The Bad Habit

Well, this is becoming a bad habit. Get up early, go to sleep late, have a series of nightmares that wake me up throughout the night. On Thursday, I got up at 4:30 am, when Clyde joyfully leaped onto my unsuspecting stomach. It is a very effective wake up call, though more enjoyable for the leaper than the landing pad.

Since I took Friday off as a mental health day, I had an adult beverage or two after work on Thursday night while watching playoff hockey and staying up until 11:00 pm, fueled by fantasies of the Maple Leafs David beating the Goliath Washington Capitals. I know all the odds are against it, but a girl can hope.

I figured I’d sleep in until it was light outside on Freedom Friday, but I was as wrong about that as I probably am about the Maple Leafs. After a restless night of bad dreams, I finally gave up on the whole thing before 5:00 am.

After the requisite caffeination and cat duties, I threw in a load of laundry and did some cooking for during the week, including this delicious recipe. I left out the cilantro, upped the ginger, and used half sweet paprika and half smoked paprika, and threw the olives in near the end of the cooking instead of boiling them separately (Why? Why?). While things were cooking and cleaning, I finished a data entry project for my friends at the former jobette and emailed it over to them.

The jobette may not be so former after all. Stop me if you’ve heard this before, but I am once again considering working Saturdays this summer.

You may recall that after a change in leadership at the jobette last year, the New Guy decided to close on Saturdays, among other unpopular decisions that ended up costing him his entire staff. After wreaking havoc in just a few short months, he quit and went back from whence he came, to the relief of all.

The current CEO seems very nice. We had a good meeting where he asked if I would consider doing data entry, blog writing, and working on Saturdays. He is willing to pay me more than I make at my real job, so it’s hard to say no, though I am a little worried about getting burned out. Decision-making, as you know, is not among my few talents. Maybe if/when I make a decision, I can finally start sleeping better.

A YEAR AGO: It was an internet-free zone at stately Suzy Manor. And there was quite the liestorm to go with it.

FIVE YEARS AGO: Meet the jobette’s newest employee, the office cat!

Saturday

For some reason, I decided that this weekend was the perfect time to attempt this unnecessarily elaborate dish for Sunday dinner*. Despite my lack of religious upbringing**, and the fact that I try to dedicate as much of Sunday as I can to my personal favorite sin of sloth, I usually make something nicer than usual for Sunday dinner.

So I set it to marinate on Friday night, while I threw in a load of laundry*** and made an adult beverage, and on Saturday morning, I was at stage two of frying the garlic chips when someone walked into the house.

I fully expected it to be Rob, but it turned out to be an unknown teenage girl:

Girl: Is everyone asleep?
Me: Who are you?

She was a friend of one of Mark’s daughters, and had mistaken my house for theirs. This is the kind of thing that happens when you have five doors, none of which lock. That, and surprise appliances. She was more embarrassed than necessary, but that’s all part of the joy of being a teenager.

I put the roast into the slow cooker for stage three, and Megan and I headed to the Village to meet Erica and our favorite teenager at the bookstore overlooking the stormy ocean.
The Great Catsby looked down disdainfully from his perch, enjoying the distance from those ridiculous humans and their grubby paws:

not to mention their tiresome adulation. Jessica was cashing in her Christmas gift certificate, and Erica was torn between Advanced Style and do it yourself taxidermy. It was great to catch up with our favorite girls as we strolled the aisles. We are already planning this year’s Junapalooza celebration. Erica and I had considered Jellopalooza, using her collection of vintage Jell-O molds, but we decided that not even a coconut water and fresh blackberry gelatin confection would win over the picky eaters in our family, so Plan B is Pizzapalooza.

Erica thinks we can make a cobb pizza oven at Megan’s birthday celebration, which is conveniently located on the Memorial Day weekend, when we should have maximum free labor and time. Then we can use it for the Junapalooza celebration. If not, I am pretty sure that the evil geniuses of my brothers can come up with a grill-related solution so we can make our own pizzas.

After the bookstore, we browsed around the toy store, where I was charmed by felted whales and stuffed hedgehogs, though I resisted buying them. You are never too old to look through kaleidoscopes and try on Halloween hats, especially out of season.

Eventually, we parted ways, the girls to see “Hidden Figures” and Megan and I to run a few errands. It was great to see them. I love those girls!

*It was delicious, though labor-intensive.

**Being brought up by atheists can have its drawbacks.

***I’m addicted to this sea salt and neroli laundry soap thanks to Monica, who gave me a sample. The first one’s free…

A YEAR AGO: A look around the storm-tossed garden.

FIVE YEARS AGO: Darkness descended.

2016

The sadness of losing my much-loved Roscoe at the end of the old year carried into the new year. A year later, I still can’t believe that his remarkable presence has been extinguished and that I will never have the joy of sharing my life with him again. I have yet to wash or dispose of his dish. I just can’t. A little spark of hope deep in my heart will never truly be doused, no matter what Logic decrees. I have never been a fan of Logic.

But there was light as well as shadow this year. I attended a beautiful wedding, some of my friends bought homes, and an unexpected visitor brought a lot of happiness with him on his epic road trip. I made a couple of little road trips myself, one south and one north.

Rainfall for the 2015-16 season was 55 inches. Rain started early for the 2016-17 season, beginning in September with a storm that dropped two inches in four days. Maybe this is a good sign for a wet winter. We can use every drop, a fact I must remind myself of when driving through it, especially in the ubiquitous winter darkness. So far for the 2016-17 season, we have received 23.4 inches, a good start.

Somehow, I managed to read more books than I did last year (103 vs. 85), despite working six days a week for most of it. Standouts included Sweetbitter, Dodgers, The Curse of Beauty, Everybody’s Fool, The Wicked Boy, The Wrong Side of Goodbye, and The Harder They Come.

Power Outages: I think we had three, which seems to be par for the course, but they seemed to occur more in the summer than the winter. What’s up with that?

Other than that, here’s what happened to our heroine this year:

January: I started the year off on a tidy note. It didn’t take long for the first power outage of the year to rear its ugly head. Same goes for Wednesday’s engine light. Some delightful coincidences. And some (mis)adventures in cooking. Trying (mostly unsuccessfully) to get everything done at work.

February: The wonderful woodworking show. A little preview of spring. A delightful day on the South Coast, with ballet and other pleasures. The first theater reading I have ever attended, though hopefully not the last. Our heroine finally leaves the County after a year and a half, heading to beautiful Monterey, where I visited the breathtaking Aquarium. Also beaches and farm stands.

