california life

Be Here Now

29 September 2017

Our summer trip to California came and went and now we’re on the cusp of summer again, back in Sydney. So that’s a bit funny. We did all the things we love to do in Northern California: visited the Sea Ranch and watched the sun set over the ocean and battled jet lag and fog for some morning miles. We had a beautiful and warm hour on an empty Limantour Beach, digging for sand dabs and preventing the littlest one from rushing headlong into the ocean. We celebrated two birthdays (one and four!) with chocolate cake and cupcakes and Screamin’ Mimi’s strawberry ice cream. We spent a lot of time with friends and family. I made a galette and several zucchini breads from zucchini grown in the neighbor’s garden. Sierra and I picked tomatoes from the same garden and I made soup. I ate a lot of Straus Greek yogurt. We drank a LOT of Hardcore Espresso espressos. I ran out to Arch Rock (or nearish) in the Seashore twice, and reminded myself how very much I love a good trail run. Now I’m full of plans for my upcoming summer — summer twice in a year?? — growing a small container garden, planting flowers in the backyard, going to the beach and swimming as much as possible, finding an eight-mile running route. I hope some of these items will be checked off the list.

Sebastopol apple trees.

It’s a Friday night here in Australia; the babes are asleep, it’s warm, and we’re at the beginning of a three-day weekend. My time for a few brief hours is my own and I’ll probably give over at least some of it to my weekly grocery shop because apparently I am now a person who saves grocery shopping for when the kids are asleep so I can get it done quickly. It’s a far cry from my San Francisco days when I’d meander or at least pop up to my local market for some bulk bit of this or that. I vacillate about whether I love or loathe meal planning. On the one hand it tends to save money because I buy exactly what I need for the prescribed dinners. On the other I find I sort of hate deciding and writing out a list for the week’s meals; though it does help me keep organized it also limits my creativity.

In Saudi I went to the grocery store every Friday morning before the prayer closure, it being too challenging to get off the DQ during the week, with occasionally a supplement at the little walkable store about a mile away. So I certainly planned out for the most part. In Morocco I sometimes went to the fancy produce souk but more likely ended up at the Carrefour once a week, though Fatima, the lady who cleaned our house, would sometimes bring me the most insanely gorgeous spinach and once in a blue moon, perfectly ripe strawberries. (There’s a part of me that truly wishes I could go back to Morocco and do it again differently, without the haze of sleep deprivation and first year of living abroad disorientation but that’s another story for another time.)

Here in Sydney I can be more spontaneous but I also have that one year old and four year old so it helps to keep things as simple as possible. This week I’m going to experiment with restocking the pantry and produce – tonight – and cooking on the fly as I go through the week, grabbing a few things here and there if I need to. I’ll try to have leftovers in the form of a potato-chard soup and/or some sort of pasta.

Speaking of the one year old: she continues to love to eat, and is quite serious about it. I think she’s also inspiring the four year old to try new things (or the four year old likes my excitement when she deigns to nibble a raspberry) and so I think it’s a very good thing we’re sliding into summer, part deux, if only for the strawberries and other summer fruit soon to grace our kitchen.

Fog + redwoods in Sonoma County.

It’s bittersweet going home because it’s so comfortable, so easy, so exactly where we’d like to be. I didn’t spend any time in San Francisco this trip though I think that’s a good thing; whenever I end up in my former neighborhood it tugs too hard at the old heartstrings and even sipping a wildly overpriced latte doesn’t help. I’m kind of in the mode of be here now though, and my current here is oh so very nice. I mean, it’s spring. Today was absolutely glorious and I opened up all the windows and fresh, cool air was blowing through the house and isn’t that a treat? I sorely missed fresh air in Riyadh, and while it’s true there are some aspects of that life I do miss just a little bit, the arid, dusty landscape is not one of them. We’ve got summer rains in the forecast, no major travel plans, and a routine and summer meals to settle into. Spring cakes and crumbles? Those too I suppose.

Back soon with a recipe.

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1 Comment

  • Reply Lisa 29 September 2017 at 7:21 pm

    Hi friend! I have not checked in here in forever. I love all your thoughts in this post! And how amazing, how long it’s been since you left San Francisco. I remember reading about it so clearly.

    The kind of menu planning I do – when I stick to it – strikes the perfect balance for me of eliminating decision fatigue at the end of a long day with young kids (it’s reeeeeeeeal) while giving me lots of room to be creative, cater to my whimsy, and use whatever is growing (or about to die in the crisper). We do a two-week rotation, but it’s just meal types, not specific dishes. So things like: tacos, egg + salad, soup + bread, etc. When I’m not working (currently doing two dinner shifts a week at my friends’ restaurant but it’s closing in a few weeks, until April) we add a few more things. I like to keep at least one spot in the rotation to try something brand new, and some seasons we’ll put a region- or country-specific cuisine in one of the spots. We change it up, some, quarterly. More salads in summer, more stews and roasted things in winter, etc.

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