Friday, July 3, 2009

Gone Fishing

I've decided to take a vacation. Ok, I can't really take a vacation (and no, that's not really my laundry although I do wish I had some funky vintage aprons like those) but I am going to take a mental holiday. For the next few weeks I am not going to blog. I have books to read, exercise to do, projects to start and chocolate to eat (I never said I was logical). So for now, I'm going to leave the blog behind and will hopefully pick up again in August.

In the meantime, I thought I'd leave a few food, book, music, and website recommendations if anyone is out there. And if anyone is out there, please feel free to leave me some recommendations of your own in the comments. I'd love to hear.

I just finished reading a book of short stories called Unaccustomed Earth by Jhumpa Lahiri was really moving and Animal, Vegetable, Miracle by Barbara Kingsolver If you're a food geek and have not already read A Homemade Life by Molly Wizenburg, definitely check it out. I also just read through a couple of really nice cook books: Local Flavors by Deborah Madison and The Bread Baker's Apprentice by Peter Reinhart. I've startedf reading Eat, Pray, Love by Elizabeth Gilbert and am looking forward to reading How to Win a Cosmic War by Reza Aslan once I'm feeling ambitious enough.

I can't afford it myself but if you can spring $60+ for a box set, I would definitely recommend Jane's Addiction box set.

I'm also loving this White Stripes song - and only in part because my three year old can't stop singing it.

Music for kids. It's usually bad. Dan Zanes is a pretty good exception to that rule. These are real musicians and they don't dumb it down, so parents don't go insane listening to the same songs over and over. He often features musicians like John Doe, Lou Reed, and Aimee Mann. So much better than the usual stuff.

Here's a cool online website ans toy store for kids.

Eating. Sweet tooth. Cookies. Butterscotch chocolate bars, etc... Amazing looking small family business in Brooklyn.

I really like this food blog: and this life, food, photography, and ranch living blog

For photography geeks, this is a great editing website with a lot of nice effects and easy to use.

Ok, I'm off to either go be productive or lazy - still not sure which way to go here. See you soon!

Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Home Movies

How to make yourself cry in a few easy steps:
  • Take your photos and put them in 'cinematography' mode or something similar on a photo editing website like Picnik. (It gives the impression of film stills.)
  • Line a few up so it looks as though time is passing right before your very eyes. (And guess what? It is.)
  • Note how insanely fast life goes by. Say something cliche like "how is that possible?!".
  • Cry like a baby because you're both happy for these amazing moments in your life and because it's profoundly difficult to know how fast it all goes.
Seriously, I feel like Clark Griswold in National Lampoon's Christmas Vacation when he was stuck in the attic and bawling while looking at old home movies. Minus the fur coat and head dress. I think Clark had it right though - spend as much time making memories as you can because before you know it your very own little Rusty and Audrey Griswold will grow up before your eyes.

Monday, June 29, 2009

Beautiful Day

A warm, sunny day. Berry picking for the first time. A family outing. And when they grew tired of picking raspberries there were goats and chickens to visit and ice cream cones to be eaten. They probably won't remember any of this, but I will. I loved this day.

Raspberry fields.

Ahhh, dirt!


Our Grapes of Wrath cover photo.

The haul. And tomorrow there will be pie.

Friday, June 26, 2009

Little Donkeys

Last week we were lucky enough to visit a beautiful farm in the country that was holding a 'pie and donkey day' event to raise money for a good cause. These affectionate little donkeys were the big draw on this outing, although there was also plenty of homemade pie to be eaten and friendly people to meet, including the gracious farm owners, Martyn and Katherine Dunn ( But it's Pino, Paco, and Lucia who captured my kids' attention. Sure, there were donkey landmines everywhere you looked, but hey, we've had three years of diaper changes and potty training - who are we to talk?