March: A peek at our (eccentric) little corner of the world. And a delightful peek into its past. Not the most enjoyable morning ever. Family dinner to celebrate Dad’s birthday. The boys get the old grandfather clock running. Saturdays past and present.

April: Wednesday’s successful surgery. Road trips for everyone! Beauty inside and out. An early wake up call. Having the internet out for over a week is not the most festive way of celebrating my blogs 15th anniversary. Especially since the technician failed to show up. Our beloved Jessica turns 13! The kidlet is now a teenager. How did that happen?

May: Quilts, books, cats and dogs – just a perfect day in the Village. Rob’s incredible masterpiece. The last family dinner at Suzy Manor before they move to the family estate for the summer. The mystery of the cat in the night. A busy, but delightful, weekend. Out of season power outage. Celebrating Megan’s birthday in style.

June: An uneventful birthday for our heroine. Better than an eventful one! And the baby boy turns six, all by himself. Memorial Day BBQ with a side of bees. The joys of Junapalooza, showcasing the talents of the amazing Erica.

July: The ninth anniversary of Audrey’s reign. Lu and Rik’s beautiful, moving, wonderful wedding. It was such a joy to share that day with them and my family. I will always treasure that memory. A BBQ at the family estate with our extended family. A magical visit to the Botanical Gardens.

August: A bad omen, perhaps? Farewell to Jack, who first appeared in these pages as a dollar bill sized kitten. She was almost 17 and the last of the cats John and I had together. Much like when we lost Schatzi, it felt like Mom was really gone, losing Jack made me feel like our marriage was really over. Told you Logic and I don’t see eye to eye. Celebrating summer’s bounty with jam and a BBQ. Marking the 15th anniversary of losing my father and best friend. I will always love you, Dad. Thank you for always loving me, no matter what. A visit from our dear friend Clayton, garnished with a power outage. The two events were not connected. An obnoxious mountain lion made things a little scary for a while. He has since moved on – permanently, we hope.

September: September kicked off with a surprise visit that turned out to be utterly delightful. We had a great time going to the circus together, and having a BBQ at my brother’s place on his birthday. We sent our visitor on his way after giving his car a quick check up. Here’s to many happy returns! An exhausting visit from the Feds at work was followed by a delightful day at the Fair. As the month drew to an end, so did my jobette, for real-real this time. Lu, Megan, and I enjoyed dinner and a play together.

October: A look around my rather neglected garden, which still looks surprisingly good despite my lack of attention. It was a banner year for real estate for several of my friends. Megan and I enjoyed a cemetery tour in the Village. ‘Tis the season for scariness, but thinking I had lost my beloved Clyde was a little too scary. Fortunately, I was wrong. I love being wrong sometimes. Enjoying the rare gift of a day off. And a road trip north to the Drive Thru Tree and the One Log House. It was short, but sweet.

November: A trip to the magical South Coast for a play and some delicacies. A happy (and terrifying) Halloween. Speaking of terrifying, I hit a dog with the car. For the rest of my life, I will be a dog maimer. At least I wasn’t a dog murderer. My victim is recovering well and due back home from rehab on January 1. Regrets. I’ve had a few. Let the countdown to T-Day begin! Thanksgiving started a little earlier than I would have liked, but it was wonderful.

December: The traditional post-Thanksgiving craft fair. Going from the beach to the redwoods in one day. A candlelight shopping trip. Time to put up the vintage faux tree again! Taking Jessica to the Festival of Lights at the Gardens for the first time, but not the last. Getting ready for the big day. A merry Christmas celebrated on Christmas Eve, followed by a quiet Christmas Day.

A YEAR AGO: Remembering 2015.

Aftermath

There ended up being a lot of people jammed into my bijou residence for dinner, but I’m pleased to report that the evening didn’t involve stitches, handcuffs, Narcan or the Fire Department. Surveying the wreckage this morning, though, I now understand why they call it Black Friday. And wonder why I bothered cleaning at all yesterday. I probably wonder this every year.

The cats and I are sitting in bed together, procrastinating. It’s all about teamwork, my friends.

The turkey turned out great, despite sort of overflowing from its capacious roasting pan:

turkey

I am not convinced that the two day dry brining extravaganza was notably more delicious than my American grandmother’s simpler technique of rubbing the bird with butter, salt, and sage and then throwing it in the oven, but I’m glad I tried the fancy. Certainly the meat was moist, even the next day.

Here you see Jonathan making gravy while Jessica supervises:

gravy

The honey and harissa roasted Brussels sprouts with their piquant relish were a hit, even among the sprout agnostics and atheists. They vanished pretty fast, along with the cranberry-bourbon relish.

Erica and Jessica brought an exquisite version of Tarte Antoinette with them:

antoinette

I think this is the fourth version of this delight: last year’s original, then the Bûche de Noël version, then the Junapalooza tartlet version, and now something that looks like a sheet cake, but is actually a pie. Sheet pie! Note that it is decorated with rose geranium leaves, which smelled divine, and sprinkles for festivity and cuteness. You can never have too much.

Jonathan brought tarts he made from huckleberries picked last summer. They tasted like a summer day:

tarts

I took a stealth photo of Jessica in her lovely thrift store dress:

jess

Now that she is grown-up sized, I feel weird about making her pose in front of other people. She noted that it is a relief now that she can buy grown up clothes, since clothes designers seem to feel that kids have no taste.

Jarrett and Kalli joined us. It had been too long since we saw them, and it was great to catch up. They brought the irrepressible Archimedes with them, the artist formerly known as the World’s Cutest Puppy, on the fourth anniversary of his adoption.

The cats were not impressed with this canine visitor. Clyde hid in the studio, his desire for petting and admiration for the crowd warring with his dog terror, and Audrey sat on the stairs, gazing at everyone, but especially Archi, with utter disdain and disgust. It’s how she rolls.

Lichen was missing, on this, his birthday evening, but you know how he is about his birthday in particular and the holidays in general. We missed him, but we did have Clayton with us, our intrepid partner in cider making, who had ridden up here on his motorcycle from San Francisco on Thanksgiving Day. I love it that we are seeing him more often these days.

Jonathan expertly tapped the keg of our home-made cider, and we, the cider makers, toasted each other, the orchard, and the day we made that dream come true. I will always remember that day as a particularly special one.

Because everyone is always welcome at these celebrations (or any time, really – my door is literally open), some of my brother’s ham radio buddies joined us, bearing an odd selection of jumbo-sized gifts: a huge jar of marinated artichokes; a jug of cheap red wine; and a chocolate cheesecake the size of a wagon wheel, which has cornered the market on the valuable real estate in my refrigerator.

