Transition

I’m thirsty, but Orion shrieks when I try to leave him on the couch, so I scoop him up and take him with me. One-handed, I carefully twist the lid off my spill proof grown-up sippy cup. I’m carefully pouring water in when I realize: this phase is almost over. I’ve been holding this baby while I get water for ten months. Not all the time, of course, but it feels like more often than not. But now he’s starting to walk, so my days holding the baby are numbered. Sure, he’ll want to be held for years to come, but it’ll be a sometimes-thing, not a usually-thing. 

There. There’s the little pang of oncoming nostalgia. There’s the “it goes so fast!” sentiment. Damn, y’all, it does. 
I did cherish every moment, though. From when he was an itty bitty thing, curled up like a pillbug, to now, with his legs splayed around my hip and his strong arms clinging to my shirt, I really did cherish every moment. 
A little nostalgia, but just a little. Mainly, I can’t wait to see what’s next. 

  

Funder’s red-braised pork belly

I am more of a consumer of recipes than a creator, but this one. Yall, it’s so good. And I’ve tweaked it into something different enough from its source – I feel like it’s adding something to the English-language body of cooking knowledge to put this online.

I started with this, from le jus d’orange. But that’s not the world’s clearest recipe, and while the finished product tasted amazing, it really wasn’t tender at all. I made it a second time, simmering the meat even longer, and it was better, but it still wasn’t as good as pork belly I’ve had in restaurants. I started over, and here’s what I came up with.

You will probably need to make a trip to an Asian market, or an “ethnic” market with an Asian section, for the double black soy (or something that says dark soy sauce will also work) and shaoxing cooking wine. Get a handful of whole star anise while you’re there, or get it at Whole Foods with the pork belly.


Funder’s Red Braised Pork Belly

FEEDS SIX PEOPLE

Ingredients

2 lb. pork belly (if your usual grocery doesn’t have it, try Whole Foods)

about 2″ ginger, roughly chopped

1/4 c. soy sauce (I used Kikkoman – any “normal” soy sauce will do)

1/4 c. double black soy sauce

1/4 c. shaoxing cooking wine

3 whole star anise

3 Tbsp. brown sugar, plus 2 Tbsp for browning

1 1/2 c. water

If your pork is frozen, let it thaw overnight. You can cut the skin off if you want, but the finished dish is so tender you really won’t know if the skin is there or not. Cut the pork into strips so it will fit in the cooking dish better. I cut mine into knife-blade-widths, which ended up being about 1 3/4″. Put it in a crock-pot or a braising dish. Add the ginger, soys, cooking wine, star anise, 3 Tbsp brown sugar, and water. Your cooking liquid should mostly cover your strips of pork; add more water if it doesn’t.

Braise til very tender, about three hours. Crock pot on high, stovetop on low, or oven at 325 should all work as long as your dish is covered.

When the fatty part of the meat is meltingly tender, carefully transfer the meat to a covered dish. Strain the cooking liquid in there, let it cool for a while, and put it in the fridge overnight.

The next day, make rice. We are really fond of sushi rice, but basmati rice is okay too I guess. When your rice is almost done, get the pork out. Pry off the enormous layer of congealed fat and discard, or save it for heavenly roasted potatoes or something. Pull out however much pork you need. Cut it into bite-size slices – I sliced mine into 1/4″ strips. The cooking liquid will be congealed; scrape it all off the pork and melt it and strain it to go with the rice.

When your rice is ready, get a NONSTICK skillet or wok REALLY HOT and drop the slices of cold pork belly in. Sear them til they’re crispy, flip them over very carefully, and sprinkle the last 1-2 Tbsp brown sugar on top. Sear the other side and the sugar should be melted into gooey caramel. Serve on rice with sauce spooned over.

Tasty accompaniments: roasted brussels sprouts and Black Tuesday. Life is short; diet tomorrow.

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When Orion was almost 3 months old, I quit trying to get away from him. Here’s the story.
You’ve read it before; this is just a different version. 

It was the weekend of the Nevada Derby, so I was pretty melancholy to begin with. The 2014 Derby had been my last ride before I’d gotten pregnant. This year – 2015 – I was nowhere near ready to ride a 50 again. 

