covert cooking operations

John usually returns home from work as I am making dinner. Tonight, no exception. Barley simmering away in broth, awaiting their friends, the tomatoes and lentils to join them in the pot. Lentil barley soup. It was a soup kinda day around here. I have never used a recipe for it before, because it’s *soup* after all, not souffle, but my results were usually underwhelming. Uninspired. Soooo…I set out to search that great Cookbook in the Sky, the internet, and my new favorite recipe site. Love reading recipe reviews. I found a promising recipe and set off! Of course, I had no swiss chard–really, do any of *you* have it in your fridge? I did have bok choy, because I like it, and I used it last week in the green curry tilapia I made (Thai). (Side note: some day I will learn never to say never. As in the case of, “There is no way I will ever buy a jar of Thai curry paste.” We are the king and queen of odd condiments around here, so you’d think I’d know better. But anyhow.)

Anyway, the soup is simmering, minding its own soupy business, and John comes home, fixes a Manhattan or other weird drink he makes with an orange twist, puts on the Chopin piano music, and starts hovering. He typically is not a hoverer over the stove. I was trying to finish the state income tax form on the computer so I went ahead and designated him Official Soup Finisher.

Anyone who knows us at all will see immediately that this was a risky thing. Remember India and the spicy food? But me? I never think badly of or misapprehend my husband’s intentions.

So there we are, sitting at the table eating this fabulous soup. John is gushing. Yes, he is gushing. Over the soup. And the soup is really good, I admit. We like soup. It had good proportions of ingredients, and great flavor, and the kids were eating it, kind of. William ate three handfuls of oyster crackers and took one bite of soup and didn’t gag, so that’s good. Carrie ate it too, even the tomatoes.

The children are excused, John is working on his second bowl, and he asks, “Is it time for true confessions?” I have no idea what he is talking about. My mind starts spinning: have I done anything I need to confess? All of a sudden he admits to adding a shake of Tabasco to the soup. *Gasp!* What? No!!!!! My recent policy is not to alter a recipe when I first make it so I will know how it is “supposed” to taste.

But, after considering it while, who cares? The soup was great. I might not have approved a shake of Tabasco in the soup, but the results were great. He got the idea from the Teresa Lust book, Pass the Polenta. Every soup needs a dash of Tabasco to bring out some indescribable zing or zest. And here I thought salt was good enough.

Thankfully, he came clean, and I will henceforth be able to duplicate the soup we ate tonight. Even better, it’s another anecdote in our arsenal of cooking stories. Everyday ingredients, long simmered, and a little surprise zing every now and then. Makes for great soup and a great marriage.

with apologies to Mary Poppins


It’s what to say when you don’t know what to say. John and I were talking a few nights ago, about how, really, we have not much to say that is of any worth or even any interest, here on this blog. Okay, I won’t speak for him, but I certainly feel that way. I am not so eloquent. I did want to post something else so my last post wouldn’t be at the top. Geez. When I think about it, ‘geez’ isn’t such a good word to say, because I think it’s a slang form of our Lord’s name. How did I never notice that before?

My daughter’s very first favorite movie was “Mary Poppins.” It’s the only one we let her watch until she was about 4 and a half, and she could sing all the songs. We branched out to “The Sound of Music” which they call the “Mary Poppins gets married movie.”

It happens to me a lot, that not knowing what to say. When I hear or read about bad things in the world, in my family, in my town; when I hear about good things, too.

My dear, dear grandfather used to have this conversation with me every time we talked: “What do you know, Miss Amy?” And always I would reply, “Not much.” He waited for me to say it, and it made him laugh every single time. This was especially humorous to him when I was in college studying philosophy. I would take it all back, all those years (except the meeting John part) of studying ideas, thinking that somehow I would learn the truth about life. But would I? Didn’t everything that went before prepare me for where I am now?

Except now, I know something better. I still don’t know much, but I know what to say when I don’t know what to say, and it’s definitely not Supercalifracilisticexpialidocious. In the end, it’s the only thing I can say, and I want to say it in the very depths of my being, forever.

Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me, a sinner.

casa benecida

This afternoon Fr. came to bless our house. This has never been done before. A few years ago I remarked on that fact to a friend, and she told me that with John and me living here, the house is certainly blessed. Well, but not really. Not like now!

John told me he had set up the appointment and I immediately started forming a list of cleaning chores. Because, you know, I cannot have a dirty house blessed. I keep a fairly tidy house, seeing it’s part of my vocation and all, but this place was as clean today as it ever is at one time. Cleaned within an inch of its life. I even cleaned out the fridge, (and I can explain why it’s called buttermilk-ewwww) because one must have clean vegetable bins! Oh yes! Mini blinds? Dusted. Ceiling fan? Dusted. I couldn’t reach the cobwebs in the skylight and to my horror, ten minutes before Fr. was due to arrive, I realized I hadn’t cleaned the oven. You laugh. Go ahead. It’s okay, because I’m laughing too.

The funny thing is, I have a feeling that it all was entirely unnecessary. Because we are blessed how we are, even as we try to become something else. Soooo…while I strive to be immaculate in housekeeping, I am not, nor do I actually think it’s possible or even desirable. Really what I want is a comfortable house, and I’m not sure I achieve that. I am not comfortable here the way I was in my mom’s various places of residence, or in my grandparent’s house. I’ve often thought about this: is it the floorplan? The furnishings? I think it’s a state of mind or being rather than a reflection of the physical plant (take that, feng shui). Although, my mom and my grandparents had neat houses. I am not sure what to do about it, other than quit being so obsessive about housekeeping. I really, really want my children to be comfortable here, you know, to like being here better than being anywhere else.

My children are different than their parents. John and I both preferred our rooms as children, we could spend endless hours in there by ourselves. We are both introverts. (Shocking, I know). We have been blessed with extroverted children who would much rather spend every waking moment outside their rooms in family space. I’m not sure what to make of it…besides thinking, “What is wrong with you children?”

So, Fr. arrives, carrying a beautiful vestment all folded up, and a cross, and we get some icons (all three of them that we have) and a bowl for water and a few palm fronds (because Home Depot had big palms on sale for $8.80, and I bought one, and it’s now by a south window practically on top of a heater vent, doing surprisingly well but I have little hope). Fr. sets it up on the counter and says some prayers over the water. During this time William is walking back and forth bringing in toys to set next to the icons. GI Joe, and then his rifle. Fr. was amused, and I was horrified. Then he starts walking around the house blessing! And what am I thinking? Yes, you guessed it. Will those little drops of water leave spots on my antiques? I am just that pathetic.

Later, I decided I would be proud of the spots, if there were any. I haven’t noticed any. Of course I looked. I almost kind of wish I could see one, because it would remind me that this house has been blessed. It will remind me, like Fr. said, that without God, we have nothing. Well he said something like that: we cannot survive without water and we cannot survive without God. And my children who will likely inherit these antiques someday will know the same thing. They will be blessed. Hopefully they won’t be so fanatic about dust either.


William likes to kiss stuff. He’s always kissing me, the cat, his bears, his dad…pretty much, if he loves it, he’ll kiss it. Today he kissed the ornaments on the tree at school, and last week, I kid you not, he kissed a package of mushrooms. He loves mushrooms.

I think he’s going to fit right in with the Orthodox.

a poem

by Carolyn H., age 6

Dresses are prite
Daddy is smort
brathrs are cool