The rain held off so that the outdoor living room could be used, and after the guests left, Megan and I sat by the fire, drinking Cointreau and discussing the party. As Jessica sighed happily that evening looking around her with a plate of food on her lap, “I love my life!”

A YEAR AGO: It was T-Day eve. And things were not going according to plan.

Ready or Not

ready
Ready to Go

I was planning to sleep in until it was light(ish) outside on this T-Day, but the ever-willful Audrey had other ideas, as she often does. She woke me up at 4:30 to start my doorman duties. I tried to go back to sleep, but at 5:00 am I gave up, got up, and made coffee. Since I was up anyway, I texted Megan, who was still at work, to wish her a happy Thanksgiving and she responded “Calling cops to ER! Yeah! Happy Thanksgiving!” so I guess I should not complain about wayward cats.

It’s just as well that the Audrometer went off as early as it did, though, because it’s about 1:00 pm now and I have finally had time to sit down after running around all day. As usual, I have no idea when people will show up or who will be here, but the house and I are as ready as we’re going to be. For some reason, this year I was finally able to let go of worrying about how the house looks and accept Megan’s always sage advice that the visitors are coming to see me, not the house.

I had the bright idea of dragging the wicker chairs from outside and putting them in front of the heater to dry off from the nearly 13 inches of rain we have received season to date (versus last year’s 3.5 at this time). I cleaned up a bit outside and collected cushions and blankets for those who will brave the chill to sit by the outside fireplace.

I was listening to Curtis Mayfield and working on the dressing when my brother appeared with a bucket of ice, in which he embedded the keg containing the cider we made from our apples. Then he headed home to make tarts from huckleberries he picked during the summer, while I finished off the dressing prep, scrubbed the potatoes we grew and put them in a pot, and prepped for this recipe for honey and harissa roasted Brussels sprouts with lemon relish.

Much like a couple of years ago, I experienced some turkey trauma this year. I was foiled in my attempt to try the splaying technique allowing for braised turkey legs with caramelized onions, though I carried through with the dry brining attempt. The recipe said to roast the bird at 450 degrees for half an hour, but after about 15 minutes it was alarmingly brown. I covered it with foil and managed to jam it back in the oven, though it pretty much touches the top of the oven. I turned it down dramatically and am currently hoping for the best.

After that, I preened and am wearing pearls and a Murano glass necklace bought in Venice ~mumble~ years ago. It goes perfectly with my pink blouse. I’m hoping that the rain holds off and that I will have time to put my unusually elegantly shod feet up and read about Victorian murderesses before the company arrives.

Thanksgiving Eve

cranberries
Hello star dish, my old friend

I always say that the secret to surviving Thanksgiving is to plan ahead and delegate. Despite following my own well-meant advice, this year’s Thanksgiving celebration has already been a little on the epic side, and it’s not even here yet.

It involved several pre-work shopping expeditions (another secret: grocery shopping is much less painful, and lines are significantly shorter, when it’s done at 6:30 am) and after work tasking. My original plan was to try this intriguing recipe, but when Rob delivered the 23 pound Turkzilla on Tuesday evening, it soon became clear that even Mom’s Cadillac roasting pan was insufficiently capacious for the bird to really spread out and make itself at home. And even if it were, my bijou oven could probably not accommodate it.

The monster is jammed into the roasting pan, and after work on Tuesday, I dry brined it by rubbing Maldon salt, the zest of two Meyer lemons, and some pepper onto its enormous carcass. Afterwards, I obediently “patted” sprigs of thyme and smashed garlic all over it and then put some fresh bay leaves in the cavity after removing the grossness that always lurks in there.

I can’t say I understand how the flavor will perambulate through Turkzilla, but I am hoping for the best. After putting it into the refrigerator, I roasted and peeled chestnuts. That was all I could do that night.

Today, when I came home from work, where my productivity was severely limited by the thousands of spam emails flooding into my inbox (last count: 29,858), I set to work on making the traditional cranberry bourbon relish. The smell of Jack Daniel’s is much less unpleasant in the afternoon than in the morning.

As it bubbled away with clementine zest (I seem to be quite zesty lately), I chopped up yesterday’s chestnuts and today’s pecans, correctly pronounced “puh-cahns” by those Southerly inclined, for dressing. My dear friend and Southern belle Janice will be pleased to know that I am planning to bake it in a dish “and not in a bird’s behind, which we in the South consider to be tacky.” Erica considers baking dressing in the turkey to be a salmonella fest waiting to happen, so not doing so is made of win.

Erica had a slight culinary setback. The squash she had set aside for her truffle luxurious not pumpkin pie had exploded with mold, so her delightful and delicious Plan B is Tarte Antoinette, which Erica first unleashed on our unsuspecting tastebuds last Thanksgiving. Maybe this should become a tradition.

As the day darkened, I cut up what seemed like an endless supply of bread for said dressing, a combo of Cafe Beaujolais sunflower bread, Costeaux Bakery’s multi-grain pain de levain, and some ciabatta, so it can sit in a bowl and stalenize overnight. Tomorrow I will add the apples, celery, onions, etc. Hopefully after all this, it will not taste like Subway.

The final task du jour was making the lemon relish for the honey and harissa roasted Brussels sprouts. Everything else can wait until tomorrow.

A YEAR AGO: You guessed it! Same Bat time, same Bat station!

The Secret World of Food

food
Deskside Delivery

Of the many things that have surprised me about working at the clinic – and there are more than a few – one of the most unexpected is that it is a hotbed (or hot kitchen) of food. This occurred to me when I found a steaming bowl of menudo on my desk one day, a gift from one of the receptionists. It made me think back to the other culinary gifts that have turned up in my office since I started working there.

  • Panuchos, with all the accessories in little Baggies so all I had to do was put them together when I got home. Dinner’s ready!
  • Pumpkin bread: Like a deeply moist and spicy gingerbread. Delicious!
  • Freshly laid eggs – Just bring the empty carton back for more. Downside: makes Safeway eggs vary from the unappealing to the completely inedible, depending on mood.
  • Pupusas – In photo above. Corn tortillas with delicious fillings. As with panuchos, they come accessorized with little Baggies of goodness.

Of course, the leftovers from the endless meetings which all require food (there is one in particular which I am convinced most of the attendees only show up for because of the lunch catered by a certain Mexican restaurant) all end up in the kitchen, where they vanish more quickly than you would believe. Somehow, the word gets out that there’s pizza or doughnuts in the kitchen and the ravening hordes descend like a mob of real life Pac Men.

