full of life

Our weekend was sunny, slow and surely spring.

On the year’s first truly warm days, our world is barefoot and awake as long as possible. New freckles, yanked dandelions, evening gatherings around fire. Suddenly, our deck is full of neighbors and we’re making dinner.

We hiked and collected bits for Cup’s grave. I found her dead in the coop last Friday. She’s laid an egg that morning, snuggled into me as I filled the water basin. Her death is a mystery. Heart attack? I dug a hole and then, at Ruby’s request, waited for my kids to bury her. I watched the flock perform an unmistakable ceremony; they took notice of Cup throughout the day, circling her sunlit, circular resting spot.

We reinstalled the spruce tree fort, bigger and sturdier for our bigger and sturdier kids. Margot lost her fourth tooth, her smile now interrupted by a big space that permits saliva to fly all about with every “th.”

^ thrifted sheets, stitched and saftey pinned together + draped over limbs ^

We gardened. We hid and found eggs. We baked.

^ an easter tradition in our home: challah hollah! I’ve tried many variations of paska and eventually we fell more in love with challah. We like this recipe best, found in one of my favorite books: Baking Bread With Children. ^

^ my homemade, hippie, refillable eggs ^

^ neighborhood egg hunt and potluck ^ 

^ e. bunny spotted on the hill ^

I told Margot about Cup while we biked home from school. Her hair folded back around her helmet as she squinted into the sun. “That makes me sad. I feel really sad for Ruby.” Her strong little legs peddled next to mine. I nodded and exhaled. “Can I pluck a few feathers to keep?” I told her yes. We crossed the creek. It was loud.

Once home, Margot touched and studied Cup with a tender science. I stood silent witness, learning from my daughter how to honor a life and ponder a death. “So her heart isn’t beating anymore. So the blood isn’t moving and that’s why she’s so hard? I can feel her bones. I am happy it looks like she is sleeping,” she observed with her hand on Cup’s wing. “I feel like we should eat her tonight? Or something? Do you?”

I married a man forever endeared to childhood, who sees water slides on the hill, trapezes on a branch, monkey bars in an old fence. Yesterday his craigslist dreams came true when he was the first (of dozens, in minutes) to email about a giant trampoline for sale. We jumped until our beds begged us inside. This morning he and the girls were out there at 7am, urging the sun up with laughter and bounds. The trampoline happens to rest right over the earth where Cup rests.

^ photo by Margot of me, embracing my inner cheer ^

Ruby was tearful as she walked to see to her beloved Cup, her hands raised up into the security of her dad’s palm on one side, mine on the other.

^ 2012: Margot (4) and Ruby (2) with Gold and Cup ^

It was dusk and Cup’s grave was gone. We saw an expanse of dirt and pinecones. My confusion shifted to amazement when I realized. They danced and kicked dirt in front of us, demonstrating how it was done. Margot said it out loud: “Holy cow. The other chickens buried Cup. That’s so cool.”

I unearthed her for Ruby. She said goodbye, her blond curls blurring into Cup’s blond feathers. And then we tucked her in for good.

All weekend, a colorful herd of kids ran figure eights through our open doors. Andy and I shared short kitchen slow dances in the middle of making snacks, giving underdogs, making snacks, applying bandaids and making snacks. We always wanted our home to be a home kids would come to, settle into, run through. I don’t think we ever imagined how messy it would always feel but we did imagine how full of life it would feel. It is full. Lively.

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on an island

I wrote a whole essay about the last week and then left, my laptop open on the couch, to get my daughter from school. I returned to my 20 pound cat purring on the keyboard with pages and pages of

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It autosaved and previous drafts vanished. It’s pretty perfect, really. My time away had an enigmatic pulse.

When I was pregnant with my first daughter, I read hundreds and hundreds of birth stories. I was hungry for the information in others’ experiences. I wanted to feel prepared for anything, to know the possibility of everything from orgasm to death. When my body was swollen with a Margot, my doula grabbed my 29 year-old hands and locked eyes with me, just a few inches from my face.

She said, “Your experience will be different than every other person’s experience. EVER.”

I had a unique recipe cooking inside of me when I boarded the first plane, as the sun set and Ruby clutched the hem of my shirt in despair. “I will miss you TOO much mama,” she sobbed over and over.

“We will miss each other the perfect amount.” I hugged her, believing her sentence more than mine.

I jumped into a stretch of firsts, the two biggest being my first time away from my children for more than a night and first time hosting a workshop. Continue reading

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spring break: stay home and play

I imagined driving 15 hours to Steamboat Springs, Colorado to see one of my best friends. Or maybe back to our friend’s cabin. Or to Red Lodge. In the end, we stayed home, at the recommendation of my daughters. “If we can’t go somewhere where we get to see all the grandmas at one time then I want to just stay home and play. ” Margot decided for us.

