Rules of the Game


This morning, I got a phone call from the mother of a good friend of June’s from preschool.  The mother was calling concerned about something her daughter had told her:  some kids at school wouldn’t play with June because she had blonde hair.  

Uhm, what?

And, according to this mother, when it happened, June got upset and started crying which made her little girl cry, which apparently started a whole classroom cry fest, much like the Von Trapp family during that guilt-ridden first dinner with Maria.  

The weird part is that this woman’s three-year-old recounted the whole story with total clarity and attention to detail - naming the children, what they said and how they were put in time-out afterwards – while June had not mentioned a thing. Now, in June’s defense, some kid crapped his pants at school yesterday, and clearly that takes precedence over just about anything else that would otherwise be considered traumatic or noteworthy.  But, even when I pressed her, all she said was that two kids at school wouldn’t share some toys with her.  Nothing about the blonde hair.  Nothing about the crying. Nothing about the timeouts.  

Who knows what happened – kids at this age make a big deal out of who got to be the “front leader” at school – but it did get me thinking: kids are mean – all kids, all ages - you can’t escape it.  So, while my first instinct was to run to the school and find out who the hell these little punks are making fun of someone for the way she is different (she is LITrally one of two blonde kids in a 27-kid class), the other part of me thought, well, if didn’t bother her enough to tell me about it, I should let it slide.  Plus, I won’t always be able to swoop in and make everything right for her, so learning how to navigate these social waters is part of growing up; the part you never want them to deal with, the worst part, but a part, nonetheless.  

Meanwhile, at base camp, Harvey is totally on some kind of nap strike which is turning both of us into crazy bitches.  Case in point: on Super Bowl Sunday he didn’t nap once and by the time the house was filled with 14 adults and 10 kids, he was so over-tired and stimulated, he screamed on and off from 3 until 7; to the point where we asked people to “whisper” cheer when things were going well.  Not kidding.  We will forever be known as the house where you have to watch football with “inside voices.”  

The whole thing had me so frazzled, I completely charred one of the three racks of Malaika's Neighbors Ribs I had so lovingly dry-rubbed and slow cooked (we like to finish them on the grill to add some crackly bits, but clearly you gotta watch 'em closely)! 

Then, the Seahawks lost in the final minutes of the Super Bowl.  

So, needless to say, this week has been about putting on our game face and plunging forward.  It has been made easier only by the fact that we had a TON of leftovers from SB Sunday, so dinner has been in the bag, in various iterations, over the last few nights.  Is it against the rules to discuss the menu after the fact?  Hope not.  Cause I'm about to share one of my favorites.

Killer Barbecue Baked Beans

These are those quintessential baked beans.  The ones you would get alongside cornbread and ribs at a barbecue.  They are that perfect blend of tangy, spicy and sweet. They require a bit of planning, as you have to soak the beans overnight and cook for a few hours the day of.  But they keep for days and are great reheated, making them a perfect do-ahead dish for parties.

Oven at 300.


1 -2 tablespoons kosher salt

1 LB small dried beans (I used great northern)

10 oz thick cut bacon, cut into 1/2" strips

1 large yellow onion, diced

1 tablespoon diced jalapeno, seeded and membranes removed 

1/4 cup finely diced green bell pepper

3 medium cloves garlic, minced

3 cups chicken stock 

 1 ¼ cups ketchup

 2 Tblsp Tomato paste

2/3 cup dark brown sugar

1/3 cup honey

2 Tablespoons maple syrup

2 tablsepoons dijon mustard

1 tablespoon apple cider vinegar

1 tablespoon barbecue rub (link from Serious Eats.  Honestly, I think this is optional and if you can't be bothered, I wouldn't stress)

1 tablespoon Tapatio (or other hot sauce)

First, soak the beans.  Place beans in a large pot or container.  Mix about 8 cups of water with 1 or 2 tablespoons of salt, pouring over the beans and letting soak at least 8 hours.  Make sure beans are covered by about 2 inches of water, adding more water if you need to.  When done, drain and rinse beans well.

In a large dutch oven, cook bacon over medium high heat, cooking for 8-10 minutes and rendering all the fat.  Remove bacon with a slotted spoon, keeping as much fat in the pan as possible.  Add onion and cook for 5- 10 minutes, until translucent.  Add garlic, green pepper and jalapeño, cooking until fragrant, about 1 min.  Stir in 3 cups of water, the chicken stock, reserved bacon and beans and bring to a simmer, cooking for about an hour.  Preheat oven to 300 now.

Finally, stir in ketchup, molasses, honey, maple syrup, mustard, tomato paste, vinegar, barbecue rub and hot sauce.  Bring back up to a low simmer, then cover and put in oven.  Cook for 4 or 5 hours, stirring occasionally, until beans are nicely tender.  Then remove lid and cook for another hour or so, until sauce thickens.  Remove from oven and let sit a few minutes, seasoning with salt and pepper as desired.  Serve immediately, or store in fridge for up to a week.  Freezes beautifully too.