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Ondine Brooks Kuraoka


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Posted By Ondine Brooks Kuraoka

Most of us, by the time we reach our 40s are comfortable cooking meat- I mean, come on, most of us have been cooking meat for at least 15-20 years. Well, I’m one of the few who have not been cooking meat for that long. And I haven’t recently renounced vegetarianism; as much as I love veggies, I’ve always been a carnivore- an omnivore.

I just get a bit frazzled by all that can go wrong when you cook meat, it’s always given me an inner spasm of anxiety, so I’ve avoided it as often as I can. For the past 10 years I’ve cooked meat only on a handful of occasions; mainly, I’ve left the meat cooking to John, figuring he’s so at ease with the meat arena, why bother? John cooks the meat and I throw together a big heaping salad- that’s just where my comfort zone in the kitchen has been.

But now that salmonella and e-coli are regularly popping up in Vegetable Land as well, I figure, well, a heck and a scratch, I might as well venture into the land of meat.

So here I am, braving my little wobbly-kneed raw meat fear. And I have to say, it’s liberating! Last night I dug through my recipe box and saw“Turkey Tenderloins and Apricot Sauce,” from the June 2008 issue of Woman’s Day, and I thought, “I bet that would be good with the pork loin roast we have in the freezer.”

So insteadof asking John to make it, by gum I just rolled up my sleeves and got busy. I decided that as long as our meat thermometer is working what’s the big deal anyway? I mean honestly, the likelihood of a car accident is way higher than some nebulous kind of meat accident. No problem! Just call me Ms. Raw Meat.

 After letting it thaw in the fridge overnight it was still pretty frozen, so I did a slow cook at 250 for a couple of hours, on John’s recommend, so the outside wouldn’t burn while it was getting up to temperature.

And I had so much fun mixing up the apricot sauce. I used the last of our Safeway Select Apricot Jam, and then opened the Trader Joe’s Apricot-Orange Fruit Spread we had in the pantry.

The garlic, mustard, soy sauce and jam smelled so good I could have just stood  at the counter and sipped it with a spoon. I didn’t, but I could have.

So there I was, basting the pork loin with this angelic sauce over a couple of hours of slow cooking. It was great- I was even wearing an apron. I felt like Nigella Lawson. The only reason I had the oven on for a couple of hours on a summer day in San Diego is due to a wonderful cool snap- 75 degrees for the past couple of days. Anyway, the pork was so easy and yummy, I’ll definitely be making it again. And John the meat man made veggies (broccoli and carrots) and jasmine rice.

Posted By Ondine Brooks Kuraoka

John’s mom, Frances, was here over the weekend. As serendipity would have it, I had procured my mom’s sewing machine a few days before. So, being the sewing goddess that she is, Frances, aka Grammy, was delighted to help me conquer my fear of the quick-needled machine.

With her guidance, I cut off a pair of Leo’s favorite pants - the ones with the airplanes and parachutists-and hemmed them into shorts. And then we tag-teamed a really wide tank shirt of mine; she did one side and I did the other. And then I got really adventurous; I said, "This one has a grease stain on it; maybe I could applique something on it…"

She said, "Sure, why not?"

So I cut one of the orange airplanes and a parachutist from the cut-off material of Leo’s pants and appliqued it onto the shirt… with the sewing machine! Time was, I would get an idea like that and then earnestly hand-sew them on bit by bit over the next month. But not that day- woo hoo! Done in minutes! No wonder folks like this machine. I get it now.

But we didn’t stop there, no sir. Our duvet had a huge rip in the foot end. We’ve been thinking about buying a new one, waiting for a sale. But Sweet Li’l Sewing Machine to the rescue… I swear, it was all sewn up in a matter of 15 minutes, maximum.

By then all my nervousness was gone- I was getting a little charge out of the whole thing by then, even. The mystery was gone.

Roy was rather stunned to look up and see me there, foot pedal to the metal, needle whirring away. Then he said he wanted to try it. So he did, on a little scrap of fabric, he tried a few different stitches, ones I hadn’t tried yet. And no fear at all! He liked the whole machine aspect of it, the way the components all start moving and working together to get the stitches on the fabric.

Kudos to my friend Juliet and her friend Debbie, who sparked some inspiration for me with their talk of quilting. Juliet showed me one of her fantastic, cozy quilts- it had a wave motif- as she, Debbie and I waited for our kids at swim class. Juliet also sews glorious bags. Bags of dreams. Debbie also brought her darling hearts-in-envelopes quilt.

My goal now is to tackle the baby quilt I made for Roy- 8 years ago!! Sigh. It just needs to be quilted now. I say "just." Yeah, right. Well, after talking it over with Grammy, I’ve determined that it’s best just to finish it by hand, since the whole thing is hand-sewn so far, and it would just kind of feel off to finish it by machine. So I’m going to finish it with ties, and then hand-sew the binding… We’ll see.

I also wanted to mention, in light of maiden voyage, first-time attempts, hats off to Juliet for making her first batch of jam! Strawberry. She used self-sealing jars so she didn’t have to deal with wax.

So, I guess I need to stop for now. I’m going to try to update more frequently and less massively…I’ve been craving carrot raisin muffins.

Rock’n’roll daisies to you!

And more juice from the Juiceman Jr. (also from Jen’s garage sale :))


Posted By Ondine Brooks Kuraoka



I machete’d my way through some of the jungle in our yard this morning, just to show myself that I wouldn’t fall through a wormhole of disbelief from clearing some vegetation.

I’m trying not to succumb to feeling overwhelmed by my plans for the garden. I had all these elaborate ideas- I’ll make an archway out of sturdy branches and twigs; I’ll create a labyrinthe garden with all kinds of herbs and vegetables thriving in beautiful, loamy, compost-amended soil; oh yeah, and we’ll have an entire community of funky birdfeeders hanging from the trees, too. Can’t you just see it? But the problem is, the twiggy arch is a fire hazard, at least if I place it right next to the patio. Maybe I’ll figure out a different place for one… And the other thing is that our dear Buddy, Terrier-Chupacabra mix that he is, eats anything and everything. And he chases all birds away too. (Good for fruit trees, but kind of cruel and anxiety-provoking for the poor bird feeder visitors) What to do… maybe cayenne sprinkled around the tender young veggie plot? I don’t know. Anyway, so far these are all just ideas running around in my mind.

I plan to soak the proposed area for the plot before we go camping (it’s hard, dry remnant lawn right now), and put a layer of newspaper, then a layer of compost, then another layer of newspaper, and soak it again and hold it down with rocks. That way it will do its work while we’re away and then I’ll see how it’s doing when we get back. I’d like to plant in the fall. Any thoughts, Garden Angels?

Tomorrow is Panda John's birthday!

Windchimes to you!