Forget diamonds, it's all about ear plugs

Indeed, ear plugs are a girl's best friend. On Sunday evening, tired as get-out from having driven in the day before and then staying up till midnight to pick my aunt up from the airport, I asked Tom if he happened to have any ear plugs in his dop kit. As he has two towers-of-power full of enough medicines to render him a traveling pharmacy, I thought he might be able to help me escape the myriad sounds of a busy house, including his unceasing snoring. He had one pair, and I have slept in blissful quiet ever since. I have no idea what's taken me so long to employ this most basic of noise-blocker, but I'm happy to have done so now. My brother-in-law had orange juice pulp hanging from his nose this morning and looked slightly peaked, so maybe I'll get him a pair too. My sister, Elia, and her husband, Michele, arrived in from Italy late Sunday night, and their presence has made everything even more fun. Last night we played a few hysterical rounds of a new game I brought home: you have to fill in the blanks, sing the next line, provide the name, etc of popular Christmas carols and holiday songs. As I love Christmas carols, I was a formidable opponent, but my aunt Renee was also excellent, and Jack rushed in as the sleeper expert no doubt because of four years of bi-weekly music classes and annual holiday concerts at school.

We've been eating well, the archers are improving at a fast clip, Tom has joined their ranks after my parents found him a fabulous bow/quiver/arrow set yesterday, and today we're going to visit Nanny's house for the last time (it's empty and will feel so very odd) and then bring flowers to her grave as Oliver and Elia weren't here for her funeral, and Oliver keeps insisting we have a "second funeral."

Gully-washer to gorgeous

Last night, I made my old Meatless Monday standby, Yotam's burnt eggplant with tahini. T just can't find much love for this dish so I tend to make it when he's away; all the better because then I can enjoy the entire serving, like a lone pig at a terrific trough. burnt eggplant with tahini

This morning greeted the boys and me with a steady rain, and just after I got home from dropping them off at school, the skies opened; it was a solid gully-washer punctuated with brief intervals of retreat- perhaps the nimbused reservoirs used those moments to regain critical mass. Sitting near a window, emailing to friends, I loved every minute of the storm.

It moved on, and as if issuing an apology left behind unadulterated spring glory. I finished up a good amount of my to-do list for Oliver's birthday (shamrocks, Wonder Woman, golden lassos and Hello, Kitty! = what a mix), ran some errands and noodled further on how to turn my new favorite snack of ricotta + candied kumquats into a more formalized dessert. I also realized I'd soaked since yesterday morning, a pound of Rancho Gordo cassoulet beans so best figure out something to do with them. I had some gorgeous pork belly, in bacon-style strips, in the fridge, an onion here, a leek there, a can of good fire-roasted tomatoes too, marjoram, garlic, thyme, good oil. A stew of sorts came together and cooked over a slow heat for north of three hours. The boys enjoyed it for dinner, and I'm planning to do the same.

In the meantime, I took my first step in the ricotta-kumquat direction by making some shortbread dough and pressing it into a rectangular tart pan. I baked it for 20 or 25 minutes and then spooned into it a ricotta pudding batter. Upped the temp, baked that until middle-jiggly and, when still warm, dressed it with a scattershot of the candied kumquats. I can't wait to try this!

ricotta pudding-candied kumquat tart on a shortbread crust


Another cool part of my day was seeing an old high school friend I've not laid eyes on in at least a decade. N and I correspond regularly via Facebook but despite the fact that we live in the same city, we've not managed to see each other. After making the greatest greenie bargain - I offered Ol's beloved crib mattress and changing pad for her sourdough starter and some lettuce seedlings she's been nurturing- over she came, bringing with her the most charming little lady bug (her 1 year old daughter) I've been able to get my mitts on recently. Plus the other goodies and some homemade yogurt cheese. It was a real treat to catch up, reconnect, meet in wildly different circumstances than the atmosphere that was high school. (Amen for that).