Last Sunday, in an effort to break the post-nap play away from crashing, roaring, banging, jumping, I set up the easel in the living room with baby jars full of tempera. And to my surprise there was a serious flurry of painting that ensued. Usually our painting sessions are laughably short. But this time, before I could look up, a page would be filled with color and on the floor and another would be halfway done. It was funny. It was almost like little boy aggression therapy. 

And we quickly ended up with a pile like this
So to give them a little direction, I put some music on and said, "Now, just paint what you hear." I fully expected them to ignore me. But amazingly, they. slowed. down.

And Sigur Ros' song "Se Lest" became this (Nico):

And this from Mateo, who when I asked him what was in the middle of the circle, told me it was "an angel running":
It helped that it was a song they knew and love. It has long been one of Mateo's favorites, and that day he asked me to repeat it about 5 times after he had finished painting it. And each time he would sit almost still next to the speakers, just listening. After the last time, he got up and said, "Mama, hey Mama, that song makes tears." I told him it does the same for me. 







Books and blankets in bed. Blackberry oatmeal. A walk to our beloved farmer's market. Normal.
A sunset picnic in Malibu. Good music. Great cause. A very late bedtime. Not normal. 


The "seasons" here in LA are subtle indeed. So it's never really out of the question to head to the beach even when it's still not quite warm enough. Given that we live so close to it, it's always beckoning, even when the wind is gusting, and the ocean is spraying. 
The boys and I headed to the beach after school for pizza and some airing out. There were still signs that the summer beach we will again come to know so well had not yet arrived. 
The winter sand fences were still up,
Old seaweed still laced the sand,
There was one lone swimmer,
A few tiny shells,
But just as in summer, there were two little boys who could not keep themselves from digging in. 



Last weekend we made our way south to Tanaka Farms, where there are acres of strawberries waiting to be picked. We made our first trip last year, and Mateo, Nico and their friends ate so many, so fast it was though they were afraid the strawberries were going to pop back into the ground. 

This year the boys were a little more restrained, although Mateo still left with his face, hands, and clothes stained with red juice. 

And while all that strawberry picking was certainly fun, the whole point for me was to bring it all home and make something. 
So Matt and I split up, and we ended up with this:
and this:
Which, I have to say, was some of the best ice cream I've ever had. Thanks Matt.



I have a deep love affair with the Southern California desert. Maybe it's because most of the happiest times of my childhood were spent living there, maybe it's something on a deeper, more spiritual level. Whatever it is, it's a place where I can truly escape my everyday world and feel re-imagined. I suppose people have been moving West for that very reason for centuries. I love the starkness, the dry heat, the plants that survive under some of the harshest conditions on earth. I love the sleepy old towns (which remind me of what the Palm Springs of my youth used to look like). I love the expansiveness of it, that you can see the horizon in every direction.

Matt and I took a little escape to Palm Springs and Joshua Tree without the boys for a night, this past weekend. Every now and then, two or three times a year, we really need it. We sat by the pool under the giant San Jacinto Mountains, ate some sinfully good Mexican food for dinner, then made our way to Joshua Tree the next day for a hike through Hidden Valley. Each time I pull into the national park there, the trees never cease to make me feel as though I've been transported to some alien, Dr. Seuss-like place. All barren, poky and gnarled. We left feeling wind-blown and re-invigorated. It was just enough so we could go back to LA, scoop up our sweet little boys, and begin a very promising week. 



Lately, I've been taking it back to basics, food-wise. There is something very satisfying about making the basic things that we so readily go out and buy pre-made. Things like bread, butter, jam, pasta. Most recently, it's been granola. I've only made one kind because I think it's the perfect flavor combination, and the kids do eat it once they get over the fact that It doesn't look like the boxed cereal they usually get. This is one of the basics that's very easy to make, and with this recipe, gives the four of us a solid week of breakfasts with all the granola permutations: yogurt, pancakes, etc. 

