I’m not good at failure or trials or fighting the good fight. I don’t like the struggle. It doesn’t ignite in me a drive to do better or fight harder or push myself further. It just makes me want to hit something or someone and usually ends in tears and really aggressive anger and, more than often than not, broken electronics that were innocently left nearby.
And now I’m baking bread. Like full time baking bread. Like I have something growing or rising or kneading or baking every day. And the whole underlying message of the book I’m using to teach me how to make incredible bread is how baking bread is a trial of errors, of “learning” and “feeling” and making mistakes and that in the end everything tastes fine toasted.
Unacceptable. I find this absolutely, teeth-grindingly infuriating and it makes me want to throw some kind of electronic out the window but I decided this whole bread-making thing was supposed to be some kind of spiritual awakening about simplification and life perspective and so there are no electronic devices – just me and my raw hands kneading dough every effing day.
Thus far I have created a really dense German Graubrot; ten loaves of an edible day loaf which I’m currently working on perfecting the white/wheat balance of; four sourdoughs with my own sourdough starter that were all too dense but each cracked in a different spot (each crack signifying a specific thing I’ve done wrong according to my book); one extremely edible sourdough that I’ve been unable to replicate; two batches of semmel rolls – a German everyday bun – the second much more authentic than the first; an Armenian pizza dough called lahmajo that was incredible topped with a leftover cream pasta sauce; chapatti – the real daily bread of India – for my January book club’s Indian theme; whole-wheat pita bread that was good right out of the oven but stiff and crusty after 24 hours; six loaves of a very delicious scalded-rye bread; and two really incredible, labor-intense, but totally worth it, batches of baguettes.
And three rounds of pasta. I promised myself I wasn’t going to go there but with all the flour and the kneading and over-indulgence in carbs after six months of being off of bread and pasta, it just felt like the right thing to do. The only thing to do. Again, a completely infuriating process that makes me want to jerk the little handle out of the pasta machine and hit someone (like the four year old sitting across from me the whole time telling me she thinks I might be doing it wrong) but so worth it. Attempt one was kale and cream stuffed raviolis. Adventure two was a vegetarian Bolognese with fettuccine and, the third time was the charm, with pesto stuffed raviolis.
Five weeks in and two weeks beyond from my lowest point where I really wanted to throw in the literal tea towel, I’m back to my spirit quest of searching for higher meaning in the kneading of bread.
I’m pretty sure I’ve found it in our most recent child-rearing endeavors. With the Winter Olympics underway and an overwhelming need to force our children to be athletic, we’re five weeks in to Anabelle’s first year of formal ski lessons. Week one was pretty disastrous. Sure that her skills from the last two seasons of being dragged down the mountain by Henric and I qualified her for an advanced class, I spent the first half of the class watching from a lodge window as she was pretty much carried down the mountain by an exhausted instructor. The second half of the class was spent bribing her with hot chocolate to get back out on the mountain. Week two through four she went back to an age-appropriate lesson and has flourished with kids her own age and a magic carpet going her speed. By week five she was back at the top of the mountain. My tiger mom intuition tells me that if she just pushed herself a little harder she could have kept up with the advanced class.
But then, on my first attempt at snow shoeing with Jannik, I got my own lesson in perseverance and patience and measured expectation. When the tears started to fall and the screams (perfectly positioned above my left ear in the baby carrier) began to rail, and we still had a good half a mile to get back to the car, I was reminded that sometimes being a quitter who doesn’t fight for the long haul is good. A beer in the ski lodge is so much nicer than a not-so-quiet walk in the woods.