Our operations director, who moved here from Noo Yawk and has the accent to prove it (did you know “Long Island” has a hard g?) is a sugar pusher. She is always handing out candy and doughnuts. She says her philosophy is to start eating sugar around 11 am and keep going until bedtime, making her a real life Gilmore Girl*, since she might weigh 100 pounds at the most on a fat day. She often brings me cookies, including shortbread as a nod to my British heritage.

But the food fest isn’t limited to the kitchen and conference room. On any given day, you might find a variety of chips and salsa in one of the pod – I mean, team** – offices in Medical. Or random cupcakes. You just never know what you’ll find around the clinic. In more ways than one.

*Can’t wait until November 25!

**Yes, there was an actual, non catered meeting held to discuss the important topic of “pod” versus “team”. The team players won. See what I did there?

A YEAR AGO: Out on the town.

Family Style

I didn’t love being woken up at 5:30 on a Sunday morning, aka the only day of the week I can sleep in.

Audrey, however, is uninterested in the sloth of Staff, and in fact deplores it. There are standards to be kept up and doors to be opened, and Her Majesty does not appreciate waiting.

On the other hand, it gave me time to blog while my detoxing face mask worked on the wine I drank the night before and the sun glowed golden through the dark trees.

Thanks, Audrey?

I headed over to the family estate after work* on Saturday. Rio’s daughter Paloma was visiting from LA, and this was the first time any of us had met her. When I arrived, the guest of honor had not, and it turned out that Rio had given her daughter the wrong address, which made it hard for her to find us.

Find us she did, though, and even Scout the mini cat came out to say hello:

scout1

Scout surprised me by hanging around much more than usual. She is generally skittish around humans, especially in the great outdoors. She is hard to photograph because she tends to run away when approached, so this is the best I could do:

scout2

Jonathan was grilling onions and peppers while Megan picked plums and zucchini for me:

zukes

and remonstrated with me for not shopping at the family vegetable emporium more often.

As I peeled the peppers and Jonathan chopped them up, he realized that he hadn’t grilled the chicken yet. So he did that while Megan and I chatted and drank wine with Rio and Paloma. Finally, dinner was served at the giant picnic table Jonathan built. With the grilled chicken and veggies, we had black beans and fresh basil grown on the property, all wrapped up in tortillas. It was delicious, and we all had a wonderful time. It was a great end to the day – and the week.

*My favorite visitors that day were a young couple from Connecticut with their three year old, curly haired daughter Lucy. They had just come from Montgomery Woods, where some of the tallest and most magnificent redwoods can be found. Lucy excitedly told me that they were taller than her father (who was quite tall himself), and her father said that he was still in awe of what he had seen there. “I had to wonder if I was a good enough person to have seen it,” he said. It’s a magical place.

A YEAR AGO: Unexpected showers and traffic incidents. You never know what you’ll find on the Hooterville back roads!

Summer Job

It’s a sunny Saturday morning, and I’m back to my old tricks again, working at the jobette.

Like last year, I will be working six days a week this summer, until Labor Day or until I can’t take it anymore, whichever comes first.

So when I got home from work on Friday, I started making future food while Rob put in a load of Megan’s laundry. It seems that insanity runs in the family, since she is working as a medic at a festival* in Anderson Valley Saturday and part of Sunday, then heading home for her usual night shifts in the ER. It’s how we roll.

Future food for the week included all’amatriciana sauce and sweet and spicy grilled chicken breasts, which I rubbed with the spice mixture to let it sit overnight and made the dipping sauce.

After I delivered Megan’s laundry, I made a Moscow Mule (ginger beer; lime; vodka) in one of my fox glasses and sat back to watch The Americans, a TV show about Soviet spies posing as an American family in 1980s Washington DC. Theme night! I am pleased to report that it was a much more successful cocktail outing than the mint julep experiment on Derby Day, though I wished I had the traditional copper cup for the Mule. Maybe a pretty silver cup would have improved my julep?

*She texted me from the festival: “70 year old men should not wear skin tight marijuana printed bike shorts. Splattered brains don’t scare me as much!”

A YEAR AGO: Unexpected wildlife visitors, inside and out.

Junapalooza II

birthdaycard
Jessica’s birthday card to Erica

Well, this year’s Junapalooza was awesome.

Erica decided long ago that she wanted it to be a fancy high tea. I had my doubts, because fanciness and high tea are not what you usually think about when you think about the family estate. But being Erica, she made it happen. When will I ever stop having doubts? Always trust the Erica.

Erica arrived dressed in a sassy little flowered dress, with a flowered clip in her hair and red Fluevogs on her feet. She wasted no time in covering the Waltons-sized picnic table with a length of sage green (washable) fabric and setting it with teapots, a wide variety of teas, and cake stands/plates. It was bring your own mug.

For those of us (like Self) who are not so tea inclined, Jonathan made some limeade (seen at the end of the panoply of delicacies):

junapalooza1

Erica invited her friends Julie and Darius, who own the delightful café where we plotted Junapalooza over lunch, and whose daughter Bella is Jessica’s best friend. Being professional deliciousness purveyors, they brought little pasties filled with sausages, peas and potatoes, accompanied by a little pot of mustard, as well as tiny cucumber sandwiches (crustless, of course) and perfect little rhubarb and strawberry galettes:

junapalooza2

Erica had made: miniature palmiers; asiago and scallion scones; lemon bars; sausage rolls sliced to look like spirals; mini chocolate bundt cakes brushed with coffee-rum syrup; and tartes Antoinette, which you may remember was the hit of Thanksgiving dinner last year. They are tarts filled with quince paste Erica made from her own fruit, topped with vanilla cream and then whipped cream. So Marie! And so delicious.

Add in my brother’s home-made cherry tarts and you have the high tea to ends all high teas on your hands.

Dave and Jennifer, my siblings’ land partners and our partners in ballet, were there, and Lichen also made an appearance with his sweet dog Keeper, who found a perfect spot in the wildflowers where she could rest and observe:

junapalooza3

Jessica looked adorable:

junapalooza4

An outfit of Jack Skellington t-shirt and a flowered bonnet pretty much sums Jessica up. I am hoping that she and Erica can join Megan and me for a sleepover/movie marathon this summer. I want Jessica to learn the joys of John Hughes movies and she wants me to learn the joys of Full Metal Alchemist. We’ll see how that works out!

As for Junapalooza, it was the best one ever. I’m already looking forward to next year!

A YEAR AGO: Doing wild, wild life.

Memorial Day Weekend

swarm
Bee swarm

Jonathan and Rob kicked off Memorial Day weekend by wrestling a muzzle of bees, as you can see above. Our bees had swarmed and were hanging out in a nearby tree, considering their options, when the boys made their decision for them. They cut the branch holding the bees so that most of them went into the bucket. Then they covered the bucket and took the swarm to its new home.

