Into the Wild + Quinoa Johnny Cakes

IMG_5213 We returned yesterday from a sweet weekend getaway to the mountain town of Julian, CA. Lucky to have acres to roam and a Quonset hut to nest, these family escapes are more rare now as we are scheduled to the stars with sports and other commitments. The property is not ours per se, but belongs to my family, and we have been adventuring there for nearly 10 years now.

I'll be honest. We're not exactly roughing it. I packed our SUV to the gills with the following... paint, glue, yarn, scissors, markers, paper, leather Motorola radios ("walkie talkies") pink ski vest + Uggs books + magazines my camera big straw hat scooters + helmuts cooler, dry goods, sparkling water, spices Bose sound dock a bottle of pinot plastic eggs + chocolate + goofy glasses

As I closed the back of the truck, I thought it might be possible that I've simply outgrown camping.


I let go of email and running, and turned instead to hiking, cooking, reading, gathering, making. We crafted swords and slingshots, I collected feathers and daffodils. We ate True Food Kitchen's quinoa Johnny Cakes and I baked Spanish chicken with onion, potatoes and spicy sausage. We dyed eggs with beets, red onions and turmeric, and huddled together on a loveseat in front of the tiniest TV screen for a Friday night movie. I was up at daybreak each morning, and heard the call of the turkeys as I hid eggs on Easter Sunday. Later that day we packed up the truck and gave a heavy sigh, with the promise to return soon.


Quinoa Johnny Cakes

My go-to dessert dish when I brunch at True Food Kitchen with my lady gals. Barely adapted from Dr. Andrew Weil's True Food Cookbook


2 cups cooked quinoa

2 cups whole wheat pasty flour

1/4 cup sugar (evaporated cane or white)

2 tbs plus 1 1/2 tsp baking powder

pinch of sea salt

1 tsp ground cinnamon

2 cups whole milk

4 large eggs

1 tsp vanilla extract

orange zest

1/2 tsp olive oil

pat of butter


ripe banana, apples, or blueberries

Greek yogurt (plain or vanilla)

maple syrup


1. Make quinoa. (HOT TIP: If like me, you normally add some savory "better than bouillon" flavor to your quinoa, skip it if you plan to use leftovers for these Johnny Cakes).

2. Combine the flour, sugar, baking powder, salt and cinnamon in a large bowl. Whisk well to combine. In another large bowl, combine the milk, eggs, vanilla, orange zest, and oil and whisk to combine. Add the dry ingredients to the wet and blend until just combined. Fold in the cooked quinoa taking care not to overmix. Let the batter rest for at least 1 hour.

3. Lightly brush the cooking surface of a nonstick pan or griddle with butter. Ladle about 1/3 cup of the batter onto the hot pan. Drop banana slices, thin apple slices, or 8 to 10 blueberries on top of each pancake. When bubbles form in the batter, flip and cook on the other side until

lightly browned. Continue with the remaining batter and choice of fruit.

Serve topped with a dollop of yogurt and maple syrup on the side.


Forever Young: The Queen Bee Turns 90

Marcy90_0005The MatriarchLovin’ on my gram isn’t always easy. She’s a feisty red head, at heart, in her youth and now via bottle. Still, Marcella is the Matriarch of our tight knit family and we love her Madly. She has a brood of 4, plus 5 grands and 4 greats. Married to the “Chief” for more than 50 years, our family has a strong foundation and sticks together through it all. The in-laws are IN, and they accept our eccentricities. Through marriage and divorce, sickness and health, we all come together. While the Chief left us a few years back, Marcella Jean (or “Maxy”) turned 90 today, and this is how we celebrated.

