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Friday, November 29, 2013

A Cold Night Snuggle.

Earlier this week, Alexandra fell asleep a couple of hours before bedtime. She had crawled into bed, tucked herself in and just, zzzzzz, was out like a light. So we decided to see if she would sleep the whole night through, and let her catch up on her sleep. Around 11pm when we went to bed we noticed she'd turned her light on and was awake. So we changed her into her jammies, red her a story and got her settled back down.

She seemed keen on it, but after completing my nightly toilette, I peeked in and she was wide awake, staring right at me. "I'm freezing," she said, despite being under two warm blankets, in a nightgown and jammie pants, and not knowing what "freezing" means (well maybe she did, since earlier that day I had instructed her she must put her pants and socks back on since her legs and feet were "freezing"). But let me tell you, I am a sucker for bedtime snuggles, and since she had fallen asleep at 6pm, and I had worked all day, I had had basically zero time with her.

"Wanna come to bed with us?" "Mm-hmm!!" and out of bed she scrambled, trotting ahead of me to climb into our big bed. And oh, how we burrowed. Oh, how we curled around each other, a big S and a little s on their sides, her head on my bicep and the covers to our chins. Todd came in soon after, another big S facing us, our heads bent together like sleepytime conspirators in our chilly bedroom.

The way her body nestles into mine will never get old, and neither will the realization that I am a provider of comfort for her, simply by existing. I remember how comforting it was to snuggle up with my mom in her bed, how being cradled in her arms was a security, a reminder that there was someone larger than me in my life to protect me, a huge force of love there just for me.

Feeling how Alex hunkers down, scooting back against me, eyes closing immediately despite having been asleep for five hours already, how she sort of mumbles and murmurs as she gets comfortable between the two pillars holding up her world, her parents, and knowing that she is at peace, she feels comfort and security, that she knows she can come to us, that our arms are open, and knowing all we have to do is love her, and be ourselves for her, is quite possibly the best feeling in the world. It's frought with responsibility, anxiety at times, and constant accountability, but all of that is such a small price to pay.

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

French Onion Soup Gratinee

We finally, FINALLY, had weather to match the time of year this past weekend, so naturally my friends and I had a soup party and then the next day I made French onion soup. Yesterday I had some for lunch and Todd was like, MY GOD MAN, NO MORE SOUP and I was like, tough toodles, buddy, we're having another kind of soup on Tuesday.

Look, it's been over 90 degrees for about seven years here, so when it dipped into the fifties, my Dutch oven came out in all its glory, okay?

Anyways. I got this recipe off of All Recipes so I want to link you there in order to give credit where it's due, and to not seem like a lying, thieving asshole. But I will also lay out the ingredients and steps here for those who are like, MY GOD MAN, NO MORE LINKS

French Onion Soup Gratinee
serves four

4 tbsp butter
1 tsp salt
2 large red onions, halved and sliced thin
2 large yellow onions, halved and sliced thin
48 ounces chicken broth
14 ounces beef broth
1/2 cup red wine
1 tbsp Worcestershire sauce
2 sprigs fresh parsley
1 sprig fresh thyme
1 bay leaf
1 tbsp balsamic vinegar
salt and pepper to taste
4 thick slices French baguette
8 slices Gruyere or Swiss
1/2 cup shredded Parmesan
4 pinches paprika (I did not do this)

The woman on All Recipes was to the point so here are her directions that I followed to a T (aside from the paprika), and I rarely follow something to a T:

Melt butter in a large pot over medium-high heat. Stir in salt, red onions and sweet onions. Cook 35 minutes, stirring frequently, until onions are caramelized and almost syrupy.

Mix chicken broth, beef broth, red wine and Worcestershire sauce into pot. Bundle the parsley, thyme, and bay leaf with twine and place in pot. Simmer over medium heat for 20 minutes, stirring occasionally. Remove and discard the herbs. Reduce the heat to low, mix in vinegar and season with salt and pepper. Cover and keep over low heat to stay hot while you prepare the bread.

Preheat oven broiler. Arrange bread slices on a baking sheet and broil 3 minutes, turning once, until well toasted on both sides. Remove from heat; do not turn off broiler.

Arrange 4 large oven safe bowls or crocks on a rimmed baking sheet. Fill each bowl 2/3 full with hot soup. Top each bowl with 1 slice toasted bread, 2 slice Gruyere cheese and 1/4 of the Asiago or mozzarella cheese. Sprinkle a little bit of paprika over the top of each one.

Broil 5 minutes, or until bubbly and golden brown. As it softens, the cheese will cascade over the sides of the crock and form a beautifully melted crusty seal. Serve immediately!

Obligatory line from my favorite movie Clue: "And oh my, this soup's delicious, isn't it?"

Friday, November 22, 2013

The Unwinding Sigh.