I leave tomorrow for Write Doe Bay. I will be gone for six days, quite a bit longer than the few 24-hour periods I’ve spent apart from my children in the last six years. Like one of those end-of-garage-sale deals where hosts hand out paper bags that you get to stuff with treasures for a dollar, our week was affordable and full of goodness.

Our staycation was the ideal for two reasons: 1) I got a solid 11 days of playing with my kids, which infused my body with appreciation and love. 2) I got a solid 11 days of playing the the kids, which excited me for my first solo trip.

Day 1
Shopped for lumber to make a coffee table I designed and convinced my husband to make. Cleaned house. Read books. Rehung the swing to accommodate those growing limbs.

Day 2
At the creek. Saw the year’s first bees. Continue reading

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heirloom kitchen 01 > make soup

I really loved all the chat about dinner time in your homes. The sharing and passing on of foodie information is one of my very favorite items to catch and give.

My cousins and I each have a share of my grandma’s recipe cards, her handwriting unmistakeable in it’s light touch and airy spacing. I think she hummed while she wrote. I call my mom to hear her speak Aunt Sally’s Bread recipe each time I make it, even though I have it written down. A few of my most cherished objects include Andy’s grandma’s rolling pin and my grandmother’s silver. I store all our food in old jars, imagining the history with each vessel.

I spend a lot of time over food with my kids. They like to guess what is next. These days, they are usually right.

Should we add some baking soda mama? 

I think chopped carrots would be good in there! And some sage? 

It is time to knead? I’ll get the flour ready. 

Exactly, to the day, three years ago: Ruby, 1 and Margot, 3

This is how intuition is developed. It is not biological; it is inherited. Cooking confidence is gently handed from one person to another, a kitchen heirloom.

Developing intuition and an explorative approach in my kitchen comes from practice and curiosity. Every year I gain new tools, tips and tricks simply by reading, watching and asking questions. My kids too.

This begins a new series where I give you my secrets — where I share what has been shared with me. I hope to also share your secrets: to bring in guests who will tell how they learned to perfectly cut a grapefruit, cook beans over a campfire, clean cast iron or gracefully feed an army of after-school children. Continue reading

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plan / no plan (good recipes)

For the first time in my life, I planned a week of suppers and did all the shopping beforehand. I’ve heard of people doing this. My mom is the queen of planning; last month she sent out a group email to coordinate our meals at the family reunion. It’s in August. I’ve seen the planning charts on pinterest and even considered pinning them. I’ve looked at those together people with envy and admiration. I’ve thought it could be me and then reminded myself that I am the one who doesn’t even make a grocery list and, when I do scratch out a list on an old receipt, I leave it or change my mind. I make dinner magic from there’s-nothing-in-the house. I wing it, I don’t follow recipes.

Until now. Now I do both! Or, at least I have that one time.

A while back, I had dinner with a dear friend and I blinked in amazement as she rattled off her plans for meals over the week her family would be in town. I also had family coming to town and planned to hit the store and buy piles of food that would turn into dinner. I said I wished I had her organizational bones. When I said that out loud I realized I do. At one time, I headed up giant fundraising campaigns, coordinated hundreds of volunteers. And now I own my own business. I am no stranger to lists, to a spreadsheet. I choose to wing it in the kitchen because it is great fun to invent with my kids. They choose ingredients and we go for it. We dance around the kitchen and make impulsive decisions that (most) always work out. And there is a time to plan. Like when we have a full house of loved ones and I don’t want to have a post-ski-5pm-kitchen-scramble because I’d rather have everything at the ready so we can shake martinis while food peacefully simmers into dinner.

Plus! Yes, there’s a plus. With two grandmas and a grandpa who want to help and because the ‘recipe’ didn’t only exist in the dusty corners of my brain, I had tasks to hand out. Supper-making was collaborative and relaxing in a way I hadn’t experienced with house guests.

Our week of planned dinners was grand. And, here, I am sharing our menu with you.

Day 1:

CHEESE QUICHE + SALAD

I am just in love with Mark Bittman’s Basic Cheese Quiche, crust and all! (Yes: I use his over mine for this recipe). Because this quiche recipe isn’t posted by him online anywhere, it isn’t mine to share here. But it can be easily found in his cookbook. And his cookbook is wonderful.

Day 2:

CHICKEN TIKKA MASALA 

I followed this recipe exactly and it was so good. Continue reading

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