We took a little after-school trip the other day to the boardwalk in Venice, which is always an education of sorts in and of itself. It's got to be one of the quirkiest places on Earth. If it's essence were defined in a person, they would be stylishly tattered, their skin soaked with tattoos, piercings in most orifices, and the smell of "black magic" incense in their greying long hair. They would be gliding down the boardwalk in rollerskates playing old Doors songs on a worn-down guitar. They would stop and laugh at the guy walking barefoot across a mound of broken glass, buy a leather Africa medallion, then get stoned with his other counterculture friends before the sun goes down. 

Why take my children to a place like that? Because it is brimming with life in all its peculiarities. There is every type of person under the sun, young and old, and because in many ways it is the concentrated version of the city we live in. 

On top of that there is a very cool new skate park there that opened recently. And if there's one thing Mateo loves to be a spectator of, it's skateboarding. At least for now. 



Sick. I'm usually ale to thwart the little illnesses my children bring home, but once a year, I get it. And its always a doozy. There has been lots of TV watching by the kids (TV is usually off limits during the week) and endless snacking. "Mom I'm still hungry they'll shout from the kitchen. "Have whatever you want," I'll say. "Really?" They ask. Yes. At least I can watch them take joy in the out of the ordinary as I slowly make my way back to life.  





I found this little kit at Moomah while on a trip to New York a couple of weeks ago. I loved that everything we needed (needle, thread, material, button) was already inside the box. With projects like this, so much time (often more time) goes into the gathering of the materials than the actual execution. I've been thinking about trying to get Mateo into a little hand sewing as a way to strengthen his hands. He complained at first about how "hard" it was to pull the double-threaded needle through, but he eventually finished both sides by himself. 

After he was done, he gathered these curious (and not so curious) objects for some safekeeping.



Just last night, little Nico ran to me in the kitchen crying out "Mama! Mama! Come look at the sky!" "Okay," I said, "Just let me finish chopping these onions." "No, Mama," he said. "Come see the sky! It's beautiful." He literally grabbed my finger and pulled me toward the window, where there was some serious sun-setting going on. The boys and I stood there for a few minutes, then Mateo said, "Look at all those tiny arms!" I didn't know what he was talking about until I saw he was looking at the tree. 

But lately Nico's been pointing out the beauty of the world to me quite a bit lately. Usually it happens when he and I are alone in the car. We'll both be quiet, listening to music, looking out the window, and suddenly Nico will call out for me to notice the magenta flowers, or the choppy white caps in the ocean, or a suspended hummingbird . He says it with such gentleness that says this is information that I know will make you happy Mom, as he smiles away, glancing out the window to look for more. 


{The stalks were swords until he realized he could eat them, which he did.}




{From Smitten Kitchen}

Barley Risotto with Beans and Greens
Adapted generously from Food and Wine

5 cups low-sodium vegetable or chicken stock

2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil

1 medium onion, cut into 1/4-inch dice

1/4 teaspoon thyme

1/2 cup white wine (optional)

1 cup pearled barley (7 ounces)

1 cup beans, canned or precooked (I used garbanzos)

3 cups chopped leafy greens (I used collards)

1/2 cup freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese, plus more for serving

2 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened

Salt and freshly ground pepper

In a medium saucepan, bring the chicken stock to a simmer over moderately high heat. Reduce the heat to low and keep warm.

In a large, deep skillet, heat the olive oil. Add the onion and thyme and cook over moderate heat, stirring occasionally, until the onion is softened, about 6 minutes. Add the barley and cook, stirring, for 2 minutes. Add the wine if using and cook, stirring until absorbed, about one minute. Add 1 cup of the warm stock and cook, stirring, until nearly absorbed. Continue adding the stock 1/2 cup at a time in six additions — you’ll have a cup of stock left in the pot — stirring until it is nearly absorbed between additions. Most barley risottos are done when the barley is al dente and suspended in a thick, creamy sauce, about 35 minutes, however, I like to take this one a little “soupier” adding another half to one cup of stock. (This gives the beans something to drink up, and you a margin of error if you grains continue to absorb the stock once you think they are done.) Stir it in until the risotto is on the loose side, then add the beans and let them cook for a minute. Add the escarole and let it wilt and then cook for an additional minute. Stir in the 1/2 cup of Parmigiano-Reggiano and the butter and season with salt and pepper. Serve at once, passing more cheese at the table.









