Disquiet

This week is my spring break, and my kids’ parent/teacher conferences. This means all week they get out at 12:30. Half days. It’s also been raining for weeks on end now, and the extended forecast calls for not so much as a peep of sun in any foreseeable future. Not even a ‘party-cloudy’ or ‘chance of showers’ day— nope. Just solid, gloomy, heavy rain. My garage is flooded and leaking in more than a dozen places and I’ve lost boxes and boxes of things. I can’t bear to think about it, and it’s far too sodden and dangerous to go through it all until it dries out. There was so much I was going to get accomplished this week, and instead, all I’ve done is play catch-up. And I’m not even caught up- just cold. I start back to school on Monday, and my kids are off for spring break. Still don’t know what to do about that. My heart is full of butterflies caught in tightly stretched rubber bands. I want to run, but its too cold and wet. So here I sit, strumming on my heart strings. Limbo. Disquiet. Cold. Listening to the wind howl outside and the giant raindrops pebble the glass, I wonder if the giant Maple in the yard might snap and give me new problems. March evidently didn’t get the memo about going out like a lamb.

I did notice a hyacinth up int he yard though. So there’s that…

Recipes: Pork Carnitas, Spanish Rice & The Best Beans Nearly Ever

There are some folks I’m going to miss painfully from this area when we move in a few months. One family in particular I just adore, and I wanted to do something nice for them- they’ve watched out for me and my kids since the divorce and move to Little House, their kids are wonderful to mine, and I just love them. So tonight, I was their personal chef- which might not be a biggie to some, but this friend HATES to cook, so it was a beautiful way to serve her and her family. Plus, it was super fun. I’ve had some requests on Facebook for the recipes, so I’m just going to put them up here for posterity.

To begin, I made the salad above. It’s a lot of work (all these recipes are, really, but they’re totally worth it to really treat someone).

Pork Carnitas

  • 3-5 pound pork loin roast
  • 1/2 cup worcestershire sauce
  • 1/2 cup chicken broth
  • 1 tsp oregano
  • 1 tsp powdered ginger
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp smoked paprika
  • 1 tsp garlic
  • 1/2 white onion, minced

The night before, on the lowest setting possible, I toss all this in my slow crock-pot cooker. Let it cook all night, and then a good part of the next day. It will be fall apart tender, and crusty on the edges when ready. One hour before serving, drain juices and shred the pork with two forks. It should be like buttah. Put back in the slow-cooker and add:

  • 1/2 cup dark brown sugar
  • 1 small can green enchilada sauce

Toss to combine, and let warm for an hour. Alternately— and I love doing this— spread the pork on a rimmed baking sheet and place under the broiler for a few minutes to get a crispy crust on the tops. Yummmmm….

Mexican Rice with Lime & Cilantro

I have to admit this is a recipe I springboarded from one I saw on Americas Test Kitchen. But if there’s a better place to start, I haven’t found it.

  • 12 ounces tomatoes, either ripe or canned. I usually use canned.
  • 1 medium white onion
  • 2 jalapenos, seeded, veined and minced
  • 2 cups long-grain brown rice (you can use white, but I like the tooth of brown)
  • 1/3 cup cooking oil
  • 4-6 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 cups chicken broth
  • fresh cilantro, finely shredded
  • 1 lime, juiced

Preheat oven to 350* In your food processor, whirl up the tomatoes and onions to a smooth, uniform puree. This is part of your liquid for cooking the rice. Yeah, I know- crazy. But it works. Trust me— and totally gives major flavor payoff. Set aside.

Wash your rice. Yes. Put it in a fine-mesh strainer and rinse under cool water until the water is clear. The cloudiness you see when you start is the starch on the rice, and rinsing makes each grain separate and fluffy. It’s worth the extra step.

Add oil to a dutch-oven or other lidded oven-safe pot. Heat until shimmering, then add the drained rice. Stir for 6-8 minutes, while rice toasts and gets opaque. Add the jalapeno and garlic until fragrant, about a minute. Add the tomato/onion puree and the chicken broth, and bring to a boil. It will sizzle like crazy when you first add it. No biggie.

