Saturday, October 30, 2010

On Parents

When I was in middle school, it was super-cool to call your friends' mothers "mom."  I did this with a few of my closest friends, but it never really caught on for me. Momma was mom to me, and calling another woman that didn't sit well.

And then I got married.  Momma instantly welcomed Taylor to the family with a warm hug and a big kiss and said to him: "And my name is? *pause* Mom," answering her own question. She wanted to be a mother to him in all the wonderful ways a mother-in-law can.  He was truly a son to her. In a different way, of course, than my brother was her son (he was always just "Son"), but not in a lesser way.  Not at all.

I didn't ask my parents-in-law what they wanted to be called after Taylor and I got married.  Most people I knew called their in-laws by their first name, but I felt compelled to call Taylor's parents mom and dad.  I don't know why.

T and I were visiting his folks' house soon after we were married and his dad asked me a question. I said, "Sure, Dad."  Since  I hadn't asked them if it was ok to call them mom and dad, I wasn't sure how he'd respond.  But he looked at me, tilting his head a little to the side, the way he always does when he pauses to consider something, and smiled at me and said, "I guess I am Dad to you now, huh?"  Soon after, I asked Mum if she minded at all that I called them mom and dad and she told me: "Oh not at all! I'm glad you feel close enough to us that you feel comfortable calling us that."  Me, too, Mum :)

And now, four years later, it's even better. They are Mum and Dad, through and through. They have been so good to me--I truly feel like their daughter and it is simply the natural thing to call them by who they are to me.

And Mum especially.  Mothers and daughters have a special relationship, and I am thankful for the blessing of my mother-in-law.  Since I first came into the family, she has offered her love and support, but especially so after Momma died.  In her own quiet, gentle way, she was there for me in so many ways.  She didn't try to step up to replace my mother at all, but she filled her roll as husband's-mother as perfectly as any woman could.  In all the little things she does for me--birthday and anniversary presents, calling me to catch up (y'know, because husbands get distracted and don't always share everything), emails, inviting me to take walks with her, cooking with me, sharing so many stories of motherhood and wifedom, even flying in with six kids to attend Momma's funeral--she has been a constant help and companion.

I love you, Mum :)

Friday, October 29, 2010


Anyone (and I mean anyone) who has interacted with a young child has heard the question "Why?" about a ga-zillion times.  "Ok, put you're shoes on!" "Why?" "Because we're going to the store." "Why?" Because we need to get some food. Why? Because we have to eat. Why? Because our bodies need food to stay alive. Why? Because our cells need the energy in the food to function. Why? Um.. because God made it that way!

Certainly the preponderance of questions from little ones can be wearying for even the most patient grown-up. But what is it about little kids that is so inquisitive?  Is it merely that they are so young and don't know as much as we, the enlightened adults, do?  Have they simply not asked the right number of questions which gets them to a point when they don't ask "why" anymore?  Or, rather, is it because as they get older, much of the questioning becomes internal and they answer the "why" themselves?

If we think about it, aren't grownups just as inquisitive as little kids? See, I don't think the questions stop as you grow up and get smarter.  I don't think there's a limit to the questions. The questions change, certainly.  Theoretically, after the kid learns about food and digestion and feeding the cells, he won't ask why we need food to eat.

But what about all the other questions that arise from our little dialogue above? What are cells? What are they made of? What do they do? Why did God make it so? Why don't we have any food in the house? Why do I have to put my shoes on if we're going outside? Why is there such a thing as a store? What's inside it? Why do I have to ride in the cart? Can I have a balloon?

Questions never end.  In fact, the process of questioning is so important that people say there's something wrong if someone doesn't ask questions, that we're not using our intellect.  I think they're right.  If we don't ask questions about our experience, how can we possibly form any sound ideas about anything?

Ah, but there's the rub. With questioning comes the responsibility of judgment.  If I question and understand, and still refuse to judge, I am lying to myself and deliberately ignoring my duty as a know-er.  When children ask questions--and when those questions are answered--we are forming their conscience from a young age.  We are teaching them to reason, to think, to wonder, and to understand.

Sometimes, their questions can make us uncomfortable.  Oftentimes, their questions give us pause and we must reconsider our own understanding or worldview.  But this is good for us too. Grownups can get lazy in their questioning process. [I know--I'm quite lazy myself.]  I sometimes ignore certain questions simmering in the back of my mind because I'm afraid of what the answer might be.  Kids aren't afraid of questions. They can ask questions all day, about anything, and remain happy as a clam, processing things right down to the moment they fall asleep, letting their dreams continue their journey of exploration.  Kids just want to know. Everything. They want to know what's true, what has happened, what will happen, and what we are to do now.