It seems totally trendy right now to resolve to have no New Year resolutions but instead just commit to living healthier / better / stronger / insert-self-empowering-word-here. Most of the ample free time I spend not updating this blog, I spend surfing the web and based on my vast internet research and that one upworthy video that was floating around on facebook, if you write down your resolutions and share them with others, you have a much greater chance of succeeding. Thus here are my trend-bucking and be forewarned, super first-world and trivial resolutions for 2014:
1. Spend less time searching for my phone. I have to figure out a system for where I put my phone in each room of our house and in the car. Mastering this would free up crazy amounts of time for more first-world resolutions like “workout more” and “spend more time with my kids!” Then again, the trek up and down stairs from room-to-room looking for my phone while carrying the baby and being followed by Anabelle probably covers both those resolutions and if I got rid of that quest, I’d most likely just use the time to read magazines while making my kids nap or have quiet time…
2. Read magazines when they arrive. I get Bon Appѐtit, Better Homes and Gardens and Runners World. I read the Runners World right away and the other two I get about four pages in before getting distracted. Then they sit on the coffee table until the pile’s so high that I do the annual purge of flipping through them, cutting out the recipes I like and recycling the rest. I really like both magazines and actually use them, I’m just super bad about not reading and sorting them right away. Then the pile gets more and more daunting and I end up only sorting it once a year and it takes all the joy out of getting them every month…. And now I’m making it a resolution to read them which kind of make it sound like a job or a task and probably just as actively destroys the joy of them. Great.
3. Quit buying store-bought bread. I’m probably right on the cusp of going over the deep-end about what we eat and where it comes from. I see a little bit more and more of my crazy creep out every trip to the grocery store and this may be a public cry for help. As in right now – help me before my arms grow so strong from kneading all this damn bread that I can actually do a pull up. It started with the whole meat and how it’s produced and where it comes from and “let’s just not eat meat unless we know where it came from” thing and morphed into our fruits and vegetables and whether or not they’re organic and what pesticides were used on the plants we ingest and “We eat a massive amount of mushrooms and 40% of all non-organic mushrooms tested show traces of a pesticide that can cause reproductive issues in 1% of mice. Oh my goodness, my babies are never going to have babies!” thing. We were only buying organic everything except some processed stuff but I’m not eating processed stuff but I’m feeding my husband and children processed stuff and why would I feed my family something I won’t eat and the crazy train has officially docked at the station and I am four loaves in to baking all our own bread and five days in to creating my own starter yeast to avoid all the additives in commercially produced yeast which also puts me four loaves back in to eating bread because I did not just spend 15 minutes kneading that lump and a whole day waiting for it to rise to not at least taste it.
4. Do not start making my own pasta with that pasta maker hidden in the back of the bottom-left kitchen cabinet. Resolution #3 just made me realize that if I’m really going to do this, pasta is probably then next station for my crazy train. Crap. I haven’t eaten pasta in like five months. My thighs are so not going to like this.
5. Work out more. Apparently since I’m going to start eating massive amounts of bread and pasta I’m going to need to greatly increase my mileage so that marathon in the fall will happen; actually start moving the weights I own because Runners World claims the only way to get faster is to increase my upper body strength; put the new clip-ons on my bicycle so that I’ll look like I really know how to ride a bike; and make that triathlon happen by committing to get wet in more than just my bathtub or the spa whirlpool once a week.
I feel like 2014 is already overwhelming. See you in another four months.
Before moving to Seattle, I don’t think I’d seen an honest-to-goodness, down-home, American parade ever. I’d like to think if there had been actual parade anywhere near where I lived that I would have gone. I like the idea of parades. I think I’m the kind of person who would enjoy parades and believes in going out and supporting the community as it marches down the street.
I went to Love Parade when I lived in Berlin (not a real parade) and demonstrations in college (parade-like but not actual parades). In high school I was on a parade float for homecoming one year but I can’t remember what the float was for – maybe Honor Society or Journalism? I have no idea and I don’t remember ever actually attending the parade other years. Once in junior high I was almost in a parade with the marching band (I played the trumpet for all of a parent-coerced year and a half) but then it rained and the parade was called off and never rescheduled.