I have always loved the word "sigh" because it's beautifully, romantically onomatopoeic. Sigh. You think of lovers sighing between kisses against each other's mouths, the luxurious sigh of want as you say goodnight to your date, leaning against the door as you lock it. There's the sigh before falling asleep, stretched out and comfortable, ready to chase dreams or let them come and surprise you, or the sigh after finishing a wonderful and satisfying novel (though for me that is frequently followed up with far more melancholic sighs as I try to find a book that is on par with the previous; we call that a book hangover). Sure, there are also sad sighs, exasperated sighs, lonely sighs.

When Todd and I visited Venice on our honeymoon, we visited the Palace of the Doge. It was all very impressive and intimidating (there were these boxes shaped like, if memory serves, demonic faces, and you could rat people out as spies or um, I don't know, anti-Doge people, by writing their names on paper and slipping it into the open maw of said demon), but the thing that struck me most was The Bridge of Sighs. It was a bridge crossing to the jail cells over a canal and the windows on the enclosed bridge offered the soon-to-be-prisoner a final look at glorious Venice. It would prompt a sigh. A sad, wistful sigh. Still a beautiful word isn't it?

I could talk about lovers or sorrow all day, but the sigh of which I just reminded myself was actually a very meditative one that I employ while swimming laps. It's been months since I've swum but there is this certain slow, steady, satisfied sigh sometimes I will make. Not like Henry VIII after a large meal or perhaps a beheading, but just a mellow exhalation through my throat and out my nose. I do this sigh after every turn while swimming laps, to steady my breathing as I propel forward underwater as long as possible to really gain as much speed and distance as possible before breaking the surface with my first stroke.

I love that sigh! I love getting reminders of it, getting reminders of the meditation that comes with swimming, even on a rainy fall day like today. Swimming is lovely for that, because if you want, you can completely lose yourself in it. Want to forget a crummy day? No problem. Focus on keeping your arm extended as you pop your face out for a breath, focus on twisting your torso, not kicking your feet, or counting your strokes to see if you can shave one or two off during your next length. And suddenly, despite thinking "These 40 laps are going to take forever," when you first slip into the cool water, you're on lap 25 and are so in the zone you're almost (I said almost) sad there's only 15 to go.

But you can also choose to let the technique switch to auto pilot if you'd like. You can reach the edge of the pool, tuck and twist and push off, give that long, soothing sigh, breathing under control, everything steady as she goes, and let your mind wander. You don't need an iPod to drift off if you want. You don't need any distractions to let your thoughts tumble around you in the swirl of bubbles and the blue water, just you, following the stripe of black tile on the bottom of the pool, and the motions and the water and your deep, unwinding sigh.

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Teriyaki Salmon with Sriracha Cream Sauce

Oh yeah, it's as good as it looks, and then some. Todd basically went apeshit over this, and after the second bite was all "This one is a keeper." Which is fine by me, considering it was melt-in-your-mouth tender and juicy, had just enough spice for flavorful warmth without tipping into dangerous third-degree-burn territory, and also really, really easy.

Teriyaki Salmon with Sriracha Cream Sauce
serves two

1/4 cup brown sugar, packets
1/4 cup soy sauce
1/2 teaspoon ground ginger (I had crystallized from Penzeys)
1/4 teaspoon garlic powder
2 tbsp honey
1 cup water
1 tbsp cornstarch
2 tbsp soy sauce
2 6-8oz salmon fillets
1/4 cup mayo
1 tbsp sriracha

Whisk together the first six ingredients to make your teriyaki marinade, and pour into a small saucepan. Bring to a simmer. Make a slurry with the cornstarch and soy sauce. Mine had been opened before so it was refrigerated and therefore cold. Cold liquid works best with cornstarch so if your soy sauce is room temp, I recommend just using cold water.

Science, bitch!

Add the slurry to the marinade in the sauce pan and stir until somewhat thickened. Usually the easiest way to tell is how the simmering bubbles look. Trust me, you can tell.

Let this cool to room temperature. I poured mine into a pyrex and left it on the counter for like, 10 minutes or so. Not utter room temperature but close enough! Put your salmon in and let it marinate at least 30 minutes in the fridge.

Set oven for 400. Transfer marindae and salmon, the whole kit and kaboodle, into an 8x8 pyrex which has been treated with cooking spray. Bake until salmon flakes off easily, about 15-20 minutes.

While that's baking, mix together your mayo and sriracha. To achieve a fancy shmancy look, scoop the sauce mix into a small ziploc bag and cut the tiniest snip out of a corner of the bag. Once you've plated your salmon, simply squeeze the sauce into a fun pattern onto the salmon. Serve, AKA devour, immediately!

For anyone who wants to know, the side we had was haricot verts, parboiled about five minutes, cooled under ice or in ice water, and then sauteed in sesame oil. Had I sesame seeds or scallions, I would have adorned the beans with them.


