big brother, little sister

it’s funny how little it takes to make me nostalgic. today, all it took was a friend sending over a mr. bean clip and suddenly i was tumbling backward to soft, simple afternoons when i was a just little kid… before i was old enough to be latchkey, before daycare arrived in our school district – back when it was just me and my big brother at home alone after school. the memories are faint, because there was only one year we were ever at the same school at the same time. only one year that i was asked to “wait for anthony” so we could walk home together: big brother, little sister.

i remember watching this with him:


and laughing because my brother laughed.


getting to know wallace and gromit, too:

and, one day, eating four strawberry fruit-a-freeze popsicles in a row – bought from a small japanese supermarket, meant for individual sale but taken home in the original cardboard packing boxes because we bought so many at once – and my brother getting blamed for my uncontrolled gluttony (but it was summer and so hot! and they were so good…)

and something else on pbs, a show whose name i can’t remember. but the kind-voiced, fuzzy-afro’d man taught crafts… the distinct sound of his sharp scissors chomping through thick construction paper still rings in my ears.

he had an episode once that taught how to make your own lick-and-stick stickers. my brother and i tried it, and i can’t remember how successful they were, but i remember being fascinated by the fact that vanilla extract was part of the
lickable glue recipe.

.

i think i may have come to the part of my life where it circles back to the beginning. or the near-beginning. it’s likely i’ll be moving back home – the home i grew up in – in just a few months. …and i realize i might have a chance for a second go at this whole family thing, to grow up and learn how to be a better child. so i suppose it’s timely that i am thinking about my big brother and how he shaped me, whether by sitting beside me watching pbs, or playing his hipster music loud enough so that i could hear it down the hall, or even through his absence as we quickly grew up and apart.

today is one of those days when the fibers run together, and it feels good after such a long stretch of floating untethered.

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chicken fricassee with orzo

this is one of my favorite recipes.

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it comes from a very old issue of cooking light magazine, from a page still tabbed with one little yellow post-it. looking at the year printed on the rumpled front cover, i must have found it sometime in high school, and i’ve made it countless times since then – always when i want something elegant but comforting, not too heavy but still delicious and flavorful. it made an appearance at one of the first dinner parties i ever threw, back in college when i was a rookie at the whole hostess thing, and i still go to it because it’s such a dependable dish.

the steps are simple …and quite satisfying if, like me, you’re into all that sizzling and simmering and the browned bits and such.

chicken pieces are browned quickly in a pan of butter for flavor, then simmered with the cover on for moistness. somewhere in between, diced carrots, chopped green onions, cubed ham, and minced garlic get a quick toss in a hot pan and things start smelling wonderful. a silky smooth cream sauce comes together just a few minutes later.

i started my new job this week – with its odd, late hours – and realized i had better start bringing my own dinner to work. the plastic takeout box nonsense just wasn’t going to work for much longer. so it was only natural that i turn again to this well-worn issue with its familiar pink cover (“pound cake pleasure,” it says) and grab this security blanket of a recipe. sitting down for a dinner break in the office kitchen with my brand new co-workers beside me and a figurative blank page ahead of me, it continues to serve me well.


chicken fricassee with orzo

Chicken Fricassee with Orzo
adapted slightly from Cooking Light, April 2000
Serves 4

1 lb. skinned, boned chicken breast halves
½ teaspoon salt
¼ teaspoon black pepper
2 teaspoon butter or stick margarine
¾ cup chopped green onions (about 1 bunch)
½ cup diced carrot (about 1)
½ cup diced ham (ask the deli for about ¼ lb., sliced thick)
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 cup fat-free, less-sodium chicken broth
½ cup Chardonnay or other dry white wine (or more chicken broth)
1/3 cup whipping cream
1 tablespoon cornstarch
3 cups hot cooked orzo (about 1 ½ cups uncooked rice-shaped pasta)

  1. Sprinkle chicken with salt and pepper. Melt butter in a large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Add chicken; cook 3 minutes on each side or until browned. Remove chicken from pan.
  2. Add onions, carrot, ham, and garlic to pan; sauté 4 minutes or until lightly browned. Stir in broth and wine, scraping to loosen browned bits. Return chicken to pan; bring to a boil. Cover, reduce heat, and simmer 10 minutes or until chicken is done. Remove chicken from pan with a slotted spoon; keep warm. Add whipping cream; cook, uncovered, over medium heat 8 minutes.
  3. Spoon out a bit of sauce to make a slurry: Mix cornstarch with sauce in a small bowl until completely dissolved. Stir slurry back into the simmering sauce and cook for 1 or 2 minutes more, or until desired consistency.
  4. Spoon orzo onto each of 4 plates. Top each with 1 chicken breast half and some sauce.

moregon

(yeah, i really just did that.)


