Do You Need Help In May?

May is almost a busier month than December if you have children. There are recitals, closing exercises, end of year performances, sports awards, graduations and end of year parties. How are you supposed to get everything done?

Well if you need help with driving little ones, picking up groceries, walking your dog or babysitting in the month of May, Carter is home on the weekdays and is ready to work. She is working the weekends at Camp Cheerio until she goes at the end of the month to get the horses at camp ready and stays for the rest of the summer.

She said to me LI need things to do on the weekdays until I go to the mountain for the whole summer.” So what better way to put the word out of her availability than through the blog. Just send me a message and I will give you her text.

Sorry if you read this and want her to work in some place other than Durham or Chapel Hill. I would like to keep her home a couple days this summer since I won’t see her from May 25- the end of August, except for our July 4th visit to Camp for one meal.

So if you want dinner made for the kiddos, or just want to go for a walk without the kids, give Carter a call


The Old Folks At Home

Years ago we were introduced to the French version of Bocce called Pétanque by our friends the Deprez. Russ and I were instantly hooked on this ball throwing game. I purchased a Pétanque set of heavy metal balls in San Francisco and brought them home in my carry on later that year. Then Russ told his father we liked this game and he gave us another set of balls for Christmas or a birthday, I can’t remember because it was like six years ago.

The Deprez have a fancy Pétanque court made out of stone dust and metal edging on their beautiful bed and breakfast property. We thought we needed to build something similar in order to play at our house. And so the sets of ball languished in the garage, pristine and untouched.

The list of outdoor improvements at our house far exceeds our budget, our time or our energy. Yesterday, after Russ leveled my garden beside the driveway he came in and announced that if we completed one outdoor project every weekend we might get through our list in three years. That was a very generous timeline.

Last weekend while cleaning out the garage Russ found both Pétanque sets. He thought about building that court and went online to read about it. To his surprise the only requirement for a court was flatness. “It can be grass, gravel or sand.” he told me. We had the perfect driveway Pétanque court all this time.

Today, while Carter was still away working at Camp Cheerio for the weekend we started playing. I was ahead by two points as Carter pulled in the driveway. “Are you all playing Bocce?” She asked in an accusatory tone.

We explained it was French and she still thought it was something for old people who lived in queens. We pointed out that the very regal Shay who was sitting on her bed at the edge of the garage watching made it fancier than a Carter thought. Carter didn’t buy that. Nevertheless Russ and I didn’t let her disdain stop us from finishing our game, where Russ won.

I see some good driveway parties in our future. Get out the folding lawn chairs and the styrofoam beer cozies, we are going to embrace being old farts.


Amba, Never Heard of Her

In the continuation of my Israeli Street Food study, something I know nothing about in person yet still want to master, I made this mango sauce called Amba. It is a sweet and sour sauce to put on Chicken shawarma or falafel. Tonight I served it with both lamb meatballs, falafel and chicken. It is spicy, but not so over whelming that you burn your mouth. It takes a little time to make, and now I wish I had made more, but it is not difficult.

2 underripe mango- peeled and diced into small cubes

2 T. Sea salt

1T. Mustard seeds

1 T. Fenugreek -ground

1T. Cumin

Dash of cayenne pepper

Juice of a lemon

1 T. Red wine vinegar

3T. Brown sugar

Water

Toss the diced mango and the salt and put in a plastic container covered, in The fridge overnight.

The next day toast the mustard seeds in a dry fry pan for 15 seconds. Add the other spices and the mangos. Stir on medium heat. Add the other ingredients and stir

Until the sugar melts.

Keep cooking until the mangos go soft. Add a little water as needed to keep the mixture moist. It may require about 15 minutes of cooking. As the mangos soften they will get a little darker and the sauce will thicken up.

Remove from heat and cool. Place the sauce in a jar and let the flavors marry another day before eating.

It is similar to a mango chutney, but hotter.

The photo is of th elite leaders spoonful I had left after serving this for dinner. I should have photographed it before dinner.


Israeli Street Food- Lamb Meat balls

When it comes to cooking I like to learn cuisines of different cultures in what might be considered blocks. Not semesters, quarters, months, or weeks, but blocks. Blocks can be different sizes, but once I delve into studying the food of a country, region, or people I stick with it until I feel like I have mastered basics and have a good understanding of the flavor profiles. This is not always my families first choice, but Russ is a good sport.

My most recent block has been Israeli Street Food. It is a relatively specific area. Not so big, but distinct. It started with my falafel craze last month. Then I learned to make Laffa bread with homemade hummus, Israeli salad, eggplant and Tahini. Today I am trying out amba, a mango vinegar sauce and lamb meatballs.

The Amba takes a couple days so it is not ready for publication, but the lamb meatballs are done. In street food they might be cooked on a stick, but I don’t like to carry my food around so I just made balls.