I had a disastrous ride on Dixie that day. I’d been trying to get myself ready for a half-marathon in May, and I’d scheduled a long run at a beautiful, remote-feeling park not too far from my barn. I wasn’t really sure about leaving Orion with G and going off all day to ride, but at the same time I wanted nothing more than to leave Orion with G and go ride. I was so worried that if I didn’t get time alone,

I’d go crazy or lose myself. So I made sure they had some fresh milk and some frozen milk, kissed them both, and bolted out the door. 

My plan had been to run seven miles down the trail, with my eager horse trotting happily behind me with my supplies. At seven miles we’d share some apples, I’d gracefully swing up on her back, and we’d trot back to the trailer. I’d probably want to pump, so I’d hook up all the parts to the electric breast pump and take care of my boobs before I loaded the horse and we got on the road. 

Yeah, none of that happened like I’d planned. Dixie was not interested in going for a jog, so I had to alternate driving her beside me and just forcibly hauling her with the tie rope as I ran ahead. Or, rather, jogged slowly ahead, then marched, then panted and trembled and hiked. I got tired all on my own, and then the trail turned right and started relentlessly climbing. 

Eventually I threw in the towel, found a stump, got back on, and headed back. Dixie was still a total slug, right up until a mile from the trailer when she perked up and trotted briskly for me… until a turkey leapt out of the Christmas tree farm on the right and she gave me the biggest spook I’ve had to ride in years. A half mile down the trail, when I did (voluntarily!) dismount to work the cramps out, Dixie started ripping huge poison oak branches out and waving them around like snack-sized WMDs. And my tits felt like they were three times their normal size and full of lava. 

In other words, by the time I got to the trailer I was 100% done with the whole adventure. 

I trailered back to the barn, unloaded, and unhitched with no further drama. When I got home, G put a brave face on it, but I’m pretty sure he and Orion had a long, horrible day. Orion has never taken to a bottle, preferring to get his milk from the source, so he was starving and I think he only napped after he cried himself to sleep. 

Lying in bed that night, while my frantically hungry and unhappy baby nursed nonstop, I realized I couldn’t keep on like I’d been doing. Orion hadn’t done anything to deserve the day he’d had. I really didn’t have anything to prove to anyone. I can slog out a half marathon, maybe injure myself or maybe get lucky. My horse can slog out a hundred, and have a lot more fun doing it with friends than doing ten miles all alone. The only reason for me to go ride hard and run hard and train was to feed my ego, and it was hurting the baby. 

Sure, it wasn’t hurting him much. Kids go off to daycare all the time and they’re a little unhappy and they thrive anyway. Kids have to stay with Dad while Mom does any number of totally valid activities, and maybe they’re a little sad but they’re fine. But I’m thinking about my baby, not your baby or some hypothetical baby, and my baby was sad when I left him. I wanted that baby with every fiber of my body. It’s not a hardship for me to set my ego aside and stay with Orion. 

So that’s what I did. I tabled the idea of pretty much ever ditching Orion until he was six months old – I thought when he was that old, I’d find a couple half-days of daycare and use the time to ride or write. I started running on paved trails, with Orion in the stroller. That’s when I moved Dixie to that pasture out east – I wasn’t planning on riding for two more months, so why not let her roam around a big pasture? 

It wasn’t the easiest thing I’ve ever done, at least not at first. But it got easier. I quit pumping – I had tons of milk in the freezer, a baby who wouldn’t drink it anyway, and no plans to go anywhere for more than an hour without him. It got easier to drag Orion with me wherever I needed to go – the grocery store or the library or out to a park. I already loved him, deeply loved him, but as I spent all my time with him and he started to blossom into a little person, I started to really like him too. I enjoy Orion’s company. I think he’s usually fun to hang out with. 

Two days before he turned six months old, the Stairs Thing happened. Putting the baby in daycare to, what? Spend more time alone in a hotel? Just totally not happening, for any number of reasons. We didn’t move to Boulder Creek til he was almost 8 months, and I only feel settled now, at almost 10 months, and at this point I don’t want to drop him off with anyone else. He and his dad do just fine together while I ride, and I can write on my phone while he sleeps. It feels like forever since that long, introspective night with a sad, tired, hungry little baby. I haven’t gone crazy (although there’s a lot of late afternoons where I just count the hours til DAD COMES HOME YAY), and I haven’t lost myself. The months are flying by, and the baby is almost a toddler. This time, this little window where he truly, deeply needs me, it really is going fast. 2015 has been a total wash for my ego, but it’s been a happy one for everybody. 
PS I definitely want to run Skyline to Shore 50k next summer. YOLO!