Cafe Violette Lemon Chicken

cafevioletteThere is a tiny little corner restaurant in Capitola, California (where I had my very first apartment when I was 18) called Cafe Violette. Right off the Esplanade, a curved sweeping drive that mimics the curve of the Monterrey Bay, lies this little wedge-shaped cafe. Through one small door, you can get Polar Bear ice cream, some of the best stuff on earth. (Honey and almond is my favorite, followed closely by Olollieberry) and through the other painted door is a small counter and two table where you can get best felafels in California and a divine concoction called Roasted Lemon Chicken.

capitola-tresleAfter work, David and I used to walk down to get an order of Lemon Chicken, make our way through the hilly streets,  and up a steep little brush-thick path to the top of the railroad trestle. We would sit on the trestle with our Lemon Chicken and felafel’s and watch the sunset over the Pacific. I don’t know if this is really the best lemon chicken on earth, but  it’s colored with sweet memories of an idyllic time long gone, and for me, it’s manna from Heaven. It’s really simple and really yummy. Give it a try…

Cafe Violette Lemon Chicken

  • 4 boneless skinless chicken breasts
  • lemon pepper
  • lemon juice and zest from 2 lemons
  • 1/2 cup mayonnaise
  • 1 Tbsp yellow mustard
  • salt and pepper
  • Shredded lettuce
  • lemon wedge
  • sliced fresh tomato and/or cucumber
  • 4 pita pocket breads
  1. Dice chicken breasts into bite-sized cubes, about 1 inch.
  2. Toss with juice and zest of one lemon, and a healthy dose of lemon pepper.
  3. Broil in a 400 degree oven for about 20 minutes, or until cooked through and browned, but still moist.
  4. While chicken is broiling, in a bowl combine mayonnaise, mustard, lemon juice to taste. Shred lettuce, and warm pita bread.
  5. Toss cooked, hot chicken pieces in mayonnaise sauce.
  6. Serve either as a salad topped with the chicken, or stuff the pita with the chicken and lettuce, accompanied by the lemon wedge and tomato.
  7. Find a train trestle, climb it and look toward the ocean. Or, find a nice high spot and appreciate wherever it is you live.


Heart Drops, Woman Survives

Sending your kids off to school each day is really an exercise of faith. I’ve thought on this before, as I contemplated the unlocked gates at the edges of the school yard, the other people driving my kids somewhere, and the open nature of the way we live. Anything can happen- and yet, mostly we coast along blissfully enjoying Normal.

Jeffrey signed up for choir a few months ago; they have a performance next Monday, so an extra practice was scheduled today. The mama I share carpool with is leading the choir, and she said she would bring Jeffrey home. Score! I usually drive the afternoon shift, so ran errands instead shuttling kids.

Heading home from errands, David was walking back from the bus-stop with Abby and Beanie. Rolling down the window we chatted “No Jeffrey yet, huh? He shook his head and hefted Bean into passenger-side window for the four-house drive home.

Hmmm- I wonder why they are taking so long? As I’m reaching for the phone to call my carpool companion, it rings, “Hello?” I don’t recognize the caller ID. ” Hello??”

“Um, may I ask who is calling, please?” Jeffrey says from the other end of the phone. “Jeffrey! Where are you?”  Here is where I learn how getting accurate information from a seven-year-old boy is nigh unto impossible. He begins to ramble on about the gym, the library, the teacher is gone, there are some balls, school is empty, I wasn’t there… I am trying to piece together what he is saying, and ask him, in my best  I’m Calm and not Panicking at ALL voice to please hand the phone to a grown up…

A mom takes the phone.  She tells me Jeffrey is the last kid at school, everyone is gone, and should she stay with him or would I like to meet her at the YMCA?

WHAT? Holy…what…where…what happened…crap…who… how on EARTH…what? WHAT? WHAT???!

How did my kid, who was supposed to be at CHOIR practice, end up alone at his elementary school? I have a million questions, but by now I am roaring down the road, and half way to the school. I dare a cop to stop me. I cannot believe… how… WHAT?

Pulling into the school (rather, I bounce, because I hit a curb in my, er, eagerness) I see my little boy, oh so little looking, with his backpack and coat, sitting with this mom, the doors are locked, the lights are out, everyone has gone home.

