Thursday, April 29, 2010
Wednesday, April 28, 2010
Tuesday, April 27, 2010
- 1 bag of organic spinach leaves, cleaned
- 2-3 handfuls of fresh basil (we grow it on the patio and I basically pick both plants clean every time we make this)
- 3-8 cloves of garlic
- 1/2 cup olive oil
- Small handful of toasted pine nuts
- Salt to taste
- Pecorino Romano cheese to taste (optional)
Wednesday, April 21, 2010
As a child, my parents did a lot of gardening. At Mom's house, she had planter boxes bursting with flowers, arrangements designed to attract ladybugs, butterflies, and bees. She'd plant things to use in the kitchen, research plants that needed less water, plants that do well in our climate. She planted many different things, with the theory that at least a few of them would take off and do well.
Alexis and the kids lived at my parent’s house for a year and a half. By the time Drew and I got back from our honeymoon, she had moved out into her own two bedroom apartment: bunk beds in one room, queen size bed in the other. She taught preschool at the YMCA and went on dates with men she met on Facebook.
One Friday, Drew and I drove up for Grace’s birthday. It was late, we hit traffic, and didn’t get to Donato until after eleven. I drove him downtown, showed him the old opera house, the hundred-year-old bank, the hotel everyone swears Buffalo Bill stayed in. We drove past my old Girl Scout cabin, the wall Luke and I threw dirt clods at to see if they would shatter, the high school.
“There’s my pool,” I said, “The place I got my first job.”
He asked if we could go inside and I said they used to hide the spare key in the drainpipe out back. We parked the car and tip toed around the building.
It was dark, and the pool was covered in blue plastic tarps that looked black under the faraway streetlights. Occasionally, a car drove by, and crickets strummed in the nearby soccer field. We crept around the stucco building and I poked my fingers into the opening of the drainpipe, felt the familiar brass key.
“You’re in luck,” I said.
We walked back toward the front entrance and I opened the lock on the chain link fence, the door whined on its hinges as we stepped onto the concrete. The lights were all off, but I could see the high dive silhouetted between the two diving boards, knew where the guard stands were chained to the fence, knew exactly how many paces it was to the starting blocks.
“I haven’t been here in years,” I said, “But I’d know that smell anywhere.”
The chlorine that burned the preschooler’s eyes in my swim class and made them refuse to count my fingers underwater, even with goggles. The bleach we glugged into the water after one of the kids pooped. The water that shredded my racing suits every six weeks like clockwork and streaked my hair and bleached the hair on my arms startlingly white and leaked out of my pores when I was on land and smelled exactly like that pool.
“I can picture you here,” he said, “It’s weird. Like the ghost of your high school self running around.”
“No running,” I said, “Pool rules.”
He laughed and started walking along the edge of the pool, peering down at it.
“Can I put my feet in?” he asked.
We rolled up our jeans and sat side by side under the high dive, our ankles dangling in the water, pushing the tarps with our toes.
“We used to run across these every summer,” I said, flicking the tarp with my foot, “Right before State. We’d all come here at midnight and run across the tarps naked.”
“Yeah. It was stupidly dangerous, actually. You can drown. The tarps can suck you under.”
“You guys were all lifeguards though.”
He leaned back on the balls of his hands and looked up at the sky, at the outline of the diving board blocking out the stars.
“Did you ever do diving?”
I shook my head. “I dove off it, but just because I had to for my WSI. To teach swim lessons. But I just swam, I was kinda scared of the high dive.”
“But you did it?”
“How do you teach someone to go off the high dive?”
“Start them on the steps and the side of the pool. Then the low dive. Then you just tell them to go to the end of the board and do their flat hands and fall straight down.”
“Fall straight down?”
“Yeah. It’s not hard, it’s just scary.”
He asked what ‘flat hands’ were and I interlaced my fingers like I was saying a worried prayer, straightened my arms and flipped my hands so my palms faced away from me, forming a flat plane.
“Like this,” I said.
His teeth flashed in the darkness and he asked, “Can we try it?”
“The high dive?”
“You’re crazy,” I said, then jumped up and walked to the corner of the pool. I told him to go to the other end and we hooked the corners of the tarp to the metal reel, turned the handle until the tarp slid off the pool and wound around the giant cylinder, over and over itself like a jelly roll, and the water shimmered below us, dark and bottomless, though I knew that it was exactly twelve and a half feet deep. We shimmied out of our clothes and approached the high, narrow ladder.
“I’ve never gone off a high dive before,” Drew said.
“I’ll go first.”
“How high is it?”
“Seven and a half meters.”
“It looks a lot higher than that from down here.”
I kissed him and climbed up the ladder. At the top of the tower, I looked around, at Drew and Donato below me: the headlights on the cars, streetlights in the parking lot, the shine in Drew’s eyes and off the tips of his teeth. I felt like I did the first time I dove off that thing, the day the instructor said, I’m sure you guys already know how to do this, but we have to do it anyway, go ahead and dive off, and my mouth had gone cold because I had never once done it, had only jumped in feet first with Luke cannon-balling after me, Alexis tanning below us and scoring us with her fingers, 8, 8.5. I ground my toe into the sandpaper grit of the diving board, planted my back foot, blew out all the air in my lungs in one big rush, knowing that before I hit the water I’d suck it all back in without even trying, and took off running.
Tuesday, April 20, 2010
This one is going to be quick. Last night, instead of reading a story, I had my students listen to this one: http://www.newyorker.com/online/2009/05/11/090511on_audio_wolff
Monday, April 19, 2010
Sunday, April 18, 2010
Saturday, April 17, 2010
That winter, Mom and Walter took us to Tahoe for a day of snowboarding. We loaded up the Soccer Mom Express the night before, laid our snow gear out on the floor, Denny and Luke did lunges around the living room to get the quads ready. Walter waxed all the boards and got us up while it was still dark, Alexis and I climbed in the back seats with our pillows and throw blankets, Denny and Luke took the pilot seats in front of us. We were all back asleep before Walter hit the freeway.
