Tuesday, April 29, 2008

A school auction and
the breakdown of a volunteer

So backing up a little . . . Last weekend I endured the culmination of a five-month ordeal that left me happier than I think I've ever been to face a Monday: the auction at Sophie's school. A friend of mine asked me today at lunch what advice I had for her given that she had agreed to be president of her children's school's P.T.A. next year and was meeting with people to talk about their fall auction. "Just shoot yourself now," I said. And really, I wish I had. Not that our auction wasn't a successful event. It was, and I'm trying hard to focus on the positive. Here's a little photo log of it.

Sophie attends school as an interdistrict transfer to a three-room school in an unincorporated area in the midst of a beautiful redwood canyon. One of the families in the community has hosted our auction at their home for the past several years. It's the most amazing house ever. The owner founded and developed a very successful construction company, building for himself the most amazing house out of mostly reclaimed lumber. The column on the left is the elevator, which takes one to the main level of the house on the third floor. Very handy for hauling up the goods for an auction.

I was lucky to have my girl lending a hand in the morning as we put things together.

She never goes anywhere without a well-packed handbag. Her mom's girl.

The main room of the house has a soaring timber ceiling, with a view out over the canyon. No decorating necessary.

It's a very casual affair, and there are as many people there in jeans and t-shirts as dresses. Admission is a paltry $15 and includes the most amazing vegetarian feast you could imagine (no meat, no eggs per request from the homeowners, who are very devout Hindu converts).

We may not have a fancy ballroom or a gazillion cellophane-wrapped gift baskets, but we've got everything a good auction needs.

An auction dog.

Great live music. The 3-4-5 teacher grabs the mike throughout the night to add vocals.

A great group of parents staffing the check-out station.

Here's Husband nabbing the Sugarbowl lift tickets! Good thing since at that point in the evening I was stuck at that check-out station. His performance is a vast improvement over last year when every time I would catch a glance at him from behind a computer he was idly chatting, drinking wine, and not bidding.

Here's the dessert I contributed: strawberry tarts with an orange-scented marscapone filling. Last year I baked all the shells and we did this full-sized. This year, we cut ourselves a break and bought the shells, so all I had to do was pipe in the filling, add the berries, and glaze with a lavender syrup. I had wanted to find smaller berries that would fit the shells better, but large ones were all my produce market had that morning, and so I had to make do and halve them.

OK, so what's my beef? It's this: I am BURNED OUT. To a crisp. I was so exhausted the morning of the auction that I really didn't want to even go to it. But after putting in probably over a hundred hours (working on it since January) soliciting donations, logging them, producing a catalog, cranking out bid sheets, sending out numerous email message updating people on auction progress and begging people to put their damn names on the volunteer sign-up sheets, supervising all the other committee chairs, cooking at the school Friday evening (this was actually fun), logging last-minute bid items the morning of the event (thanks very much, passive-aggressive parents who ignored my pleas to get items in in a timely manner so as to not cause undue inconvenience to people [that would be me] processing donations), spending half of the event itself working the checkout station, and then cleaning up until 11:30 that night I AM FUCKING OVER IT. I just cannot take it anymore. Volunteering for my daughter's school has come at the expense of my caring for my daughter and being a present member of my own family. And it's just not worth it.

I'm not entirely sure how it happened. I know it started when two years ago I went to my first P.T.A.-like organization meeting and offered to take on the job of logging auction donations. I was happy to have a behind-the-scenes job, but I remember feeling at that meeting how like a little club that group was and how awkward it was to be a newcomer and started thinking how it could be different. Since taking leadership, I've tried to foster an environment where everyone feels welcome with whatever they have to give. It's been more my style to offer opportunity than guilt people into feeling obligation. My face hurts from smiling, and I'm losing my ability to encourage and reassure. I'm sick of asking politely. And if I can't get things done that way, I don't want to get things done at all. I want people to volunteer because they want to make a difference and show a commitment to their child's school. I do not want to have to threaten or beg. What I want now is to walk away. Maybe what the school needs is someone with a different style, someone who tells not asks. That someone is not me.