*The top photo was taken by Kathy Fowler

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

A Thousand Sleepness Nights

I dream of days ahead when my little ones sleep all night long and we all wake up renewed, refreshed after solid eight-hour stretches of sleep. Our kids are great in a million different ways, but they've yet to master the art of sleeping throughout the night. More often than not, they wake up and need a little help getting back to sleep. Tired and relishing sleep of my own, or just needing a little mental break at night, I cringe when I first hear them stir.

My youngest cries loudly, disoriented and needing someone to hold and reassure him for a minute before he drifts back to sleep. I rush to get him and in the darkness I pick him up and hold him close to me. At 17 months, he's a toddler now, but still young enough to be held against my chest where I can feel the heat emanating from his warm little head. I kiss his soft hair and cheek and hum to him as he burrows into me. He lifts his head for a moment and yawns directly in my face, then nestles back down into my shoulder, his chubby hands around me. I love this.

The gesture and intimacy of a yawn, the smell of them, the weight of them - it's a love that is larger than anything, fuller than anything, maddeningly deeper than anything I have ever known. I feel so lucky to experience this. Life is stressful and complicated and wildly imperfect but in this single moment I forget all of that and feel only a pure, steady stream of love, like finally everything is right with the world. And as tired as I am, I will go another thousand sleepless nights to witness those yawns, to feel this rush of love, to be with them in those dark, nocturnal moments.

Friday, June 19, 2009

Top Banana

"Your life is your message to your children."

Thank you for loving them, teaching them, working so hard for them, and playing "Top Banana" with them over...and over...and over. These are two lucky monkeys.

Thursday, June 18, 2009

The Builders

I want to teach my children to be connected to nature, to think creatively, and to make things by hand. While this all comes naturally to a country kid, we actually live in the suburbs where the only animals my kids see - apart from the daily deluge of birds and squirrels - is the occasional dog being walked. So when we found this ladybug, and my daughter asked if we could keep it, I said "no" like any sane adult. I did, however, suggest that we build it a temporary house - a ladybug hotel, if you will. We bound together some lollipop sticks with masking tape, found some leaves and grass to make a bed and tied the whole thing up with twine. We even included a flower for a 'pillow'.

It was fun to make this with my daughter and both my kids intently studied the ladybug as she adapted to her temporary digs. It was simple and a little silly, but I think it was also a good starting point to help my kids observe their surroundings and see what they can do with just a few basic materials. The ladybug has flown away and her 'chaise lounge' has since been disassembled but I'm looking forward to seeing what they can dream up next (with a little help).

There's a great resource for connecting kids with nature, no matter where they live. Here's the link:

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Running Dangerously Low on Axe Body Spray...

If you didn't see this on Jon Stewart on Monday night, it's ridiculously stupid and funny. If you need to, just skip to the 'letter' told in voiceover somewhere around 2
minutes and 50 sec.

The Daily Show With Jon StewartMon - Thurs 11p / 10c
Long Island Wants to Secede
Daily Show
Full Episodes
Political HumorJason Jones in Iran

Saturday, June 13, 2009

Ball of Confusion

Some people wake up each day and have a clear, peaceful mind that conjures up images of lotus flowers, singing birds, and baby deer prancing under rainbows. Me? My mind is a lot like this drawing that my daughter did. Little did she know just how precisely she was rendering my fuzzy, complicated head space. More often than I'd like to admit, I walk around with a cloud hovering over me and I feel like a Ball of Confusion, if I can quote Love and Rockets (and yes, I'm that old, which might explain some of the murkiness that is my mind). Lack of sleep, kids, three years without caffeine, and a general sense that the world is a scary place are all contributing factors.

So to all you out there who have clarity, organization, peace and the ability to wake up and see only sunbeams, dewey-eyed kittens, and gumdrops - well, I don't really know what to say. Maybe one day I'll join you. Or I could just turn to drinking double espressos and marvel at how a three year-old uncannily captured my true essence with a few determined scribbles. (Who am I kidding? I'm definitely going with the latter.)

