Monthly Archives: November 2012

Stop projecting on me, mom!

Sometimes I forget I have a kid. You know, like you forget the cat is around. Or you forget you aren’t wearing pants. Since she’s always there, I can sometimes merge her into my environment. Until she spills something, which is pretty often.

I am fully aware intellectually that she’s not just an extension of myself, but coming out of the baby years when she was so literally attached to me, it’s hard to shed the operating assumption that she is me and I am her. What I am feeling, cold/hungry/tired/sick, she probably feels too and when she’s cold/hungry/tired/sick, I’m probably feeling that way too.

But she’s getting all person-y on me. It creeps up on you. It’s been steadily happening, but you get a major system upgrade I think when they turn 2. She has opinions. Preferences. Strong ones. Suddenly simple things are a negotiation. I can usually get into her head and find a way to convince her to do what I need her to do, but not always. When I fail, it’s usually because I’m thinking that she feels how I feel.

Wrong. She’s a lot less tired than me.

There’s the usual “I don’t want to leave the playground yet” stuff and the “I don’t want to put on my shoes” stuff that all kids do. There’s the usual “I want YOU to give me a bath, not Dada” and the “This is not the cup I wanted” moments. Sometimes her motivation is obvious, sometimes it’s a total mystery. I’m a pretty capricious person, I know that, and I have my own strong preferences. But I can’t always see what her triggers or motivations are, I can only try to put myself in her place. It works… but less and less effectively than it used to.

So as we go along, I get to know the person she’s deciding to be. Which is a lovely way of saying “who are you and what have you done with my baby?”

But every so often, without even projecting, she looks up and says “cocoa” and I say “I was thinking the same thing!” And we are on the same page again.

Butternut Squash Curry

It’s been awhile since I recipe-d at you all –sorry an old Onion joke– but I keep meaning to take pictures of stuff I am making and then forgetting until it’s done or possibly all eaten.

Lately, I’ve been scrapping together dinners from pretty random things and feeling a bit uninspired by it all, but this one was worth sharing. Sweet and spicy, warm and healthy. Perfect for November. Omg it’s November.

Butternut Squash Curry

2 cups butternut squash soup*
2 cups (about 1/2 head) cauliflower
1 medium onion, chopped in big pieces
1 red pepper
2 large carrots, cubed
1 cup shelled edamame
1 cup paneer cubes**
2 tbsp hot red chili paste (less or more depending on how hot you prefer)
1 tbsp garam masala
2 tbsp curry powder
1/2 tsp salt
olive oil

1. Preheat oven to 400 F. Cut your cauliflower into small florets and toss with just a drizzle of olive oil and a dash of salt. Cut your red pepper into bite-size pieces and toss in olive oil. Bake both on a cookie sheet for 10-15 minutes until slightly brown. Set aside.

2. In a large skillet over medium heat, cook your carrots in olive oil, stirring occasionally, until tender and and reduce to medium low. Add your onions and cook until softened and starting to brown, stirring frequently. Add cauliflower, pepper, edamame and stir until combined. Mix in masala and curry.

3. Add butternut squash soup, stir to combine. Let simmer for about 5 minutes and then mix in red chili paste and paneer cubes.
4. Serve over jasmine rice or with naan.

*Butternut Squash Soup

I made my own soup for this, well actually, I used leftover soup for this. I recommend doing that.
Simply roast a whole butternut squash at 400 F for about 35-45 min, in large chunks, scrape the flesh from the skin into a saucepan, add 2-3 cups of vegetable broth (depending on the relative size of your squash) and 1 cup of coconut milk. Heat over medium-low and then blend with an immersion blender or mixer (you could pour into a blender, but then I’d recommend pureeing before you heat) and season with a little curry powder and cinnamon.

**Paneer

You can make your own paneer! I promise! It must be the world’s easiest cheese. You simmer some milk, you add some buttermilk and voila! Stir your curds, strain them into cheesecloth, a dash of salt, squeeze, set them under something heavy. Done. It’s so simple. I used the recipe and instructions here, at The Flourishing Foodie.