Friday, November 15, 2013

Good Stuff.

I'm in a pretty good mood, considering I went to bed at 12:28 and woke up around 5am. My 7am cuppa Earl Grey has faded and I'm sitting here yawning, but still, good mood man. I woke up at 5am thanks to the neighbor idling his motorcycle for FOREVER. After about an hour of just lying there, I finally got up to get some water, noticed Alex had put her lamp back on in her bedroom, and tried turning it off for her all sneaky-like. I turned to go and then:

"I WANT MY LIGHT BACK ONNNNNN" and tears. So I went in, shushed her and got her to come snuggle with us. Oh, her snuggles are so sublime. My hand found Todd's and we laced fingers while Alex burrowed between us, head on my upper arm. I never went back to sleep but instead just laid there with random song lyrics going through my head, enjoying how it felt to be next to Alex.

Finally around 7am I slipped out of bed.

"Where you goin', mama?"

"I'm going to go to the bathroom and then make tea. I'll be back, baby."

"I'm comin' with you."

"Okay, baby."

So then we're in the bathroom and I'm washing my hands and brushing my teeth and she closes the lid to her potty and sits down.

"I had so much fun snuggling with you, mama."

"Oh well thank you, honey, I did too!"

"It's cause I love you so much. mama!"


Friday, November 8, 2013

The Best Version.

I've been thinking about this a lot lately, but it really struck me today at lunch when I was lying on the sofa, and Alex came and curled up on me. I've figured out my role as mother in her life.

Well, damn, Jil! you say. Way to finally figure that shit out after three and a half years! Haha, no. I know the job description. I guess what I mean is, what the shape of that role is in Alexandra's life. What I represent. How I differ from Todd, her father. What I am, and what I am not. How to play to my strengths within that role.

I'm the cuddler. I'm the one to watch Tinkerbell movies with all day. I'm the kisser of wounds, the protector when dada's tickle monster chases get too real. What I'm not, is that tickle monster chaser. I've tried it before, and it's not as fun as when Todd does it, because it's just not one of my passions, to chase my kid and scare the crap out of her as she laughs hysterically throughout all of it.

I love listening to them, taking photos of their games, or video if I can catch it in time. It's also not as welcome coming from me as it is Todd. The other day, as she was trotting around the house, I snuck up behind her and tickled her and she nearly jumped out of her skin she was so startled. And then my kid cried. I did that! Yay, tickle monster mommy!

She jumped and cried because it was not expected from me. I usually "attack" her with a kiss or a big hug, sweeping her up off her feet into my arms. Those are mommy attacks. Not tickle monster attacks, no ma'am, not from mommy. It was then that I realized that, after all my halfhearted attempts to be as exuberantly playful with her as Todd, it was for naught. It wasn't only a waste of time and energy, but it was unneeded and unwanted.

And my goodness, what a relief it is to realize and accept that. So what! So I don't have the energy or desire to chase my kid and throw her on the bed 1,000 times in a row! It's ok! Because I have all the energy, desire and time to hold her, to snuggle, to read together, to play arts and crafts together, do our nails together, to curl up at night in bed with her and never let her go (until she kicks me in the sternum).

She gets her ya-yas out with her father. That's his job, at least one of them. He genuinely loves it and he's genuinely good at it. During her second year of life, when horsing around got really fun, I kept trying to measure up to Todd. Kept trying to follow his lead and be as playful and boisterous with her, because look at how much fun they had! I want to have fun with Alex too!

I forgot that I did have fun with Alex, but in my own way, in our own mommy-daughter ways. We have our own games, our own rituals, our own little language. I had kept trying to be everything in her world, but I never needed to do so. It wasn't necessary. What was necessary was, and is, for me to be present and passionate about the roles I do best. That way, I will offer up to my child the best mother she has. The best version of myself.

And that's all I want to be for her.

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

Review: Alba shampoo and conditioner

All right. When I first bought this, I bought the honeydew "Gloss Boss" version for the amazing smell and hey, who doesn't want to be a Gloss Boss? I liked it well enough so I went out and bought the coconut one, which I have yet to use and which I will likely NOT use, and here's why: It completely weighs my hair down.

I try not to wash my hair everday because the last five inches are super dried out. After the initial transition, the oils in my hair leveled out and it was totally fine for me on the non-wash days.

However. Now I can barely make it 24 hours without my hair looking flat, weighed down and over-oily. And that sucks, because the smell is heavenly, the price is good and the ingredients are pretty awesome. Only two or three chemicals (and while there's no SLS I know at least one of those has to be a detergent of some kind to get the suds) and then just a whole load of natural ingredients.

So, back to the drawing board. Or, to be clear, back to Sprouts where I essentially sit on the floor smelling all the shampoos that don't have sulfates until I find one I like.

Grade: D