As a family, we’ve been sick for days, but we’re finally on the mend and looking forward to Spring Equinox this weekend.
WHAT WE’RE DOING
To celebrate the Spring Equinox on Sunday, over the next few days, we’re making seed bombs with our easily propagated leftover seeds from 2014. We’ve already started our indoor seeds (a little late), and I’ve been digging in the garden to build our herb spiral around a tree stump cut low late last fall.
On Sunday, there’s a neighborhood egg hunt, which is perfect for us, since we celebrate the equinox and not Easter. Instead of going to our favorite sci-fi/fantasy convention (Norwescon) and our favorite manga convention (Sakuracon) Easter weekend, I’ll be caucusing and hope to use it as a civics lesson for my teen.
WHAT WE’RE READING
We checked out a lot of new picture books for the Little Fox, but a pair of Pomelo books have proven quirky and rather subversive. At least, some of the pictures make my partner and I giggle or give each other meaningful looks. While the art is adorable and most of the pictures silly or sweet, once in a while, we find one bordering on macabre or downright nihilistic. I’m hoping to dig up more of these, because as intelligent adults who share a dark sense of humor, these books are a blast. Like the original Olivia books (those written by Ian Falconer and not the show tie-ins, which lose a lot of the charm and wit), they offer something for both the child and the parent reading them.
A couple of years ago, I became curious about The Leftovers, but at the time, couldn’t watch it for various reasons. After watching the first few episodes of the first season, I had to read the books. Talk about potentially ending up like the show Lost where answers weren’t forthcoming didn’t sit well with me, so I wanted to know what I wasn’t seeing in the show that the book reveals. The book is incredibly insightful about the human condition, communities, and modern society.
The premise is based on the question: what would happen to the people left behind in a Rapture-like event? Without any clear idea of what happened to the disappearance of 2% of the world’s population, those “leftover” struggle with a feeling of emptiness, grief, and uncertainty. The story focuses on the people in the small town of Mapleton, New York and how the Departure has affected them. Midway through the book and halfway through the available episodes, I’m fairly well hooked and looking forward to seeing how both end (the first season is based on the book, but there are deviations, and the following seasons go beyond the book).
Since Running Start is a short distance away for my daughter, I created a list of books, some mandatory, some optional, and let her choose fourteen total to complete (plus essays) until she begins college in the fall. She recently completed To Kill a Mockingbird, and followed it with an inspired essay about permissive bullying. Now she’s delving into The Once and Future King to be followed soon after with Mists of Avalon by Marion Zimmer Bradley.
WHAT WE’RE WATCHING
Little Fox, according to my partner, has a “crush” on a redheaded mechanic named Doctor McWheelie. He enjoys this show so much, he’s begun pronouncing certain words with a British accent (e.g. garage as GARE-ej, petrol instead of gas). She’s become a bit of an invisible friend at meals and on car trips, too. You can see more of McWheelie on the KidsFirstTV YouTube station.
Then there’s a delightful Russian show we all enjoy watching together, Masha and the Bear. While there are English dubbed episodes online, we prefer watching it in Russian with English subtitles. My son doesn’t seem bothered with not understanding the words, since the visuals tell most of the story anyway. Masha is my son in a dress with a Russian accent. Their behavior is near identical, and it’s a wonder we still have a house.
WHAT WE’RE EATING
Since my partner is now a permanent employee at his company, he actually has less take home pay than when he was a contract worker. So, we’re working harder to keep to a food budget while still enjoying organic, whole foods, most of which are cooked at home.
Last night, I made a comforting Indian dish known as saag paneer (sometimes palak paneer depending on the region). For those unfamiliar with this dish, it’s essentially cooked spinach and a firm cheese in a flavorful tomato cream sauce, served over basmati rice. Saag or palak can be cooked with almost anything: chicken, seasonal vegetables, potatoes, etc. We just happen to like the paneer best. Note this is my modified version, and not traditional. It’s made mild for our children, but with plenty of spices we have on hand.
Saag Paneer: Ingredients
2c. basmati rice (dry)
1 – 2 lb. fresh spinach, chopped
1/2 lb. paneer
4 cloves of garlic, pressed
equal parts (approx. 2tsp.) of: turmeric, garam masala, ground or grated ginger, paprika or red chili powder (depending on desired heat), ground fenugreek/methi, cumin, coriander
salt to taste
1 6 oz. can tomato paste
1 14 oz. can coconut cream or milk (we get ours at Trader Joe’s, which has an excellent price for the product)
Start by cooking the basmati rice. Generally, two cups of dry rice to three cups of water. Bring to a boil, stir for a minute, reduce to med-low and cover. Once covered, add ghee (clarified butter) to a large skillet on medium heat. Chop up the paneer into cubes and add to the skillet to cook until slightly crisp on the edges (not traditional, but we like the edges crisp; can be cooked until warm).
Set paneer aside in a bowl, add more ghee to the pan, and toss in spices to toast lightly. Add in tomato paste, mixing the spices in well. Add in an equal amount of water to tomato paste and stir quickly while sizzling. Now it’s time to toss the chopped spinach into the pan, slowly folding it into the tomato paste.
Cover for a few minutes, stir, and cover again. Return paneer to pan, and turn heat down to low. Stir in coconut cream until blended and sauce warm. Serve over rice, which can be dressed up with saffron, raisins, peas, and cashews.