We were so lucky this year, for our 6th wedding anniversary, to have spent it with the very people who made our meeting happen. Almost ten years ago, Ify, one of my closest friends, introduced Matt and me, and she in turn met her future husband at our wedding, six years ago on this very night. Now here they were in from New York City with their own little baby, the newest addition to our extended, very dear "family." We celebrated friendship, connection, and a history between us all that spans most of our lives. How special that the family we create outside of our blood, can be just as real, loving and lasting. 










It was almost a full moon and Darth Vader and a very serious racecar driver were on the candy attack this year. With bellies full of our friend Leila's homemade veggie chili, we ventured out. The streets were teeming with kids weaving in and out of driveways and knocking on all doors light or dark. All us moms of the group made an executive decision to give the kids three pieces each once we finished trick or treating, and hope they would forget about the rest. So far it's worked. Those three pieces were all they've had, and they haven't asked for more. And I was able to get my once-a-year fill of peanut butter cups before the rest went into indefinite hiding. I know it's only a matter of time before I lose candy control. 





{the audience}


We take our music seriously over here, so it wasn't a surprise that Mateo took to it strongly as well, even when he was an infant. I could tell a song interested him by how shockingly still and quiet he suddenly became as he took it all in. And when he was old enough to talk, he wasted no time making song requests from the backseat. Maybe all kids do this, but it seems my son takes it to another level, asking to hear the same song over and over and over again. Somedays, hearing "his song" is the first thing he wants to do. We rarely (if ever in fact) listen to kids' music in my car. To be honest, I can't stand most of it, and if an adult song isn't inappropriate, I'd much rather listen to that anyway. 

Mateo's taste runs the gamut from rock to reggae, from rap to folk. His latest little song obsession is this one by Meshell Ndegeocello from her newest album Devil's Halo. He's enthralled by the crashing, throbbing beat especially at the end of the song. Often I hear him (and Nico) repeating the boom-crash-boom-boom beat without the song even being on.

So last week, Mateo decided he had to take this song to the stage. One evening he called me to Nico's room to announce that he and Nico had formed a band called The Rocking and that they were about to perform, and did I want to buy a ticket? My goodness yes, I said. He then told me he needed his star necklace on and he needed to be shirtless because "that's what rockstars do." Where did he learn that?? So interestingly enough Mateo's version is a lot more metal than soul. There was a lot of thrashing, while Nico kept looking at his brother like, "Okay, Dude, where we going with this?" I tried to explain that there's this thing called a melody, but he wasn't having it. All the day's pent up energy needed to go into the performance. That's what rockstars do. 







When I tried to explain to the boys just what I was up to as I pulled out the camera, an X-acto knife, and some colored paper, they seemed to care less. I took pictures of their profiles, then they scampered off with light sabers blazing. So I after I printed out their photos, I used the X-acto to cut out their profiles. Then Mateo came running in, looked over at me and stopped in his tracks, intrigued by the small, sharp shiny knife in my hand. "What are you doing, Mama?" he asked out of breath. That's all it takes to get a five-year-old boys' attention: something he imagines is a weapon. 

Next, I placed the hollowed cutout onto a piece of black acid-free paper and traced the profile with a pencil, above. Then I used the X-acto again to cut out the image. I cut a piece of red and blue (also acid-free) paper to fit my 5×5 frame then used some spray adhesive to adhere the black silhouette to the colored paper. Put it all in a frame and it was done. Nico hadn't bothered to join us, but when I placed the frame in his lap, his face lit up. "That's me Mama! That's me!" And he fell back on his bed into a fit of giggles that only stopped so he could look at it once more. I'd wanted to hang them on the walls with the rest of our family photos, but both of them were adamant that they stayed in their rooms. So now in the daily afterschool ruckus, when I hear a moment of quiet, I can still find them holding their frames, entranced by the transformation of their little faces into paper. 












Hope everyone had a good one.

With all the apples scored from our recent apple outing, we needed to take a vote to figure out what would become of it all. Surprising to me that the boys picked applesauce over apple pie, but I ran with it. Indeed, it really only took five steps:


Wash the apples


Peel the apples


Eating peels optional, but not if you’re Mateo


Cutting apples (with adult supervision, of course)


And after placing the cut apples into a large pot with a little water, salt, and cinnamon and cooking until they soften (about 30 minutes), put it all through a food mill (or food processor) until it looks like this:



I’ve never really been a fan of applesauce, but this was better than anything out of a jar. As I’ve discovered with most simple things we eat everyday (bread, jam, pasta, butter, etc.) it really does taste so much better when it’s made with your own hands. 









Santa Monica's 2009 Pico Art Walk: Some tricked-out classic cars, a double-decker bus ride (Mateo and me on top, Nico and Matt on the bottom), a local band that was pretty good (and whose bass player Mateo could not stop studying).  Not much art in the Art Walk for me, but certainly enough wheels for the boys.