Monday, June 8, 2009


My kids occasionally like to re-enact scenes from Tennessee Williams' A Streetcar Named Desire. Mostly, my 17 month-old son likes to yell "Stella! Stella!!!". In truth it's not because they already great fans of the theater but because we have a dog living next door to us named Stella who never stops barking. But I like to think they might be flexing their creative muscles and channeling a little Stanley Kowalski now and again.

Speaking of channeling Stanley Kowalski...Brando is clearly the iconic Kowalski but Grover for Sesame Street also gives a fairly moving rendition of this classic character. If you haven't seen Sesame Street's version of A Streetcar Named Desire, check out the video below. Grab some popcorn, sit back and enjoy...

Thursday, June 4, 2009

Music Man

I can only wonder what he's listening to on the baby ipod here. Given the music we've listened to lately - at home or in the car - I'm going to guess the playlist includes some of the following:

All Around the Mulberry Bush
Just a Friend, Biz Markie
Debra, Beck (that would be wholly inappropriate but pretty great nonetheless)
Hey Ladies, Beastie Boys (ditto)
Welcome to the Jungle, Guns and Roses
The Backyardigans
Jolene, The White Stripes
Hi, Hi, How Do You Do? Welcome to My Gym...
Groove is in the Heart, Deelite (Flashback Friday)
Elmo's World, Elmo
Cactus, The Pixies
Let's Stay Together, Al Green

Honestly, as long as there's no Britney or Maroon 5 on there, I'm good. Quick question - when is it too early to get the Led out?

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

Paper and Scissors

I wanted to add some color and interest to my kids' rooms. Because we're on a budget and we're renting, I needed a solution that was both temporary and cheap. Here's what I've come up with thus far:

1. The birds below are paper cutouts. I used decorative stock paper that you can find at any craft store, Target-type store, or stationary store. I found an image of a bird, simplified the shape and outline and created and traced it onto paper. The branch is simply randomly cut lengths of brown stock paper taped to one long length. The whole thing is adhered with double stick tape. It's basic, but I like the graphic punch and it seems to amuse my son, who is a fan of all things bird.

2. The butterfly garland below is also made out of stock paper. After cutting the shapes out, I used a hole puncher to make holes in each wing and then threaded ribbon throughout. I left a few inches of ribbon hanging on either end and taped the top of the ribbon on the wall (it could also be thumbtacked or tied on a nail or small hook). We hung it a few feet above the head of her bed.

It's a simple idea but I like that they each have something handmade on their walls, and it's kind of a fun challenge to create something out of relatively nothing.

Monday, June 1, 2009

Ode to a Pork Sandwich - and a Marriage

[Please bear with me - this is going to be a long one...]

T. and I are celebrating 8 years of marriage. We've actually been together for 16 years now, which is insanely surreal to think about. Along the journey we've experienced highs and lows, celebrations and disasters, and two unbelievable kids. Oh, and food. Some really good food.

In 2001 we honeymooned in Italy. I'd like to say it was flawlessly romantic, but in truth it was equal parts amazing and frustrating. Our first couple of days in Florence found my newly wed husband lying on either the hotel bed or the bathroom floor exhausted and sick to his stomach. Not the best start for a marriage or a vacation in foodie paradise. But eventually he slept, healed and we moved on to the next destination: Villa Vignamaggio - a winery and villa in the Chianti hillside.

Everyone should stay here at least once. Vignamaggio has been the home of the (supposed) model for Da Vinci's Mona Lisa and the set for Kenneth Branaugh's Much Ado About Nothing. It has thick stone walls, beautiful gardens, and surreal views of Chianti's rolling hillsides. I dream of going back, only this time staying much, much longer.

One of the first joys we experienced in Chianti was a tomato that we sliced with a knife and ate out of hand. There's not much I can tell you about a tomato that you don't already know, but this particular one was life-altering. Warm, juicy, and with a deep flavor that I still haven't forgotten. I also tasted ribollita for the first time (a vegetable and bread soup that is so thick you eat it with a fork), served by a chef who precariously dangled an inch-long cigarette ash over the pot as he plated my soup (and yes, it was served on a plate). Luckily the ribollita escaped the ash and was rich and satisfying.