Shouldn't we all want to know those things? Shouldn't we want to know everything about everything?

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Tuesday, October 26, 2010


You may have noticed that Taylor and I can be a bit.. particular about many things. Coffee, tea, fresh food, nice clothes, good technology.  I know that to many people, we probably come off pretty snobbish and pretentious about such things.  But the truth is, we just love to know (all) about things we're interested in.  And since we're interested in things, we like to share them and about them, too.

Take tea, for instance.  Everyone's had a cup of tea, hot or iced.  Everyone either likes it or doesn't, with or without sugar or cream. But did you know that tea has an amazing history dating back thousands of years? There's worlds of ritual, culture, and tradition wrapped around just one tiny cup of teal. And we think it's fun to learn about how the drink has changed over the centuries and to notice differences in the many types of tea.

We were introduced to good tea by a Taiwanese sister who was studying with Taylor during his master's degree.  Seeing her quiet appreciation of the beverage inspired us to make tea an integral part of our day. It has become a comfort, a pick-me-up, a perfect accompaniment to meals or desserts, and it is such a treat when we can try a new tea.

But we don't look down our noses at teabags. In fact, most of the medicinal (herbal) teas we drink are bagged teas.  Yet, when I want a cup of tea, for the sake of enjoying the drink and savoring the flavor, I prefer good, well-preserved, loose tea leaves, the proper temperature of (filtered) water (no chlorine taste for me, thankyou), and a nice ceramic cup.  It is, in its own small way, art in a cup.

If one has taken the time to learn how to tie his shoes, he'd rather purchase shoes with laces than velcro.  There's nothing wrong with velcro, of course, but there's nothing wrong with enjoying the pleasure of tying two pretty bows, either. It's not about snobbery, it's about passion.

It's very true that there are people who are passionate and snobbish about something, when passion morphs into a conviction of supremacy.  When the gentleman begins to think that to tie one's shoes is the ultimate virtue of mankind and that velcro is only fit for the lowest-of-the-low shoe-wearers, then Huston, we do, indeed, have a problem.

But really--there's nothing wrong with having passions and pursuing them and sharing them. Let's not get too wrapped up in them, naturally, but let us also enjoy the authentic virtue in striving for excellence, in our passions, but also in all things. After all, I'm sure there are connoisseurs of velcro, don't you think?

Monday, October 25, 2010

Beet It

When I was a kid I had never tasted beet anything.  I'd seen cans of them in Momma's emergency food pantry (we were in earthquake country--had to be prepared!), but the picture on the front didn't exactly look appealing.

Then I met Taylor, a true Hobbit in his love of all things root-ish.  If it grows in the ground, he'll eat it (alright, he'll eat almost anything, but especially roots).  One day when he went to the farmer's market with me, he proudly showed me a large bunch of well-endowed beets, greens included, and said, "Look, Annie! Beets!! Let's get some."

We boiled those, that night, and they were tasty. In fact, I was plainly surprised that the beets had a taste at all, since I couldn't imagine what purple vegetables should taste like.  I was hooked. I wanted more beets (and, admittedly, the first time I saw beet pee I was momentarily shocked. But that passes.)

Next time I did beets, I had them in a beet salad (from this salad book--so delicious!), roasted.  That was the end for me, folks :) I won't have my beets any way but roasted now (unless it's in a soup, but really? why give up all that lovely texture by blending beets into a soup?).  They are perfect roasted, keeping all the integrity of their flavor: perky, tender, and juicy all in one mouthful. I love gently pressing my knife into these sensuous vegetables and drawing out a bright magenta blade. There are such lovely colors in food.

And, later on, I even discovered a good way to take care of the greens! You can make pesto with oodles of basil leaves or garlic scapes.  But, when I realized you can make a pesto-ish sauce out of anything, why not beet greens?

I haven't decided what to call this yet. "Beet Paste" sounds.. weird.

1 bunch beets
oil of choice
1-2 cloves garlic
salt and pepper to taste

Separate beets from the stalks. Wash the beets and greens and stalks thoroughly in the sink, making sure to wash off all the dirt.

Lay beet greens around the bottom of a dutch oven.  Drizzle with a bit of olive oil (just for moisture in the cooking process), and lay the beets on top of the greens.

Roast at 350 degrees for 30 minutes to an hour, or until the beets are tender. (Smaller beets will not take very long.)

Place beets aside (and chop them up, toss with butter and salt, and have a lovely, warm side dish with your dinner!) and transfer beet greens to a food processor and pulse the heck out of them, adding oil as necessary to get a nice consistency.  Add garlic and salt and pepper, pulsing to mix, and tasting as you go along.

This spread goes great with sourdough toast! And what a great way to use up beet greens, huh?

