I want to post about most of these things in depth, but the time has come to acknowledge this as laughably unlikely. So here, instead, in list form, are 35 things that have been keeping me busy, happy, and full. There is a recipe, or rather a suggestion of sorts, if you make it to the end. Since the last time I posted, and not in this order...
1. I turned 34.
2. I flew to Boston, fell in love with a house in Wellesley, and made an offer. Now we're in contract, knock wood/cross fingers/etc. Believe it or not, I'm actually starting to look forward to leaving San Francisco.
3. Before I flew to Boston, my parents came to San Francisco for their last hurrah visit. Since my mother's birthday fell while she was here, I made Rose Levy Beranbaum's pound cake, an old favorite, and potato focaccia from Tartine Bread, a new one. The focaccia is a whole batch of bread dough (!!!!!) stretched into a jelly roll pan and topped with slivered raw potatoes tossed with olive oil before baking. It seemed unlikely that the potatoes would get fully cooked this way, but lo and behold, it was carbohydratic perfection.
4. We finally tried the sandwiches at Tartine: enormous slabs of country bread filled with cheese etc. and pressed. Mozzarella + tapenade and ham + gruyere + mustard were favorites.
5. We barreled up to Yountville late one afternoon for an early dinner at Ad Hoc and had lots of fun. They set me at ease by welcoming 2.5-year-old Bee with big smiles and a spotless high chair; she got a big bowl of plain buttered noodles while we ate a perfect salad (greens, slivered asparagus, roasted cauliflower florets, raisins, pine nuts, buttermilk dressing), "Texas barbecue" (brisket?) with sides of beans and baby beets, a little cheese course, and chocolate cupcakes. Oooh, and we actually saw Thomas Keller strolling toward the French Laundry while we took a spin around town before dinner. I was weirdly excited.
6. The night before I left for Boston, I found myself frantically slicing and poaching kumquats thanks to a beyond-generous gift from MB (who also generously introduced me and Bee to her precious bébé). Although I dream of being a real adult like the elegant woman in red pants at the top of this post, I can't shake this love of doing nutty stuff late at night: poaching kumquats instead of packing, packing instead of sleeping, reading instead of anything. It felt crazy at the time, but we were glad to have fruit for our breakfasts when we returned.
7. Staying with Andrew's parents in Needham, I got to share a room with Bee...who turns out to have quite a snore! OK, she was sick and exhausted. But who knew?
8. Real estate websites dominated vast stretches of my March. It was a relief finally to be in Massachusetts and to see actual houses instead of slow-loading photo galleries. The first day of looking seemed to validate my working theory of house-hunting, which was that I'm not the type to fall in love at first sight or to decide without long, painful deliberation. The second day proved me wrong and sent me head over heels for a little grey Cape (which was especially funny because at the outset I had said to Andrew, "What is this style, Cape Cod, it just seems to mean no style at all"). I have such a good feeling, cross fingers/knock on wood/etc., about life in this house.
9. I managed to sneak in a trip to Flour in the South End for black bean soup and banana bread.
10. After Boston Bee and I stopped in Houston. My mother's azaleas were outrageous--all the bushes in bloom at once and each bush more thickly beblossomed than we've ever seen.
11. I attended an old friend's bachelorette weekend at another old friend's ranch near Brenham, Texas. I had forgotten the wind rushing through the oak trees and the peaceful spread of the land.
12. We went into Brenham for breakfast tacos. The next day we made them at home, and then I made them again as soon as I got back to Andrew. Warm flour tortilla; fill with cheesy scrambled eggs and salsa. That's it. If you have crumbled bacon or fried potatoes, obviously those are good, too.
13. I think you know who piped up and said she wanted to stop at Blue Bell after her breakfast tacos. I had never been before.
14. While I was at the bachelorette weekend, Bee was with my parents. By the time I returned, she was confidently announcing to waitresses, "I need some Mexican food!"
15. It rained buckets in San Francisco while we were gone, but we returned to sunshine and even a little heat. Bee had her first and second ice cream cones; I had my first opportunity to do something I remember my dad doing--consuming half of a child's ice cream in the name of "cleaning it up" before it melts all over her.
16. My old friend Meg met me for dinner at Flour & Water. The stuffed pasta was ethereal and perfect. The desserts were amazing: chocolate pudding with coffee cream and sea salt, polenta-olive oil cake with blood orange (I think). While I waited for them to open I basked like a cat on the sunny bench outside the door. A six year old girl who had also arrived early for dinner danced and chattered, explaining earnestly that her capers were meant to speed up time.
17. We enjoyed a week of vacation for Andrew, doing fun things close to home. Oh, you. I remember you.
18. We hiked near the base of Phoenix Lake in Marin despite Bee's lusty protests ("Nooooo! I need to be at home! I need to play at home!") and then bought strawberries at the best farmers' market, San Rafael. First shortcake of 2011: knockout. I used a round cutter for the biscuits instead of free-forming it with a sharp knife, and what do you know, they really did rise higher and lighter than ever before.