At one point, we heard a loud crack and snapped awake. The back window of the Odyssey shattered, with what we thought must have been a gunshot, and glass flew over Alexis and I, flew all the way up onto the dashboard. Mom screamed; if Walter had been anyone else in the world he would have steered us right off the road. But he kept us straight and steady on that windy mountain pass, Denny and Luke covered their ears, and Alexis threw her arms up and over me, pinned me to the seat, arms spreading over me like a snow angel, covering my head with hers. Her breath was hot against my skull, through my matted hair. Mom wheeled around and called back to us and asked if we were all okay, we each answered her at once, Yes, fine, then she unbuckled her seat belt and climbed in back with us. She looked at us each individually, hands brushing softly against our cheeks, said our names fast. Luke? Fine. Denny? Fine. Jamie? Fine. Lex? Fine.
It wasn’t until Walter pulled over and Mom helped Alexis and I pick the glass shards out of our hair that I saw how hard Alexis had been crying. She had faint scratches on her neck, on the backs of her arms, and on one cheek. She was hardly bleeding, but she was breathing in short, loud gasps, and her cries sounded like she was choking. Mom tried to hug her but she shook her off and said she didn’t want to be touched. Then she came over to me and dropped her forehead on my shoulder, let her arms hang limp at her sides, and cried. I raised my hands and smoothed them over her hair, she sobbed until I could feel her tears dripping down my back.
Later, when we took the Odyssey to the Honda dealer to replace the window, they explained that we had a defective window to begin with, and the drop in temperature caused it to splinter. The boys teased Alexis for crying, and gave up the search for the bullet that we had been so sure was somewhere in the car. I wanted to laugh with them, Like anyone would really shoot at a minivan, but I couldn’t, because I had been scared, really scared, and hadn’t even realized that Alexis threw herself over me until it was all over. And then we found out it wasn’t a bullet and the boys laughed and I forgot all about it. Until years later, once my senses did finally come to me, and I realized what it had all meant, that she had tried to protect me, that her split-second, natural reaction was to throw her body over mine and offer herself up for scratches, I called her up in the middle of the night blubbering so hard she thought I was drunk.
“Tahoe,” I explained, “Remember? When the parents took us. And the window broke?”
“Yeah… Jamie… what’s wrong?”
“I just wanted to thank you.”
“What? For what?”
“For what you did.”
“What are you talking about? Are you okay?”
“Yeah. I mean for what you did. When the window broke. I didn’t get it then. But I just wanted to thank you.”
She was silent for a while and I asked if she was still there.
“I’m here,” she said, “Sorry. I was just remembering.”
Then she started laughing and said I was crazy and that it was over ten years ago and neither of us were thinking and I said That’s the point, that’s the point! And she sighed and said not to read too much into it. Then I laughed with her and she asked if they ever found the bullet and I said yes, thinking she was joking, but then she said Really? Where? and I asked her if she was serious and she asked what I meant, then I told her there was never a bullet, that the window broke because it got too cold too fast.
“Really?” she said.
“You’re not messing with me?”
“No. Swear to God.” I shook my head and Drew rolled over in his sleep, clamped a pillow over his ear. I kissed his knuckle and lowered my voice to a whisper.
“Because all these years, I could have sworn it was a bullet.”
Friday, April 16, 2010
I'm so glad the weekend is here... this week was crazy!
I used to have Fridays off, but now I have class until noon and students until 6:00, so I don't get home until 6:30. But I do have a break between 2 and 3:30, and I'll putter around the apartment, cleaning up and throwing something into the Crock Pot. I love coming home to the smell of dinner!
In college, E spent a year studying abroad in the UK, and he developed an addiction to Indian food. After we started dating, curry and beer on a Friday night became one of my favorite things.
On days you have the time to do the traditional version, it's better. But, this is my lazy-mama method:
Chicken Curry: Serves 4
Canola oil- ¼ cup
Yellow onions- 2 chopped
Garlic- 4-6 cloves, minced
Ground Coriander, 1 ½ teaspoons
Ground Turmeric, 1 ½ teaspoons
Cumin seeds, 1 teaspoon
Cauliflower, 1 head, cut into bite size florets
Green Beans, 1 pound, trimmed and coarsely chopped
Salt to taste
1. Brown the chicken: In a large frying pan over medium-high heat, warm a few tablespoons of the oil. Add the chicken pieces, and cook until golden brown on the bottom, about 4-5 minutes. Turn the chicken and cook until the second side is lightly browned, about 1-2 minutes longer. Transfer the chicken to the slow cooker.
2. Saute the vegetables and spices: In a frying pan over medium-high heat, warm the oil. Add onions and garlic, sauté until soft, about 5 minutes. Add coriander, turmeric, cumin seeds, and sauté until fragrant, about 30-60 seconds. Add about a cup of hot water and stir with a wooden spoon, scraping any browned bits off the bottom of the pan. When it starts boiling, remove the pan.
3. Add the cauliflower and green beans to the cooker. Pour the seasoned liquid over them. Sprinkle with a few pinches of salt (Himalayan pink salt is especially yummy) and stir to combine. Cover and cook on the high heat setting for 4 hours, or the low heat setting for 8 hours.
Serve over steamed basmati rice and garnish with fresh cilantro.
Note: If I'm being really lazy, I'll skip the green beans, and just toss in a bag of frozen peas about 30 minutes before serving...
Photo courtesy of Happy Tummy at http://www.happytummyblog.com