We are in the midst of a Lego obsession. There cannot be enough Legos. Specifically Lego men. Oh, the Lego men! These inch-high plastic creatures who are often without hair or hats are collected around here as though they were gold. They've been pilfered from school (where there is more Lego mania) by a certain 5-year-old son of mine whose name begins with an M, and promptly returned to school several times.  They ride motorcycles, they fight fires, they swim with sharks, they eat cheeseburgers (??), they walk in hot lava. Apparently they can do anything with their devious facial expressions. We've made houses for them, castles for them, tunnels and towns for them with windy roads, a jail, and a forest. Apparently even our family lives in this town as evidenced above. The serious building, that requires a 20-page instruction booklet, still requires some parental attention, but I am amazed at how these little men and little blocks are coaxing out some creative fire in my dear Mateo. And Nico, as is his way, just wants anything with wheels. 



When I was growing up, I thought my mom was the healthiest eater I knew. There was no soda, no white bread, no Cocoa Pop cereal, and certainly no Twinkies or Ding Dongs, as much as I may have begged for them. I'll never forget one dish she served where she put a plate in front of me of what looked like pasta with tomato sauce. I dug in, but it was not pasta, it was spaghetti squash. The disappointment! It certainly couldn't replace pasta in my little 6-year-old mind,  but I do remember beginning to really like it after it was about halfway gone. That food memory has become emblematic of how my mom taught me to eat healthily, and how I still try to use those lessons today, although my mom would say I'm much more hardcore in my food choices for my children than she ever was. 

So when I saw this recipe in Deborah Madison's Vegetarian Suppers, I kind of jumped on it. It required more than the usual effort, but it was well worth it. As the boys kept checking on the dinner's progress, they would ask me what was cooking. "It's like pasta," I told them with a smile. "You're going to love it." 

Once we all sat down ready to eat, the boys didn't hesitate to dig in. I was a little shocked. And not only did they finish it, they kept asking for more and more. Nico, in fact, polished off three full plates, and actually looked disappointed that it was all gone. 

I guess it's in the genes, Mom, it's in the genes. xo




Feather Fritters with Squash "Spaghetti" and Tomato Sauce

4 thick slices stake country bread, crusts removed

1/2 to 1 cup whole milk

2 tbsp. chopped marjoram or oregano

3 tbsp. chopped parsley

1 garlic clove

1 cup ricotta

1 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese

1/3 cup finely diced onion

1 or 2 eggs as needed

sea salt and pepper

olive oil for frying

8 cups cooked winter squash strands, baked at 400 degrees for 45-60 minutes

Tomato sauce (I used a jar of my favorite kind)

Put the bread in a pie plate and pour milk over it. If it's on the soft side, use little milk, if it's hard, use more. While chopping everything else, return to the bread now and then to move it around, squeezing the wet pieces over the drier ones. When all the bread is soft, squeeze out excess milk. Put it in a food processor and pulse just enough to break it up into corse crumbs, then turn it into a bowl.

Chop the herbs with the garlic and add them to the bread along with the cheeses, onion, and 1 egg. Season with 1 teaspoon of salt and plenty of pepper. Mix everything together–your hands are the best tool–then fry a little batter in some olive oil until golden and taste it for salt. You'll also be able to tell if it's too dry (add another egg) or too wet (add more bread crumbs). Shape the dough into spheres or ovals, using about 2 teaspoons each. 

Film a cast-iron or nonstick skillet with olive oil. When hot, add the morsels, taking care not to crowd them, and cook over medium heat, shuffling the pan frequently so that all surfaces brown.

Just before serving, drop the baked squash strands into boiling salted water and cook until tender, about 3 to 5 minutes. Strain, then toss with a a little butter or olive oil and season with salt and pepper.

To serve, nap each plate with tomato sauce, heap the "spaghetti" over it, add the fritters, and garnish with a little minced parsley.