Dec 24 2013

The most wonderful time of the year.

deerI am the queen of NOT throwing the baby out with the bathwater. I grab that baby, wrap it in a towel and the water can go to hell. Which is just a confusing way of illustrating that I am adept at culling what I like out of things and being just fine ignoring the rest. Nothing is perfect, so why not focus on the good parts and be a little lighter in life? It requires a flexy mind, a blind eye, a deaf ear and a bit of focus or non-focus, depending on how you look at it, but I think it’s worth it.

It would be so easy for me, as a moderately cynical and non-gifty-type person, to abhor this time of year. I also don’t love the smell of cinnamon and Christmas carols sung in Chipmunk voices. But, oddly, I don’t hate it. I love it. I don’t love everything about the holidays – I just love certain aspects quite a lot.

There’s a Dutch word – gezellig – that is untranslatable in English, but as far as I can tell begins to describe exactly what I love about Christmastime. It means cozy, homey, pleasant, convivial and fun. It’s about having your people around you in a warm and lovely environment. It means holing up and eating and drinking and laughing. It means togetherness and twinkle lights, roaring fires and long conversations. It means merry and bright.

We all trim our homes and string up lights and create the spaces to accommodate this cozy time of year and there is something really comforting about it. Whether the party be a grown-up-dress up affair with rivers of booze or a long afternoon at home with just the family, some tunes and some games – it just feels good to preen the house, to hibernate, to be together, to cook and to take stock in the passage of time.

Apropos of time passing, there is honestly no better marker of time for me than the annual Christmas concert. You sit in a pew, shoulder to shoulder with your honey watching as each class performs their little songs. Your friends’ kids who started in kindergarten angel wings are suddenly gigantic 8th graders. You watch chubby cheeks grow progressively slimmer as each grade takes the stage and you marvel at the changes over time. The constant (the church, the lights, the songs, the pews) allows the change (the children) to jump into focus and it is always staggering and beautiful.

And so, with fresh reminders of how quickly it’s all going and how lucky we all are to be going at all, we gather in our homes with each other and try to stop time, for just a little while. We pull out all our tricks to get ourselves to stay still long enough to feel the wonder again, to spread it around, to fill our cups for the rest of the year.

Merry Christmas, my friends.

Sep 22 2012


The Heidleberg Project

I’m a Detroit girl. Well, not actually Detroit, per se – I just like saying that – but a suburb to the north. Still, Detroit was my sun as far as cities go. I orbited around, obliviously taking care of the business of growing up, with increasing plunges into the city itself as I started high school. Our brother school was a Jesuit high school called University of Detroit – U of D – and surprisingly, there was little effort to keep us Academy of the Sacred Heart girls away from the boys on Seven Mile Road. Not that it would have worked anyway.

Avalon International Breads, Detroit

Detroit is a fascinating city and in August when I went to visit my family with the kids, I got to bushwhack a little and experience it as a curious grown-up as opposed to a silly, clueless girl. Normally when I go home I sort of regress to my adolescent state – overcome by inertia, I feel like coccooning at my parents’ house, grazing my way through the pantry, watching tv and twirling my hair – maybe letting out a long dramatic sigh every once in a while.

santimeatI’m only partially joking. The truth is that now that the kids are older, I was able to see our visit home through a different lens. Detroit, in parts hopeless and beautiful, is no longer just a place to be ignored, the backdrop for youthful (and dangerous) shenanigans – it’s a place to explore. Just like any other city we would visit. And in this city, we’ve got contacts.

HeidleburgMy siblings live in town and as young adults figured out the city – the hidden gems, the rhythms, the fingerprints. My fairy godmother, Gretchen, is a veritable historian. Curious, intrepid and knowledgable – if there’s an interesting nook or a cranny with a story, she has found it, explored it and can tell you all about it. Sweet Juniper, a blog that’s been in my blogroll from the beginning, has been a lyrical yet honest peek into what it’s like to raise kids in the city; he describes a burgeoning arts and food scene, feral homes being engulfed by nature, mom and pop businesses thriving because of corporate America’s aversion to a high risk markets, empty lots being turned into bountiful and nutritious gardens.