Jumping from the car, I gather him in my arms, hug/squeeze him as tight as I can, which quickly turns into dontyoueverdothisagainyoungman, doyouhearme!

The mom tells me she was there with her kids playing in the gym, and as the other kids went home, Jeffrey was the last kid. When it was time for her to go, she didn’t want to leave him there. She offered her phone so he could call home. I thank her profusely, embarassed and chagrinned and releived and confused and sick all at the same time.

Jeffrey safely buckled into MY car, we head home. “So what the heck happened, Jeffrey? Why were you in the gym and not at choir practice? Do you know how much that frightened me and dad?” I heard a convoluted and confusing story of the library, wandering around, playing with some kids, checking where I normally pick him up, and then deciding playing in the gym was a good idea.

I call my carpool mama. She is freaking out. She had no idea. When Jeffrey didn’t show up for Choir, she just assumed I had picked him up, since it wasn’t a regular practice day.

“Why didn’t you go to choir, Jeffrey? AND WHY ON EARTH.. oh hell. I give up until we get home.

David and I sit down in the kitchen with him and try to figure out what happened.  Near as we can tell, and it’s still spotty:

  • He says he forgot it was choir day, but on pressing from Dad, he says he doesn’t want to be in choir anymore.
  • After wandering around looking for me, he just opted to hang out and play, and after a while, all the other kids went home, and he was the only one left.

All while I was assuming my kid was safely at choir practice and would be home safely, like he is every day.  I’m still reeling. I can’t figure out if this is all my fault, if this is crossed wires, if this is Jeffrey being an innocent little kid, if I need to go to the school and ring some necks, if this was Jeffrey being a naughty twerp and skipping choir…

I mean WHAT IF THAT MOM HAD JUST LEFT!?!?  Oh, the WHAT-IFS are just going to kill me on this one…

Do I go to the school? Clearly, at home we are revising and laying down some Law- but this is just… it’s too… AUuuuugh! I just can’t believe it… I need a tranquilizer.

Seasons a Changin’

It may not be visible yet, but spring is absolutley under the snow. It’s in the sunlight and on the cold late winter wind. Just like you can smell fall coming in August, you can smell spring coming now. It’s a hint of warmth as the wind whips the trees, it’s rosy glow as the sunlight peeks in the window, however breifly. The squirrels and robins know it, as they poke around my backyard, looking for nuts and fat worms. It’s there…

And my fingers are itching. I’m suddenly finding myself wanting to paint the kitchen, rip out the countertops, buy a new faucet, sand the porch, slipcover the sofa and sew some bright and perky new stuff. I may not be able to see spring yet, but my inner artsy-fartsy chick can sure feel it coming.

If only we had a job…

I’m trying to figure out what I can do that doesn’t cost hardly anything. Painting the kitchen is at the top of my list- I can scrape up enough to buy a gallon or two of some paint, and that packs the biggest bang for the investment.

* * * * * * *

I just wasted about 17 minutes looking for an old picture of our kitchen so I could make fun of myself and then post what my plan is to make it awesome. Now it’s not funny, and I’m mad at the computer and two out of three kids are now whining and pestering me for dinner. Sheesh. You’d think I was a parent or something.

Oh well. Better luck next time.

Random Crap, Weekend Edition

I’ve got five kids this weekend. Mo’s boys are here, because poor sweet Mira is in the hospital with a nasty tummy bug. She’s OK, and I’m sure Mo will update when she gets home, but for now, my house is a house of chaos and testosterone. Abby is doing her best to keep up with the raging river of boy-ness. It’s all Lego, all the time.

I love hospital soap. It’s a strange obsession I’ve kept hidden for years, but yesterday, while sitting with Mira, the smell of the hospital soap was like the best perfume. I must have washed my hands 10 times. It reminds me of when my babies were born. I’m not talking about the industrial smell of hospitals as a whole, but the antiseptic, clean, non-perfume smell of the hand soap the doctors use… So I finally wrote down the name and ordered some. I’m so excited. It’s all mine! Mine, I say!

Our visit with Auntie Heather was fantastic. My children adore her, and, well, I do too. We had planned for a tea party, but I just can’t seem to keep my life in order enough to pull off my plans most days. The tea party went by the wayside, but we did have some nice meals, made some stuff, and just hung out. It was quality and quantity time. Heather and I even got to take off by ourselves for a movie night.