Cats in the walls

My husband told me about this dream he had where this orange tabby cat, Cindy, from one of our kid’s books was living in the wall of our apartment with her kittens. I thought this was funny and our daughter was right there so I told her about the dream.

I might have made a mistake in doing this because now my daughter keeps asking about Cindy and if she’s in the wall (“see-see waah?!”).

I have explained in the best way I can about dreams and how this was just an imagined story, but about fiftyeleven times a day I have to restate that yes, daddy had a dream about Cindy living in the wall and it was just a dream, no, she’s not really in the wall, but yes, it’s a funny story. This seems to give her a satisfied laugh and then she moves on for about 20 minutes.

I wonder if she understands what I told her about dreams. She seemed to have a glimmer of recognition when I told her what they were. I bet she has pretty interesting ones. I bet they feature a lot of cats too.

Re-election

For those of you who are depressed about Obama’s re-election, I have a little story for you.

In 2004, the day after Bush won reelection, I remember sitting at Thai Basil in Champaign IL, having a bit of an epiphany that by sending that guy back to the white house we had just sent this horrible message to the world, about Iraq, about the future of diplomacy, about ourselves. I resolved that NEXT time, I would no longer be a bumper-sticker activist and I would do everything in my power to find and support a candidate that would not only be interesting to independents and liberals alike, but would listen to and work with opponents.

I went to work for Barack Obama in the spring of 2007 and did not stop until he had won. I was in seven states, knocked thousands of doors, organized event after event, and I talked to hundreds of voters about their concerns, face to face. I also happened to meet some amazing friends along the way. It is EASY to be cynical about politics, to demonize the candidates, to disparage the other side’s voters, it is much harder to take responsibility for improving the system. But if you really care, you have to get involved. You have to go out there and see how hard it is to be IN politics, how hard it is to solve problems that affect so many different people in different ways.

Not everyone has the luxury, as I did, to go work more than full time for almost no pay, but everyone certainly has the capacity to volunteer in some way. You have to do more than vote. If it’s important to you, you make time. Find a candidate, maybe one who seems like they’d never be able to scrounge up the funds but that inspires you, has talent, shows tremendous wisdom. Maybe that candidate has a funny name, a complex life-story, maybe they are a minority and people tell you “it’s impossible, no one will vote for them.” People might laugh in your face. But you educate, you inform, you get that person’s message out there and you stand up for them. You learn things about your own positions along the way and you begin to value compromise in order to get people to work together. You make the hard sell to people who kinda want to shoot you to get you off their property.

I’m no perfect volunteer, and I’m no amazing organizer either. But I’ve met a lot of people who are, and we all kept each other going. Because of their work, we have a two-term Black president with the middle name Hussein, the Affordable Care Act, the Dream Act, the end of DADT, a nation that did not fall into a deadly depression, and an end to the war in Iraq. So don’t be discouraged and don’t refuse to talk about it. Expect better and start with yourself. Be the change, you are the change, never give up.

The Storm

My city. It was terrible to watch the water sweep in and the lights to flicker out in my beloved New York last Monday. I was so worried about my friends, scattered throughout all 5 boroughs and New Jersey, but especially those in flood zones. If I was still living in my apartment on the Upper East Side, I would not have had to evacuate, but I would have been right on the cusp. I stayed up almost all night refreshing facebook, twitter, the NY Times, anything to tell me what was going on. And Tuesday morning, when the wind and water subsided, I waited for friends to check in, to tell me what they saw, to tell me if their homes were okay, how they were coping without power. The miracle of internet on phones.

And all my friends eventually checked in. Except one.

I found out through a mutual friend that one of my friends from the Obama ’08 campaign was gone, taken by a falling tree in Brooklyn along with her friend, on Monday night. Jessie Streich-Kest was a sweet and unique girl, only 24, only starting her career as a teacher. I spent so much time with her during the campaign, we petitioned together, got lunch for each other, and sat with each other in the office listening to Pandora for what felt like years, but was only a few months.