She may be a broken down beauty, but she’s got plans.

emSo this time, in addition to long wine-soaked meals with my family, boat rides and swims in Pine Lake, celebrating two birthdays and squeezing my delicious niece, Manzanita, we did a little exploring. My top three highlights:

brickEastern Market: The mac daddy, grand poobah, god father of all farmers markets, this is the oldest market in the country. It’s colorful and urban and cool  - I liked it so much I went twice. Also Supino’s. Best pizza ever. Worth the wait.

dollheidlebergThe Heidleberg Project. Detroit was literally burning and out of the ashes rose the Heidleberg Project. Artist Tyree Guyton started to fight back with art and created an indescribable polka-dotted neighborhood. Watch this short movie about it – SO FASCINATING! I can’t believe I never went there before. This on my permanent and forever lists of places to visit when I go home.

saltwallFairway Packing Company. My favorite thing of all. Thanks to Fairy Godmother’s hubby, Cabezon, we got to go inside this temple of meaty beauty and see how it’s done. We wore white butcher’s coats and toured the dry age room with all the best cuts hanging out for the area’s best restaurants and clients. The Himalayan salt wall is stunning – a glowing work of art in and of itself. We bought gorgeous steaks, pork shoulder and brisket for the week’s dinners and parties and watched as they were broken down for us. Saint James was all eyes and quiet appreciation. Boy knows his good meat.

All of this was a round about way of getting to this recently released documentary. Detropia explores Detroit’s complicated and painful history, its rise and fall, mingled with the exciting, grass roots, outsider art fringey changes that are happening right now. I can’t wait to see it. I don’t think this sugarcoats anything, which is good – Detroit is better salty anyway.

Sep 19 2012


YouTube Preview ImageI’m a sucker for a good documentary and this one looks great. Musings, meditations and analysis of the most basic thing we all want: happiness.

The question of what makes you happy is a good one to ask and answer for yourself. The question itself kind of makes me happy because it’s a reminder that yes, we have some control over this. And frankly, half the battle is simply reminding yourself to look and then knowing where to look. It’s all around us – begging to be noticed so it can work its magic on our souls.

It’s the Jewish New Year and it’s also the new school year, so in celebration of new beginnings, here are some of mine in no particular order:

1. Loud music

2. Dancing

3. Feeding my family

4. Watching my dog romp with another dog

5. Soccer goals

6. My book club

7. A great pair of boots or jeans

8. Knowing that my siblings are finding their loves

9. When cousins get to hang out

10. Doctor Dash making pizza in a frilly apron

11. Two for one bloody marys and the ladies that go with them

12. The change of seasons

13. Children singing

14. Yoga

15. Tiny dancing

16. Cool graffiti/street art

17. Salty cured meats

18. When Saint James roams for hours on his bike with his buddies . .  and then comes home, winded and happy.

video via Cup of Jo

Aug 20 2012

Music Monday: Hot Cheetos and Takis

5447Hellooooo from the sunny slopes of the month of August. Time is running through my fingers like sand and even though I think about writing often, actually sitting down with my laptop has proven nearly impossible. But this. This I had to post. I’m sure you’ve seen it by now, but if not, take a listen and a look-see. And show your kids.

A product of the Minneapolis North Community Beats and Rhymes Program, these kids unfurl the funnest, sickest, slickest song about Cheetos I’ve ever heard. Maybe the only song about Cheetos, but no matter. Just goes to show, it’s the how, not the what. If you need convincing, check out this article in the Village Voice enumerating the 10 best things about the song.

Salty goodness.

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Jul 9 2012

Music Monday: Trampled by Turtles

securedownloadYou know me, I’m not usually a girl overly moved by the twang. The twang hits me somewhere around the bridge of my nose, where the bass, hits me in the chest, in the gut and all the way on down – where all those good chakras reside. But sometimes I surprise myself and find myself loving a twangy band. I’m not sure there’s any rhyme or reason to it, besides the fact that the flavor of twang presented hits in a place that makes me want to take a deep breath. Is this making any sense? I don’t even understand myself right now. The Avett Brothers, Mumford and Sons, Johnny Cash, Dolly Parton, Waylon Jennings and Trampled by Turtles are all bands and musicians in my regular rotation. They are kitchen music, and coming from me, that’s the highest complement.

securedownload-1We caught these guys at Rock the Garden a few weeks ago and they were awesome. Dash and I had already been fully blown away, sweaty, up close and personal-like, by Doomtree and had retreated to a sunny spot on the hill to snarf delicious food truck food and listen to TbT (as they’re called by their people). Notwithstanding the fact that this band attracts fans who may or may not be wearing a coonskin cap and/or an unidentified pelt wrapped around their waist, we were pretty much in heaven. Springy tunes, soft green grass, setting sun, garlicky falafel, lazy lolling. Shit. It don’t get any better than that.

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May 25 2012

There’s a New Pie in Town

pearpizzaI wrote a post over at Simple Good and Tasty about a school dad who is following his passion and having a go at turning it into his livelihood. It’s courageous and inspiring, and it must feel good, because I’m not sure I’ve ever met a happier guy. Read up, as his pizza is phenomenal and it’ll be super easy to find all summer. Hint: Linden Hills Farmers Market.