Unbeknownst to the bees, their new home was right next door to their old home. So far, they are staying put, which is great.

Once the bees were taken care of, we turned our attention to our guests for the weekend. Our friend Carrie had come up from Oakhampton with her teenage daughter and entourage of other people’s teenage daughters. I was afraid that they would be bored up here in Hooterville, but as it turned out, they gloried in the unaccustomed freedom. In Oakland, you can’t let your lovely, tall teenage daughter roam free, but in Hooterville, you can and do leave her and her friends at the pond and expect them to make their way home after swimming. They had a little taste of our childhood, when our parents wanted us to stay out of their hair and the ER as much as possible (pretty much in that order). The rest was up to us.

While the kids were playing in the woods, we started dinner. Jonathan grilled up chicken breasts, onions, and peppers, including a few jalapeños*. When they were ready, I put them into a plastic bag so the steam would help in removing the skins and then cut them up while Jonathan was cutting up the chicken. It all went into his giant, weapon-sized cast iron pan, which also housed the paella and Moroccan chicken at family dinners recently:

dinnersready

In the meantime, Megan was grilling raw tortillas left over from Rio’s daughter’s wedding the week before:

tortillas

She married into a family with Native and Mexican heritage, and the older ladies in the family made these tortillas (and much, much more) for the wedding dinner. Jonathan said it was pretty obvious they had cooked for crowds many times before and made it look so easy. I had never had fresh tortillas before, and I have to say they were a revelation compared to the store bought ones: flaky, light, blistered.

We stuffed the tortillas with the chicken mixture and salsa verde made last fall from ingredients grown in the family estate, as well as estate-grown black beans. While we stuffed ourselves, Jonathan told us the provenance of the giant cast iron pan.

Long ago and far away, he worked on historic ships in San Francisco. He has often deplored how these great sailing vessels were treated and (not) preserved versus the way they are cared for on the east coast in places like Mystic. In this particular case, parts of the ship and her equipment were stowed in leaking warehouses, which led to their inevitable decay, destruction and discarding. One day, he noticed this pan and decided to salvage it, rather than waiting for it to rust and be thrown away. So the pan holding our dinner was doing what it had done for more than a century. It was fun to know that, and good to know that it didn’t end up in landfill somewhere, unknown and unappreciated. Perhaps it could be considered a small act of piracy, but I don’t think anyone would make him walk the plank over it.

*Wiser people than I would wear gloves for that part. The jalapenos stayed in my skin for a couple of days despite repeated handwashing and showers.

A YEAR AGO: The first, but not the last, Junapalooza! A tradition is born.

Family Style

We had the last family dinner at my house before the summer party season moves over to the family estate. Upcoming events include Junapalooza, where we will celebrate my birthday (4), Erica’s (5), and Rio’s (11). Like Jessica’s birthday this year, the celebration will take place on my actual birthday, since it is conveniently located on a Saturday, when we are all available to celebrate. Then there will be Kalli’s traditional Birthday Camping Party in July (not to mention Megan and Rob’s 25th anniversary).

There’s lots to look forward to!

On the day of our family dinner, I came home from work to the welcome sight of Megan already in my kitchenette, chopping things up. Our brother’s giant lethal weapon cast iron pan was on the stove and the cookbook Dad made me was open on the table:

cookbook2

I love how it’s decorated with his drawings, and his inscription to me:

cookbook1

Not to mention the practicality of having the recipes in plastic sleeves, which can be wiped off, unlike paper.

For the last family dinner, we made a recipe from Rio’s mother, and this time, we made one of Dad’s: paella. He always said it was just the thing for a party, and so it was.

Of course, this party consisted of opinionated cooks and picky eaters, so the following modifications were made. Peas and mussels were axed because some of us don’t like them, and the pork shoulder was deemed unnecessary since chicken, shrimp, and garlic sausage were already in the dish. Here is our father’s original recipe:

Paella

6 chicken thighs [we used boneless, skinless breasts chopped into pieces]
1 onion, chopped
1 large red bell pepper, seeded and diced
6 tomatoes, skinned, seeded and chopped, or tinned chopped tomatoes work well [guess which we used?]
4 cloves garlic, crushed and chopped
4 oz. boneless pork, chopped [we omitted this]
4 oz garlic sausage, chopped
1 & 1/2 cups white rice
4 cups chicken stock
12 mussels [omitted this]
12 prawns [we added more prawns to make up for it. Peeled them though recipe doesn’t say to]
1/4 teaspoon saffron
4 oz peas, fresh or frozen [skipped them too]

Fry the chicken in olive oil until brown. Remove to a plate. Cook onions, garlic, pepper and pork over medium heat for about 10 minutes or until onion and pepper are cooked. Stir in rice and saffron, cook for a few minutes, and add stock. Bring to a boil. Add chicken and sausage and mix. Add mussels, prawns and peas to the top of the pan, cover, and cook gently for about 20 minutes. All the liquid should be absorbed and the rice should be tender.

As I said, we didn’t use the mussels or peas, but 20 minutes seems like a long time for both of them. I don’t think we cooked the shrimp more than 10 minutes and they were perfect.

I hadn’t had it in some time, and I had some concern that the only spice being saffron, known more for its expense and color than flavor, would not be enough. But the dish was delicious and flavorful and I am sorry to say that there were no leftovers, which I secretly hoped for.

Jonathan brought a lemon tart with him, made from lemons Rio had brought back from a trip visiting her family in her native Southern California. This time, he added a little lemon juice and almond extract to the shortbread crust, which was magically delicious.

I was having so much fun that I totally forgot to document this in photos. But maybe that’s the sign of a really good time.

A YEAR AGO: Speaking of families, Stella officially joined ours.

Remembering

kings
Dad in Kings Canyon, 1980s

This may be the first year I did not write a post about Dad on his birthday.

I had a hard time with his birthday this year, probably because of losing my Roscoe so recently. I am still struggling with Roscoe’s loss on a daily basis, so I guess thinking of someone else I loved greatly and lost suddenly didn’t help with keeping the flood of sadness at bay.

It would have been Dad’s 85th birthday, a milestone one. I’m not sure if that played into it too. But somehow, I got through the day at work, surrounded by the usual St. Patrick’s Day crap the day always brings, me with my heart aching and everyone else all cheerful. Good thing I’m good at faking it at work.

Thanks to Jonathan’s girlfriend Rio, we had dinner together the day after Dad’s birthday to honor him. When Jonathan checked out my car before I headed to Monterey, I said, “Let’s have dinner soon.” He agreed, and Rio pulled out her calendar, saying “Let’s pick a date, or it will never happen.” So we looked, saw the day after Dad’s birthday was a Friday, and a date was born.