In the meantime, I need to focus my energy somewhere else. We have wonderful plans for summer camping through the Tetons and Yellowstone, up to Montana to celebrate my parents' fiftieth wedding anniversary. Sophie has the San Francisco Opera's Das Rheingold coming up. And the good part of school volunteering—trying my best, making someone wonderful friends—I can keep as I let the rest go. So I guess I'm glad I didn't shoot myself.

Monday, April 28, 2008

The Opera Mom is back

Because someone had to escort Opera Kid to a fitting this afternoon. Last year Sophie was a supernumerary (a nonspeaking, nonsinging role—often a member of a crowd scene) in San Francisco Opera's Macbeth. It was truly one of the most wonderful experiences of our lives. Countless hours of driving across the bridge to the city for rehearsals and performances, hanging out with the other parents in the Opera House basement, and watching from standing room left me with a kid who is exited about music, the stage, and the arts in general in way she was not before. She's as happy to listen in the car to a cd of Thomas Hampson's Verdi arias as she is the soundtrack to Highschool Musical (ok, I admit that we can't find the Highschool Musical soundtrack at the moment, and I know exactly where the Hampson cd is). So regardless of how this turns out, the San Francisco Opera has my undying gratitude.

Things have been a little up in the air this time. Since Sophie did Macbeth, she was on the list of kids called to volunteer for the summer season, which starts with Wagner's Das Rheingold. They want forty kids (we thought they were insane with twenty kids for Macbeth), and the Macbeth kids were the obvious place from which to start. I filled out the forms, sent them in, and then didn't hear back. Finally, after a few discrete inquiries, I learned that the casting department was concerned with Sophie's coloring. Apparently they want children with dark hair and complexions ("ethnic looking," they said) given that the children are to be Alberich's slaves, toiling beneath the earth to satisfy his greed.

A friend whose child was already cast insisted on our behalf (thank you!!!) that Sophie's hair is not dark blonde but medium brown with minor highlights. The door opened a crack: Would we consider a nonpermanent rinse to darken her hair? Heavens, yes. What could be more exciting than dying one's hair for the opera? Then we received word that based on a picture (this one right here from Macbeth) casting was concerned about her "rosy complexion." "Isn't that what makeup's for?" I asked. Turns out they're a week and a half away from starting rehearsals and still short ten kids, so they're inclined to agree.

Off to our fitting we went.

We're not out of the woods yet, but when Sophie asked the fitters "So am I in?" they said that they had assigned a costume to her and so assume she is.

I know that even if it doesn't work out, there will be other times. But it's hard to steer my daughter into a situation where she may face rejection, regardless of how objective it may be and how well I've tried to prepare her. It's not about you, I've explained, it's about the art. And I think from her last opera experience that she understands this. It's probably me who has more of a problem.

On another note, I feel brought full circle by recalling that Sophie's first opera experience was the impetus behind the start of my blog. Wishing to document and share her experience, I stumbled upon something I had not anticipated: a creative outlet and a community of friends as well as a way to document and remember. Here we go again.

Friday, April 25, 2008

Bonnano alert

Another sure sign that spring is here: The annual Sunfest Bonanno Sale is next week! Thanks, Vivian, for the heads up. (Sandals with their own blog—you gotta love that.)

The sale runs May 1–4 and is for $20.00 off every pair of Bonanno's. Here's what happened last time they had a sale:

I'm a flip-flops gal at heart. But I figured that if I'm going to wear flip-flops to work (this is California, after all) I should class myself up a little by substituting these for my standard rubber models. And while I concede there's no noticeable change in anyone's perception of me, I think they look nice. I'm wearing the ones on top today with jeans and this white tee I bought at Target last weekend.

These are my favorites, and if I get another pair at this sale they will be this style. Maybe black with white? I also think the white/shell combo. looks nice.

Even at $20 off, it's a pricey pair of sandals for me, but I really do think they're worth it. They are beautifully made and come feeling already broken in. And who can resist their interactive "customize your sandals" page? I have could played around with it for hours. Take a look at the customer picks on "popular color combinations" to get a better look at some of the colors. And since I saved all that money on the Target tee . . . Not a word to Husband, k?