Stella is a boy. We are still calling him Stella. It makes him fit in with the family.

I’ve got a backlog of paintings right now, and I got an order for textile patterns yesterday. It’s not much money, but I have to fill it- by next week. So if you’re waiting, per normal, I’m sorry and I promise I haven’t forgotten about you.

Beanie had his IEP yesterday for Kindergarten. He is going to be continuing on with the AIM program for next year, too. I know he really wants to go to Jeffrey’s school, but his team of teachers say he’ll benefit from another year of extra support and OT/PT/Speech. It’s hard to argue with the growth he’s had, so we’ll go with their recommendations.

Two bunches of broccoli stems in your trash can stink up your entire garage for two weeks, just in case you didn’t know.

We’re in month 14 for unemployment.  Somehow, some way, still hanging on. I try not to think too hard about the ‘how” and just keep riding the wave.

The car goes in to the collision center next week. We opted for going through the insurance, even though the the girl’s dad wanted keep the insurance out of it. That seemed a little too risky for us. We also needed a rental car that holds three car-seats- and staying private ran us the risk of being stuck with that bill- and we need another bill lie… well, you know. So, sorry, Dad Guy. I understand wanting to keep the premium down. Really, I do. Maybe you should have a chat with your daughter about driving while on her cell phone. She’s lucky we didn’t file a police report.

Remember the Birthday Banners? I made pink ones for Valentines/St Hallmark/Tea Party Day. They’re cute, and still hanging over my dining room table. It’s a little bright color in an otherwise too long winter gray season.

Watching the Oscars tomorrow night. It’s the only award show I care about… And I use “care” will flippancy and abandon.

Up this week: Taxes! Woo-hooo!

Pickle Brine

Is there some sort of deficiency that would make a person crave and yearn for pickle brine, lemons, salt and other sour things? And no, before you jump to any far flung conclusions, I am quantitatively NOT pregnant.  And yet, I can’t leave the pickles alone. Salt and vinegar potato chips are manna from heaven, and I crave lemon with a passion. To be clear, we are not talking about yellow, ucky cooked pickle juice- no, for me it’s the briney, half-sour stuff. Bubbies, to be exact.

Does anyone else crave pickle juice and lemons?

WinCo: Hello and Hell No

wincoLow prices are good, right? I like low prices- especially these days, when we aren’t exactly rolling in the fat income-tax brackets. We’ve been bombarded by ads for this new-to-our-town chain, and the PR and buzz in the papers is good- this company supposedly is employee-owned, supports American producers and offers a no-frills experience so they can undercut Voldemart. I’m down with that. Let’s go check it out.

David, Abby and I head off to the new market. It’s been open a few days, so I really wasn’t expecting a mob-scene. People were stalking shoppers in the parking lot for a space; we skipped that, and took a spot in the south forty. There were no grocery carts anywhere, but surly there must be carts inside, right? Nope. There was a line of angry, scowling, cold people eyeballing anyone with a cart- and heaven help you if you laid your hand on an empty cart and asked the kindly old lady if she was done with it- I’m lucky I still have fingers. So, no carts. None. Nada.

David thinks we may as well try and go in, cart or not, and he carries Abby. On entering the store, the aisles are set up like cattle queues- you can only go one way. And it is wall-to-wall people. You can’t move. Over the heads of the people, I see a sign that says “Cheetos 98 cents” Oh wow. That IS cheap! But there is no way to get them. David makes a break for it and wiggles his way to the check-out counter- only to find it is an hour wait to pay.

Forget it. Now I’m ticked. I drive half-an-hour to this mess of a store, only to have no carts, a million people, and an hour wait to pay for cheap junk food? Nope. I don’t need it.

So a week goes by, and I think, hey, maybe it’s better now. I’ll give it a try. If I can pick up some treats for half what Voldemart charges, cool. I’ll give it a second shot. So last night, after the kids were in bed, I tossed my cloth bags in the car and gave it a second shot.