Home Movie I know there must be some 8mm clips, recorded somewhere. But I don’t have them, so I created a simple scrapbook-style movie of fave family moments and images from Grandma Marcy’s life. While In the Mood by Glenn Miller nearly me drove me out of my gourd (longest 3:26 of my life), I had some fun with Herb Albert’s Tijuana Taxi, the bubble gum popper I’m into Something Good by The Bird and the Bee, and finally, the heartfelt yet peppy version of Bob Dylan’s Forever Young. It came in under 15 minutes, which seemed to be the perfect amount of time for everyone to giggle, sigh, and regret some awesome haircuts (did someone say perm? or um, mullet?).

Storytelling I am big on thought here, short on action. I think it’s fantastic to have recorded stories of our family’s history.  Have I done anything to make this happen? No. StoryCorps does this all over the country, and I love to hear the vignettes on NPR. In the spirit of StoryCorps we had everyone share a memory of the Birthday Girl. I video-recorded each one with my iPhone. It’s a start. My M opened the series with a reading of Invitation, by Shel Silverstein, and B drew her a picture of a bird. Which he promptly left at home. My nieces sang “You Are My Sunshine” with a little help from their Oma. The stories were funny, soulful, and grateful. Meticulously planned and lovingly spontaneous. I saw the origin of (many of) my beliefs and quirks through the eyes of my dad, my aunts, uncles and cousins.


Ohana Family. It’s in the way we lead that children are cultivated and grown. Relationships nurtured. Parenting is not so much about following rules. The rules are inherent in the WAY we are raised and HOW we guide and inspire our own children. Not in a list of do's and don'ts.  I know not everyone is as lucky to have family near by, or willing to travel the distance for these milestone moments. But making the effort means so much--and teaches the next generation that connecting really does MATTER. Family first.

Wish List

One of my favorite keepsakes each year is the completed Wish List from each of my boys. First, they needed to be old enough to write. Now they are of the age where they like to "research" products online.  I especially like such request as "pillow," "shirts" and "pears and apples," as it lends credibility that at times my children appear as Dickensian orphans: shirtless, bedheaded, hungry. Let us take special note of the detail in "Candy Canes (10)" or the vagueness, in a wish for a "surprise."  Either way, such lists represent a time capsule of our lives, their dreams, this moment.

This year, I created a printable PDF for you to download. Click here for your own WishListTemplate.

Mahalo Mondays: Kauai

I missed the boat on the whole daily gratitude phenomenon that often happens in the month of November. It's a great idea, sure. But I'm not that disciplined. That's why I'm launching Mahalo Mondays-- a weekly post to chronicle my thankfulness. Mahalo means more than just 'thank you'. At its core Mahalo is a divine blessing of gratitude and thanksgiving. When used, it calls for authenticity and thoughtfulness. I'm grateful to have experienced Mahalo, thanks to a family member who provides us a place to stay on the island of Kauai.

This tropical isle has given us sunwashed salty memories--fresh fish, warm sand, easyrelaxation. After our first trip we adopted a simple "Mahalo" as our family dinner blessing. It's heartfelt simplicity suits us, and even if we've hollered our way to the table, serves as a gentle reminder of our best times together.

This Thanksgiving we'll add our island toast to the family blessing, and maybe sneak in Somewhere Over the Rainbow, by IZ.

22 Days

I received this gorgeous bouquet yesterday from my future employers...The New Children's Museum. Happy Mother's Day! Can you smell the lilacs from here? The scent fills our home still, and I'm nostalgic for my Midwestern childhood where backyards ran together like wavy green ribbons, rhubarb was foraged for homemade fruit leather and lilac bushes lined the back fence.

Here's to new beginnings...June 1, you're only 22 days away.

PS. Many of you know my favorite floral peeps, but this particular arrangement raised the bar. Well done Flower Child!

Navigating Change

The most successful people 
are those who are good at Plan B.

-James Yorke
This quote was brought to my attention on Monday, when I was at the Getty in LA for a an exclusive tour of their Rembrandt exhibition with the Museum's key donors. The special events manager shared this with me, and i felt it was perfectly suited for the topic at hand...