Thursday, April 24, 2008

Girls' weekend:
Sophie and I take a doll-making class

Last weekend while Husband was gone on his dude ski/camp/hot spring trip to Mammoth, Sophie and I took a doll making class at a new studio near us, The Workshop. They have a lovely, inviting space with lots of natural light and offer all sorts of crafty classes. I knew Sophie would love doll making, but I was anticipating it would be something I would endure on her behalf. Surprise! I loved it, and I wasn't half bad at doll making. Who knew?

Much of the afternoon's success is owed to Ellen, our fabulous teacher who would have none of my claims that I am creatively impaired once removed from the kitchen. She patient with and encouraging to both of us.

We started off with pipe cleaners, winding colored embroidery thread around and around to make the limbs.

It's starting to look like a doll, isn't it? Ellen takes a very flexible approach to it all: things don't have to be done a single certain way, and if you mess up, there are lots of ways to fix things. Or you can just leave it as is because, as she pointed out, it's a doll. I like her philosophy.

I was worried though when we got to the next stage: dressing the doll, which Ellen claimed to be the fun part. Not really to someone who can hardly dress herself. But we had oodles of fabric, ribbon, buttons, rickrack (love that stuff) from which to choose, and I think I did alright. I made two: a flower fairy and a woodland fairy.

Sophie wanted to make an entire family and made a good start by producing the girl and the baby. We got to take some materials home so she can finish the dad and the mom. I don't think there is to be a brother. She did really well, following instructions and behaving well for three hours, especially considering it really was an adult class.

Thank you, Ellen, for a wonderful afternoon! We'll be back for more classes soon!

In the meantime, our dolls are happy in their new home and have been playing the garden.

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Rain for the sake of rain

Last night we had what I consider our first spring rain. Gentle and soft. You could only hear it if you were still and listened carefully. 

When it rains in the winter, I'm usually focused elsewhere: It's snowing in the mountains. How soon can I get there?? Logistics, logistics. Gotta go!

But I know it's the end of one season and the beginning of another because last night I loved the rain just for being rain, right here at home. Where it keeps the hills bright green a little longer before they turn to gold for the summer.

And it makes the flowers grow.

When I looked at pictures my brother emailed of his family skiing this past weekend, my feet still itched to feel the snow beneath them, but my mind is sort of looking forward to letting go of the constant jonesing for the white stuff. Racks are off the car, skis are in the closet. There's hiking, camping, gardening, and work on the house to be done. 

But, you know, we really should be booking our Alta reservations for next year about now. . . .

Monday, April 21, 2008

Chocolate arrives at the House of Crazy

Attentive readers will recall that I won a blogger give-away hosted by the lovely Trish. Who (bless her) promised to send me chocolate. Which she did, and not a minute too soon.

Here's the contents of the hefty box that landed on my steps this weekend:

We've got the most amazing Chocolate Bark. It's on the way up to my face in this picture.

As is this double chocolate cookie.

And we've also got homemade chocolate pudding mix, which Sophie has claimed as her own. This is fine as long as she agrees to spoon feed it to me while I'm sitting on the couch with my feet up and my eyes closed.

What's the problem? It's school auction time.

I coughed up an auction catalog last weekend, and this weekend I worked on bid sheets. Did I mention that I sent a couple hundred letters out to solicit much of this schwag and then logged it all into my kick-ass little database? I did. And so you would think that someone else could step in to help with these stupid bid sheets. But they haven't, and that's at least partly my fault. I haven't asked. But that's because getting people to volunteer at the auction itself has been like pulling teeth, and whereas I am capable of staying up to midnight cranking out these stupid sheets, I am not capable of prepping food, working check-in and check out, and doing cleanup at the auction without killing someone. Which I just might do anyway.

Especially if someone comes up to me at the auction to tell me "Oh, I see that we don't have X donation this year! Oh, that is just too bad. Why is that?" Or tell me if I ask them to give someone working a station a bathroom break "Oh, you know, I'm talking to my friends right now!" To which I want to answer "Oh, I didn't realize people like you had friends."