I remember going with my mother to watch the Olympic torch run through our town as a child. That was kind of like a parade, people lined the streets. But I don’t think there was candy or a lot more to see than one guy running down Main Street Moore, Oklahoma with a torch. Sorting through all my memories of childhood, the closest thing to an actual parade that I can remember ever seeing was the nightly light parades at Disney World and even those, I feel like we just got to see the periphery because that was the best time to ride the rides, when everyone else was distracted by the parade and the lines were short.
In summation, until moving to Seattle I lived a pretty paradeless life. And was probably the better for it.
Seattleites love their parades and the kookier, the better. Living pretty central in the city we have easy access to a wide variety of parades celebrating everything from community, workers rights, pirates and the changing of the seasons, to the right to ride a bicycle naked because it feels good.
Last year we ran in to the parade of naked bicyclists on our way to a party and were able to catch just a glimpse of their full glory. This year we decided to see what all the nudey hoopla and hula hoops were about. Why would you not go? It’s people riding bikes naked six blocks from our home. We only had to walk down the street to watch the revealing excitement roll by.
The naked cyclists are a precursor to an annual Solstice parade in the neighborhood next to ours. This year an estimated 1,000 naked cyclists took part. ONE THOUSAND NAKED CYCLISTS. It takes a long time for 1,000 naked cyclists to ride by and, truth be told, after about 200, you’ve kind of seen it all.
The naked cyclists were followed by one of the better parades our summer of promenades would see. We attended six parades during the 2012-2013 marching season, including participation in our school’s neighborhood parade (complete with decorated strollers, dirndled children and candy distribution). I think the lack of parades in my childhood created an irresistible compulsion that demands I attend every parade within a 10 mile circumference of our home. In that spirit, we happily bid farewell to summer and welcome this year’s parade-free rainy season with open arms.
We’ve lived in the Pacific Northwest for a year and a half and spent most of our travel time-budget on trips to Europe and Oklahoma. Not to say that 12 countries in 10 days and the honkytonk outback aren’t worthy vacation spots but this summer we’re going to become true Pacific Northwesterners in a project I’m calling “The Jentz Family Conquers Everything West of the Cascades in the State of Washington (and Beyond Depending on When My Husband Gets His Renewed Passport Back from the German Consulate Located in a Laundry Room of a Senior Citizen’s Home in Kirkland).” We’re going to wear backpacks, buy Tevas, learn the difference between all 2,367 species of salmon and pick and jam more berries than a family of four should consume in a lifetime.
We started our adventures in June with a trip to the Olympic Peninsula. Ever since Henric read the Twilight series for the fourth time, he’s been begging to explore the woods and wildlife of the vampires and tribal wolf peoples. I finally relented, but since the town of Forks is just about the most depressing, non-existent, saddest little town on the Olympic Peninsula, I chose to throw a little class into our trip with a stay at the Lake Quinault Lodge.
An old national park lodge, the whole place has a Dirty Dancing(minus the dirty dancing)-feel with lawn games, family activities, and hikes through the wilderness led by volunteer rangers. It was the perfect weekend getaway. We spent hours in Adirondacks, drinking sundowners on the lawn, looking at the mountains, and watching Anabelle play. We ate delicious meals in the Roosevelt room, where Franklin Roosevelt ate during his visit in 1937, and where everyone knows French Toast is supposed to be stuffed with cream cheese and covered in berry compote. We roasted marshmellows at a bonfire on the shores of the lake in the evening and watched the sun go down over the mountains. And I ran faster than I have in months after being told that I shouldn’t worry about bears on the trails because they only get up to around 200lbs.
After two days of laziness we took the long way home with stops at the biggest version of every tree native to the peninsula, RubyBeach, Kalaloch, Forks and Port Angeles, fully checking off all the Twilight hotspots on Henric’s list. The fact that we didn’t need to visit La Push probably gives some insight in to which team he bats for… We made it home via the ferry late and exhausted but super pleased with the start of our summer adventure series.