How To Eat a Whole Head of Kale

(from this post)

1. Preheat oven to broil.

2. Remove the stiff stalks from the kale leaves and tear each leaf into small pieces (like you would for a salad). 

3. In a large bowl, toss the kale leaves with olive oil, salt, pepper, and any other spices you like (garlic is a nice touch), making sure the kale is coated evenly with oil.

4. Spread the kale evenly on a parchment lined baking sheet and place under the broiler. Watch it closely! In a minute or two, the kale will start to brown just a tad. Take it out and stir it around, turning it over so it can crisp on the other side. Place under the broiler again.

5. When the kale is evenly crispy, pile it in a bowl and gobble it up. Taylor and I can polish off a whole head between the two of us, easily. So tasty :) 

For Shame

In my (admittedly limited) adoption reading, I have frequently come across stories wrapped round in shame.

Allow me to qualify.  First, many of the stories I have read are older stories, sometimes decades old. Second, the sense of shame does not emanate from the adoptive families, the adoptees, or (really, deep down) the birth parents.  Rather, it seems to come from outside. From society. From (well-intentioned but mis-guided) agency workers. From parents or extended family or friends.

I get the feeling that, for years, the general mind-set has been to struggle through the adoption and then to forget that it happened.  Adoptive parents are seen as "rescuers" of their adopted children, as if they have stooped to raise the child. "Oh, that's so kind of you," friends say. [No kinder than biological parents "stooping" to raise their biological children. All parenthood is simply Love.] 

Adoptees who begin the search for their birth parents have been faced with closed case files which can't be opened. They aren't allowed to search for the knowledge of their own historicity. It has been deemed, by some authority, better for all involved if the information remains secret. And so, questions remain unanswered.  Stories and histories remain unshared.  This is not fair.

It's not fair for the birth parents either.  Lately there has been a rise in awareness of the grief women suffer after having an abortion. (For many years, the question that such grief could be present was overlooked and not investigated.) I believe the experience of a woman who gives birth and places her child(ren) for adoption is similar to grief after abortion.  Not that her loss is exactly the same as a woman who has lost a child through abortion, but the grief of these birth mothers is certainly present, and it has been overlooked. Forgotten. Neglected. For too long.

My impression has been that, after giving birth, these mothers are told, "it's over. forget about it. it's a mistake that you don't have to think about anymore."

A mistake.  I admit that her pregnancy may have been unplanned, but Life is never a mistake.  As a future adoptive mother myself, I cannot accept that the child I am meant to have through adoption is a mistake.

I don't want to turn this into a debate about the pros or cons of open adoption in all its many and varied forms.  But I will say, I am shocked that the shame surrounding the adoption process has persisted so long.  The pain an expectant mother feels when she decides (for whatever reason) that she will place her child for adoption should be an opportunity for her community to support her.  Especially in these days of legalized abortion, her choice for Life should be praised and commended.

The blessing that adoption exists, and that life can continue and thrive, should be a cause for joy, in spite of the grief.  The grief will not vanish if the shame is lifted.  But if the birth parents are allowed to grieve, if the child is allowed to know his history, if society can show true charity in the face of "mistakes" and embrace adoption whole-heartedly, the pain and sorrow will be lessened. It can be shared.

I am proud to be part of someone's adoption story. I am only at the beginning, and I have much still to learn, but I am excited and humbled that an expectant mother, somewhere, might choose me to be the mother of her child.  I want my child to know his birth parents, to know how much he is wanted and loved, from the first moment of his life.  I will gladly tell him the story of how he came into our family.  I will tell his friends and his friends' families.

There is no shame in the Love revealed in adoption. It's time "society in general" comes to grips with that.

Friday, October 22, 2010


Hey! I'm still doing it :) I'm still managing (somehow) to take a photo a day.

Like many things in life, not every day is fabulous. Each day is a blessing, of course, but there are some days that stand out more than others. And there are some days when I have to muddle through, and only in retrospect do I see that there was blessing there.  Thankfully, those days are not as frequent as I sometimes make them out to be.

Some days stick in my mind as fresh and bright and happy and wonderful.  Some days' photos remind me of all the good-goldenness of life and its constantly changing fabric.  Some photos are peaceful. Some mean something only to me. Some are evidently frantic last-minute shots of whatever-I-can-find in front of me.

So, not much has changed from my last project. Are you surprised? I am, a bit. I thought that this year I'd do better about being deliberate. I thought I would take more time each day to compose a shot, rather than (as is usual), happening upon a tree and thinking, "ooh, what pretty leaves. I can take a nice picture of these."  There's nothing wrong with impromptu pictures of trees, but I had grand visions of 365 photos more intended, like Paul started out doing.