And if at this point you're wondering if I am perhaps not temperamentally suited for this role, I would concede that you're probably on to something. In our high school senior class book there was a section where people were voted "Most Likely To." I was not identified as most likely to become president of the P.T.A., but if there had been a "Least Likely" category here, I would have had a lock on it. I have crafted an entire professional career around avoiding meetings. I'm neither a leader nor a follower; I like to take care of details behind the scenes. I get shit done; I have little patience with people who dither, procrastinate, or fuss. I have a quick temper and often a big mouth. So WTF am I doing? It's important I remind myself of this several times a day: I am becoming part of a community that is built around the children of our school. I am making friends who support me and who I sometimes get to support in the most insane and questionably advised undertaking, being a parent. I am learning that with volunteers, you don't get to pick your team. You try to find what everyone has to give and accept it with equal amount of gratitude. I am showing my daughter that she and her school are a priority for me. At the end of most days, that's enough.

I said most, not all. Thanks, Trish, for sending a little something to get me through the next week (the auction is Saturday). And apologies to the rest for being a bad blog reader and commenter and a probably incoherent blogger myself.

Friday, April 18, 2008

The $300+ brunch. Really.

I don't know about you, but restaurant brunch has never been same for me since reading Anthony Bourdain's Kitchen Confidential, where he explains that point of Sunday brunch is to clear the fridges for the Monday food deliveries and dispose of leftovers while turning a tidy profit from unsuspecting diners. He points out, moreover, that cooks hate working brunch. At best you'll get the B Team, at worst you'll get the dishwashers learning their chops.

So you can imagine the big snort that emanated from my nose when I received this invitation by email this morning (I took Sophie and the MIL there for Christmas tea a few years ago, suffering some of the worst service I have ever experienced, and have been on their email list ever since).

$94 a person?? Does anyone else think that's a little extreme? Let's do the math. For Husband, the MIL, Sophie, and me the total would be $336, before the gratuity and that second glass of champagne. What the hell is in that spa bag anyway?? Jeez. Probably soap and bath gel.

But I'm having fun already planning the brunch I can serve at home half that. Chilled lobster salad? All the asparagus—both green and white— I want. Fancy cheeses? Heck, why tax my imagination? Let's just take a look at their Sunday brunch menu.
Assorted Fresh Fruits with Whipped Cream
Mini Bagels with Cream Cheese
Grilled Asparagus with Red Pepper Aïoli
Grilled Asparagus Salad
Pasta Primavera Salad
Mixed Greens Salad with Assorted Vinaigrettes
Smoked Fish Platter Including Smoked Salmon, Gravlax,
Peppered Mackerel and Applewood Smoked Salmon
Variety of Sliced Deli Meats and Assorted Patés
Caviar Station with Fresh Blinis and Traditional Garnishes
Seafood Display with Cracked Dungeness Crab, Blue Point Oysters and Shrimp

San Francisco Seafood Chowder

Slow Roasted Prime Rib Au Jus
Honey Glazed Ham with Wild Berry Madeira Sauce
Fruits de Mer Ragout with Sea Bass, Day Boat Scallops,
Prawns, Green Lip Mussels and Lobster
Veal Scallopini with Ratatouille and Marsala Sauce
Chicken Pepperoncini with Penne Pasta
Yan Chow Prawn Fried Rice
Stir Fried Seasonal Vegetables

Eggs Benedict with Hollandaise Sauce
Scrambled Eggs with Shaved Parmesan and Chives
Poppyseed Pancakes with Warm Maple Syrup
Smoked Bacon, Link Sausage and Canadian Bacon
Cajun Spiced Potato Wedges
Assorted Dim Sum with Three Sauces

Various Pastries and Desserts
Bourdain's right. Half of those dishes smack of recycling. And do any of them look like something I couldn't make at home? Nope. But I'm going back to my own menu planning. Anyone want to join me? If you're celebrating at home, what are you planning on serving? It's never to early get a start on things like this.