Two weekends later the adventures continued as we headed inland through the mountains to Rimrock Lake for an awesome weekend with friends. Not far from the Yakima Valley and White Pass ski resort, we met up with five other adults and two kids in a mountain lake cabin. Full of really great meals, good conversations, a super competitive late-night card game, the weekend was an important reminder of how lucky we are to have developed solid friendships with fun and awesome people in just the year and a half we’ve been here. It’s really hard being this far away from family and the last nine months has been a reminder of how hard it is going to continue to be. I’m hoping our summer of adventure will also be a reminder of how important it is to bring some vacation into the every day too.
Once again, we took the long way home, passing more big trees, scenic overlooks and a long-trek-to-nowhere attempt to see Mount St. Helens. Apparently Henric has some kind of inner-force driving him to see every “World’s Biggest…” tree in the Pacific Northwest. And there are a lot of them. This pull is similar to my need to stop at every ice cream stand we pass while the children are sleeping. It is going to be a very long summer.
A neighbor recently quipped that with one kid you still go out and about your normal pre-kid life. With two kids, you just never leave the house. On some level I would totally agree with this. The whole logistics of getting two kids in the car, getting where you want to go and then having a good time is complicated. With one kid, you go to a party and you can tag-team kid duty. One person drinks and yucks it up while the other one keeps an eye on the child and out of other adults’ hair. You can either split the party in 30 minute intervals or one person’s on-call one night and the other person the next night. With two kids, you can both very quickly end up being stuck managing kid-expectations and miss the party side of the party all together.
Up until now, though, the biggest hindrance to my reemerging partier has been the lack of anything to wear. I ate a healthy 47 pounds worth of root beer floats during this pregnancy and my body has decided to follow the nine months to gain / nine months to lose principle. I’m one size over all my pre-pregnancy clothes right now and I just can’t bring myself to go and buy party clothes one size over where I want to be and where I have tons of clothes available. The clothes that do fit are all perfect, Austin-appropriate party clothes but I’ve discovered that neither the weather nor the social mores of Seattle are conducive to my Austin slinky summer dresses. Thus when recently asked to attend a work party with my husband, the babysitter that was not available was also the last called.
But clothes or no clothes, summer has made it vividly clear that one cannot sit at home with two children for extended periods of time. This Fourth of July we decided to defy the second child adage and celebrate our nation’s freedom birthday in a super dangerous-for-kids place – a rooftop terrace in the middle of the illegal firework warzone of Seattle.
And defy we did. The party was a success. Within an hour of our arrival, Jannik fell asleep in the stroller in a bathroom far from the explosions and excitement of the evening and after several reminders and a couple of times spent thinking, Anabelle stayed away from the railings of the rooftop. I had about four glasses of wine too many, significantly decreasing my stress levels, and Henric had four glasses too few, greatly improving his helpfulness.
Around midnight, we packed up and headed home – and on to the evening’s biggest trial. We went to the same party last year and learned the hard way that leaving our neighborhood (the epicenter of Seattle’s sanctioned Fourth of July celebrations) is easy; returning home at the end of the night in a bus or car is impossible. This year I had the fantastic idea that we bus it to the party and just walk home. It’s only 1.8 miles door-to-door. Sure, it’s straight uphill pretty much the whole way and I plan all my runs to specifically avoid that hill but it’ll be fun! The crowds will make it tough to take the double Bob so we’ll just put Anabelle in the single Bob and I’ll carry Jannik in the Ergo. No problem! Hand me another glass of wine!
It was my clever idea but somewhere at the base of the steepest .65 mile last-stretch climb home, the wine combined with my sweaty Ergo chest and Henric’s sudden zest for exercise got to me. I’ve been working on my anger issues and my general pissed-off-at-life post-partum emotionality, though, and so it is with great pride that I defied all odds of the occasion and made it home in silence.