2 cloves of garlic

1 large sweet onion

2 lbs. ground lamb

2 T. Coriander

2 T. Cumin

1 T. Salt

Big handful of fresh mint chopped

Big handful of flat leaf parsley chopped

Black pepper

3 T. soy sauce

Mince the garlic and finely chop the onion (I just ran in through the Cuisineart)

Mix everything else together. Form into balls and in batches so you don’t crowd the balls, brown them all over in a hot fry pan. They won’t be cooked through, but once browned remove from pan and place in an oven proof dish. Once all the balls are done cover the dish with foil and place in a 350° oven and back for 20-30 minutes depending on how big your balls are.

Stayed tuned for the amba sauce.


Freshman Year Is In The Books

At the moment of this writing Carter is in the air, heading home, having finished her exams yesterday. It is hard for me to believe that her freshman year of college is complete. So many years we spent working up to college, how did that her go so quickly?

Of course, some parts were long and slow, like her first semester in Berlin when I did not see her four months. And the weeks waiting for her and her roommate’s housing lottery number to come up so they could figure out where they were living next year. Then picking their housing and having the site crash and have to wait another four days to do it all over again. All part of growing up.

I am incredibly proud of how Carter has managed herself. Russ and I did our best to just be sounding boards and not fixers. The years of training seemed to work out. I think that if you can get through freshman year and get all your credits, not have to hire a lawyer for any reason and still be on speaking terms with your roommate is successful.

Carter did not have everything go her way. She discovered she is not as interested in how the brain works on a molecular level than she thought, but was surprised how much she enjoyed world religions. One positive from taking that class was the required visit to a zen Buddhist center where Carter learned she is actually quite good at meditating. That alone might be worth a year’s tuition.

In the real world lessons of life, she did not get every job she applied for, but in the end got a job that probably fits her best as an Explore Major (read undecided) Mentor. I appreciate the rigor in application and interviewing she had to go through. Those skills are what is most important. Even the not hearing on the Friday when she thought decisions were being announced and having to wait until Monday was good training for what it is like the rest of your life. No, if you don’t hear that day it does not mean you did not get the job, just that other things take precedent for the deciders.

Learning to manage money, time, relationships, work, all the life practicing skills that college provides have happened. Now I get to have her home. As luck would have it Russ had business in Boston and they are flying home on the same plane. But Carter did pack her own room up, meet the Storage Squad guy who took her boxes for the summer, cleaned her room and packed just the summer clothes she needs to fly home with.

Hopefully, when she returns in September she will get to enjoy some beautiful Boston weather, because she certainly hasn’t had ANY this semester. I will be happy she is going back to a familiar campus, some friends, clubs she is part of and classes she is interested in. Also going back to a university apartment with bath and kitchen for tow will be great. No more meal plan. Doing two different campuses in two countries was a lot this year. It stretched her.

So welcome home to my bug. We don’t have many days together before you leave for your true heart’s home of Camp Cheerio, for the summer. Hard work is not something you have ever shied away from. That trait serves you well. Your Dad and I are proud of you.


Other’s Sage Words

Last week one of my oldest friends forwarded me this advice on “How to be perfect.” Perfection is never something I strived for, much to my parents dismay. I have been happy and that is better than perfection in my book any day. Despite the title I did agree with most of what was written so I thought I would share it with all of you. If I were allowed to retitle it I might call it, “Stuff you know when your old, but wish you’d started following earlier.” That may be too longs title. Enjoy!

How to Be Perfect

Everything is perfect, dear friend.

KEROUAC

Get some sleep.

Don’t give advice.

Take care of your teeth and gums.

Don’t be afraid of anything beyond your control.

Don’t be afraid, for instance, that the building will collapse as you sleep, or that someone you love will suddenly drop dead.

Eat an orange every morning.

Be friendly. It will help make you happy.

Raise your pulse rate to 120 beats per minute for 20 straight minutes four or five times a week doing anything you enjoy.

Hope for everything. Expect nothing.

Take care of things close to home first. Straighten up your room before you save the world. Then save the world.

Know that the desire to be perfect is probably the veiled expression of another desire—to be loved, perhaps, or not to die.

Make eye contact with a tree.

Be skeptical about all opinions, but try to see some value in each of them.

Dress in a way that pleases both you and those around you.

Do not speak quickly.

Learn something every day. (Dzien dobre!)

Be nice to people before they have a chance to behave badly.

Don’t stay angry about anything for more than a week, but don’t Forget  what made you angry. Hold your anger out at arm’s length and look at it, as if it were a glass ball. Then add it to your glass ball collection.

Be loyal.

Wear comfortable shoes.

Design your activities so that they show a pleasing balance and variety.

Be kind to old people, even when they are obnoxious. When you become old, be kind to young people. Do not throw your cane at them when they call you Grandpa. They are your grandchildren!

Live with an animal.

Do not spend too much time with large groups of people.

If you need help, ask for it.

Cultivate good posture until it becomes natural.

Plan your day so you never have to rush.

Show your appreciation to people who do things for you, even if you have paid them, even if they do favors you don’t want.

Do not waste money you could be giving to those who need it.

Expect society to be defective. Then weep when you find that it is far more defective than you imagined.