Thursday, April 17, 2008

Adios to Husband

No, we're not getting the divorce we've been talking about. (We often end fights asking the other "So! Do you want a divorce?!" with the other answering "Not right now! Maybe later!" We think this is really funny, but in all seriousness I never would have gotten married if I didn't also think I could get divorced. So if I stay married, it's because I want to be, not because I think I have to be or don't feel that I have options. Very important.)

Anywhoo, no—he's on a Dude Trip. Meaning that he took off with his dude friends for a long weekend of skiing, camping, hot springs soaking, and hiking at Mammoth. One of the dudes is turning 50, so the shebang is in celebration of that. And even though this means that Husband skis and I don't (something I usually do not tolerate), I was happy to send him off on this trip for several reasons:
  • I love all these guys. If I weren't married to Husband, I'd probably marry any of them.

  • It's going to be butt ass cold at night. I sent Husband off with both of our bags to use one inside the other, and I'm still worried he'll be cold.

  • I'm really not interested in putting on a pair of cramp-ons and climbing half a day to bag a run I can barely ski anyway.

  • Every once in a while a dude needs a dude trip.
However, the following has not been lost on me:
  • As I noted, they will be skiing, and I will not. (He took the racks off my car and put my skis in the closet. Sniff!)

  • They will be in the eastern Sierras, which I really love, and I will not.

  • They will be soaking in wild hot springs (the ultimate for wilderness camping: you get into your bag at night clean), and I will not.
And I miss him already. Sort of. I'm still trying to get my mind around our conversations (if they can be called that) concerning vehicles, which took place a few days ago.

Me: I notice Eric thinks you are driving the CRV. Which is my car.

Husband: Yes, we're thinking about that. Would that be ok with you?

Me: Sure. It would cost much less in gas than your truck.
And then a little later:
Me: You realize don't you that if you take my car I will have to drive your truck while you are gone.

Husband: Yes, I had thought about that. That will not work. I do not want you driving my truck.

Me: Are you aware that our life will not come to a sudden halt because you are not here?

Husband: Can't you just ride your scooter?
Right. With a carpool load of kids to school. And over the bridge to Marin on the weekend to take Sophie and a friend to a party. Duh. So he's gone now. In his truck.

Stay tuned for the exciting plans Sophie and I have for the weekend. We're starting off with her sleeping in Husband's place in our bed. As she said "We can sleep in a hug all night." Good night.

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

What's cooking: Thai beef

I made this the other night when I was fresh out of inspiration and with only limited ingredients on hand. Imagine that. I let my inspiration be how sorry I'm feeling for my self these days since we're heading in on the school auction I am co-chairing (thank the gods for my ass-kicking, totally competent, good-at-talking-off-the-ledge co-chair whose is also just a damn good friend: I'd be toast without her). Pasta has always been a comfort food for me, but I had made that the night before, and things weren't quite bad enough to justify consecutive nights of it. So I went to my comfort food runner up: rice. Brown rice is nice, but when I'm bumming, it's just got to the good old white stuff.

I've modified this recipe from one for Thai beef salad, where the beef is served over romaine lettuce. I'm not a huge beef eater, but when I eat it I prefer it lean, not too rare, and well-seasoned. I had a flank steak but didn't have time to marinade it. The vinaigrette in this recipe provides an effective cheat and works just fine.

Preheat the grill and get the rice going first. 


Rinse, pat dry, brush with olive oil, and sprinkle with salt a flank steak. Grill, let rest, and slice thinly against the grain. Or thinly slice any leftover roast beef you can find in your fridge.

While the meat is grilling, make the vinaigrette by combining
3 tablespoon Asian fish sauce
3 tablespoons fresh Meyer lemon juice
3 tablespoons water
3 tablespoons vegetable oil
1 teaspoon sugar
lemon zest from above lemons (might as well use it, right?)
a couple stalks of green garlic, minced (or use a single clove of mature garlic)
small bunch of fresh mint, minced
Pour marinade over sliced beef. Add
carrot cut with a zester (you've still got it out from zesting the lemons, right?)
sliced green onions
 Let this sit while you make a salad. I was too lazy to make a vegetable side dish, so I just upped the veg. content on my salad by adding carrots, turnip, radish, green onion, and jicama to add to my standard romaine with balsamic vinaigrette. Did I mention I find chopping thing up very therapeutic? Must be the carbs.

