Sunday, May 29, 2011
A week or two ago, the chicks were crabby. Or whiny, or just...off in some way. You know what I'm talking about. I had already tried some of my other crabbiness cures--food, water, and reading stories--and I needed to get some work done around the house. I took the rocks from the rock basket, one of those lovely free sets of toys my kids pilfer from mother earth pretty much every time we go outside, and set them up in a little washing station. It was very simple--two buckets of rocks, a container of water with a drop of castile soap, and two rags.
They loved, loved, loved it. And they were quite proud of their accomplishment at the end, when their rocks looked so shiny and nice. I didn't get an after photo because I was actually managing to accomplish something around the house, shocking as that may be :).
Tuesday, May 24, 2011
When we showed up at the door, each of us nerdy enough to have brought her own apron, our wonderful host gave us each a stapled, multi-recipe handout. As a paper lover (sorry, trees), a visual learner, and a former English teacher, I thought this was the most brilliant thing I'd seen in ages. Seriously, from now on, I'm giving people useful handouts as a takeaway after a get-together.
Moving on from the handout, she showed us a five minute youtube clip of a woman making pasta dough. Since we were all doing this for the first time (aside from one late-arriving friend who had made pasta once), this was actually really helpful. And then the real fun began.
We made several batches of an eggy pasta and one batch of a vegan dough. After our dough blobs rested for about twenty minutes, we got to play with the shiny machine--the hand-crank stainless steel pasta maker. If you don't have one of these, you can certainly still make pasta (and have a pasta party!) using just rolling pins.
After pressing them to the desired thick(thin)ness, we added fillings--four in all:
**Pear and pecorino
**Mushroom and ricotta
**Artichoke, ricotta, and parmesan
**Sweet potato (seen below)
Aside from their lovely conversation, friends really come in handy for this next part which requires lifting long, very thin sheets of pasta to close up the ravioli:
I took this photo in part to show my kids, because I knew they'd find it funny, and in part to show that you really don't need fancy tools--we cut some of the ravioli using Bojey and Ninna's playdough cutter, and it worked well, making a very pretty edge. Ravioli all but finished--it just needs to be boiled for a couple of minutes:
A delicious table of food. If I think about it too long, I start to feel full all over again:
Because the ravioli is so rich and tasty, you really don't need much else. Aside from our four kinds of ravioli, we had two very simple toppings: grated parmesan and warm caramelized onions. On the side we ate an amazing salad (which I believe was wilted kale?), and of course we drank some red wine.
I had so much fun, and I'd love to do it again (and suggest that others try it!). Just have guests bring a filling each, tools if they have them, and a hearty appetite. Add a green salad and some wine, and some instructions, and you're good to go. And be sure to start with a sparkling clean kitchen because you'll use a LOT of dishes, pots, etc. (sorry, dear hostess!)
Any other cooking parties you can suggest? I'd love to branch out.
Saturday, May 21, 2011
This year, I've decided we will again grow radishes and lettuce (one variety of radish, which we'll hopefully grow and harvest for two full cycles between now and early fall), and a few varieties of lettuce. We'll also be trying carrots which in my mind are analogous to radishes and should therefore do well, but we shall see. We've planted quite a bit of basil, oregano, and rosemary, but I'd like to put in even more.
We've also planted some flowers, but the refrain that keeps going through my head, loosely paraphrased from The Urban Homestead (because my copy is hiding in a pile somewhere) is "Everything you plant should give back to you. Don't waste your growing space on plants that don't bear food." I can't completely get behind that because as far as I'm concerned, flowers DO give something back to me, even if they're mostly not edible. I think it bears consideration, however, especially for those of us choosing a more frugal lifestyle. So we will grow flowers, but they will make up a smaller percentage of our miniscule balcony garden than they have in the past.
And so on Friday, after spending the day at the community garden, we came home to even more gardening. This weekend is the traditional planting weekend in Montreal (supposedly the danger of frost has passed), so we're now planting directly outside. And since one of our big projects as a family over the next year or two is to greatly improve our French, I came up with these utterly homemade bilingual, reversible plant labels:
In his book Me Talk Pretty One Day, which chronicles his experience learning to speak French while living in France, David Sedaris writes about labeling everything in his apartment with post-it notes on which he has written the French vocabulary word for the object. I can't bear to deal with the aesthetics of post-it notes all over the house, but I'm happy to deal with my own totally wonky, Molly Katzen-wannabee illustrations and labels for the plants. (Edited to add: For the purists wondering where the articles are before the French nouns, I thought I'd mention that the seed packets, which were 100% in French, were labeled like this, with no articles. Weird, but true, so that's how I did my labels.)
And Ninna, thankfully, still thinks anything her mom does is cool (does that come to an end soon? I hope not), so she spent some time admiring them.
Oh, and PS: The voting for the Circle of Moms 25 Best Single Parenting Blogs ends May23rd. If you'd like to vote for me each day until then, click here and then click on the orange "thumbs-up" sign. Thanks!
Friday, May 20, 2011
There was painting:
Glitter makes everything better. Have you tried this? Just pour some glitter right on the paint, and it works like glue:
There was some granola making:
The chicks played "dance class" in matching tutu-ed leotards:
They built sculptures:
And a very small doctor tended to an even smaller patient, searching for an invisible booboo:
Problem solved with a heart band-aid:
A lovely rainy day, but now I'm itching for some sun. We have rain in the forecast for the next ten days, so now the game has become "find the hour of half-way decent weather and get outside, no matter the time or what we're doing."
Saturday, May 14, 2011
I've written before about how important it is to me that my girls learn about the natural world around them. And even in this urban setting, there are wild plants in our neighborhood that we can eat--one of them being dandelion greens. I carried a basket around the block and the kids raced about pulling up dandelions left and right. This is a fantastic plant for urban foraging because the plant is so clearly identifiable, even to small children.
