This girl always manages to find the fève. Queen for another year!
The primula my mother-in-law brought from Scotland to England to America is blooming again. This humble little flower made its way to me from across the ocean wrapped in a napkin stashed in my mother-in-law’s handbag. It’s held a spot of honor in every garden of each of the three houses we’ve lived in here in Charlottesville. I’ve lost count of how many times I’ve divided this sentimental favorite to share with friends…
In the evening I picked up my daughter and three of her friends after their second ever quartet practice. I laughed during the entire car ride home as the young musicians discussed their plans to get rich busking on the Downtown Mall.
“Whose case should we use to collect money?”
“Definitely mine,” said the cellist, “It’s the biggest.”
“Yeah, mine is way too small,” agreed the flautist, “It would fill up with money way too fast and we’d have to keep emptying it all the time, which would be a pain.”
Dream big, girls. Dream big!
Later that evening we had family movie night.
We’ve been watching The Lord of the Rings trilogy over the course of several weeks. Though Tolkien wrote his great epic in the 30s and 40s about hobbits, elves, dwarves and wizards, it’s uncanny how many parallels can be drawn between the trilogy’s war between the forces of good and evil and current events. Trump, Daesh, the refugee crisis, the environmental crisis…they’re all in there. I found this gorgeous edition for my daughter who has only read The Hobbit, and still has the pleasure of reading the trilogy ahead of her. The rest of us are lined up to re-read them when she’s done!
MarieBette Café & Bakery and their brioches feuilletées are one of the many reasons I love living in Charlottesville:
There are only about two and a half days in any given year when I want to be outside, and Saturday was one of them!
My husband took the kids to play frisbee golf:
…while I had fun getting my hands dirty in the garden! I transplanted a few things, planted some seeds…
and finally finished the oyster shell path I began last year! It only took three more 50 lb bags of crushed oyster shells and the last dregs of my will to carry on. If you see me hobbling around clutching my back like an old woman, you’ll know why.
Winter Jewels Hellebores are one of the very first plants I put in my new garden. These flowers are so great! They bloom crazy early and then continue on for months, untouched by deer, insects, late snows and other gardening catastrophes. They self seed and are easy to divide too.
In the evening we all met up again for dinner at Smoked, a bustling barbecue restaurant in the newly opened Piedmont Place in Crozet. There was a rather long wait for a table, so we spent a lovely hour at Over the Moon Bookstore.
I’ve been trapped in a loveless marriage with Hilary Mantel’s Wolf Hall for what seems like an eternity, but has really probably been less than a year. I thought I’d step out on Wolf Hall to have a meaningless fling with Carl Hiaasen’s Razor Girl, but I’m not enjoying that book nearly as much as I thought I would. So now I’m condemned to slog through TWO books before starting some of the books I bought at Over the Moon. I was discussing this with the bookseller and she told me she didn’t understand this at all:
“Life is too short. I give a book ten pages at the most, and if I’m not hooked, I just stop reading it.”
Do you feel obliged to finish a book once you’ve started? Even if you hate it?
Spotted on my way to book group brunch…
Did I mention how much I love living in Charlottesville?
This month my book group read my sister’s novel Tiger Pelt! I artfully posed some copies on the table only to realize with bitter disappointment once I got home – you can’t see the books!!!
You may not be able to spot the books in the photo, but you can find your own copy of Annabelle Kim’s Tiger Pelt online at Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and IndieBound. It’s a great pick for book clubs! No loveless marriages here…I promise it will move and inspire you. Readers of this blog may recognize some of the events in Tiger Pelt, because the boy’s story is inspired by my father’s life story. If you read it, I would love to hear what you think.