Serve the beef over rice. It really did make me feel better. 

I dood it: Have signed up for
sewing class; will make pillow

Do you think I'm in over my head? The woman who took my registration over the phone sensed my anxiety and asked if I was worried I would be bored in the class. Quite the opposite, I explained. Have a used a sewing machine before? Well, not since junior high (seriously). But I can use scissors! And I have a pin cushion!! She thinks I'll be fine. She probably also thinks I'm a total idiot, but she was nice (have you noticed that people at fabric stores usually are?) and did not say so.

The class is offered at Stone Mountain Daughters, our local fabric mecca. Here is the class description:
Come give sewing a try! This one-session class introduces you to a sewing machine and the basics of using it. Work on a pillow and learn how to use a sewing machine, measure and cut out your project. Come get excited about sewing! This class will help you figure out what features to look for in a sewing machine; different types of seams, skills such as turning, corners and, backstitching; and how to work with the bobbin. After this class jump into any of our Beginning Level (101 or 102), Easy Intro (80) and/or Apparel Open Sew Labs (204).

Do you notice they say work on a pillow? Implying perhaps that I might not finish the pillow? I will be sad if I come home with just a bag of fabric and thread. But the class is three hours. That should be enough time, don't you think?

My class is on May 27, and there is one more space open. Calling Monica! Come join me before summer annihilates your free time!

And thanks again Leesie for the kick in the pants!

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

They were tears of joy

It's hard to surprise a control freak like me. When it comes to knowing what's coming next, I'm pretty on top of things. But every once in a while something totally sideswipes me, and I love it.

I came home yesterday and expected nothing in my mail box but the usual bills and catalogs. I was surprised to find something larger, something sort of mushy. Had I ordered something I forgot about? After all, it happens around here.

But no. It wasn't anything I ordered or expected. But it was something I really wanted. As in really wanted.

Goddamned if it wasn't one of the pin cushiones from Lisagh's blog give-away I had lusted after, enough to shamelessly enter her contest four times.

Her note revealed her motivation.

Her generosity warms my heart and causes me to pause a moment to think about this amazing thing we bloggers have going here. How I rush back from a weekend away from internet access to find out if someone's had her baby, how someone's doing on her chemo. course, how somone's sick cat or kid is doing, or how someone's handling a relationship that's crapped out on her. Or just to find out what someone has cooked, sewed, knitted, or bought. Most of these women I've never laid eyes on, but I care about them enormously in ways I never could have predicted when I embarked on what I thought was just a way to record a few things going on in my life.

And the love goes on. Trish (who had never won anything before) was the person who won the pin cushion giveaway square and fair, and so she had to host her own giveaway, which I won (picture posted when my prize arrives—I can't wait!!). So now I have host my own giveaway. I have a little shopping to do. Since the pin cushion comes with a promise on my part to sign up for a sewing class, some day I'll be able to host a giveaway featuring aprons, pillows, and other clever crafts, but for now I'm going to stick with what I know: bounty from my garden, recipes, and cocktail equipment. Stay tuned.

In the meantime, Sophie was delighted with the pin cushion as well, which she thinks can serve another purpose later this summer when this guy shows up at our house later this summer on his excellent tour.\
A sweet place for Monkey to rest his head, particularly when he is missing his mommy.

To keep current on Monkey's travels this summer, check his his very own blog. And look at his mommy ON THE RADIO. She's kicking this blog thing to a whole new level. It's going to be quite a summer.

Thanks, Leesie!!

Monday, April 14, 2008

Mother-daughter dresses:
Go ahead and tell me

Is that just too lame? I'm asking because ALL dresses at Hanna Andersson are on sale right now. And I know Sophie would love this dress (how lucky am I that my eight-year-old still loves a pretty dress??). But would it be too much?

How about if we never wore them at the same time or if we did we never left the house? We could totally scare Husband in these.