When I came home from work that evening, Lupe and Luna came running up to greet me as usual, and Rio’s car was in the driveway. Inside, I found Rio and Jonathan already cooking in my kitchen(ette), a welcome sight indeed. They had brought everything needed to make Moroccan chicken, a recipe of Rio’s late mother (I’m sorry to say she is now a member of our sad No Parents Club). My brother’s giant cast iron pan was heating on my tiny stove, and he was browning chicken while Rio chopped kumquats.

I put my hair up, opened a bottle of wine, and got out my grandmother Nana’s wineglasses so we could toast Dad and Rio’s lovely mother Gloria. I set to work cutting up apples in the style of that same grandmother (carving pieces off until arriving at the core) to be made into crumble for dessert. I washed dishes while Jonathan made the crumble part, in which the secret ingredient is cardamon. He also puts in a pinch of cloves.

As Jonathan observed, having such a small space to cook in keeps you honest, since you have to clean up to make room to work in. Washing the dishes reminded me of doing the dishes with my much-loved grandfather Hoho* (husband of Nana). He had arthritic hands, and washing the dishes felt good to him. I used to dry, and he’d tell me stories:

meandhoho

These were special moments which I will always treasure.

Rob was already there, working hard at a new shelving extravaganza, and Megan came by after her 14 hour shift with coffee in hand. She has a magical ability to switch from coffee to wine in the afternoon which I admire but couldn’t emulate.

Rio asked to see some family photos. She especially liked this one of Jonathan and Megan in Maine. I’m guessing Jonathan was about 10, which would make Megan 4:

jodmeg

We got so far down memory lane that I almost (but not quite) forgot the crumble, pulling it out of my Easy Bake sized oven just in time. The Moroccan chicken was quite magnificent:

chicken

If I made it again, I’d use apricots instead of prunes, and maybe toss in a handful of toasted almonds for crunch, but it was delicious, and we were glad to remember Rio’s Mom along with our Dad. It made me happy to have my house full of the people I love most, all sharing food we cooked together:

jdrob

It was a wonderful evening.

*So called because of his booming, distinctive laugh. You can read more about him here. He was really something.

A YEAR AGO: Wine and wild turkeys.

Adventures In Cooking

OK…Take Three!

It took me more than an hour and no less than three attempts to make mashed potatoes, a first (and hopefully, a last) for me.

I dared to schedule a slow cooker dinner on a wild and stormy day, and amazingly was able to merrily use electricity all day to make the following Sunday dinner:

Cider Pork Roast with Apple-Thyme Gravy

1 boneless pork shoulder roast (about 3 1/2 lbs.), tied
1 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt, divided
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 1/2 cups apple cider
1/3 cup Calvados or other apple brandy
1 tablespoon plus 1 tsp. finely chopped fresh thyme leaves, divided
1 teaspoon pepper
4 Gala apples, peeled, cored, and sliced; divided
3 tablespoons butter, divided
1 tablespoon flour

1. Sprinkle pork with 1/2 tsp. salt, then brown in oil in a large frying pan over medium-high heat, turning as needed, 10 minutes. Transfer pork and pan juices to a 5- to 6-qt. slow-cooker. Add remaining 1 tsp. salt, the cider, Calvados, 1 tbsp. thyme, the pepper, and 1 sliced apple. Cover and cook until meat is very tender, about 4 hours on high or 7 hours on low.

2. Meanwhile, about 20 minutes before pork is done, heat 2 tbsp. butter in a large frying pan over medium heat. Add remaining 3 apples and cook, stirring frequently, until tender and light golden, about 10 minutes. Transfer to a bowl; tent with foil.

3. Transfer roast from slow-cooker to a platter and tent with foil. Strain slow-cooker juices and skim fat; set aside. Melt remaining 1 tbsp. butter in frying pan. Add flour; cook, whisking often, until golden and bubbling. Slowly whisk in juices and 1 tsp. thyme; cook until slightly thickened, 6 to 8 minutes. Transfer to a gravy boat.

4. Slice pork, scatter with reserved apples, and drizzle with gravy. Garnish with thyme sprigs and serve more gravy on the side.

I used the same pan I browned the pork in to sautee the apples and then to make the gravy (why waste the flavor?) and substituted regular brandy for Calvados.

Attempt One to make mashed potatoes came to an end when I smelled something burning. I knew I’d turned the slow cooker down to “keep warm”, so I lifted the lid on the potatoes only to discover that I had forgotten to add water.

I grabbed the pan, turned off the burner, and took the whole thing straight to the compost pile with the pan hissing in the rain.

Back in the house, I filled the burned pan with water and hoped for the best. I filled another pot with water before I even put the potatoes in it. Passing by to check on it progress sometime later, I lifted the pot lid only to discover that this time, I had forgotten to turn on the burner.

I am pleased to report that Take Three, with the three key ingredients of water AND potatoes AND fire was entirely successful.

I am going to be one scary old lady.

A YEAR AGO: A slightly more successful cooking venture, though not without its own adventures.

Christmas Eve

It’s 4 am. Do you know where your Suzy is?

She is sitting by the heater, Clyde at her side, contemplating all the things she should be doing as the rain patters against the roof/walls.

I went to sleep last night thinking of all the things I needed to do this morning, and this is not conducive to a good night’s sleep, even after a long and tiring day of cooking and cleaning.

I took yesterday off, and spent it cleaning my very humble home and then starting the epic parsnip Vichyssoise for tonight’s dinner. I used to make this for Christmas Eve dinner when Dad came for Christmas (he and my stepmother rented a house in Bodega Bay, partway between me in San Francisco and my sibs in Hooterville, and we all got to wake up together on Christmas morning), and I thought it would be fun to revive the tradition.

My brother dug up parsnips from the family garden, and I also used garlic from the garden. It was a lot of peeling and chopping, and I began to realize why I had stopped doing it. I will just say that between the cleaning and the food prep, it was 7:00 pm and I was still working on that soup, now reposing peacefully in the refrigerator as if nothing had happened. My “day off” was more work than an actual day of work.

My plan for today is to make salad dressing for tomorrow, finish the soup with milk and cream (it is insanely rich) and make whole wheat rolls to go with it. I also have to go over to my brother’s place to drop off Jack Daniel’s to go into the ham glaze and pick up chives to garnish the soup. Megan is going to stop by when she gets home from work early this morning and I will exchange her roasting pan for the salad and cheese biscuit fixings for Christmas dinner.