Did I mention before how honored I am to be included in the Axiology Collective--A smart and beautiful group of women? I'll be attending my sixth gathering tonight. Since I'm so very delinquent on my personal posts here, I thought I'd use tonight's topic of Navigating Change as my first blog of 2010. What about you?
For Reflection...
1. Do you generally embrace change or find yourself unsettled by changes that come about in life?

I think I take change in stride...

…though, changes I make I tend to embrace, while changes other people make I’m a little more hesitant to accept. I find it an issue of control when it's in the context of work, while I'm more open to it and often want to instigate change in my personal life…
2.  Some changes we choose, others seem unwelcome. Is your reaction different toward each? Do you like the way you react? 
I tend to get very inquisitive/curious when confronted with unwelcome changes. While I'm not always the most graceful person to accept change that I don't endorse, I do take pleasure in finding out how and why a change was made.
3. What does stability mean to you? When do you feel stable? 
first thought: financial stability. tangible home, husband, family. second pass: the path i've chosen for myself--my own intelligence, strength and peace provide me with a spiritual/emotional and physical stability that could carry me through a breakdown of the first layer.
4. Recall a moment in life when everything changed. A time when you knew in that instant that life would never be the same again.
this seems cliche, but it's a vivid moment in my meager collection of foggy childhood memories: My sister and I in the car on the way home from swim lessons (age: 9) and my mom tells us that she and my dad are getting divorced.  My sister (age: 5) completely brokedown in tears, i was silent. I recall being relieved and disturbed at the same time.
5. As a child, was there a lot of change or were things seemingly stable. How do you think this affected the person you are now?
I have to stay that while she did the very best she could, after the divorce life with my mom was fairly disconnected. Four years later, we were with my dad and step-mom in a more structured environment. Of course this has shaped who I am today. I'm sympathetic to what happened at that time, and I know that there was unconditional support for my sister and I from extended family and friends.
 this I gained an odd sense of confidence and independence, and at the same time an incredible set of insecurities; I have a solid work ethic, an appreciation for working class values, and I know the difference between a "want" and a "need". Finally, I have great empathy for families in stress, single parents, and most importantly, the children affected by this all.

Overheard: Beck & Max

To help me savor the choice conversations and comments from the boys, I'm inspired to write them down, and keep a jarful of such moments.
Brooke, over at shared this lovely idea. She always has great photography and is such a beautiful designer. Enjoy!

Beck: Aren't you watching the show of Me?
Beck: The Director told me to be right here for the show.

Beck: This one is a detonator.
Max: What's a detonator?
Beck: It's like a grown up bomb.

Beck: We're having a grand opening.
Max: What's a grand opening?
Back: It's for my birthday.


My head is freakin' spinning. Maybe I have a month's worth of blog posts in my brain. What happened to the last 30 days? What have I been doing for crying out loud?

At work we launched a new member program I've been working on for the past nine months...The Gallery. In conjunction with the launch came a blog (I post once a week or so...) and new collateral materials. Whoo Hoo! We have 30 members to date...

I'm getting my feet wet as the mom of two separate classrooms. The PTA is knockin', the Foundation is callin', and daily emails are delivered from room moms. I volunteered to be the "Art Odyssey" teacher for Max's class, and a helper for Beck's class.

I was invited to join a group called the Axiology Collective. This dynamic dozen is packed with intelligence and sincerity. It's been less than a month since I was introduced to the group, but I am truly grateful for the invitation and look forward to the monthly gatherings. And yes, there is a blog (find me there, too)! The ladies have done a beautiful job of designing and documenting the past year of topics with related resources, and now our collective commentary.

Oh yes! I finished up the logo and business card design for a fabulous new matchmaking business called Love Happens Here. Yea Kim! Fun project and wonderful connections...On this Truly Fine note, I was thrilled to be a featured designer at the VIP Grand Opening for Green in Hillcrest. My longtime floral friend, Carlos Franco gave Truly Fine Design a prime spot in his hot new shop.