When you borrow something, return it in an even better condition.

As much as possible, use wooden objects instead of plastic or metal ones.

Look at that bird over there.

After dinner, wash the dishes.

Calm down.

Visit foreign countries, except those whose inhabitants have expressed a desire to kill you.

Don’t expect your children to love you, so they can, if they want to.

Meditate on the spiritual. Then go a little further, if you feel like it. What is out (in) there?

Sing, every once in a while.

Be on time, but if you are late do not give a detailed and lengthy excuse.

Don’t be too self-critical or too self-congratulatory.

Don’t think that progress exists. It doesn’t.

Walk upstairs.

Do not practice cannibalism.

Imagine what you would like to see happen, and then don’t do anything to make it impossible.

Take your phone off the hook at least twice a week.

Keep your windows clean.

Extirpate all traces of personal ambitiousness.

Don’t use the word extirpate too often.

Forgive your country every once in a while. If that is not possible, go to another one.

If you feel tired, rest.

Grow something.

Do not wander through train stations muttering, “We’re all going to die!”

Count among your true friends people of various stations of life.

Appreciate simple pleasures, such as the pleasure of chewing, the pleasure of warm water running down your back, the pleasure of a cool breeze, the pleasure of falling asleep.

Do not exclaim, “Isn’t technology wonderful!”

Learn how to stretch your muscles. Stretch them every day.

Don’t be depressed about growing older. It will make you feel even older. Which is depressing.

Do one thing at a time.

If you burn your finger, put it in cold water immediately. If you bang your finger with a hammer, hold your hand in the air for twenty minutes. You will be surprised by the curative powers of coldness and gravity.

Learn how to whistle at earsplitting volume.

Be calm in a crisis. The more critical the situation, the calmer you should be.

Enjoy sex, but don’t become obsessed with it. Except for brief periods in your adolescence, youth, middle age, and old age.

Contemplate everything’s opposite.

If you’re struck with the fear that you’ve swum out too far in the ocean, turn around and go back to the lifeboat.

Keep your childish self alive.

Answer letters promptly. Use attractive stamps, like the one with a tornado on it.

Cry every once in a while, but only when alone. Then appreciate how much better you feel. Don’t be embarrassed about feeling better.

Do not inhale smoke.

Take a deep breath.

Do not smart off to a policeman.

Do not step off the curb until you can walk all the way across the street. From the curb you can study the pedestrians who are trapped in the middle of the crazed and roaring traffic.

Be good.

Walk down different streets.

Backwards.

Remember beauty, which exists, and truth, which does not. Notice that the idea of truth is just as powerful as the idea of beauty.

Stay out of jail.

In later life, become a mystic.

Visit friends and acquaintances in the hospital. When you feel it is time to leave, do so.

Be honest with yourself, diplomatic with others.

Do not go crazy a lot. It’s a waste of time.

Read and reread great books.

Dig a hole with a shovel.

In winter, before you go to bed, humidify your bedroom.

Know that the only perfect things are a 300 game in bowling and a 27-batter, 27-out game in baseball.

Drink plenty of water. When asked what you would like to drink, say, “Water, please.”

Ask “Where is the loo?” but not “Where can I urinate?”

Be kind to physical objects.

Beginning at age twenty get a complete “physical” every few years from a doctor you trust and feel comfortable with.

Learn how to say “hello,” “thank you,” and “chopsticks” in Mandarin.

Belch and fart, but quietly.

Be especially cordial to foreigners.

See shadow puppet plays and imagine that you are one of the characters. Or all of them.

Take out the trash.

Love life.

Use exact change.

When there’s shooting in the street, don’t go near the window.


Sometimers

I know better, I do. I can’t remember to take something out of the oven at the right time without a timer. I am not 25 years old anymore. I can’t keep multiple jobs going in my head at the same time. Still, even though I aware of my actual age and limitations I still walk away from the oven without setting a timer, even though I have more timers available to me than ever. The one on the oven, the magnetic one attached to the fridge, which is portable, the timer on my phone and the easiest one of all, the one on my watch. I need to engrave “Don’t walk away until you have set the timer,” on my oven.

This afternoon I put a big pile of butternut squash on a pan in the oven, set at 400° and went upstairs. I knew it only needed twenty minutes. I had 22 minutes before a conference call to advise some people about raising money at an auction I’m auctioneering for. Did I set the timer? You know the answer.

I did not return to the kitchen before my call. I had the call which lasted 55 minutes and only once I hung up did I notice the smell. I have been trained by making similar mistakes in the past that by the time I smell what is cooking in the oven on the floor below me it is burned.

Shoot! Sure enough I incinerated the squash. So much for that being an ingredient in my Mah Jongg Salad tomorrow. Have I learned my lesson? Probably not, but writing about it might help reinforce in my mind that I need to use a timer because I clearly have sometimers. If you don’t know what sometimers is you might be under 35. It is that you forget things some of the time. Not as serious as Alzheimer’s, but frustrating nonetheless