At the Spice Rack

Cooking continues to be a wonderful way for me the the children ("B", age 6 and "Co-co" age 3) to spend time together. However, I do have to admit, learning our way around the spice rack is a little more time consuming than anticipated.  However, after purchasing our first rice cooker, slow cooker and new blender (several months ago) and a Cuisinart 6 quart Stockpot (last week), it became apparent the sense of security, stability, fun, affection and thrill of tasting what came out of the oven in my grandmother's kitchen was now available in my own kitchen and for my children.

My grandmother, "Cita" (I guess that was short for Mama-cita?) who was born in Mexico, didn't have books or the Internet to consult with for a recipe, but I do think the family gatherings and neighbors were her references to identify a special ingredient to make, for example, tamales a little bit better.  I remember often the family getting together during the holidays for a special meal and my grandmother always having something for us each time we visited; and, if it wasn't already made, she needed just a few minutes in the kitchen and in what seemed like no time, we'd have fresh tortillas, muffins, a chicken dinner, tacos, or whatever.  While I don't have grandma's vast experience and knowledge of recipes and ingredients and how they are mixed together, what I do have, which I believe is the primary ingredient, is love for my daughters, which makes any non-fluffy, partially burnt rice or overly crispy chocolate chip cookies taste wonderful.

Several months ago, I ventured my first attempt at rice in the new rice cooker.  After that, I felt bold enough to try a chicken something or other in our first slow cooker.  "B" and "Co-co" both loved the way our home smelled on the way in from school, "Ummmmm, Papa, what smells sooooooo good?!"  I was hooked.  Week before last, Chloe and I ventured a cherry pie.  After that I tried for about the third time (best result so far) Quinoa.  Last week, we tried two new items at once, due to the girls being sick with the cold.  The menu included bread and chicken soup.  The feedback I am getting from the girls makes me feel pretty good about doing what I can to move away from the microwave and processed foods.

Today, I purchased two new books to help me out (in addition to all the wonderful support, education and tips I receive from friends):

Thinking this was going to be a smart budget move, I didn't realize spices are so expensive, not to mention building a kitchen of supplies!  But a close friend reminded me, it is a lot cheaper than the ill effects of poor health over time associated with poor nutritional habits.  This week, we are going to try Banana Bread (by, Bob's Red Mill Stone Ground Cornbread Mix ( and Potato Corn Chowder (The $7 a Meal Slow Cooker, p. 287).

I have to use a measuring cup and measuring utensils for everything, while my grandmother used her hand as a "measuring cup". I have to read the recipe no less than five times to know what I'm doing and ask a lot of questions.  I am by no means a "chef" as defined in any dictionary, but to my girls, I am "Chef Papa" and together we are learning our way around the spice rack and loving it.


As a parent, you too can have fun while driving to and from school, to the market, doctor's office or to any destination you know is going to test the patience of everyone in the car, by playing a simple game called, That's Silly! Imagine that?!

I guarantee loads of fun if you take a few moments to use the natural gifts of creativity you and your children have to enjoy each other's imaginations and giggles to follow.

In this game all that is required is an active imagination to dress any animal in the funniest-er outfit you can possibly think of.  In the imagination of my three and six year old daughters (myself included), come to life cats, squirrels, puppies and dinosaurs with polka dot boots, necklaces, bracelets, heart-shaped glasses, purses with candy and the biggest, biggest, biggest pinkalicious hat you ever saw. After everyone playing has had a chance to describe their "silliest animal ever", then we vote for the silliest.  To date, I am still trying to catch up to the creative geniuses of my daughters, both of whom take either 1st or 2nd prize each and every time.

The giggles that follow each game are more enjoyable than the one before.  Aside from the fun, I am finding my daughters stay focused, as they each give the other a turn and enjoy immensely the colorful description that unfolds from the other.  Their animal outfits are becoming more elaborate and fancy and their ability to describe an internal perception is enhancing their vocabulary as they explore using new words that are appropriate and made-up to add to the fun.  They "strategize" to use different words that are more elaborate than the other, and thereby create a healthy sense of friendly and fun competition.  Their creativity leads to their recalling the best of the best days after the game is over, which seems to cement their "sisterhood" in the sharing of thoughts and laughter.  These moments of creativity are both silly and enjoyable as I get to experience with my daughters what our minds create together.  Imagine that?!


It is impossible to escape acknowledging the vessel from which our form is gathered, that vessel we call mother.

Male and female alike a vessel is from which we came; we are homeless and we are leaders, still a vessel is from which we came.  They exist all around us, these life giving forms of all languages, colors, sizes, shapes; they are unique.  How compelling and intriguing.  They dance, serve, work, celebrate, smoke, create, seduce, exhaust, refresh, comfort, sacrifice, hate, protect, love, exact retribution, nurture, hear, listen, ignore, unite, shame, intuit, pray, condemn, heal , destroy, feed, wash, cloth, strip, hit, hug and sigh and find ways of being that I cannot possibly know fully…To say they “live” still falls short of all they are and do.  And everyone of them is loved; not one of them is forsaken.

They are mother, past, present and future. Because of mother, we are a gift of existence.  From them, that vessel our pulse was put into place preceded by untold types of unions bound in sweat and muscle; unions between man and women sometimes welcome sometime not.  These unions are accompanied by an expanse of emotions that may have included fear, love, hate, confusion, and on, and on, and on.  They are mother.   They are the topic infinite discussions, tears and joys, which cause us to share or hide from friends, family, traveling companions our experiences with the vessel we call mother.   She has been, is and will always be a vessel from which we find at least in part our identity… Whether we like it or not, she is mother.  Praise her or profane her, she is mother.  For some she is a vessel firm, steadfast and reliable, and for others fragile, disloyal and deceptive, and for generations past and future some variation and culmination of the very best and very worst of the entire human race.  Still the vessel, a gift of existence.

How envious I am at times to know you, who has the power to bear life in a way I can only allow my imagination the vague opportunity to grasp.  If I am honest, I know that for whatever reason, you were chosen to have the ability to give life, because you still, with all the challenges you face, would do it so much better than men, myself included, who with all our “power” are recklessly driven many times over to destroy life or put you in a place to compromise your own.  Oh, to imagine if we could match in our lives and politics whatever drives you to give life.

You are mother… an invaluable vessel of infinite variation.  On this one day, we, I acknowledge you, dead, alive or to be, a gift of existence.