Which reminds me...the Mister surprised me with a gorgeous floral arrangement from Green after we celebrated 9 years (of humor, of hip hop, of love, of friendship...) at Cucina Urbana near Balboa Park. We sat at the community table, met great people and had a fantastic night with lively conversation. The Basil Martini is a MUST, the egg and pancetta pizza was outstanding (with a Super-Tuscan red), and really, yes, the roasted strawberry frangipane is SO worth it.

Which brings me finally to the last big hurrah of the past 30 days. My very dear BFF Cindy (better known as Cynthia) accepted a job in Boston with Reebok. Last weekend we threw her a party at the East Village Tavern & Bowl. This Monday we'll have our last Muffy & Buffy adventure before she heads to beantown. Heavy sigh.

Legoland & Guinness Ganache Cupcakes

For the boys’ 6th birthday celebration I skipped throwing a party for their friends and we went directly to Legoland for a raucous day of fun. {Photos Here} Beck & Max had their first REAL grown up rollercoaster ride! Immediately after the ride, they were like “I WANT TO GO AGAIN!!!!” We ended the day at Pizza Port, “the best pizza in the world,” according to Beck.

The boys requested chocolate I made this recipe via SmittenKitchen:

Chocolate Stout Cake
Adapted from the Barrington Brewery in Great Barrington, MA via Bon Appetit

This recipe was originally intended to make a layer cake of 3 8-inch rounds. Upon many reviewers’ suggestions, I halved it and it fit perfectly in a bundt pan. The halved amount is below, and the icing replaced with a simple ganache.

1 cup stout (such as Guinness)
1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter
3/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder (preferably Dutch-process)
2 cups all purpose flour
2 cups sugar
1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda
3/4 teaspoon salt
2 large eggs
2/3 cup sour cream
6 ounces good semisweet chocolate chips
6 tablespoons heavy cream
3/4 teaspoon instant coffee granules

Cake prep:
Preheat oven to 350°F. Butter or spray a bundt pan well; make sure you get in all of the nooks and crannies. (Some people even go so far as to brush the inside of their bundt pans with melted butter–you cannot be too careful!). Bring 1 cup stout and 1 cup butter to simmer in heavy large saucepan over medium heat. Add cocoa powder and whisk until mixture is smooth. Cool slightly.

Whisk flour, sugar, baking soda, and 3/4 teaspoon salt in large bowl to blend. Using electric mixer, beat eggs and sour cream in another large bowl to blend. Add stout-chocolate mixture to egg mixture and beat just to combine. Add flour mixture and beat briefly on slow speed. Using rubber spatula, fold batter until completely combined. Pour batter into prepared pan. Bake cake until tester inserted into center comes out clean, about 35 minutes. Transfer cake to rack; cool completely in the pan, then turn cake out onto rack for drizzling ganache.*

For the ganache, melt the chocolate, heavy cream, and coffee in the top of a double boiler over simmering water until smooth and warm, stirring occasionally. Drizzle over the top of cooled cake.


On the topic of being President
Me: What kinds of qualities in a person make a good President?
Max: Someone who eats their healthy food without their mommy telling them to...Someone who picks up after themselves without being asked to...someone who shares
Beck: Someone who listens...A Farmer...A Soldier

In the car, on the way home from wherever
Max: Blah, blah, blah, blah, blah
Me: What book should we read tonight?
Max: Blah, blah, blah, blah, blah
Beck: Mummy, mummy--I think, hmmm this is Beck...I think I want to read
Beck: Mummy...This is Beck...tonight I want to read Harriet and the Rollercoaster.
Max: Blah, blah, blah, blah, blah

"This is Beck" ? Yes, I know it is you, you are sitting right behind me love...

The Case of the Missing Waffle Fry

I took the day off today. I was going to workout, clean my office, create, hang out with my mom on her last day in San Diego, drink coffee and surprise my children with an early pick up after their big field trip to SeaWorld. Today was going to be a glorious day. I did get to hang with my mom and I drank coffee. However, at pick up, I learned that B was {again} not well behaved at school. Uggh. Gone were my dreams of special treats and Superfriends. I spent the afternoon saying no, giving time outs, and being whacked and popped by {one of} my 5 year olds. More Uggh. That was my LOW.

