Thursday, October 30, 2014

All the Feelings


I finished my first knitting project with my Grandma's help. That was the first day we were at the hospital wondering when Grandpa was going to die. Although, at the time I wasn't convinced he ever would.

My paternal grandmother died a few months before I was born. My paternal grandfather died in the Korean War before my dad was even born. The grandparents I grew up with on that side weren't related to me by blood, but usually I don't think much of that matters, especially in this case. Grandma and Grandpa always felt part of a pack of people who I would love no matter what. And they would do just the same for me, even if I spilled red Hawaiian Punch on their new boat upholstery and sang inappropriate themed Christmas carols over Christmas Eve dinner (actually, Grandma loved that and hopefully Grandpa didn't hear us!).

I felt sentimental learning how to cast-off my first scarf with Grandma. Like even when we both go someday, the gift of this day will be passed on because I will teach my kids and it will go on and on like that in some way. 

On Monday we had a funeral for my Great Aunt Mac, my dad's aunt. Scott and I got to say goodbye to her the weekend before and she had said herself that she was ready to go and I guess that's the kind of thing that makes you cry less as the days go on, even if it doesn't on the day you touch the casket and say goodbye. 

It wasn't all tears, though. One of the pallbearers almost fell into the grave which sent my sisters and I into that uncontrollable laughter only possible when you're not supposed to be laughing at all. But I think this is just a sign of Aunt Mac being with us, encouraging us that life is good and that it goes on.

Back at the hospital I admitted that I had such happy and sad memories from that room. Hospitals really scare me, but I was getting comfortable enough in that room to take my shoes off and eat pretzels. Reconciliations were made between family members in that  room. We all brushed my grandpa's hair in that room, and I've never even touched his hair before. We cried a bunch in front of each other whenever we felt we needed to. We handed each other kleenex and water. We hugged Grandpa and made his blanket wet with our tears. We watched him take his last breath around 5:40 p.m. on Tuesday, then the sun set behind his favorite island as the oil derricks turned black against the orange horizon. 

The next morning Dad, Danielle, Scott and I all had work at the same office. I borrowed a blue, lace dress from my mom and she gave me a fake pearl necklace and earrings to go with it. Since we were staying in Orange County until my Grandpa passed, the only other option I had to wear to work was my all black funeral dress and I was trying to avoid any questions about whether I was mourning or not. Instead, people kept asking me if I was going to an evening party. I joked with Danielle that I was going to eat hors d'oeuvres at my desk and she said I should start playing my Spotify music out loud and ask people if they wanted to dance. 

Scott and I rode home only talking twice about which gas station to stop at and how I didn't believe in Keebler elves, but only fairies, watching the sun set at almost the exact time and in the exact same way that it had set the day before, right after Grandpa had passed. A sliver of a silver moon came out and we declared it a Grandpa Moon; the Poppy Moon happens when it's full. 

And now here we are, still trying to feel everything and carry on. 


Grandpa's 85th birthday in March

Friday, October 24, 2014

Foreign Food Friday: Ratatouille


I don't think I've ever walked to the beach on an October morning in my spring suit, but this morning I did. The streets were damp and there was fog hanging in the crevasses of the cliff. Some of the fog was even turning light pink off-shore and looked especially pretty when a white seagull went past it. The water is almost 70º, though, so it doesn't matter what month it is when it comes to wetsuits.

Remember a few weeks ago when I mentioned I was getting bored with some of our usual menu items? And that trying recipes from other countries might be the best way to mix things up? Well I got an email from a reader named Adeline containing four recipes her parents used to cook for her as a child growing up in the south of France. I hadn't ever tried any of them, so I was stoked and touched she took the time to send them to me. Ratatouille is hard to spell, but not too hard to make. I will definitely be cooking it again because it's healthy and doesn't taste anything like the things I usually make. It was perfect for fall, too. 

Here is a little story Adeline shared with me about one of her childhood memories of her parent's cooking and below is her parent's recipe for Ratatouille. Thanks Adeline! We loved it! 

"Typing up recipes reminded of eating family gratins with my family when I was a kid. My siblings and I weren't the biggest fans of cauliflower at the time, so we all had different techniques. My brother has always been the responsible, no-nonsense one, so he ate the veggies together with the cheese topping, just like my parents. My sister and I separated the 'yummy' cheese and 'yucky' cauliflower. She ate the cheese first, in case she suddenly died at the dinner table and missed out on the best part of the meal! My technique was to eat the cauliflower very fast while holding my breath and quickly drink a huge glass of water to avoid the taste, then eat the cheese as a reward. That must have been SO much fun for my poor parents... :) "

Ratatouille
France
from Adeline & Family 

The main trick is to sauté each vegetable separately. Use the same quantity of eggplant/zucchini/peppers. Ratatouille can be served over rice, by itself or as a dip. When my grandma made too much ratatouille she'd even turn it into a pie (spoon over shortcrust pastry, sprinkle cheese on top and pop it in the oven).