After I got back home, I began to redecorate for spring:
My daughter and I gave her guinea pigs’ pad a new look for spring too:
I feel that it’s still missing a certain je ne sais quoi…A seagrass wallpaper to pull in a little more texture? Some ambient lighting perhaps? Some cushions for a pop of color? A chaise longue in the corner? Nothing but the finest for these round-the-clock industrial poop factories:
I took the day off work so that I could spend it with my kids who had the day off from school. After a long and arduous quarter, and a week that felt like a hurricane on the heels of a tornado followed by an avalanche…it felt soooooooooo good to have a day of rest.
I took the kids to lunch at The Bebedero, a newish Mexican restaurant in Charlottesville…
We strolled along the Downtown Mall…
We had dessert at The Flat Takeaway Crêperie:
That evening my friend and I returned to the Downtown Mall to take our daughters to the Paramount to see their beloved violin teacher perform with the Waynesboro Symphony Orchestra:
We spent the morning getting ready for my son’s Halloween party…
The day was punctuated by soccer games…My husband took our oldest son to his game in Lynchburg; I took our daughter to her game at Booster Park in Orange County. The park also happens to be adjacent to an airport and a skydiving outfit. I tried to pay attention to the game, but every thirty minutes people would fall out of the sky:
We rushed home to finish getting ready for the party:
After dinner the kids took their flashlights and went outside to hunt for Halloween candy and to have an epic game of flashlight tag. They came in sweaty and red-faced and ready to watch their scary movie…
Church! Choir! And Marie-Bette Café & Bakery in between!
My family and I went to NYC this weekend to see my cousin in one of the final performances of Julia Cho’s Aubergine. It’s a play about the barriers to communication and understanding; it’s about the ways in which we try to commune through food; it’s about how we live and die. Our cousin played the part of Ray, a Korean-American chef who is taking care of his dying father. They have always had a tortured relationship marred by the inability to truly connect with one another. As his father lies comatose, unable to utter more than a groaned word now and then, Ray wrestles with the weight of all that was unexpressed between them during a lifetime. The play was beautiful and moving, funny and desperately sad, and so much of it felt very close to home…
There were a lot of loose ends to tie up before heading to Arlington, where we would spend a night at my parents’ house before driving the rest of the way to New York. For one thing, we had to make sure the pets were set with everything they needed while we were gone. I did an inventory of their food supply, then handed my phone to my son and asked him to run down to the basement to take a picture of the new kitty litter we’ve been using so we’d remember which kind to restock. Feeling rather smug about my prudent foresight, I strode over to the pet supply aisle in the grocery store and pulled up the pictures on my phone to discover this:
The next day my mom cooked my kids’ favorite lunch: tender, salty mackerel with crispy, crackly skin.
In Aubergine, one of the characters talks about how her father would always eat the head and tail of the fish and give her the middle of the fish. One day she serves him the head and tail of the fish and magnanimously announces that she’s giving him his favorite part.
“Rice pot!” (i.e.: Dummy!) he says with exasperation and explains that he had always eaten the head and tail so that she could have the best part of the fish.
As the audience absorbs this revelation, Ray asks, “What part did your mother eat?”
As so often happens these days, my mother was too exhausted by her culinary labor of love to eat any fish herself.
She wasn’t too tired, however, to take care of some other pressing business. Before we left for New York, she handed me a thick envelope. She had prepared an identical one for all of her children. I opened it to see that it was a map and description of the burial plots she and my dad bought for themselves a few weeks ago. She had also included the contact information for two minister friends who already agreed to perform their funeral services.
“We got a 10% discount for buying early!” my mother chirped brightly as she dropped her latest weapon of mass destruction on our heads. “I thought we should be buried right under some pine trees, but your daddy was worried about the roots spreading. So we picked a nearby spot where we’ll have a good view of them. Remember! Put your dad on the left side, and me on the right. We’ll be able to call to each other in the morning and say, ‘Good morning! Have you eaten breakfast yet?‘”
Oh, dear God! Waterboarding? The rack? These don’t hold a candle to the myriad creative and devastating ways this woman devises to torture me.
We drove up to NYC where we met up with the rest of our family:
Breakfast of the Champions.