The parking lot was much better- and I parked easily. There were plenty of carts in the queue, and the crowds, while still there, were much smaller than last week. Excellent. I make my way through the maze of food. Cheerios for $1.49, bananas for 19 cents per pound, Kraft Mac n’ Cheese for 50 cents a box. All very good deals- I load my cart, continuing to meander through the maze.

At the register, check-out Dude tells me WinCo does things differently, and I will be bagging my own groceries, to save them money. OK, no biggie. I brought my own bags anyway. He also tells me they don’t take cards, only cash or checks or debit cards. Oh. Uhh…. Well, I never carry my check book, but I do have my debit card with me- only there is no money in that account. I call David, and he transfers some money, and we should be fine.

Only, they can’t run the transaction straight. They can only run it debit. And, since I never use it debit, I have NO FREAKING IDEA what my PIN number is. Don’t get me wrong- I use the card all the time- for gas, for groceries, for stuff- but I always just run it through. Never use a PIN. Not in years.

So there I am, piles and piles of groceries around me, half of them bagged and back in my cart already, and no way to pay. I call David back, and ask him his PIN number- he doesn’t know either. I tell him to go look in my other purse in our closet upstairs, because once upon a time, I had a scrap of paper from the bank scrawled with my PIN- and while he complies, Checker Dude rings through the next person, and the next.

No luck. David can’t find the paper. Helpful Checker Dude now suggests I use the ATM they have in the foyer to get cash from my credit card. Dude, you think I know the PIN that card, but not this one? And that I’m going to pay cash-advance fees on my cheap groceries?? Helpful Checker Dude also tells me they do take Food Stamps, if I want to pay that way. Oh &# %&*%, Checker Dude, it’s ON.

I walked out. And I plan on never, ever walking back IN.

Two trips, more than four hours of my life I will never get back, cheap prices on some food I didn’t even get to leave with, horrendous aggravation and frustration, crowds, and inconvenience. Hmmm… they make Voldemart look almost appealing. Almost…

BusyBeBackSoon and Happy V-Day.

vintage-valentinesAuntie Heather gets here Thursday, and so I shall be off family-ing for the weekend. The plan is to hang out at home a lot, kiss and tickle the kiddies, jump on the bed, bake some cookies, take a bubble bath the most excellent foamy Elmo squirt soap, and knit a snowflake hat. Easy peasey.

Thursday is going to be insane. Beanie has a Valentine party at school, I am cooking for twenty+ at the Bishop’s Storehouse, my quilt group is meeting in the evening, I have several blocks to sew before the meeting, I have valentines to make, carpool to run, a sick kiddo, and the insurance adjuster wants us to bring the car in… One of those things has to give, and I think the car will be the loser in that eenie-meeie miney-mo game. Oh, and I suppose I should clean up Auntie Heather’s room, since the boys have been using her bed as a boxing ring. The sheets, pillow and quilts have been forts, landslides, boxing gloves and various other castles in sky. She might like a made bed. Maybe. Hopefully there will be enough leftovers from the BSH that I don’t have to do dinner. David: getting kids ready, breakfast and bus-stop trips. He is also changing the sheets on the Boxing Ring.

It’s after 1:00 in the morning- I need another Excedrin and a diet Coke if my master plan is not going to be foiled. Surly something else will come up…

p.s. If I haven’t returned your phone call, don’t feel bad- the list is long and distinguished.

p.p.s. Have a happy V day. Ptttttlth.

My Own Ophelia

opheliaWhen I was in fourth grade, my tight-knit group of girlfriends took me out to the Par Course (remember those?) and through the low, slanting light of late fall, told me they had decided together I couldn’t be friends with them anymore. Then they ran away, leaving me standing under the parallel bars with wickedly painful tears welling in my throat, making it hard for me to breathe.

I’ve been through a lot of heartache and pain since then- but I would give birth to five ten more children without drugs before I would stand in my fourth grade blue Nikes, out there under the cold autumn sky.

It was a pivotal moment in my life. The shock and pain was confusing- in grade four, your friends are your life. I was utterly alone. I would hide behind the sun-louvres on the building to eat my lunch. Hiding was less painful than the lunchroom where girls got up and moved. No one would be my partner for games, no one would chose me for teams, in class I was ignored and I slowly became invisible.