She was such an interesting person, a born activist and an irrepressible dog-lover, never afraid to go up to someone with a petition or to ask if she could pet their puppy. My admiration for her as a volunteer was tremendous. She and I remained friends after the campaign, whenever she was in town on breaks from UPenn or I was back from whatever state I’d been campaigning in, we’d get lunch, see movies, go shopping. My husband and I, despite being 8+ years older and having very different lives, kept in touch with her because she was so interesting and charming. Jessie and I worked on the midterm elections, for different candidates in the same column, and she finished up at school. When I left NYC, I hoped she would come visit me in Montreal. I hoped I would visit NYC more often to see her and my other friends. My last visit, Jessie and I played phone tag the entire trip and I will regret those missed calls forever.

And I’ll miss her so much. Her students, her friends, her family, her brother, and her parents have suffered an unfathomable loss and my heart breaks for them. I hope they can continue to fight for all the great causes for which Jessie worked so hard. My condolences to her friend Jacob’s family and friends, even though we never met, I know a life-long friend of Jessie’s must have been a pretty amazing person indeed and what I’ve read about him recently completely confirms it. To give to their respective memorial funds click HERE.

Many of my friends in NYC, especially those in lower Manhattan, are still without power, without access to their homes, without transit options. I wish there were some way I could help them. They are tenacious people and I know they’ll recover, again, from what feels like injury to a city only recently healed.

The days ahead for the people in NYC and along the coasts, those that lost their friends and family, will be so hard. Everything will seem too big. I wish them the best and am thinking of them always.

“What saves man is to take a step. And another step. It is always the same step, but you have to take it.”
Antoine de St Exupery

Knock, knock, is it candy again?

The trick-or-treating went down. My daughter’s first time. Her costume looked great, she looked adorable. We met up with some friends and started going door to door around 6:30pm. After about 5 doors, my 2 year old was like “I got this.” She went up to all the subsequent doors with her little felt pumpkin bag outstretched and waited for the candy magic.

I’m not even sure she knew it was candy. I think she was just enamored with the fact that she got to go up to all these decorated, lit-up doors, where mostly-delighted grownups were giving her something. I had to start carrying her up and down front stoops so that the older kids in our group didn’t spontaneously combust from having to wait for such a small person to keep up.

A few times, she even tried to say “trick-or-treat!” It came out more like “ti-taa!” I’ll take it.

Some of the kids in our group were collecting for the Children’s Hospital. Their mom was carrying their boxes because they were slightly heavy and she didn’t want the kids to have both their candy and coin boxes. The kids would just ask at the door if people were interested in donating to the hospital, if they were, mom brought the box up. The little girl asked one resident if she would like to donate, and she said “I would, how do I do that?” The little girl replied “you give money!!”

But this gal’s best line of the night? We were getting towards the end of our trick-or-treating and we got to a house where the lady came to the door and said “I’m sorry! I’m the terrible person who didn’t buy enough candy, I’m all out!!” And this little girl goes “how COULD YOU?!!”

Hilarious kid.

Some random person on the sidewalk gave us a Anti-Halloween color pamphlet. It outlined the evil ways of the druids and how they are controlling us now with Halloween. Say no to treats and and yes to Jesus, appears to be the thesis. I think Jesus would love mini kit-kats…

My daughter was very cute, very sweet, got a big bag of candy, and then asked to go home. While we were getting on the subway, she proceeded to have the biggest meltdown in recent history. I guess the halloween spirit finally awoke her inner demon. She was in such big trouble that she had to go straight to bed when we got home.

This morning, she sorted her candy and kept some pieces for herself (that will be heavily pilfered by her dad and I) and set aside most to “donate” to the grad student lounge at the law school, where it will “fuel” the “quest for knowledge” of “passionate” and “bright” students. Right.

I hope everyone had an excellent Halloween. Or Unbirthday. Whatever you’re into…