Coconut Ginger Granola:

1/2 cup coconut oil
1/2 cup light brown sugar
1/2 cup pure maple syrup
2 tsp. vanilla extract
1/2 tsp. sea salt
5 cups organic rolled oats (not quick cooking)
1 cup shredded coconut
1/2 cup slivered almonds
1/2 cup raw pepitas
1/4 cup ground flax seeds
1/2 cup candied ginger, finely chopped
1/2 cup chopped hazelnuts
A pinch of freshly grated nutmeg

Put coconut oil, brown sugar, maple syrup, vanilla and salt into a large saucepan over low heat.

Meanwhile, place oats, coconut, chopped nuts and ginger into a large bowl.
Once sugar has dissolved in the saucepan, take pan off the stove, and stir in nutmeg and ground flax. Pour into bowl with oats mixture. Mix well. 
Spread granola mixture onto two large baking sheets. Press down firmly with a spatula. Place in a pre-heated 325-degree oven for 30-45 minutes, tossing every 10-15 minutes to ensure even baking. Let it cool to room temp, then store in an air-tight container. 




When you're 4, sometimes people expect you to know what you're passionate about. They expect you to have something, an activity, and instrument, a ball, something that shows promise and commitment. It's part of the hyper-controlled state of modern parenting I suppose, and I see it almost every day. Now Mateo's been in a few extra-curricular classes: soccer, music, gymnastics, basketball, none of which he was particularly enthused about. Now it's…Karate. He's been going for about 6 months now, and while I can't say he loves it, he doesn't hate it either. He's sort of bobbing in the water, not sinking, not swimming. Passionate? Probably not. He shows more fervor at home kicking his bean bag than he does in class in front of Mr. Yi. 

But that's fine. If nothing else, I get a kick out of his little uniform. And watching him "meditate" at the end of class for all of 10 seconds? I get a kick out of that too. Maybe that's what these classes for preschoolers are really all about: supplying the parents with a few moments of preciousness. I certainly don't expect Mateo (or Nico when he's this age) to know what fuels his fire quite yet. In fact, it may take him quite a long while to find out. But my hope for myself is that I can maintain my distance. Put it in front of him, see if he grabs it, and if he puts it back, it's really all good. 


I'll begin my first post here with a trip some said I was brave to take: camping alone with my two sons. Mazi headed to DC to celebrate the impending birth of one of her dear friends, so I headed to Leo Carillo with the boys, and an old friend with his son.  

When we arrived at the campsite I was excited and focused.  I had rehearsed many times in my head all the things I had to do before nightfall.  To me this was survival.  But the kids had different ideas.  They wanted to explore the campsite, meet people, chase each other around with sticks.   I tried to be firm and authoritative, keep them safe.  I wanted them in my eyesight at all times, but I couldn't pitch the tent, cook the food, tend to their needs, while watching them like a hawk.  After much shouting and angst,  I realized that I needed to be more flexible.  They were having a blast, and I was the only obstacle.  As I sat there struggling, the tent flapping in the wind, I remembered that we were there to forget about the rules and routines.  I quickly faded to the background, did my survival thing, and let the kids run and explore every bit of nature they could find.

We ended up having a wonderful time.  Survival was a lot of work indeed, but the kids enjoyed every minute, which in turn made me forget about the work. For Mateo, it was a welcomed opportunity to discover new things and test himself in new ways.  For Nico, it was learning to hang with the older kids and find his own way in nature.  And for me, it was a great lesson in letting go.    



Each afternoon that I walk into Mateo's preschool room to pick him up, I am usually amazed at the fruits of the children's creative efforts that day. Someone will have built a massive and elaborate fortress out of wood blocks with glass pebbles, snakes and wire, someone will have drawn a picture of sage flowers that looks more intricate than what most adults could produce, or there will be a ferris wheel or roller coaster made entirely of wood. These are three and four-year-olds I'm talking about. 

One day I walked in and saw this drawing of Mateo's face on the wall, and I was totally taken aback. Up until very, very recently, Mateo's drawings were mostly furious, multi-colored scribbles. But suddenly there was a face, with eyes, and ears, and hair–his hair! It actually looked a lot like him. His teacher Michele explained how they did it: using an overhead projector, they put a photo of Mateo's face on the wall and he traced over it then painted it. I couldn't wait to take it home, but as it goes, I had to be a little patient. But now it's here, and I love looking at it. I do think it gives a glimpse into how Mateo sees himself and his world–all loose and freeform. And I especially love that he thinks he's got shiny gold sparkles in his hair. 