– silver falls state park –

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oh oregon

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i think i might be a farmgirl at heart.

all right, so i arrived in 3-inch heels that kept poking into the dirt whenever i stood still for too long… and we got teased for locking our car behind us (“where are you guys from?” “los angeles.” “ohhh.”) but you know, on the inside. i’m all country.


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the wedding was a sweet little ceremony in front of the house, complete with a princess bride reference and a dog named frodo as the ring-bearer.


then there was a little mingling here and there under a great big tree.

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everything took place under the great big tree. i love great big trees.

the groom was the oldest son of one of my dad’s two old grad school buddies (diagram needed?), so the wedding brought the trio back together again.

i don’t think i’ve ever seen my father so giddy. these were the guys who – when my dad first arrived in missouri, fresh off his flight from a faraway country – became his friends. and taught him inappropriate words in english. i overheard tales of halloween pranks and hallway ice fights, and it’s doing strange things to my idea of dad.

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short intermission

this song. i’ve got it on repeat, in my heart.

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breather

i wish there were more hours in the day for this:
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or maybe some of this:

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i’m currently whirring about in a blur of thoughts as i am preparing curriculum for my new job, while still working full-time at my soon-to-be-old job. it’s a wonderful kind of busyness, because it means i am breaking open a new chapter of my life and busting in right away with all sorts of possibilities and responsibilities… but it’s also a level of frenzy such that i need lots of sweet, milky tea and giant chocolate chip cookies in order to cope.

and these visual reminders of moments of calm, stolen from the weekend – they help too.

good humor

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heehee! more ice cream-related nostalgia.

the porch swing

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i mentioned earlier that i had slipped some of that strawberry lemonade into something boozy. that’s it up there, a drink called the porch swing. it’s a swill of equal parts gin and pimm’s no. 1 cup, plus the lemonade and a splash of 7 up – and it’s mighty delicious. i’m so glad it actually tastes good, too, because i had already loved it terribly for its name alone. i’m a sucker for things like that.

i have to tell you, i’m pretty much a pansy when it comes to alcohol. my friends make fun of me because, like a typical girl, i like all the stuff that tastes like juice. the list is short: moscato d’asti, lindeman’s framboise, pear cider, malibu and coke, sangria. every once in a while, though, i can handle something stronger… it just has to go down easy. so, um, long island iced teas and shots of soco and lime. let’s not get into what those extremes say about me.

this drink would fall into the latter category. it’s a drink that’s got some muscle, but without that unpleasant burn or the aroma of sharpie. this recipe calls specifically for hendrick’s gin, which apparently is just about the most expensive gin they have at bevmo


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…and pimm’s no. 1 cup, which was new to me. it’s a syrupy brown liqueur the color of tea that is supposed to have citrus and spice flavors. it is bri-ish. (say that with an accent. my friends do it all the time.)

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the result is quite lovely. it’s fresh and clean tasting with a pretty, floral flavor (perhaps because of that pricey gin, which is “infused with rose petal,” among other things). i served it at the cocktail party over the weekend, and it paired so well with the summer evening and its slow breezes.

…i’m adding it to the list.

note: i might consider making it with strawberry lemonade from now on. i’m fairly certain it tasted prettier that way.


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Porch Swing
{for a crowd}
Quantities multiplied from this single-serving recipe
Makes about 7 cups

1 ½ cups Hendrick’s Gin
1 ½ cups Pimm’s
No. 1 Cup
4 cups lemonade (1 cup freshly squeezed lemon juice, ½ cup sugar, and 2 ½ cups water) or
strawberry lemonade

Combine all ingredients in a pitcher and stir. Pour by the glass, adding ice and a splash of 7-Up to each just before serving.