We hunted for dandelions last year when we had a dandelion-themed playgroup, but we merely tasted a leaf or two dipped in some vinaigrette. This year I had more serious plans:
The girls picked a huge basket full of dandelions (mixed with grass, sticks, and other goodies that I had the pleasure of picking through...) After a couple of good washings in the salad spinner, they looked sparkling and delicious:
Dandelion greens mingling with romaine lettuce, walnuts, grated carrots, and our ever-so-precious unsweetened dried cranberries, usually reserved (and used sparingly) for things like homemade granola:
Green salad just so happens to be on both of the chicks' "will-eat" list (this month, anyway), so they were both able to eat the fruits of their labor.
We also foraged some moss from the community garden where it was growing on the beds, destined to be turned into the soil as we prepared them for planting. We salvaged a bucketful and brought it home for our fairy garden, a project that I think I'm even more excited about than the chicks are.
Don't you love moss? I do. I think I'm a little infatuated with it, this year especially. I have big plans for it.
Sunday, May 8, 2011
A funny thing happened recently. About a week ago, both here and on Facebook, I wrote about this blog’s nomination for the twenty-five best single-parenting blogs on the website Circle of Moms. What I expected from this experience was to gain a few more readers (I did—hi! Thanks for joining up!) and perhaps a bit more publicity, maybe even a few more helpful contacts. And those things happened.
But what I didn’t expect were the loads of emails I’d get from friends and contacts, old and new, far away and close, commenting on the “beautiful” and “gorgeous” life we’re living.
This made me pause. On paper, my life looks anything but gorgeous. I’m all at once a single mom going through a divorce with two young kids; a thirty-something starting from scratch in a foreign country, hundreds and in many cases thousands of miles away from life-long contacts; a mom ever-so-slowly attempting to develop a new career while scraping together money to pay the bills, hell-bent on being with my kids.
Described in those terms, it looks a little nuts. Well, frankly, I have no idea what it looks like to others, but to me, that profile describes something I wouldn’t personally be signing up for, if I had the choice.
But when I look at my life, on a daily basis, I don’t see chaos in the hour to hour, the minute to minute. I see, in fact, a lot of beauty. Beauty in Bojey’s voice as she un-self-consciously and un-abashedly sings “Baa, Baa Black Sheep” at full volume in the grocery store. Beauty in the hornet’s nest that fell from the tree, beauty in the tulips and daffodils finally popping up after a harsh winter. Beauty in the fact that when Ninna is given a box of candy at school, instead of hoarding it all herself, she says “Look, there are two of each kind! They must have known I have a baby sister!”
Among the things I’ve learned these last few challenging years is that beauty, truly, is where you find it. And you find it by looking for it.
Somewhere out there, there is another version of myself, a thirty-something stay at home mom in an unbroken home, with two kids, her own house, a cozy (real) fireplace, with no financial worries, who doesn’t find any beauty.
And then, somewhere else, is a second version of myself. A thirty-something mother living in poverty in a third-world country, someone who has lost children to preventable disease carried in dirty drinking water, whose children don’t go to school, not because she has fancy notions of homeschooling, but because she can’t afford the shoes they need to walk there. Yet this mother sings while washing clothes, points out a flower struggling through a crack in the pavement, tells her children magical stories full of beauty.
Beauty is not what we have; it’s what we see. We can have everything, and see nothing, or we can have very little, but see, with great clarity, the beauty all around us.
On my mental list of what I hope you gain from me, dear chicks (which does not include an aversion to going to sleep on time, a fear of escalators, or an inability to taste cilantro without gagging) is the knowledge that it is your job to find beauty. And in order to find it, you must first open your eyes and your soul to what’s around you. Remember that you will find what you look for. If you seek out ugliness, you will find it. But you don’t want to waste your precious hours on ugliness. It’s beauty you’re looking for.
And if you do that, and you still find no beauty, then the most important job of all, my little ones, is to create beauty yourself. I know you’re capable; I see you do it every day.
Tuesday, May 3, 2011
Ninna gardened alongside me for much of the morning while Bojey, who up until very recently was glued to my side in these sorts of settings, comfortably played with the other kids for much longer than she ever has before.
On the way home from the garden, out of the corner of my eye I saw something flutter to the ground from a tree. I assumed at first that it was a plastic bag; they seem to incessantly become caught in trees in Montreal in the winter, and this object flitted about so lightly, it seemed it couldn't be anything else.
But it was, in fact, something else. It was an old, used-up hornets' nest (if there are any entomologists in my readership, please correct me if I'm wrong!) This is the sort of find that is to me, beyond exciting. We brought it home and examined it, sharing it with our little neighbors. We'll be reading more about the nests next week as we have more time, and ultimately, I'd like to do something cool with it rather than just compost it. We'll see what absurd thing I can come up with.
The nest, with its papery shell pulled away:
This dark pod-like thing attached lightly to the surface, but has since fallen off:
And now I'm off to frost some carrot cake cupcakes for Ninna to bring to preschool, put the diapers in the dryer, type out an invoice for some editing, and see what else I can squeeze in before I collapse.
Monday, May 2, 2011
Circle of Moms Top 25 Single Parenting Blogs
and vote for "Two Chicks and a Hen"?
How's that for a campaign strategy? It's a good thing I'm not a politician since I hate asking things of other people. But today, I will. Somehow Two Chicks and a Hen has been nominated for the Top 25 Single Parenting Blogs on Circle of Moms. There's a button on the upper right-hand corner of my blog, and you can vote every day between now and May 23rd. I won't bug you about it every day (maybe every week...), but if you remember, you can vote daily.
Thanks for your support, comments, emails, and for reading this blog!