Mar 27 2012

Soupapalooza Week 4 – Spring Minestrone with Chicken Meatballs

soupYep, I did it. Four new soups in my repertoire and they’re all keepers. Really truly. We all loved this one – it has meatballs, so ya, of course. Take a gander over at Simple Good and Tasty if you wish.

Mar 15 2012

Happy Birthday Foxy Brown (and a little pie action)

foxyLast night at dinner Saint James gasped, slapped his forehead and blurted out: Shoot! I forgot I was going to run to Kowalskis to buy a pie! He was so chagrined that we pressed  him about why he was so hot for pie and it turns out it was National Pie Day. To tell the truth, I’m surprised this got past me on Twitter and then, I too was sorry there was no pie. I think I actually snapped my fingers and hissed DAMN!

But how’s this for a silver lining? First of all, my kid likes pie. There was a time in his life when he would wrinkle his nose at all that mushy mush fruit in the middle. Secondly, and more importantly, I have passed on the yen to celebrate even the most obscure and tenuous things. My increasingly moody, tween boy had hatched a plan to surprise his family with pie and for that I am grateful. And a little proud. Usually that’s my job, but it’s a job I’m more than happy to share.

Which is why tonight we are celebrating Foxy Brown’s first birthday and a belated National Pie Day with a beautiful apple pie. Shhh. Don’t tell!

And Happy Birthday to our beautiful furry girl. It’s hard to remember life before her – my shadow, my pal, my sweet, sweet pooch.

We ♥ Foxy!

POST SCRIPT!!! It’s the morning after, and Doctor Dash came home from work and informed me that, by the way, it was National Pi Day, not National Pie Day. Oh, did we have a laugh. No WONDER I didn’t know about it! And no WONDER Saint James was rattling off enough of the trailing pi numbers (or whatever they’re called) to make your head spin. I thought that was the tangent. I guess I had my eye on the pie.

Mar 11 2012

Soupapalooza Week 3: A Luscious Cauliflower Soup

cauliflower soupNot for the picky eaters in my house, but man, oh, man, is this soup ever simple to make and tasty to eat. Creamy, divine and as white as that snow that seemed but a figment of our imaginations this winter. Check out my post over at Simple Good and Tasty!

Feb 24 2012

Soupapalooza: Week 2 – Hearty Minestrone

minestroneThis soup is perfection on a winter’s day and super healthy too. Check out the recipe along with one of my earliest and dearest food memories involving my sweet dad.

Feb 16 2012

Poor Peevish

MontiPoor, poor peevish, I feel like I’ve been neglecting you in favor of writing about soup and more insultingly, your sexier, flashier cousin Spectacular Bitch.

It’s going to take me a little while to figure out this writing gig. Traditionally, I have not been a big computer person. I never got sucked into the hours of surfing the web that gripped so many of us in the early nineties and never let go. At work, I’d call my mom or a friend or page through a fashion magazine if I needed a break. I never turned on the computer at night unless I needed to check the movie times. I was blissfully free and I didn’t even know it.

How times have changed. I’m juggling just a few different writing projects, but I find myself on-line, or at least on-laptop for WAY more time than I’m used to. And it doesn’t feel good in my body. I feel cloudy, groggy and all around nasty. I don’t like sitting still. I don’t like staring at a screen. I don’t like feeling gross.

I suppose I should have thought about this before I started writing. But here’s the thing. I love to write. I love this little community of readers. And peevish mama is very, very special to me.

With your patient and willing ear, you helped me create a habit of writing things down. This is a place where I can stash my thoughts and the shiny pebbles that I happened to find scattered around in my real or virtual life. It’s a place where I can work through the highs and lows of parenting a young family and of being this very strange age that looks like adulthood but feels like adolescence.

I’ve hit rough patches and lean patches and cuckoo-in-my head patches with peevish mama before, and I was able to write myself through. Maybe I can do it one more time.

So hang with me while I figure myself out. Yet again.

Feb 13 2012

Music Monday: This is Poliça

Valentine’s Day is Dash and my quasi-anniversary. It’s sort of when we started going out, or rather when I stopped playing foolishly, flippantly hard to get. It was 1992, we cooked steak with blue cheese in the creaky blue house on St. Peter’s Street that I shared with five other girls. It seems like a lifetime ago and yet just yesterday.