Tell me what you think.
  1. No, Cindy. You are a hopeless retard.
  2. OK, but only if no one ever sees you in them at the same time.
  3. Buy the dress for Sophie but not for you.
  4. What a brilliant idea. You and Sophie will look adorable. Be sure to have a picture taken.
  5. None of the above. Here's what I think: __________________

What's cooking: A quick Sunday dinner

Usually Sunday dinner is anything but quick at our house (when we're home and not gone skiing). But we mixed things up this weekend and had the long dinner on Saturday. I spent most of Sunday in my office working on the catalog for Sophie's school's auction. I logged items in the database, listed them in the catalog, paginated the catalog (I'm in publishing, so I've got to have recto/verso running heads), filled in the table of contents, indexed the damn thing, printed it off, and finally I was ready to COPY it. Except then the copy machine and I got in a big fight, with the screen that reports paper jams in various parts of the machine lighting up like a Christmas tree. I cleared the jams, it printed two or three copies, it jammed again. Damn this thing that is the size of my bathroom and probably costs as much as my car. I finally gave up and hauled things off to another machine, which printed all the copies I wanted except it was out of staples, and so since I lacked the bandwidth at that point to deal with finding and adding new staples, I stapled all the copies by hand. Which is a long way of saying that I got home much later than expected, with nothing planning for dinner.

When I'm in a fix like this, Trader Joe's frozen uncooked prawns are my go-to ingredient. There's always some in my freezer. I had bought some fresh romanito tomatoes at the produce market the day before and had from my weekly produce box leeks, spinach, and green garlic. I had in the fridge kalamata olives, shredded parmesan, and a block of feta cheese (I like Bulgarian for it's big gamey taste).

And so I made this:

Which doesn't have a name but was quick, easy, and good. Here's what I did:

I thawed the prawns in a colander in the sink under running cold water. I drained and then dried them in a kitchen towel. I sprinkled them with a little sugar and salt and then sauteed them in olive oil. When they were just pink, I added minced garlic, tossed, and then transferred into a bowl.

I added a wee bit more olive oil, and sauteed the leeks. I then deglazed the pan with about 1/3 cup white wine and added the tomatoes (halved), olives (pitted and sliced), and spinach. When the tomatoes were soft and the spinach wilted, I added the prawns back in, tossed over heat, and added the cubed feta. I served over pasta with shredded parmesan.

Did I mention that I am totally over our school auction and completely sick of being the president of Sophie's school's P.T.A.-like organization? Sick sick sick. But it's Sophie's school, and it's about her and her education. That's what I've got to keep reminding myself to keep from going postal and telling everyone to go f*&$# themselves. Because that's really what I'm wanting to do right now. More on that later.

Sunday, April 13, 2008

What's cooking: A spring menu

How lucky am I when the contents of my weekly produce box match the recipes in the food section of the San Francisco Chronicle from one of my favorite cookbook authors and columnists? Georgeane Brennan had a column on spring entertaining, listing two menus with recipes. Saturday night I made the first, featuring roast chicken stuffed with thyme, using green garlic, radishes, fava beans, and asparagus from my box.

I put the chickens in the oven first (I always make two so the MIL has one to take home). Although the recipe doesn't list it, I always like to tie a roasting chicken. I make a loop around the end of each leg, pull together, and tie.

I then bring the ends under the bird, crossing, and bringing up to the top to tie again.

While the chickens were in the oven, we started with her appetizer of fava beans, radishes, butter, salt, and bread. The combination is like a bite of spring bursting in your mouth.

For our cocktail I chose the South Side, which blogger Melissa Morris gave the recipe for last summer. It's been a warm-weather favorite at our house ever since and is another great use for the Meyer lemons and mint in my garden this time of year.

When the chicken was ready

I served it with chilled asparagus with tarragon mayonnaise (I often make my own mayonnaise, but I wanted to try Best Food's new canola-based version; Cook's Illustrated gave it a good review, and I concur—not bad at all for something that has no cholesterol and half the fat!)

and baby Yukon gold potatoes and artichokes.

We finished with a salad, including some wonderful red lettuce from our box,

and a simple dessert of fresh sliced strawberries in lavender syrup over vanilla ice cream.

And the best part of dinner? My happy MIL. Picture taken by Sophie.