19. Because there was already so much eating going on, I didn't want to bake anything too crazy for my own birthday: the pain d'epice from Sunday Suppers at Lucques, toasted (or better, fried in butter as she suggests) and served with butter and some of MB's kumquats. This cake was delicious, fragrant, and moist; the crumb was a little rubbery, maybe overmixed by the birthday girl?
20. We had to make it back to Chez Panisse before leaving the west coast, and my birthday seemed like the right time. Marvelous picholine olives with harissa; minced salmon tartare on brioche toast; a pan-fried piece of white fish in a gorgeous green cilantro leek broth; utterly tender spit-roasted pork with sour cherries, a postage stamp of green garlicky potato gratin, a dab of cabbage, and a bit of onion-fennel marmalade; profiteroles; two perfect chocolate truffles and two pieces of candied orange peel.
21. On the morning of my birthday we took Bee to the Discovery Museum in Sausalito. That's a plastic fish she is helping to swim upstream. I had my first experience with another parent claiming Bee had done something (pushed her child and then later taken her fish) that I was fairly sure she hadn't done. The behavior of the other parties was passive aggressive and made me feel odd and anxious about all the challenges to come.
22. I tried on blue jeans (N.B. did not purchase).
23. I gathered all our tax information and sent it off into the world.
24. I got a bunch of quotes and scheduled movers for June.
25. I ordered a bathing suit online (what could go wrong?!).
26. I've started packing: box #25 was taped up today. Naturally, 25 boxes have not made a DENT in our stuff.
27. I've been forcing Andrew (and myself) to go through old files and toss ruthlessly. The last time we moved across the country Bee was nine months old, and we were just to harried to figure out what should go and what shouldn't. This time I don't want to give truck space to ancient coursework that will never be looked at again. So Andrew sadly said adieu to reams of neat work from his graduate studies in math, and I gravely decided to give up on ever discerning the practical uses of theory.
28. After all that I definitely needed a big glass of wine here and there. My favorites were a punchy rose at Ad Hoc and a sweet Vouvray at Chez Panisse, which Andrew wisely ordered over my protests. Alas, I made no notes from the labels...
29. Despite all the wine, the thing I am addicted to is Pinterest. Seriously.
30. Our tabletop garden produced tender radish leaves (but no radishes--?) and two bean pods (yielding 3 beans), a fairy feast. When I got back from Boston and Houston, January's lemon and tangerine seeds, which I had given up on, were both sending up shoots. Now we are growing alfalfa sprouts in eggshells.
31. We've been making plans and dreaming out loud about what we'll do in a real garden (knock on wood/cross fingers/etc.).
32. Bee so loved the fresh noodles at Ad Hoc that I thought we'd all enjoy making fresh noodles at home. Instead of a domestic idyll I got two tense parents with strong ideas about how to do everything hovering over a pasta machine while a wired toddler played trampoline on the sofa. Nevertheless, once the noodles (buckwheat, with dandelion greens and goat cheese, Chez Panisse Pizza Pasta and Calzone) turned out to be edible, I was able to relax and put the whole experience in the "fun" column. The baby claimed she was too full to eat the noodles, which is apparently a trick her grandfather uses when he doesn't like something but doesn't want to say so...hmmm.
33. We've been watching The Wire (good) and Downton Abbey (absurd, no?). I was reading Bleak House on an e-reader until I picked up packing as a leisure activity.
34. I have forgotten how to plan and cook meals. The best things I've made for everyday eating in the past two months have been a cheese pizza and some egg salad (really just fork-mashed deviled eggs) on Tartine whole wheat bread.
35. The Martha article about Tartine bread included a recipe for cinnamon bread crumbs to sprinkle on ice cream. I raised my eyebrows; I don't like stuff in my ice cream, and bread crumbs certainly didn't sound promising. Who, however, am I to question them? When I found myself with a heel left from my first batch of whole wheat country bread, I sliced it and pulsed it, crusts and all, in the food processor. Then I combined the book and Martha versions of the recipe, which were quite different. Both call for white bread, but I had whole wheat. I melted two tablespoons butter in a small cast-iron skillet over medium-high heat. When the butter foamed and subsided, I added the breadcrumbs (about 4 ounces?) and stirred to coat as evenly as possible with butter. I stirred frequently until they were nice and toasty (but not burn-y, adjust heat if they are getting too dark or if the skillet is making aggressive noises), and then I vigorously stirred in 1 tablespoon brown sugar and 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon. I let them cool and then sprinkled over vanilla ice cream. My skepticism was smashed again: this bread, this whole wheat bread, this whole wheat bread with the crusts left on, was playing its part in a perfect cinnamon toast ice cream treat. I froze the crumbs for longkeeping...but couldn't resist eating them with more ice cream the very next day.