly oil the pans with olive oil.

Press the butter all the way down into the pan recesses to insure a smooth donut surface.
Shown here is the plain unsalted butter version.

 Smooth each donut with the back of your spoon.

Here are the anchovy and curry butter versions, ready to rock. These both work so nicely
with an East Coast shrimp boil dinner and a loaf of rustic bread, by the by.

After you've filled your pans with butter, wrap tightly with wax or parchment paper covered in foil, then stick in the freezer for an hour. To remove, loosen or remove the paper and foil, turn the pan over onto the counter over a dishtowel, and if the donuts don't fall out right away, give it a nice hard whack on the counter. Mine took one whack for the donuts on the corners and an extra one for the ones in the middle positions. Out of the ten I made, one cracked in half on the way out of the pan, but was easy to put back together.

The plain ones came out beautifully, because I really pressed them into molds. The anchovy and curry donuts didn't get that kind of attention, obviously.

As the rings come out of the pan, quickly collect them and lay flat side down on a parchment or wax covered baking sheet. They are butter, after all, and they want to melt in your hands! You can store in the refrigerator or the freezer, just remember to keep them wrapped up extra tight in the freezer as not to lose moisture or take on (or give off) food smells.

I think these are just beautiful, and I can't wait to serve them to company!

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