When it comes to a boil, put the lid on tightly, and pop the whole thing in the oven. Bake for about 45 minutes, stirring occasionally, until grains are soft and separate and unbearably delicious looking.

Pull from the oven and toss with the cilantro and the lime juice. Yum.

The Best Beans (Excluding Nana’s)

  • 1 pound dried pinto beans (okay—and delicious— to use black beans)
  • 1/2 minced white onion
  • 1 cup tomato sauce
  • 4 cloves garlic, 2 for early, 2 to finish
  • 1 tsp fresh ground cumin
  • 1 tsp salt
  • shredded cilantro

The night before, rinse beans, and put in a pot covered with water. Bring to a boil, then turn off and let them sit over-night. In the morning, drain water and refill with fresh, making sure the water is a good inch or so over the top of the beans. Toss in the onion and two of the garlic cloves. Simmer on low all day, watching the water level. Add more as needed.

When beans are tender, drain off nearly all the water and add salt, tomato sauce, second garlic cloves, cumin and cilantro. Stir to combine, warm over low heat until all the flavors blend and you cannot resist eating them. That’s it.

I also served this with my homemade guacamole. Oh, and Crema Enchiladas. Have I given you all that recipe yet? I’m no Ree, but I do all right. Enjoy!

I LOVE MATH!

HUGE EXHALE… I better do that now, before the next enormous wave overtakes me. I just submitted my final paper for this quarter. Was it just me, or did it seem like I wrote about 5000 pages this time, and finals took about three weeks? Good grief, I’m glad that’s over. I think I managed to pull out of the mid-quarter nose-dive I was in too, and am hoping for decent grades based on the work I completed.

Now… next quarter is going to be brutal. But I have to start psyching myself up for it now- I’m not worried about a single thing- except for math. I have to take and pass college Algebra. I know I can do it. I know I can. I can. I can. I can.

See what I’m doing there? So cheer me on, if you can, and help me conquer this beast that has been hovering over my shoulder for nearly 20 years. I’m changing my mantra this quarter- I freaking LOVE math. Logic is awesome! I love parabolas and letters mixed with my numbers! Math is all kinds of logical awesomeness! And I can do this for 12 weeks. I can do anything for 12 weeks. Right? Right. Damn right. Hoooah.

Onward.

Random Crap: Golden Gate Edition

We can just completely ignore what the fog does to my hair, and imagine this will pretty much be the Virginia look as well, due to start in the fall.

It’s really really hard to finish and turn in your last final when this is out your window beckoning you to come out and play… I have one final left, and the professor was totally cool and emailed me the file and told me to take in and just submit it to him electronically with no penalty. Sometimes living now totally rocks.

Yeah, so I made a quick jump home for the weekend. The kids had time with their dad at my house, and I had some miles that needed to be burnt- et voila, a free weekend away for mama!

Got to spend some time with my family, see my brother, my nephews, hang out with some friends, and eat some of the best food on the planet. Sorry, Washington state, but San Francisco forever beats the flannels and Uggs off you in any foodie competition, barring none.

The Pacific ocean is my favorite.

I really really love airports and travel. The flurry and hustle and excitement of going somewhere— I don’t care where— is just intoxicating and I adore it. I would rather have an airplane ticket to somewhere that a new bag, or a fancy night out, or even sexy new shoes- yes, I meant that! (most of the time)

It’d been two and a half years since I was in San Francisco. When I’m away for too long, it’s easy to imagine my memories are idealized and it’s not really as lovely or as wonderful a city as I want it to be. Then I come home. And I realize my memories are actually faded photographs of what is real. It’s better. Golden, ephemeral, achingly beautiful. More than any memory.

No matter where I live, no matter where I go or end up, or how many places my wanderlust traveling heart takes me, San Francisco will always— always— be home.

 

BusyBackSoon

Finals week. Don’t mean to drop off a cliff, but I have about 25 pages to write in the next three days, an oral presentation, one written final, and Bean’s next IEP. Try me again on Thursday, when I will either be a heaping pile of relief, or crying bitterly into my Postum.

Random Crap: Finals Again

Are there any pictures where Bean is not either making this face, or hiding? No. No, there are not.