But the jewel in the crown was the pork sandwich that I fought for at the local farmer's market. Yep -a pork sandwich. Being a food geek, I had read about the porchetta, or pork, in a guidebook. I had my heart set on this pork sandwich, so I staked my place in a line that was at least 20 people deep while T. waited nearby, probably wondering why he had just married a girl who would stand in line for a sandwich. But this is who I am. A glutton, a hedonist, a girl who loves pork. This was easily the slowest line of my life.

About 25 minutes in, I was still a good five or six people back but I was close enough to finally see the action. And by action, I mean a 75 year old man, painstakingly carving thin slices of roast pork in what must have been slow motion. He took the slicing to a whole new level; it was an art form that couldn't be rushed (and wasn't helped by the bandage that ran the length of his forearm). Sloooooooooowly, he sliced the pork and arranged it methodically onto a sliced roll. He stacked and re-stacked the pork until it sat in a perfect mound atop the bread and then repeated, again and again. I'm not going to lie; it was painful. The wait was excruciating. After another 10 minutes had passed, I was finally up and he repeated the process all over again, sculpting a tower of pork. He asked (or gestured since I knew almost no Italian except for the basic tourist phrases) if I wanted the extra bits. I may have been a tourist but I'm not stupid - of course I did. Those bits included slivers of crisped brown skin and fat and slow-roasted garlic cloves and was redolent of rosemary, wild fennel and other spices. The smell alone was enough to make you swoon. When he was finally done arranging the sandwich he carefully handed it over to his daughter who wrapped it in paper and I was on my way, much to T's. relief.

Walking down narrow streets, we found a quiet curb on which to sit and eat the damn thing. Doubting how anything could live up to a wait that long, I peeled back the paper and sank my teeth in. (This is where I would like to insert over-the-top effects like fireworks, marching bands playing John Phillip Sousa, shooting stars, choirs, and trains going through tunnels). Yes, it really was THAT good. Crispy, juicy, soft, savory, and slicked with garlic and rosemary - it was unctuous and delicious. If I could sing spirituals I would. I gallantly passed it to my new husband so he could take a bite - after all, he earned his just rewards too. There we sat, sitting on a curb in Italy, eating the best pork sandwich on the planet.

To this day, I think of that pork sandwich as one of the best things I have ever eaten. And in many ways, it's not unlike my marriage. It was a long, slow journey getting there, and there were a few bumps along the way. But in the end, all the components came together to make something that was greater than the sum of their parts. It's not a pricey Michelin-starred meal but it's one you'll always carry with you because it's delicious and indelible because it's made with love. I'm guessing the gentleman who made that pork is no longer crafting the perfect sandwich, but his commitment to creating a thing of art is a pretty good lesson, too. It takes work. Sometimes it feel painstakingly slow and hard. But you keep at it because, in the end it's what you love and what you do. It's real and it has weight and meaning. It's love, plain and simple. It feeds you on so many levels. And your life is profoundly better because of it.

Friday, May 29, 2009

Butter, Sugar, Happiness

I'm seriously in need a baking intervention. It's been a butter/sugar/flour free-for-all at my house these past few weeks. But this one was worth it. It's a simple, light buttermilk raspberry cake and it's so easy to make. My daughter and I recklessly threw everything in one bowl and even mixed it by hand, so as not to disturb my napping son. The raspberries sank to the bottom of the cake but it was no less delicious because of it. I swear, this cake just made me happy. The recipe comes from Smitten Kitten - my favorite cooking blog. Check out the Smitten Kitten website and please, make this cake!

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

A Boy Who Picks You Flowers

Okay, I'll admit it - I'm utterly in love.

But weren't you just in my belly not too long ago? Seriously, how did this happen?