Maybe I'm not disciplined enough (heck, I can barely finish sewing projects in a timely manner for other people (who are paying me) (not to mention my own mending--let's see, 3 months and counting?)), but regardless, I certainly haven't managed (successfully) to 1) imagine, 2) plan for, 3) compose, 4) shoot, 5) process, and 6) post any nice deliberate photos like that.

But really, I'm ok with that. I've always been more of a seat-of-the-pants type of flier anyway.  It's enough for me to (try to) artistically arrange the food on a plate for my recipe shots. It's enough to tell someone to stand just so for a posed shot outside.  I am not (at least, not right now) interested in collecting lots of lights and lenses and gadgets for my photography.  Give me a ginkgo tree, a cloudy day, my 50mm 1.8 lens, and all the time in the world for walking and wandering, and you'll get one happy photographer-lady.


Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Monday, October 18, 2010

Perfect Potato Soup

One of the most comforting things in the cold and windy winters of my childhood was Momma's potato soup.  I remember watching her make it, standing on a stool by the warm stove.  She always used gigantic russet potatoes, thoroughly peeling them (for her squeamish children who didn't like "funny brown stuff" in their soup), chopping them, and plop-plop-plopping the chunks into the hot water in the pot.  She never added onions, I guess because we also didn't like those.  But she did add celery. And cream. And salt and pepper. And butter. 

That was it. That was her soup.  She'd serve us each a big bowl, to which I would promptly add another large pat of butter, letting the golden goodness melt and swirl into the soup.  You didn't stir it in completely, though--that spoiled the delight of crafting each spoonful with the right amount of soup, salt, and melted butter. 

Over the years, as I've made the soup myself, I've changed a few things.  For one (and I really don't know what was wrong with me as a kid), I love onion now, and add it to preeetty much everything I make.  For another thing, I like to add herbs and substitute coconut milk for the cream.  I also tend to use red or golden potatoes instead of russet. I think it makes it creamer :) 

In any case, I still stick with that generous pat of butter, letting it happily melt in my bowl.  And, despite my seemingly dramatic shifts from the way I preferred the soup as a child, it remains a strong comforting meal to soothe the wet and windy winter cold away, even in the earliest days of fall. 

Perfect Potato Soup

a bunch of potatoes, roughly chopped (seriously, I never measure--maybe 8 or 10 round red spuds for a good 2 quarts of soup)
some water (you can use stock, but I don't recommend boiling the potatoes in the stock, since you'll drain most of the water)
2-3 stalks celery, coarsely chopped
cream (or coconut milk)

1 or 2 onions, chopped
herbs of choice
a few tablespoons flour (to thicken the soup further)

In a medium pot, bring a couple quarts of salted water to a boil.  While the water is heating up, coarsely chop the potatoes (no need to peel them, but you certainly can if you like) and the celery.  Add both vegetables to the water and cook until fork-tender.  

Optional: While the potatoes are cooking, chop the onions and saute them until they just start to caramelize. Turn off the heat.  Add to the onions the herbs of choice, flour, and any additional seasoning you can think of (I like some cayenne pepper in my soup during flu season).  Mix the herbs and flour into the onions until there are no dry lumps and it's all evenly distributed.  Set aside. 

When the potatoes and celery are tender, drain most of the water but keep it in a bowl or a pitcher.  Add the onions to the drained potatoes and stir well.  Blend the soup with a stick blender adding water as necessary to get  the right consistency (if you want to use stock, add stock to thin the soup instead of the water).  

Taste and check seasoning, adding salt and pepper to taste. 

Serve in your favorite big bowl with a big spoonful of butter and some warm toast. Maybe with some cheese on top.  

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Monday, October 4, 2010


This time of year in Boston is a lovely transition from summer to fall.  It gets warm enough during the day that I don't need a heavy coat and it's enough to have just a light sweater.  But at night it gets chilly--so that I want to snuggle up under a blanket with a hot cup of tea and read a good book while the seasonal winds blow outside.

Fall is coming; and with fall comes all the wonderful goodness of harvest, grand feasts, family holidays, parties, hearty soups, stews, and roasts--warming the house with Love in a Pot from the kitchen.

It is a lovely time of year.

See, the radiators in our building aren't turned on this early. So this is the time of year where we really feel the chill in the air at night.  Granted, we thoroughly enjoy the chill, and the last few nights we've slept with our windows wide open--and an extra down comforter on our bed.  I suppose it makes it that much harder to get out of bed in the morning, when the cold air is fresh in the lungs but the rest of my body is so warm and pleasant.   So, when the radiators do come on, I definitely appreciate them :) but for now, I'm going to make some tea, and wrap a blanket around me while I process photos from my trip to Texas.

Happy Fall to you :)