My HIGH follows:

Scene: Our Dining Room
Menu: Pulled pork sandwiches/tacos, apples & clementines, waffle fries, red cabbage & carrot slaw.

6:33 PM
Max: I'm going to take 3 waffle fries. That's enough for me. Papa, you can have more because you're the biggest.

6:45 PM
Jarrod: Max--What is that outside? [Jarrod reaches over and nabs one of three untouched waffle fries.]

Max: I don't see anything. What is it?

Jarrod: Hmm, I don't know, must have been my own reflection.

7:00 PM
Max: I have to go potty. I mean, excuse me, I'll be right back. [Max leaves the table.]

7:15 PM [Max returns to the table, all are STILL seated]
Max: Hey! Where is my waffle fry that I haven't even eaten yet? I had three. There are only two here!

[Silence from all at table, while Max frantically looks on the floor, under his plate...]
Max: Have you seen it? It looks like a pick axe.

[At this point in time, I completely lose it and bust out laughing, shaking with tears. "It looks like a pick axe?" This only angers Max further, and inspires me to say...]

Me: Well what was it wearing?

7:20 PM
[After 5 minutes of speculation on real magic, invisible dogs, and potato eating tulips, Beck comes clean...]

Beck: I think Papa sneaked it, ate it and is really just lying. He's lying and he ate it.

Max believes that The Case of the Missing Waffle Fry remains unsolved...


Let me begin by saying I've never been a real Disney fan. Walt Disney as a It's not the amusement park thing, I love rolllercoasters. It's the "Disney" thing. Especially after a Women's Studies major at UW-Madison where my senior video project was an "intervention" on a campus screening of Snow White & the Seven Dwarves. Truth be told, I did visit Disney World at age 7 or 8, and distinctly remember Space Mountain. I recall NOTHING else. Really, nothing. Except that I was deathly ill on that trip to FL and received a big pill in the rear in a doctor's office late at night. Such a VIVID memory. Seriously.

So, having lived in SoCal now for more than 8 years, and having kids above age 5, it does marvel people that I still have not been to Disneyland. At times I'm actually irritated by the level of mirth and wonder it generates in adults who plan trips there WITHOUT children.

Today, on the eve of my 37th birthday, I'm setting all of this aside. I accepted an invitation from my very dear friend to celebrate this occasion with Mickey and the gang. WITHOUT children. Oy! It's time to break out of my bubble and have some old fashioned fun. I'm also doing reconaissance for a trip there with the boys...come on, they DO have a Jedi Training Academy! I hope to have some fantastic photos, great girl time, and an amazing roller coaster ride. I do love rollercoasters...

SoCal Sunday Dinner

In honor of this fabulous SoCal weather (79 degrees) we're cooking up some fish tacos tonight. I ran across this recipe in Domino last summer, and immediately whipped up a serious batch of the watermelon margaritas. {Outstanding!} Now is the time to try the tacos. The only thing is, my heart lies with a red cabbage slaw from a defunct restaurant of Madison, WI. Tacqueria Gila Monster was the most sophisticated yet simple Mexican food I've ever had. Nothing compares. To my knowledge only three recipes from this restaurant are floating around...the slaw, a tomatillo sauce, and a cactus mushroom soup. Three cheers for my alma mater The Isthmus, for reminiscing this lovely food memory in a 2007 post by Linda Falkenstein. I made this slaw at the boy's Fiesta Birthday a few years ago, then promptly lost the recipe. Found it!