There has been some serious bread making going on here the past couple of months, which is a new thing. Over the long span of our relationship, I've heard Matt talk often about his grandmother's bread. How during his summers in Cape Cod, he would watch Morm make bread from scratch everyday: the stacks of saved butter wrappers for the pans; her long fingers kneading, slapping, cutting into the dough; and at the end, the lone bowl covered with a towel as the dough rose in the sun. Legend has it that she would cut the bread so thin you could see through it. But as there were often a dozen or so people to feed at a time, Matt says it makes sense. Now.

Our bread making hasn't quite reached the same level of quotidian proportions yet; we are weekend bakers for sure. We've been mostly making this recipe from Smitten Kitchen, but we had some friends for dinner last night and made these parmesan rolls that were pretty terrific. All we need now is to somehow curb our consumption, because before this bread making began, the only bread we ever kept in the house was for the kids' pb&j's. Uh-oh.

Light Wheat Bread
The Bread Baker’s Apprentice

Makes one two-pound loaf

2 1/2 cups (11.25 oz) unbleached high-gluten or bread flour
1 1/2 cups (6.75 oz.) whole-wheat flour
1 1/2 tablespoons (.75 oz.) granulated sugar or honey
1 1/2 teaspoons (.38 oz.) salt
3 tablespoons (1 oz.) powdered milk*
1 1/2 teaspoons (.17 oz.) instant yeast
2 tablespoons (1 oz.) shortening or unsalted butter, at room temperature
1 1/4 cups (10 oz.) water, at room temperature

Stir together the high-gluten flour, whole-wheat flour, sugar (if using), salt, powdered milk, and yeast in a 4-quart mixing bowl (or in the bowl of an electric mixer). Add the shortening, honey (if using), and water. Stir (or mix on low speed with the paddle attachment) until the ingredients form a ball. If there is still flour in the bottom of the bowl, dribble in additional water. The dough should feel soft and supple. It is better for it to be a little too soft that to be too stiff and tough.

Sprinkle high-gluten or whole-wheat flour on the counter, and transfer the dough to the counter, and begin kneading (or mix on medium speed with the dough hook). Add more flour if needed to make a firm, supple dough that is slightly tacky but not sticky. Kneading should take about 10 minutes (6 minutes by machine). The dough should pass the windowpane test and registers 77 to 81 degrees F. Lightly oil a large bowl and transfer the dough to the bowl, rolling it around to coat it with oil. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap.

Ferment at room temperature for 1 1/2 to 2 hours, or until the dough doubles in size.

Remove the dough from the bowl and press it by hand into a rectangle about 3/4 inch thick, 6 inches wide, and 8 to 10 inches long. Form it into a loaf by working from the short side of the dough, rolling up the length of the dough one section at a time, pinching the crease with each rotation to strengthen the surface tension. It will spread wider as you roll it. Pinch the final seam closed with the back edge of your hand or with your thumbs. Place the loaf in a lightly oiled 8 1/2 by 4 1/2 inch bread pan; the ends of the loaf should touch the ends of the pan to ensure an even rise. Mist the top with spray oil and loosely cover with plastic wrap.

Proof at room temperature for approximately 60 to 90 minutes (as in, original recipe says 90 minutes, I walked into the kitchen at 60 and said “whoa!” as it had almost risen too much; clearly final rising times vary), or until the dough crests above the lip of the pan.

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F with the oven rack on the middle shelf.

Place the bread pan on a sheet pan and bake for 30 minutes. Rotate the pan 180 degrees for even baking and continue baking for 15 to 30 minutes, depending on the oven. The finished loaf should register 190 degrees F in the center, be golden brown on the top and the sides, and sound hollow when thumped on the bottom.

When the bread is finished baking, remove it immediately from the loaf pan and cool it on a rack for at least 1 hour, preferably 2 hours (yeah, good luck with that), before slicing or serving.