Our friend Clayton is on his way up today and will be with us for dinner. My cinematic choice for the evening is hovering between “A Christmas Story” and “The Nightmare Before Christmas”.

UPDATE:

The rolls are ready. Some rose to the occasion better than others:

rolls

I don’t think anyone will mind, though. Dinner’s ready!

The propane fairy came by and filled my tank. Of course, he also dropped off a bill for $282, which is due on New Year’s Eve, but it’s nice to have a full tank of gas.

My dear friend Erin stopped by with my Christmas gift, which I couldn’t resist opening on the spot. She said, “It just screamed you!” and so it does. It also fills in that embarrassing gap on my Charlie Brown Christmas tree:

tree

And looks perfect with the other Eiffel Towers just across the room with my Dean & Deluca spice boxes:

counter

She knows me so well!

A YEAR AGO: Santa brought me a power outage. You shouldn’t have! Guess I was more naughty than nice* (as usual).

*My favorite quote from the ever-soapy “Nashville”: “I guess nice just ain’t my color.”

T-Day Recap

It was 44 festive degrees in my house this morning. The boys and I huddled by the heater while the intrepid Audrey went out to explore in the chilly sunshine. I hear that it’s colder here lately than in parts of Alaska, which just seems wrong. Hooterville: putting the “North” in “Northern California”!

With the big chill, we went through most of the wood that my brother brought over for the outdoor fireplace. I had thoughtfully equipped the outdoor living room with throw blankets, but they remained unused (though commented upon), unlike the pillows, candles and an ashtray or two.

Erica and Jessica arrived first, replete with boxes of delicacies: wild mushroom tartlet appetizers; caramelized Brussels sprouts; a truffle-rich pie made from a squash grown on our family property, and Tarte Antoinette, made with a layer of home grown quince transformed into membrillo and then layered with vanilla chiffon. Even by Erica’s extremely high standards, it may have been the most delicious thing she has ever made:

pies

Jessica was sporting the world’s most fabulous (and possibly Suzy-est) hat and fingerless gloves ever:

jesshat

Needless to say, the ensemble, like Jessica herself, is an Erica original. Jessica returned the string of jade beads she had borrowed from the jewelry library last year, selecting a new item for this year. I noticed that all the items she has borrowed so far were given to me by my father.

Lichen still hasn’t realized that Thanksgiving (which is two days after his own birthday) isn’t a gift-giving occasion, so he brought a golden gift bag with artisan root beer for Jessica (“I’m obsessed with root beer!” she exclaimed happily). The root beer had a string of garnets fastened around its neck just for added Lichen-ness.

Jarrett and Kalli arrived with Kalli’s (very little) sister, who is five, and their dog, Archimedes, who was the World’s Cutest Puppy just three years ago, when he posed adorably on my couch. The cats did not find Archi adorable at all. Roscoe vanished for the remainder of the evening, while Clyde and Audrey repaired to the relative safety of the sleeping loft, where they could keep an eye on the intruder. The stairs did not, however, stop the kindergartener, who quickly and accurately assessed the situation: “That stripy cat is mean! But the black one is nice.”

Although she also opined that the dressing I made with the torturous chestnuts and Café Beaujolais Austrian sunflower seed bread “tasted like Subway”, dinner was great. In addition to Subway stuffing and Erica’s caramelized Brussels sprouts, there were mashed potatoes, carrots roasted with cumin and turmeric, fresh-pressed cider from the family orchard, freshly picked huckleberry tarts made by my brother, and cranberry bourbon relish. Jonathan sliced up the turkey after making a wonderful gravy:

jdturkey

We used every single piece of my grandmother’s ivory handled silver and every single plate in the house. Once again, some how, some way, I pulled off dinner for 15 people in my tiny house, and everyone, from the kindergartener to Me (why am I always the oldest?) had a great time. It fills my heart with joy to have my house overflowing with family and friends.

After the guests left, Megan and I put on some music and sat by the dying fire with that bottle of Cointreau, talking about the evening and the Thanksgivings past as the moon shone down on us and the stars sparkled. Life is good.

A YEAR AGO: Post Thanksgiving post.

Progress Report

So…yeah. T Day Eve did not go exactly as planned.

I was delusional enough to think that I could get to work early and leave around noon. It soon became apparent that this would not happen, and I was madly typing up hand-written penciled pages at 3:00 PM. As I did so, a tumbleweed or two drifted past my office, since most of the staff had the sense to take the day off.

As I handed my boss the last page, I asked her when it was due. She blithely replied “A month ago,” begging the question of why we absolutely had to get it done the late afternoon before Thanksgiving, when the person we were sending it to was almost certainly not at work. She then added brightly, “At least you’re leaving early!”

On the drive home, I mentally revised the list of things I could now achieve with the limited time I had left. I applied lights to the tree in the outdoor living room to make it more festive, and then turned my attention to the chestnuts. I soon discovered that keeping them in the pantry was unwise, since more than half a dozen of them were moldy. I cut Xs on the remaining ones so deeply that I practically cut them in half (though it did make it easier to peel them when the time came). I put them in to roast, made an adult beverage, and started on the cranberries.

To make the cranberries, you mince up shallots and zest an orange, then put them in a saucepan with an entire cup of Jack Daniel’s in it, then heat it until it gets syrupy. I was moving the saucepan around on the gas burner when somehow the contents caught on fire and I flambéed it a little. I blew it out, hoping it wasn’t the wrong thing to do, but I am pleased to report that both cranberries and Self are fine.

That was all I could do that evening, so this morning I woke up and roasted carrots, made a delightful spice butter to accompany them, and made two pans of stuffing before stuffing the turkey in the oven. I had a text from a friend telling me that he’s bringing a friend who is, not to put too fine a point on it, a convicted felon. Why not? Bring me your ex boyfriends, your kindergartners, your ex cons. I feel like the Statue of Liberty over here. At least the outdoor living room is ready:

outside

And things are under control inside:

ready

I put my grandmother’s ivory-handled silver in her Wedgwood biscuit jar (circa 1820). The salad dish will hold the roasted carrots and the Majolica jug will have gravy in it. I hope I have enough glasses and plates! Time will tell.

As for me, my hair is curled and I’m wearing lots of diamonds. If not now, when? My mother used to say if your diamonds never see the light of day, they might as well have stayed in the ground. I’m as ready as I’ll ever be. And I’m thankful for everything from the turkey in the oven to my sleeping sister who saved a life last night to grumpy Audrey to all of you. Thank you for sharing my adventures. I am thankful for all of you.

A YEAR AGO: You will never guess!