Red Cabbage Slaw

1 head red cabbage
1 pound carrots
1 bunch cilantro
1/3 cup freshly squeezed lime juice
1/3 cup apple cider vinegar
2 tablespoons salt
1 tablespoon ancho chili powder

Quarter and core red cabbage. Slice thinly by hand or in food processor. Peel and grate carrots. Chop cilantro. Toss all ingredients. Let stand one hour before serving. Toss again. Serve as a garnish for tacos, as a side dish for sandwiches, or as a picnic salad. Makes 3-4 quarts.

From Jill Watson, Taqueria Gila Monster Restaurant.

We'll see if I have as lovely a photo, and if the children eat ANY of it.

Proud Papa

So, at dinner last night, Beck announced that he is going to name his {future} baby, Lulu. Remember, this is the young man who asked Santa for a watermelon. After the announcement he emphatically expressed that I record this information..."Write this down mum-MEE. Write it down." The boys sometimes refer to me as mummy, as opposed to mommy. They also both say: bee-nok-lee-ers instead of binoculers; bak-set instead of basket; am-blee-ens vs. ambulence; and hocks-pi-tal instead of hospital. Back to Lulu. The reason this is such a kick, is that if we had a girl, she was going to be named Lulu. Well, Luella Blue to be exact. And Sophie Parker was baby girl #2. Pretty interesting.

The March of the Headless Plush Toys

Your life story would not make a good book. Don't even try.
-Fran Lebowitz

2008: It was a very good year...

I'm so utterly in love with ages 4 and 5. Always have been, always will. Max & Beck are completely in their own heads most of the time and it thrills me. Creative, sensitive, bossy, witty, imaginative, adventurous, passionate. SO completely full of life. Unfiltered. On the other hand they can get super distracted and frustrated which ultimately ends in one (or all) of us growling, screaming or swearing.

I held out for advancement in my Museum career and worked to earn a promotion to a position that is both rewarding and challenging (especially in this economy). To boot, I am now surrounded by some fabulous women with great energy and humor.

I kept up with Truly Fine Design after a late 2007 launch. LOTS of room to grow. I had other ideas so I took up painting as well..

I'm married to a Scorpio. We're still having fun...I think.

Obama. Sarah Palin. Tina Fey. Last, and so not least...Jon Stewart. Heart, heart, heart.

I do have some terrific peeps. They may not all hang together, or even be in the same state, but I love them each truly, madly, deeply.

Is this even interesting? I'd love to know what my mom was going through at 36. She was divorced with a 14 and 9 yr. old I believe.

This year I could not get my game on for regular workouts. Fuck. Why is that so hard? Doing the usual job-wife-mom-juggle...not a great strength of mine, but I do put up a good front. When I think of all the things I should be doing, like oil changes, eye appointments, oops, bill paying, video returning, oops, running, writing xmas cards, oops, having a really lovely family photo taken, oops and oops. This is how I feel:

"A week after my drugs ran out, I left my bed to perform at the college, deciding at the last minute to skip both the doughnut toss and the march of the headless plush toys. Instead, I just heated up a skillet of plastic soldiers, poured a milkshake over my head and called it a night. "
-David Sedaris

Go Royals.

Can I just take a moment to explore the current trend of revisiting high school and grade school friends and pictures on FaceBook? Friends and frequaintances are spending serious time scanning in old high school photos of their pals back in the day. This trip down memory lane makes a number of stops at big bangs and puffy sleeves. Everyone seems to be lovingly nostalgic and reconnecting with others at breakneck speed (yes, I'm observing with a careful eye). Truthfully, I'm not that nostalgic for the 80's. Or the 70's for that matter. I've maintained contact with my BFF and when curious, have shared an email with a few key peeps. I'm thrilled to have survived The Breakfast Club, the cliques, the "Senior Steps", homecoming hazing and spring break frenzy.

My life as a grown up has been far more rewarding than the awkward days of HHS. A message to my boys: Kids can be cruel. And being a teenager is hard--downright painful at times--but you will make it through the drama. On the other hand, if you are the class president or the royal hottie or the soccer star, Hurrah! Enjoy it at the time, but be kind to the dorks and please don't get too big a head over yourself.