For Issa and Her Girls

Today was a classic cold and grey California winter day. It left Ben and I in need of soup for lunch… About 2 seconds after that decision was made, Issa texted asking if I knew how to make French onion soup. (Twin!) I promised Issa I’d find a recipe and test it out for her tonight, so while Ben headed out to purchase a quick fix (tomato soup) for our lunch, I cleared some dinosaurs off the couch and sat down with a pile of cookbooks. I found two recipes right off the bat. One was called ‘classic French onion soup’ and the second was called ‘onion and bread soup’. I opted for the simpler ‘onion and bread soup’ with a few modifications.

1/4 cup Butter
6 Sweet Yellow Onions
Fresh Basil
6 cups Beef Broth*
Fontina Cheese
Crusty Bread
Salt and Pepper

Melt the 1/4 cup of butter in a large stock pot over low heat. While the butter melts, thinly slice the onions.Add the onions to the pot once the butter is melted. Cook slowly over medium low heat, stirring frequently. The goal is to caramelize the onions–you want them lightly colored and soft. You may want to add a teaspoon of sugar once the onions are soft to help bring out the sweet flavor. Once they are a nice golden color (about 30 to 45 minutes) add 2 tablespoons of fresh basil and cook for an additional 5 minutes. Next, add in the beef broth and simmer for 30 minutes.

While the soup is simmering, slice the bread and grate the cheese. Since we don’t have oven proof bowls, I modified the finish a bit. Cover a cookie sheet with foil and lay the bread slice flat. Top each with a generous helping of cheese. Toast in the oven (350 degrees) or under the broiler until the cheese is melted and slightly golden around the edges. If using the broiler, keep and eye on it because it goes fast!

Before serving, season the soup to taste with salt and pepper. To serve, fills bowls with soup and top with cheese toast, extra cheese and a little sprinkling of chopped basil.

*The original recipe called for vegetable stock. Beef makes a heartier soup in my opinion. And I like the flavor better.

Old Friends

I think there are 2 kinds of old friends in life… The first is the friend that seamlessly wanders in and out of touch. They are like a favored pair of jeans (or flip flops) and they come with an ease and comfort that only time provides. You can go weeks or months or sometimes even years without contact and then the phone rings (or your inbox dings) and there they are. You meet up or trade emails, and it is as if no time has passed. You are still walking parallel paths and can finish thoughts and sentences…

The second type lacks the permanent comfort or instant ease. You smile and are genuinely happy to hear from them. But the bond has weakened with time. And while you’ll always treasure memories, you just don’t fit together like you used to. Perhaps you have moved too far in different directions.

As one of my goals for this year, I’m reading East of Eden. Again. I had always figured it would be like old friend type one. Always approachable and a lasting connection–easy to slip back into. But? I’m surprised to find that isn’t true. I like it, I’m enjoying parts of it… But… Perhaps I know it too well by now? Or maybe we have just gone different directions and I’m not the high schooler that fell in love with it. Either way, I’m finding myself rushing to get to favorite sections and then stalling out once I’ve read this or that particular chapter. In fact, I’m currently 2/3rds of the way through and have no desire to pick it back up. (That may or may not be related to the return of certain TV shows. Ahem.)

Because we once were so close, I’ll stick it out and read to the end. But honestly? I’m already looking ahead to a book for the month of February.

12 x 12

With the start of a new year I would rather plan for the time ahead, instead of lingering on the past. With that in mind, here is a list of 12 things I’d like to do more in the months ahead. My plan is that I will do each of these at least once a month in the coming year. And? Because I’m still jumpy from too much holiday chocolate, I plan to blog about them. If my math is correct, that should get me about 144 posts in 2010. (Sounds like an awfully big number for somebody who hasn’t posted in over a month!) These are goals, not resolutions. And I really think that doing more of the following will make 2010 a happier, more relaxed year…