Ingredients


3 large garlic cloves, sliced
1 large or 2 small aubergine (eggplant), diced
1/2 cup onion
2 courgettes (zucchini), diced (*I did 1 zucchini, 1 yellow squash)
2 peppers, diced
2 fresh tomatoes, diced, or half a can of tomatoes 
1-2 fresh basil stems, whole
Add the following herbs to your liking: 
Salt (be generous)
Pepper
Oregano
Thyme
Paprika 

Instructions

In a large pan (I've always seen my parents and grandma use a Le Creuset-type cast iron French oven, but any regular pan with a lid will work) sauté the garlic and onions in olive oil with some herbs or dry thyme, about 1-2 mins. Add the eggplant and lower the heat; cover the pan and sauté until partially cooked and caramelized, stirring occasionally, about 5 mins. Add a little bit more oil if the eggplant gets too dry (they shouldn't stick to the pan). Remove from the pan and set aside.

In the same pan, sauté the peppers until they're partially cooked, about 4-5 mins. Remove from the pan and set aside.

Sauté the zucchini (and squash if you added it) in the pan until they're partially cooked, about 4-5 mins. If they render too much water, just turn the heat up a bit until evaporated. 

Add the garlic, eggplant and peppers back into the pan along with the fresh or canned tomatoes and the basil leaves. Add some herbs and 1-2 bay leaves and a dash of paprika. Cover and cook on low-medium heat for another 30-45 mins or until the vegetables are cooked through. 

Can be served at room temperature or cold, but Scott and I ate it hot. 


+If you have any special vegetarian friendly recipes from another country or culture, please don't hesitate to send them over

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Appropriate Distractions


I needed this weekend as a distraction of sorts. With some sickness affecting our circle of family and friends and life changes approaching, I find my mind suspended in a way; unable of focus on anything else unless I find the appropriate distraction. Spending time at the beach, eating brunch, bowling and barbecuing with friends seemed to be the perfect distractions on Saturday (and as Stephanie pointed out, "that's a whole lot of things that start with 'B'" :). 


(this post could alternately be titled Funny Faces)

The weekend was spent in Orange County at these spots:
Newport Beach River Jetties 
{thumbs up to all!}

surf photos by Scott  

Monday, October 20, 2014

Love Like the 4th of July



We used to go to my Nonny's country club for 4th of July. My Poppy was a golfer, but after he died Nonny still kept the membership even though she had crazy arthritis and had never picked up a club even when she didn't. Her five grandchildren begged her to keep it because on America's Independence Day we loved ordering our own sodas, playing the games set up on the driving range until almost dark and winning cheap stuffed animals and basketball jerseys that would dissolve in the wash. 

The membership to the country club was expensive. I knew that even at nine when I overheard my mom and dad and aunt and uncle trying to tell Nonny it might not be worth it. No one was going to golf and all the kids wanted to do there was run on the course with our shoes off and chase the swans. But she kept it anyway. She kept it for 15 years. 

I remember one of my favorite parts of 4th of July there was changing into our jammies in the country club ladies room. Ladies were in there in their bras! There was hairspray next to the sink and combs soaking in some weird blue water! There was carpet in the bathroom! When we came out we got to walk around this fancy club with Poppy's picture on the wall in our pajamas! It was special like eating your birthday cake with your fingers. It was happy like having your whole family together. It was having our whole family together, because I felt Poppy was there too.

Sometimes it's hard when you know you need these people most after they're gone, but you have to know they gave you everything you needed to take on life before they left.

Friday, October 17, 2014

Again with the Love and the Surfing and the Writing


What I took away most from the encouragement you guys sent to me on my latest "I want to write a book, but don't know how" post is that trying is worth it even if it is as scary as it sounds.

It's not really that I'm afraid of being rejected. All the rejection I've had in my life so far only seems to amuse me now. I GAVE MY HIGH SCHOOL CRUSH A LOVE LETTER AND HE TOLD MY FRIEND TO TELL ME "THANKS!" How entertaining that is to me now that I know that moment only served to benefit me in the long run. 

I'm worried about starting a book because, what if I'm not as good at writing as I hope I'll be when I sit down to do this? I'm worried it will be really hard and I won't do it right and I'll waste a bunch of time...and, I hate waste. 

Some people say. Tons of people say, "Do what you love and you'll never work a day in your life." I say, try not working towards anything for a week and see how unhappy you are. I also think work is always work, even if you love it. 

I love writing. I love surfing. Oh my goodness, the things they've given me; time with my dad, time with my husband, time with my mom, time with myself-- time, period. My writing has preserved time for me. My surfing has kept me young. 

These loves have made every day exciting, but that doesn't mean they weren't work.

I can only imagine parenting is the hardest job there is. People say that all the time too, and then they tell you things like "You'll never know how much you can love something until you have a child." I think people say these kinds of things over and over because love and work go together: You work the hardest for the things you love. You love the things you work hardest for.

But just like it is scary to love someone, it is scary to do what you love.

But how exciting is it to think about trying like you've never tried before? 

I'm looking forward to that part.


surf photos: by Chris Grant for Jetty Girl Online Surf Magazine
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