It's been six months without a drop of rain. We watched the drops turn into ribbons as they slid down the windows. We watched tiny leaves rush down the street gutters then fall into the storm drains. We jumped in puddles and walked around others. We pretended our umbrellas were shields protecting us from "space troopers." A full rainbow appeared that was so bright, it seemed to stop rush hour traffic. We walked and walked and walked as if we knew it wouldn't last. Indeed, today it's in the 90s again without a cloud in sight. 



Almost every evening when I start to cook dinner, I call out, "Anybody want to help?" As I talked about earlier last week, Mateo's been a little too preoccupied lately to jump in as much as he used to. But last night I called, thinking no one would answer me, but a few beats later, Mateo came bounding in, jumped on his footstool, stood next to me at the counter and asked, "What am I doing?" So I handed him a raw sweet potato which he promptly began munching on. When I asked him what it tasted it like, he said, "Uhhh…it tastes like a soap. And carrots." But he grabbed the end that I had chopped off and happily kept on munching. 

We went on to make Green Soup with Ginger and Masa Dumplings, which was an ideal meal for chilly, rainy night. The crunchy, cheesy dumplings were certainly a hit, especially with the oldest man of the house. I had to laugh to myself as I watched Matt and the boys use them to dunk and sop every last bit of the soup in their bowls. I guess their daddy's Southern Boy gene was passed on after all. 

Green Soup with Ginger

from Anna Thomas' Love Soup

1 large yellow onion 

2 tbsp. olive oil 

1 1/2 tsp. sea salt, plus more to taste

1 large sweet potato

1 large leek, white and light green parts

1 bunch spinach 

1 large bunch green chard

3 tbsp. chopped fresh ginger, plus more to taste

2 cups good-tasting vegetable broth

2-4 tsp. fresh lemon juice

freshly ground black pepper

Chop the onion and cook it slowly in the olive oil with a sprinkle of salt, stirring now and then, over low heat until it is soft and golden, about half an hour.

Meanwhile, peel and dice the sweet potato and put it in a large soup pot with 4 cups (1 liter) water and a teaspoon of sea salt. Thoroughly wash the leek, spinach, and chard, chop them coarsely, and add them to the pot, along with the chopped ginger.

Bring the water to a boil, then lower the heat and simmer the soup, covered, for 30 minutes, or until the vegetables are completely tender. Add the caramelized onions when they are ready. When the vegetables are soft, add the vegetable broth (you can add less if you like a thicker soup) and decide whether you want your soup chunky, like this, or smooth. If the latter, puree the soup in a blender, in batches, or with an immersion blender until it is smooth.

Stir in 2 teaspoons of the lemon juice and a few grinds of black pepper. Taste, and correct the seasoning with additional salt or lemon juice.

Serves 5-6.

Masa Dumplings

from Deborah Madison's Vegetable Soups

1/2 cup masa harina

1/2 cup all-purpose flour

1 tsp. baking powder

3/8 tsp. salt

1 tbsp. chopped cilantro (or oregano)

1/2 cup grated Jack cheese

1 large egg

2 tbsp. melted butter (room temperature)

1/3 cup whole milk (or water)

To make the dumplings, stir the masa, flour, baking powder, salt, and cilantro together with a fork to blend, then toss in cheese. Beat the egg with the butter and milk, pout it into the masa and stir with a fork to bring the dough together. Use your hands to gently form into a solid mass. Break off small pieces of dough and roll them into small balls about 1" in diameter. Heat 1/4" vegetable oil in a skillet. When hot, add the masa balls and cook for several minutes, shaking them around the pan until golden. Remove and set aside to cool on paper towels to soak up all the greasy goodness. 

















I'm such a city girl. It still excites me to be able to pick the food I eat so regularly. I don't know if that happens to all us who grew up in cities or not, but I do get a tiny thrill from seeing a bush or a tree or a garden full of fruits or vegetables that I can partake in. There's something very comforting to me about eating something that is as fresh and nutritious as it gets. And it never ceases to amaze me how much better it always tastes. Even Whole Foods can't compete with that. You can call me a nerd about it, it's okay. 

So when the season changes, we try and head out of the city so we can get our hands on whatever is in season right now, determine what we wouldn't mind having pounds and pounds of at home, then try to come up with any number of different ideas of what to do with all of it. 

It's October so it's apples. We drove about an hour and a half north of LA to Tahacapi where there are numerous orchards thriving in the high desert. As we pulled up the sweet smell of baking apples with cinnamon and sugar made us weak in the knees. We grabbed our buckets and made our way through the farm picking Fujis, Granny Smiths, and Arkansas Blacks. Matt and the boys of course played a little stick baseball with the fallen apples, and Nico kept trying to find any worms that may have crawled in. And we must have left about a pound of fruit on the ground half eaten. Each time on of the boys picked one and began to eat it, they would spot an even bigger one and drop the one in their hands. 

Now it's onto pies, crisps, apple sauce, apple chips, apple butter. Don't be surprised if something comes your way soon.