  1. Read. And I don’t mean magazine articles or picture books. I’d like to try to read one “grown-up” book a month. I’ve had several conversations lately about “what was the last book you read?” and I am tired of coming up blank. I really honestly have no idea what it was, other than ‘Feed the Animals‘ for bedtime last night. I’m going to start with ‘East of Eden‘ by John Steinbeck. Because I both love it and own it. And it’s been a loooooooong time since I last read it. Ideally, I’d like to try some new books as well… Anybody have any suggestions? I tend to prefer my fiction light, and with a relatively happy ending. I’m also a fan of historical stuff…
  2. Movies with Ben. One night a month, I want to cuddle up on the futon upstairs and watch a movie. Popcorn optional. Snuggling required. Ben, pick the first movie!
  3. Try new recipes. I got four lovely cookbooks for Christmas this year. (I may have a slight cookbook obsession… Maybe.) Generally I do very little cooking from a recipe–please, don’t get Ben started on this. Anyway, these new cookbooks are full of beautiful pictures and simple (fast!) recipes that will fit well with our current phase of life. I would like to try at least one new recipe a month–they don’t have to be from my new cookbooks, but I’m going to start there.
  4. Blog more. Fortunately, if I have any sort of success with the other 11 items on this list, I should have no shortage of post topics. I’d like to not only write with some regularity, I’d also like to clean up my reader and do a better job of commenting on posts that I enjoy, appreciate, etc. I don’t feel like I’ve ever been really good at ‘community’ and now seems like a good time to dip my toe in and test out the waters. Have a favorite blog that you read? Let me know–I’d like to check it out!
  5. Take photos with a camera. I love my iPhone, almost as much as Caroline and Thomas love it. But I’ve noticed that with the handy little camera on the phone, I very rarely pull out the real camera and take photos of the kids. Everything is now on the iPhone. And, while it takes pretty decent pictures, it just doesn’t quiet compete with the clarity and detail that a camera provides… Thomas’ eyelashes and Caroline’s wispy curls require more than an iPhone. I am aiming to take pictures of the kids at least once a month, and they don’t have to be formal shots. Could be a simple as action shots of them playing with the jungle of toys on the living room floor.
  6. Play outside. We used to go to the park with some regularity and I’m not sure why we stopped. Could have been the heat of the summer, or a general lack of energy and motivation… Whatever the reason I would like to make a concerted effort to reverse this. Other possible activities include taking a walk with the kids, coloring with chalk on the patio, or short bike rides.
  7. Send cards. Real cards, like with a stamp and everything–I know, it’s very old fashioned of me. Tucked away in my closet I have a box of cards. They are addressed in the loopy slanting cursive of an older generation, in hand writing that will always be familiar to me. It is my collection of cards from my grandmother. From Granny. She was truly an amazing woman and even though she has been gone over 5 years, I still think about her on nearly a daily basis. She was a master at sending cards, letters or just sweet notes saying “thinking of you” and opening the mail box to find an envelop with her handwriting never failed to brighten my day. Next to the box of cards in my closet is a large ziplock bag of blank cards. I’d like to start sending this to friends, near and far. Just to say “hi”, or “I’m thinking of you” as a tribute to my Granny.
  8. Cruise the Farmer’s Market. There is just something about being outside, seeing fresh fruits and vegetables… It makes me happy. And (tying back in to other items on this list) it also inspires me to cook, or at the very least to think about cooking. This is one of my favorite ways to spend a Saturday morning and I’m always wishing I took the effort to do it more frequently.
  9. Paint something. Like a room in the house… Or, you know, a painting. GASP! Or, on a more general sense, do something creative around the house. I have some picture frames I bought to fill with collages for Caroline’s room. I have several empty pots out front begging for new cheerful flowers. A vase of flowers on the dinning room table… Something small and creative. Or big in the case of painting a room–am thinking it would be wise to start small, with say a bathroom. Once a month. You heard it here… We’ll see how this one goes.
  10. Cook with the kids. Muffins, cookies, banana bread, etc. Thomas LOVES to climb up on the counter and help measure, stir and spoon. And Caroline comes running whenever she hears the mixer–or when she sees him on the counter. (Sheesh. I tell you… Give her one little tiny taste of frosting once and I can’t keep her out of the kitchen. EVER.) Anyway, it is a fun (although often messy) way to spend a weekend morning and I know the memories will be priceless.
  11. Adult meals. Specifically, I would like to have a meal with my husband and without the kids at least once a month. This doesn’t have to be dinner, or even in a restaurant. Could be lunch on a day we are both working from home. Or could just be sitting down together to eat dinner after the kids are in bed. But I’d like some adult time, time to eat and talk without having to explain everything to Thomas, or without getting up to refill cups of milk 3 times, or without talking Caroline into holding onto her silverware. You know… Grown up conversation and maybe even grown up food.
  12. More house plants. I want this to be a year of living. And thriving. And all things green and healthy. I’m feeling optomistic today, can you tell? Besides, Caroline is past the uprooting stage so it’s fairly safe to have plants in the house now… And I’m always wishing I had more.