Yes, folks, it’s that time again- and while it may appear that I’ve dropped off the western cliffs of Portugal, I have instead been deposited somewhere much less picturesque (and not nearly as warm)- Finals Week. I’ve been buried and writing and writing and writing. Two weeks left until the end of the quarter, but its been a heavy one, and I have some massive papers due. I can do it. I will do it. It might not be pretty.

Of course the boys have their Pinewood Derby finals week. Because I need something else to either fail, or miss, or in some other way drop the mom-ball. Yay! Yeah yeah yeah, I know it’ll be fine- but dude. Cut a chick some slack somewhere!

It’s my mom’s birthday today. It’s also my ex-husband’s birthday. Freud would have something to say about that, I’m sure. I always liked Jung better anyway.

One thing I’ve realized lately is that when the call comes, when the letter arrives, when the sunlight finally falls on your face… none of the struggle even matters. It all falls away, and you just remember the beauty. It’s like childbirth, but constantly, in your whole life. Then again, maybe I just need some sleep. But still, knowing that means I can do this. I can.

I’m cooking dinner with my kids for my ex-husband and his mother tomorrow night. Because my children wanted to, that’s why. And because I’m me, and it’s his birthday, and no one else is going to do it. And my kids matter more than my own awkwardness. Abby is making the cake. She says it will be rainbow– and I can’t even pretend that’s impossible.

How many pages can I write tomorrow on the leadership of the American Enlightenment in between making carnitas, tortillas, guacamole and tomato pepita dressing? Taking bets now…

Abby conducted the morning assembly at the kids’ school this morning. She read the announcements, and gave the birthdays out. She was justifiably proud.

Used a store credit at Sears to have the oil changed on my car today. That’s right, creative ingenuity in action! And the guy threw in new wiper blades too!

My neighbor is buying Bean’s swingset from him, and he’s thrilled because I have promised them all they can use the money when we get to Virginia to buy something new for themselves. In our most-likely tiny apartment. Advance apologies to whomever lives below us.

Speaking of Bean, I woke the other night to find him next to me. This is highly unusual- unlike Jeff and Abby, Bean has never liked to snuggle. It was 3 am, and he was curled up next to me, watching an infomercial. He looked at me and with great wonder whispered “Mom! this commercial has been on for a whole HOUR!”

We have another IEP on Monday. His team is moving him back from a 504 to a full IEP. It’s part of the extra safety net for when we move, and part of what I told them would happen when the first moved him to a 504. Oh well. Someday, I’ll be the professional, not just the dumb mom. (I jest- his team is really wonderful- it’s just hard sometimes for a group of professionals to always weigh mom’s perspective as the viable one.)

Watched the full moon rise tonight over Mica Peak, on my way to school. Spectacular. It’s the small things.

Sister Worden

For those of you who grew up in the church, it might be something you’ve never thought about- I don’t know. Until today, I had never thought about it either. If you grew up with Fast and Testimony meetings as part of the weft and weave of your life, you have no doubt heard your parents, most likely your siblings, possibly your friends, maybe even your grandparents or your leaders give thanks for you. Eventually, when you got married, you probably heard your name spoken with gratitude from the pulpit by your spouse. It’s as simple and natural as breathing to be thankful for those we love and include them in our testimonies.

When Sister Worden climbed the pulpit today to help her disabled son give his testimony, the last thing I expected to hear, as her son stepped down, was her voice over the pulpit, giving thanks for me. Me, by name- “I am so thankful for Tracy…” I was wrestling with Bean in the pew and my head whipped up in astonishment. She was looking right at me, and went on for just a moment about how she sees me, and how grateful she is for the kind of Saint I am. Tears filled my eyes, and I think I must have been slackjawed. Stunned. No one, as far as I can ever remember, has said my name over the pulpit as part of their testimony. Waves of gratitude for Sister Worden rolled over me, and I sat there and stared, feeling confused and emotional.

I never even realized it was missing. Sister Worden, for whatever amazing reason, zeroed in on me, and thanked her Heavenly Father for me. I could not possibly have made it up to the pulpit to give my own testimony this morning, but let it stand here, I will never forget Sister Worden and the gift she gave me today.