We pay attention to Valentine’s Day. It’s a good day for me and my man. Some years we cook at home, some years we go out. This year we are stepping out for the Poliça concert. The singer, Channy Moon Caselle, was also in GAYNGS, who I LOVE, and Roma di Luna, who I didn’t know, but is no longer together. Poliça plays around with auto tune to great effect and there are TWO sets of drummers. Caselle is a songbird and the whole mess is cool, hypnotic and SEEEEXXXXXY! Perfect for Tuesday night. After the show we’ll find a perch at a bar and feast. I can’t wait. Tuesday! Tuesday! Let it be Tuesday! YouTube Preview Image

Feb 11 2012

Soupapalooza 2012!

SOUPI’m writing a series for my friends at Simple Good and Tasty featuring four soups in four weeks. Soupapalooza, baby. Check it out. This week is a delectable Squash Soup with Coconut and Ginger. In addition to an easy and toothsome recipe, you’ll learn why I tend to become obsessed with soup at the beginning of a new year.

Jan 26 2012

Mad Hungry

bookI’m kind of the queen of buying gifts for people that I really want for myself. This Saturday night we’re going to an overnight dinner party at Gigi the Animal Whisperer and Ten Gallon’s “farm” with two other families. In addition to bringing fixings for the fanciest salad I can come up with (I’m thinking arugula with shaved fennel and apple, slivers of proscuitto and a champagne vinaigrette), I wanted to give Gigi and Ten Gallon a little token of thanks for hosting so many teens and children when what they were really after was us grown-ups! As they are the parents of three hungry adolescent boys, I stopped in my tracks when I spotted this book at Cooks of Crocus Hill. I couldn’t resist paging through it when I got home and the recipes look abso fabu. Big on flavor, big on heartiness, low on fuss. My kind of cooking. I love what Lucinda Scala Quinn says in her introduction about feeding the men and boys in her life.

Boys and men who grow up eating flavorful home-cooked food are more likely to cook for themselves. A man who knows how to cook is more self-sufficient, is a better roommate, boyfriend, father, and son. And as any wife knows, a husband who can cook is like one who can dance – the deluxe package. Huzzah!!!

Obviously, this holds true for girls too and like this author, feeding my family is one of my life’s great pleasures. It’s a way to be busy with my hands so I can listen to music and think. It’s a way to feel productive when I may be procrastinating figuring out what I’m going to be when I grow up. It’s a way to nourish and teach and share. It’s a way to show my love. And it’s a way for me to stack the deck in favor of ending up with a brood who will enjoy eating the way I do. If it is something we have always done together, it is something we can always do together. As my mother-in-law would say, bon appetit!

Jan 24 2012

First Feasts

green-eggs-and-hamSome families are really good at planning special alone time with one parent and one kid. We are not. We’re kind of an all-for-one-and-one-for-all crew. Several times a year, I get a bee in my bonnet about planning something alone with one of my kids, but then I never do it. As a result, my M.O. is to slap a “special time” sticker on an outing should I ever happen to find myself alone with one of my kids. A few weeks ago I dragged Devil Baby to a downright frigid farmers market and when we stopped for hot chocolate at French Meadow on the way back, I tried to act like it was some fabulous special time. She responded with barely more than a skeptical look while she ate her whip cream with a spoon. Apparently, it’ll take more than an errand and a hot beverage to get her attention.

This past Saturday, however, the stars aligned (or rather Doctor Dash decided, against all odds, to take the girls to a daddy daughter dance at our club) and I had Saint James to myself for the night. After watching him order the lobster poached in butter on New Years Eve in Florida and then meticulously inhale every morsel, crumb, drizzle, micro-green, bit and bite of a five course dinner, I knew what I wanted to do with him. I wanted to eat. Somewhere special. He was ready. Ready for Bar La Grassa.

securedownloadAfter his hockey game, we scooted downtown and without too much delay, scored a seat at the kitchen bar, so we could watch the action. Sitting shoulder to shoulder we watched while Isaac Becker checked plate after plate of gorgeous food coming off the line. We marveled at the pretty young girl in chefs whites working the salad station. We giggled at the server with the waxed curly cue mustache. We talked about books, movies, middle school and high school. We perused the whole menu, savoring the choosing almost as much as the choices. I sipped my Lambrusco Rose, he sipped his Shirley Temple. And we feasted. Plate after plate, passing before us, forks crossing, words murmured. Saint James was intrepid and curious and a joy to eat with. Here’s what we had.

Belgian Endive, Apple and Orange salad.

Calamarata with Raw Tuna (this is my must have – I dream about this dish)

Pappardelle with Veal Ragu

Crab Ravioli

Pork Ribs

Braised Greens with Ham Hock

I’ve had many memorable and happy meals at Bar La Grassa, but this one, the one with my boy, is my absolute favorite. There is nothing I love more than watching a ravenous kid eat, but watching a ravenous kid eat while his mind is being blown by new foods and flavors is a whole other kind of awesome. One kid down, two to go.

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