My brother took my boys to the Pan-American No-Gi International Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu Federation Championship at City College of New York. Got that? Pan-American No-Gi International Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu Federation Championship at City College of New York! Now say it quickly ten times!
Meanwhile, the rest of us wandered around the vicinity of our hotel.
We stopped in at St. Patrick’s Cathedral:
Had lunch at Rosie O’Grady’s…
Then headed over to the theatre to see the play…
That night my four siblings and I spent a few quiet minutes with my parents in their hotel room, just the six of us. We thought we’d just have a casual chit-chat, but then my dad, a man who favors stiff pats over hugs, asked us to all hold hands with each other. He said a prayer for each of one of us and all the spouses and children in our family, asking for blessings for each of us by name.
Damn. Nothing like a good old-fashioned Pan-American No-Gi tag-team loving beatdown from your parents, the reigning champions of the emotional choke-hold. Clearly, this kind of thing should be banned, as there is no possible maneuver by which to escape.
We drove back to C’ville. I decided to give my son some much-needed driving practice, and let him take the wheel for the last fifteen minutes of the drive:
It went pretty well until he almost drove off the side of the road…
There’s a line in the play I can’t remember exactly, but the gist of it was:
In the midst of life, we are in the midst of death…
I texted this photo of his traumatized little brother to my siblings:
My sister wrote back, “Oooooh. So that’s what faster than a bat out of hell looks like!”
Despite the plot twists and turns, we made it back home safe and sound.
UVA Men’s Soccer Game
Things are already getting busy with the start of the school year. We snuck in one last trip to Arlington while we still had the chance.
We made our now obligatory stop at Yoder’s for road snacks and to see the goats…
This time there were the cutest piglets!!!
You did know that Saturday was National Pot de Crème day, right?!
OK, neither did we. We found out when we arrived in Arlington and my sister served this delicious dessert in pots de crème so exquisite and delicate we were nervous the whole time we were eating them!
After lunch we took a steamy hot trek through Washington DC to the National Geographic Museum, where we saw “The Greeks” exhibit.
I had a late night visit with my bff…We don’t get to see each other as often as I would like, but every time we do, I feel so lucky to have her in my life.
Before I headed back to C’ville, I spent some time with my sister messing around with my dad’s bookshelves in our attempt to take some photos of our sister’s soon-to-be-released novel Tiger Pelt. There are only THREE more days to enter for your chance to read it before everyone else in the Goodreads giveaway here!
We were in a local kebob restaurant the other day, pondering the wide array of choices.
“Do you guys know what you’d like to have?” I asked my kids.
The boys wanted beef kebobs. My daughter was more uncertain.
“I think I want to try the kibbeh,” she said sheepishly, (there’s no other word for it).
“What’s kibbeh?” I asked.
“Lamb,” she whispered guiltily.
“Oh! It’s OK! Go ahead and try it!”
When I asked her how it was, she replied, “I really feel bad about saying this, but…it’s delicious.”
Sometimes my 16 year old likes to mess with his sensitive little sister.
When she coos over a panda video, for example, he might casually interject: “I wonder what panda tastes like?”
We had a conversation like this just the other day…Almost all of my daughter’s friends are into horses these days. The 16 year old wondered out loud how they’d react if she asked them what they thought horse tasted like. And then he had a sudden thought.
He turned to me and asked, “Wait a minute, have YOU ever tasted horse?!”
“Ummm, yes, actually, I did once.” I was forced to admit, “It was served to me in France a long time ago.”
“How did it taste?”
“I don’t even remember…gamey, I guess?”
“But what does ‘gamey’ taste like? What does that word even mean?” he persisted.
His brother gave him an authoritative answer, “‘Gamey’ means it tastes like bullets.”