So I overcompensated. I became the nicest, kindest girl on the planet. I became a Yes Girl. I would do anything to please the teachers, the other kids in class- anything to have some positive human interaction. Recess gets awfully lonely when you are invisible- and I found every excuse to stay in, to help grade papers, to paint in the classroom. I tested into the Gate program, and studying at lunch became my refuge. I knew more about Greek Mythology and California grassy wetlands than any 10 year old.

In sixth grade, me still invisible, a girl named Wendy moved from Colorado to the desk next to me. She was in Gate too, and was an outsider, and was also the kindest and brightest girl. She didn’t know she wasn’t supposed to see me. We became friends, and were soon inseparable. Sunlight came back into my life because of Wendy.

Junior High started the following year, and with the effluvia of elementary schools flooding into one massive middle school, suddenly my stigma was gone. Girls from other schools knew nothing of my curse, and soon I had many friends. Wendy was still my girl, but I found myself quickly being drawn into a fast moving and popular group of girls. It was heady, to be part of the pretty, popular, (and let’s be honest, snotty and bitchy) clique- but they didn’t like Wendy. I was welcome, she was not.

I wish I could say I chose the high road. I wish I could say I did the right thing. I did not. I bailed on Wendy, and would see her sitting alone in the quad at lunch, her viola next to her, as she read a book. I hid my twinges of guilt and shame in the gossip and machinations of pubescent girl-pack. Make no mistake, there is little more cruel than a group of 13 year-old girls.

I was pretty and popular, I shared hair products, shoes and clothes with the prettiest and most popular girls in school. We shared lockers, had sleepovers, wrote notes about boys, ignored our parents and talked on the phone for hours.

Then, it happened again. How short my memory…

One morning, as I approached the gaggle of girls around our locker, they all walked away. The girl I shared with told me she needed more space, and could I please move my things to my own locker. A cold, hard lump was forming in my belly- but I was still clinging to the illusion that this was just minor.

Walking down the corridor at lunch, I saw the girls lockers open- and in three of them, my school snapshot, amid the many, was turned around, facing the metal. Not gone, not a vacant space- still there- but invisible. Again. I learned that everyone had turned my picture around. They had decided I did not have whatever makes snitty, young, teen girls run, and had excised me.

Seventh grade turned into a living hell. I was no one. I was completely invisible. Wendy had moved on, and was friends with a terrific group of girls who cared more about music, science and grades than about cliques.

Eighth grade was just as dismal. Finally, I met up with a nice girl who was a little bit of an oddball, too, and slowly, cautiously,  our small circle of friends formed. It was those girls I maintained a friendship through the levels of Hell that is Jr. High, and on into High School and through to graduation. But I was scarred. I was guarded, mistrustful and defensive with most people.

To this day, when I think of Wendy, the shame stings my conscience. It embarrasses me that I repeated the horrible pattern. I went to her during those years, apologizing and begging her forgiveness for my crass and hurtful behavior. Of course she was gracious and kind. Of course she forgave me. And of course, her life had moved on.

I don’t know what all this means in the grand scheme of things. I do know the actions of a group of girls, who have probably long-since forgotten my name, changed my life. Even as an adult, I am cautious with new friends. I wait. I wait for the other shoe to drop- I wait to see when they will find the something in me unacceptable. My walls are high, and they are thick, and it takes a lot for me to trust you.

The good that came from those experiences? I take nothing for granted. My friendshipsare choice and few, but deep and treasured. My loyalty is unshakable. If I count you among my trusted, I count you so for life. I value honestly and forthrightness above all else in a friend. And I will return the same.

I will never be invisible again. And now you know.

Wendy and I talk a couple of times a year still, and always exchange Christmas cards. Her husband is military, and she is a chiropractor and naturopath. She has lived in Spain, the middle east, England, Japan and all over the US.  Our kids are close in age. I still love her, and count her among the most amazing people I’ve ever known.


I got nothin’ people. I’m tapped. A dried out husk of a person. I feel like Nosferatu, drained of blood, and ready to blow away. Between the no money, the no job, the kids, the accident, the insurance companies, the husband, the bird, the obligations, the callings, the new ward, the horrible  news every time I turn on the tv, the things I keep forgetting to do… I’m just…numb.

So, I’m shuttering up for the weekend. Hopefully Monday will be better. You know when you’re looking forward to Monday, things are in sorry shape.