Tuesday, March 13, 2012


March 5th, 2012. 5:33 am. This time I am not dreaming. 

Rules. We repeat them. We yell them. We write them down. We question them.  We fight them.

"Dude. Go to your room and put on a shirt."
In the dream, I always arrive too late.

Kids and stairs. Kids and windows. Kids and electric sockets. Kids and chef knives.

"A shirt. Now. Go."
In the dream, I run down the hall screaming about how this is the big one. I take a quick left. And then a right. The house rocks so much that I keep falling over. 

Boundaries. Consistency. Repetition.

"Okay. I'm back. Can I pick up the knife?"
"What are the rules?"
"Mama. You're silly. There's only one rule. Just don't put your fingers underneath the knife and you'll be fine."
In the dream, I arrive at his room as the ceiling collapses. 

We scare them into being safe. With volume. With intensity. With a quick grab or too vigorous a shake.

"Yes, Dash. That's a good rule. And straight fingers with the top hand."
"I can do that. Straight fingers. Yes. Straight like a torpedo."
In the dream, Dash is buried in debris and I can't get him out.

It's so fucking hard to step back. 

"Dash, what do you want to do with all this mint?"
"Mint chip ice cream with chocolate chunks. Please, mama."
March 5th, 2012. 5:33 am. The jolt is so big that I tweak my neck as I fly out of bed. Naked and shaking,  I tear down the hall, taking those well-rehearsed left and right turns.  I arrive to find my sweaty and red-cheeked son sleeping away, arms wrapped around his skanky stuffed puppy. I stamp a kiss on his forehead. 

No to the Japanese mandolin. No to turning on the blow torch. 

"And, mama, let's pour caramel sauce on top."
I bump into a stunned and trembling Bella. We silently crawl into bed. I pull her head into my chest, shushing, stroking, grounding. 

No to whining. No to sassiness. No to Red Dye #40.

"Dashi, can we whisk together?"
"Okay. But just for a second."
I pick Dash up at school and he is full of details about the earthquake. 4.0, a big jolt, and really mama, really, come on, it wasn't scary at all so don't worry.

Yes to adding caramel to everything.

"Mama. Sometimes in the night do you check on me and kiss me on my forehead?"
"I do."
"Oh. Good. Can I pour the caramel now? I can be careful. Mama. Come on. Let me do it. I don't need you."

printable recipe
Dash thinks it's great with caramel sauce.

1 1/2 cups half and half
6 egg yolks
2/3 cup white sugar (divided in half)
pinch of salt
1 1/2 cups heavy cream
1 cup mint leaves, coarsely chopped
1 cup bittersweet chocolate shavings (easy to do with a vegetable peeler)

Whisk together half and half, yolks, 1/2 of the sugar (1/3 cup), and salt. Set aside.

Prepare an ice water bath. Place a fine strainer over a medium-sized bowl. Immerse bottom of bowl in a larger bowl filled with ice and water. Set aside.

In a saucepan over medium heat, whisk together other 1/2 of sugar (1/3 cup), cream, and mint leaves. Turn off heat just as it starts to boil. Slowly whisk into half and half/egg mixture. 

Pour back into the pot and cook on medium heat. Stir the whole time with a wooden spoon until it thickens slightly. It's done when you drag your finger across the back of the wooden spoon and it leaves a trail.

Pour mixture through the strainer into the bowl that's over the ice bath. Leave bowl in the ice bath until the custard is cool. Stir every 10 minutes or so. Place saran wrap on top surface of custard to prevent a skin from forming. Refrigerate custard for several hours.

Place chocolate shavings in freezer.

Churn in ice cream machine according to manufacturer's directions. Add chocolate shavings just to mix (a minute or so before it's done churning). Freeze for a few hours before serving.


  1. I moved to Berkeley a few years ago from Austria. It may seems strange but your writing is a piece of home for me. Thank you. Thank you!

  2. *tears*... I L.O.V.E your writing. :)

  3. I like Dash's take on rules. Just don't put your fingers under the knife. And perhaps eat some caramel sauce with mint ice cream. We could all stand to learn a little bit from that. ;)

  4. Replies
    1. i know. i know. i'm such a wimp!

      actually, he's allowed to use it (with my guidance) for creme brûlées but it's an old one and hard to turn on. it sparks a bit!

  5. I absolutely love your honesty. I'm so.afraid. of horrible things happening all.the.time. The pictures are gorgeous - sunny reality in anxious dreams. Thank you for sharing.

  6. so so beautiful .... I love the vivid physical details topped with subconscious ephemera like soft caramel

  7. Oh Phyllips, I live in the South Bay. "The Big One" what to do? and where will we be at that time? Is one of my top concerns. That and knives being use by tiny hands in the kitchen. Thank you for making me feel normal :)

  8. I live in San Diego and have my first child, nine months old. I am a vivid dreamer and have had my first earthquake dream last month. I live on a canyon and the whole house went tumbling in. She was just out of my grasp as we went weightlessly falling.

    I am so glad I'm not the only one.

  9. I nearly cried when I read, "Let me do it. I don't need you."

    Why is it that I am spending so much time and energy getting these kids to be independent when it makes me so sad that they will not need me anymore?


    1. i've been thinking a lot about this very issue. parenting is all about letting go. over and over and over again. and we are so sad every single time. it's so hard. but we must do it.

  10. I just discovered your blog while sleep training my daughter at 4 am. Thank you for keeping me sane! I can't wait to read more and try your recipes.

  11. I can never come up with the right words to share after reading your posts, but wanted you to know that I appreciate them and will come back to read again and again.

  12. your posts are really so beautiful....they really tie the whole "food is life" thing together for me. thank you.

  13. A lovely, poignant, relatable post. Happy to have read it on this day.

  14. Ah, I read about 5 of your posts last night before bed and I loved them all -- this one though hits home. Every time there's an earthquake I leap out of bed, heart pounding insta-cold-sweat.

    Anyway, this piece is poetry. Glad to have another favorite blog for my little list. :)

  15. Wow, what a powerful post! I have to admit I got a little emotional. I have never really feared earthquakes, I've never even felt one. Tornados on the other hand... lots of similar dreams.

    Well, any parent can relate to the eternally deep fear we have for our children.
    And the really scary part your post wrapped up quite nicely. Their independence. "mom, I don't need you."
    Momma bear in me says, yikes!

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