Monday, July 16, 2012

Drag me to hell

Super-hyperbolic but exactly how I felt this morning thinking about leaving bed to go to work.  I just really want to continue cottage life - engrossed in a book, lazing, snuggling with the Big Yam.  The time with him is what I was missing the most.  At the cottage, a few times he had nightmares so I pulled him into bed with me and we slept all smushed up together like mashed potatoes and gravy and I felt my heart thrum with love and the awareness that he is growing up lightning fast.  So many words!  Too many to document.  Sentences: "Mama more chicken please" (does that constitute a sentence? We were wondering what parts of speech have to be present for a sentence to be duly constituted.)  (Edit: I just checked - a subject and a predicate.  Not really sure what that means though.  Will report back.  <-- is that a sentence?!?)  He's been practising with randomly calling us Mommy and Daddy and I find it kind of syrupy and gross but there's nothing I can do about it. He will also now just start randomly parroting words back at you as soon as you say them.  It's so cute!  Toddlers are really, truly the best.  Young, new, fresh-dough babies are cute and all, but nowhere near as entertaining as toddlers.

I gave the Dotytron a near heart attack one night at the cottage because I kept hearing this weird sound and I was convinced that someone had broken into the house to steal the Big Yam from his bed.  I wrecked both our night's sleep on account of my paranoia.  Worst!  People who mess with babies are the scummiest scumholes of the world.  Hands down.  I kept picturing how scared the Big Yam would be and how alone and how he'd totally just be going "Done. Done. Done." the whole time (which is what he says when he's done with something and/or confronted with a situation he's uncomfortable with - e.g. old people smiling at him) and I was totally beside myself.  What's wrong with me that I actually imagine those worst case scenarios?  I'm too much of a worrier.

Why do kids have to grow up into jerks teenagers?  What's with that?  Why will he one day grow up and (hopefully) find love and then love someone more than me?  WHAT'S WITH THAT?!  I gave you life!  Whoever he's going to shack up with is just giving him nookie!!!  And what if WE DON'T GET ALONG?!?

I need to get a grip.  To temper all the wanting to quit work and never being farther than arm's reach away from him, I have to take a deep breath and remember all the time outs at the cottage and how I relished those blessed, blessed minutes of not getting smacked in the face or dealing with whining.
Speaking of not getting along with your parents, one of the (many) books I've finished recently is Alison Bechdel's latest, Are You My Mother?  Taking as its title inspiration the well-loved P.D. Eastman children's book of the same name, it's Bechdel's graphic novel memoir that details her relationship with her mother.  The pall cast by her closeted father (who is thought to have committed suicide) on the family and on Alison's own burgeoning lesbianism is documented in her earlier comic memoir, Fun Home.  This piece is very different.  I'd say that her mother figures marginally in the overall work and instead, it deals with the residual affects of her mother on Bechdel's psyche (e.g. her mother stopped kissing her goodnight when Bechdel was 7, saying she was "too old" for such things).  There's a lot of psychoanalysis and psychoanalytic talk in the book, which I wasn't expecting.  Bechdel uses the work of a particular psychoanalyst, Donald Winnicott to attempt to come to grips with her own dreams, feelings of failure, anxieties, neuroses, and attachments to her therapists as substitutes for her mother.  I found this book a little difficult.  It's deeply personal but lacks the narrative grace of a successful memoir.  Bechdel is a little too much in the book - it meanders and you get the sense of you yourself getting lost and becoming too intimate with someone's psyche - someone whose issues seem not terribly fraught or aren't presented in a way that makes the issues of particular interest to an outsider.  It was enjoyable, but nowhere near as engrossing as her comic strips or Fun Home (too much psychobabble and Virginia Woolf!)  

One of Bechdel's realizations did resonate with me, in light of my own fractured relationship with my own mother.  Over a late-night telephone conversation where Bechdel's mother chastises her for being public about her lesbianism, Bechdel cries and hangs up on her.  But she comes to an awareness that she is asking for something from her mother that her mother cannot give because it is not in her to do so.  Again, it comes back to accepting people for who they are.  Bechdel realizes that her mother loves her, in her own fashion, and that what Bechdel wants from her mother her mother cannot give, not because she doesn't want to, but because it is not in her to do so.  Through this realization, Bechdel understands that because of this, it is not a fundamental failing in her that she is unable to illicit what she wants from her mother.  In so doing, they are both released from the tortuous detente they had occupied and are free to enjoy each other as they are.  I was deeply struck by this and I think this is something I am going to try to take forward into all my relationships in general, but with my mum in particular.

Last night was our street's 2nd Annual Street Party.  It was so much fun!  Look at it: 

Kids lining up for the shoe toss competition 

 Ladies lining up for our shoe toss (I did terribly - I got negative points and kicked my shoe backward. I blame being too relaxed from the cottage - no muscle tone.)

Super-cute, right?  As usual I went buck and overcompensated and made too much food.  Next year I'm not going to make a side.  This year I made a BLT macaroni salad thing (macaroni, bacon, tomatoes, lettuce, and avocadoes all bound with scallion mayo), smoked 4 racks of ribs for five hours (using wild black cherry and sugar maple), and I made brownies and tres leches cake.  I've NAILED the tres leches cake recipe.  I'll post the recipe at the end.  I made some changes to a recipe from Serious Eats.  

We had a decent amount of food at the party:

I'm trying to cut down on carbs a bit, so tonight we had a quinoa, duck egg, avocado, and chickpea salad with scallion mayo.


Coconut Tres Leches Cake
makes a 9x13 sized cake

2 c. all-purpose flour
4 t. baking powder 
6 large eggs, separated 
1 teaspoon salt 
1 1/2 c. sugar 
1/2 c. milk, at room temperature 
2 t. pure vanilla extract 
2 c. sweetened shredded coconut 

2 cans coconut milk 
1 can sweetened condensed milk 
1 can evaporated milk

1 1/2 c. whipping cream
1 c. sweetened shredded coconut, toasted 
1 c. flaked almonds, toasted

- preheat oven to 325°F
- whisk flour and baking powder together in small bowl; set aside. 
- in the bowl of your stand mixer or a large bowl, beat egg whites and salt with whisk attachment on medium-low speed until whites begin to loosen and froth.  Increase speed to medium-high and beat whites until soft peaks form. Slowly add the sugar and continue beating until stiff, glossy peaks form. 
- add egg yolks and beat just until combined. 
- decrease speed to low and add flour mixture in three batches, alternating with milk. Scrape down sides of bowl with rubber spatula.
- add vanilla and fold in coconut with rubber spatula. 
- pour batter into a lightly greased 13x9" baking dish and smooth top. Bake until cake tester inserted in center of cake comes out clean, 45 to 50 minutes. 
- cool cake for 30 minutes, then poke cake all over with a fork or skewer and run a knife along the edges of the cake to separate it from the sides of the pan.

- in a large measuring cup or bowl whisk together the coconut, evaporated, and condensed milk.  Pour this mixture evenly over the cake, allowing the cake to absorb the milk between applications.  Wrap the cake in plastic wrap and chill in the fridge for 4 hours or overnight.

- just before serving, whip the whipping cream until soft peaks form.  Spread the whipped cream over the top of the cake and then sprinkle with the toasted coconut and almonds.  Cut into squares and serve.

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