Clearly our family has a somewhat tortured attitude toward meat. I’ve been a vegetarian for years, but the rest of my family eats meat. It’s led to some interesting situations…
Last summer I tried to pick up my daughter from Camp Barbara‘s after work one day. As I approached the door to our neighbor’s house, I detected the unmistakable smell of bacon. My daughter saw me coming through the glass of the storm door and her eyes widened in alarm. As I opened the door, she backed away, shook her head vigorously and practically shouted, “NO! You can’t take me home now…I’m about to eat bacon!”
Wild horses couldn’t have dragged that girl out of the house. And she wasn’t the only one. The three other little girls at Camp Barbara also had vegetarian mamas. One of them was Jewish to boot. They were all allowed to eat meat, but they had to get their fix outside of their own homes. Miss Barbara was their dealer.
Not long after, my kids and I were visiting my parents’ house. My mother watched suspiciously as they devoured the bulgogi (Korean beef barbecue) she had made for them. They were eating with a little too much enthusiasm. She swiveled her head until her narrowed eyes locked onto mine.
“You never give them meat, do you?!” she asked, as if she had just discovered that her daughter led a secret double life as a serial killer, “YOU can be a vegetarian if you want, but you better feed your children some meat!”
My mother’s words were ringing in my ear when I picked up some bacon at the grocery store last week. The kids were overjoyed when I told them they could have it this weekend, but then I noticed a cloud pass across their faces.
“Awww, poor Mommy! But what will YOU have for breakfast?”
“Oh, don’t worry about me! I’ll have something else!”
On Saturday I awoke to the aroma of bacon wafting up the stairs and all throughout the house. My 14 year old son poked his head into my room. He had a grin on his face, and said they had a surprise for me.
I came down to this:
Those sweet kids felt so sorry for me that I didn’t get to eat bacon that they made me this instead.
I don’t deserve them, but I’m sure glad they’re mine.
I love my book group. We read a book every month and then meet to have rarefied, high-brow discussions about what we’ve read. We NEVER for a second let the conversation drift to things like our children or what’s going on at work.
In keeping with the lofty nature of our gatherings, we make an effort to dress up for the occasion. In fact, we have a rather strict dress code:
The day started out so well.
We were all lazing about, soaking up the sun streaming through the windows…Taking kids to their indoor soccer games…
Taking photos of this, that, and nothing at all:
Suddenly I realized it was time to take my daughter to her soccer game. As soon as we got back, it would be time to go serve dinner to the group of homeless men who are being hosted by our church for the next couple of weeks. I was supposed to have prepared a Chicken Enchilada dish in advance so that it could just be reheated in the ovens in the church kitchen, but I had lost track of the time. My husband was taking my oldest son to his soccer game, and then almost immediately to his piano recital. They would be meeting us at the church as soon as the recital was over.
I only had time to chop up the chicken breasts and open a can of enchilada sauce. It was up to my thirteen year old son to save the day. I handed him the recipe as I ran out the door, begging him to follow the instructions and to finish making the dish while I took my daughter to her game.
I was sweating bullets as I drove back to pick up my son and hopefully the Chicken Enchilada dish. Proving once again that he is the adult in our household, he was in the kitchen when I ran through the door, waiting to take the finished dish out of the oven.
We made a pit stop at MarieBette Café and Bakery to pick up a few things like a baguette:
And a crazy looking thing called a brioche almandine studded with mysterious pink chunks my daughter described as looking like wads of chewed up bubble gum:
And then, because we clearly did not have enough dessert, we whipped up a batch of our new favorite cookies from the Princess Pinky Girl website. The recipe’s main ingredient is strawberry cake mix. We substitute coconut oil for vegetable oil.
To be honest, the only reason I made the cookies the first time was because they looked so pretty in the photo. Mine always end up being aesthetically disappointing, but they never fail to be delicious!
Silliness while waiting for the cookies to bake:
It’s snowing now as I finish up this post. We’ve already gotten the call from the county to announce that there will be no school tomorrow. My husband recorded and emailed to his students a video of the lecture he was going to give tomorrow. Here’s hoping I get to stay home with them too!