Getting Ready

Once again, Thanksgiving seemed to sneak up on me, even though I knew it was coming. I found myself lying awake at night “fretting” about it, as my ex used to say*. I later realized that this was partly due to having to plan and execute parties and huge catered meetings at work this month and next, in addition to having the family gathering at my house, and partly due to the fact that for the last several years, when I hostessed with the leastest, I wasn’t working in the Big Town for 5 or 6 days and/or 50 hours a week. So making Thanksgiving is more challenging than usual this time.

As usual, I’m not sure how many people will show up or where I will put them, but somehow we always figure that out. I have commissioned Rob to repo chairs from the family property, where they migrate during the summer party season, and bring them to my house for the winter season. He is also in charge of finding wood to put in the outdoor fireplace for the smoking/outdoor partiers. Despite the drought, I am hoping it doesn’t rain until after Thanksgiving. I need all the seating I can get.

Megan ordered the organic turkey from the Gro, excavated the roasting pan (which was our mother’s, and like everything Mom, it is the Cadillac of roasting pans) and lent me one of her big glass baking dishes for what my Southern friends call dressing. I have apparently learned nothing from previous years, because I assigned myself chestnuts to roast and peel for said dressing, although I know perfectly well that the torture the process inflicts is totally against the Geneva Conventions. As usual, the lure of deliciousness temporarily overcame my inherent laziness.

I also tried to fit in shopping here and there. I stopped in at Safeway before work one morning, and bought a six pack of wine, a bottle of Cointreau (for Megan and me after the guests leave), and cookies for 45 people for a work meeting. Yes, it was 7 am and I was buying nothing but booze and sugar. Of course, the clerk was the best friend of the person who does payroll at work, and ahead of me in line was the head of our IT department, buying virtuous yogurt and a banana. I can explain…

Megan and I met Erica in the beautiful Valley and handed over a Hubbard squash from the garden for her to Erica-ize into a pie (Jonathan is making a pie from apples grown on the property). I’m hoping she and Jessica can come early to hang out with me before everyone else gets there.

As for me, I’m hoping/planning/dreaming of getting out of work early on Wednesday to superficially clean the house (only things that show!), make my famous cranberry-bourbon relish (how surprised are you that I still have Jack Daniel’s left over from last year?) and roast those damn chestnuts with a minimum of swearing. Stay tuned…

*Him: Are you lying there fretting about something?

Me (Reluctantly): Yeeess…

Him (Reasonably): Well, what can you do about it now?

Me (Sadly): Nothing…

Him (Patiently): Then go to sleep.

He would go to sleep and I’d lie there, fretting.

Future Girl

IMG_1850
Oh, future dishes – I think I love you least of all.

The last time I got paid, I made the unpleasant discovery that I was overdrawn by $39. This made me realize two things: 1) Clearly, I shouldn’t have recklessly squandered $44 on gas that day; and B) I should get a summer job.

So I’m working at the jobette on Saturdays through Labor Day. Compared to the hours I work during the week (about 50), it seems like nothing to just do 6 hours. And it’s fun. I love talking to the visitors – last week, a young couple from Berkeley who are getting married here in the fall came in for visitor guides and maps to give their friends attending the wedding. I am always sentimental about brides, even though I don’t really believe in marriage, at least not for me. Go figure.

I also like feeling that I’m helping out my former colleagues, who often pop in to say hello while I’m there. It’s nice to know that I’ve left the place tidy and ready for them to start their work week on Monday.

But that only gives me one day off, and you know what that means. Chores and work preparations have to be packed in during the week somehow. So far, I have coped with this by putting out my work clothes for the next week on Wednesday or Thursday of the current week. I throw in a load of laundry when I get home from work. After work on Fridays, I invest a couple of hours making my lunches and dinners for the following week. This task is made much more pleasant by a glass or three of wine, which as Jacques Pepin so rightly said, inspires the cook.

The downside of this future food though is the present dishes, as you see above. That’s what it looked like when last Friday’s culinary marathon was complete. I left the dishes until Saturday morning. I don’t have to leave for the jobette until after 9 am, so I can sleep in until it’s light outside and still have time to get the house tidied up before I go.

Needless to say, Sundays are completely dedicated to sloth and hanging out with the kitties!

A YEAR AGO: File under Miscellaneous.

What’s for Lunch?

sleepyclydeSleepy Clyde

On Friday night, I was enjoying a cocktail or three (sometimes my moderation tends to be on the immoderate side) while reading in bed with all three cats when I heard an unfamiliar sound. It was the pitter patter of little raindrops! This morning, I was delighted to find half an inch of the rain in the rain gauge. Especially because now I don’t have to choose between feeling guilty about watering (the drought!) or not watering (the plants!).

I was less delighted by the sight of Roscoe throwing up his breakfast, though at least I was able to get him off my beautiful new rug and onto the much easier to clean distressed wood floor. He is still recovering from the scratch on his head and another one on his throat. He really has to stop being so careless of his beauty. As I write, he is curled up asleep on the bed, which I made around him. There is nothing cozier than a sleeping Roscoe, and somehow he manages to look dignified when he’s asleep. And scratched up.

While Roscoe enjoyed his beauty sleep, I made some lunches for during the week. Thinking up something to make for lunch for every day is almost as challenging as coming up with professional looking outfits for every day. I made some curried chicken salad with apple, celery, and raisins, and tried a new recipe for:

Roasted Sweet Potato and Quinoa Salad With Mango Balsamic Vinaigrette

For the salad:

1 small sweet potato, unpeeled, diced into bite-sized pieces
1 tablespoon olive oil
Salt and pepper to taste
1/4 cup quinoa
1/2 cup black beans
1/4 red pepper, diced
2 cups salad greens
1 tablespoon dried cranberries
1 tablespoon salted sunflower seeds

For the dressing:

1/4 cup mango, fresh or frozen
1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
1 1/2 tablespoons olive oil

DIRECTIONS

Preheat oven to 400ºF.

Place the sweet potatoes in a bowl, add oil, and stir to coat. Sprinkle with a touch of salt and pepper. Spread evenly on a pan, and roast for 20 or so minutes, stirring a couple times, until the potatoes are soft.

Place the quinoa and half a cup of water in a covered pot on high. Bring to a boil, reduce to simmer, and cook for 15 to 20 minutes or until the liquid is all soaked up and the quinoa is tender.

Puree the mango with the balsamic vinegar and water, and set aside.

Allow the roasted potatoes and quinoa to cool to room temperature. Mix with the black beans, red bell pepper, dried cranberries, and sunflower seeds. Toss with dressing and greens when ready to eat.

A YEAR AGO: A visit to the de Young Museum.