Friday, January 31, 2014

Crannies and Corners- Gus's Room

Bedrooms aren't my thing. I like making spaces for living and entertaining, for eating and gathering. 
Rooms meant for sleeping, meant for solitude and rest, are hard for me to get excited about.

I've tried to help my kids create spaces for themselves. Places to play and imagine, without the chaos of the rest of the home intruding. This is Gus's space, complete with treasure chests and shark books. 

Although I wish the walls were papered in this dinosaur amazingness and that I maybe hadn't painted most of the walls in my house yellow before realizing that my shady house would benefit from more reflected light, I am embracing this room as it is now. Embracing his disgusting shark fetus in a jar and his growing collection of rocks. 

This room gets the best light in the house, so my temperamental fiddle leaf fig tree had to be moved out of the hustle and bustle of daily living where I wish I could appreciate it more often throughout the day, and into Gus's corner of our house. I sure hope that tree makes it. I'm not so sure it will.

Now if only I could get Gus to actually play in his room from time to time, to pull out the toys from his closet when he claims, as he frequently does, that he is bored, so bored.

Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Starting/ Changing/ Embracing

I've spent quite a few hours over the past couple of days deep in my own thoughts. Thinking about how I spend my time, and my money, and my resources. Thinking about the things in my life that bring me joy, the things that burn through hours of my day, giving me nothing in return, thinking about the things that take from me, leave me with just a little less.

I feel like I might be about to start a journey, and my thoughts keep returning to it over and over again. What do I love? How do I get more of what I love and remove the mounds of mediocre?

The truth is, there is very, very little bad in my life, but there are stretches of discontented ordinary. So I am thinking and mediating on how to make the ordinary a little more beautiful, filled with more love.

And as I think my way through, I know that my first step is identifying the things I love. What is it that I want more of?

I love playing with my kids.
I love when Tom makes me laugh.
I love friends who make me laugh.
I love drinking coffee with my mom and sisters.
I love having people over to my house.
I love taking my kids to new places.
I love when my house is 85% clean.
I love when I cook a really, really good dinner.
I love singing in church.
I love book club.
I love being on the beach.
I love talking to strangers.
I love dancing.
I love walking. 
I love reading.
I love writing. 
I love St. Mary's College and Ocracoke.
I love not too sweet cocktails. 
I love when I take a picture I'm proud of.
I love looking at old pictures. 
I love plants.
I love screened-in porches.
I love when people think I'm funny.
I love cook-outs.
I love frizzy, summer hair.

It feels so good to think about the things I love the most in this world. The list could go on and on and on. These are the things I want to fill my life with, and I want to work on removing the things that don't make me very happy (ordering pizza when I'm too lazy to cook, zoning out on my phone, half-done piles of laundry).

I'm excited to embrace the things I love. This could be a year of some sort of big changes for me, and it feels really good and exciting.

My friend Maggie sent me a link to these guys. And although they are a little too......something, for my taste, they have sent me to really good places in my head. My own version of minimalism might be a slightly more bohemian, Jesus conglomeration, but this is a good start. Thanks Maggie, for inspiring me to think some of these thoughts.

Tuesday, January 28, 2014

This Weekend We

This weekend we tried our hands at making donuts for the first time. I saw a video narrated my Michael Pollan on Cup of Jo, and it inspired me to make my very favorite junk food at home. I fancy myself a cook, but I steer clear of baking usually, with the exception of my one and only "baking" trick, whiskey instead of water in boxed brownie mix. (I'm telling you, this is a very, very good trick.)

Sena loves to bake, and Gus, just like his mom, loves donuts. And I would like to stop breaking my resolve at a perfect diet with peanut M&M's and other corperation made sweets. I would so much rather lovingly make my favorite foods with my kids, and eat them with my family, than cave to foods I don't actually love.

And so began our donut diaries. This time we made apple sauce donuts, at their request. When it's my turn to pick, we are absolutely making chocolate sour cream donuts.

On Saturday afternoon, full of fried deliciousness and more than a few cups of coffee, I carpooled with friends to book club. We talked about Hild and about women and about power. And we ate more things that I love: pickled vegetables, cured meats, hard, hunks of cheese.

And there was a whole lot of laughing and many bottles of wine. And as usual, an overwhelming sense of gratitude for friendship.

I'm already ready for another weekend: more friends, more wine, more donuts. And hoping beyond hope that we don't have more snow heading our way just yet. 

Saturday, January 25, 2014

Sometimes He's Impossible

Somedays Gus declares the worse day ever. The days he gets frustrated with his video games, sent to his room. The days he falls in the snow or can't find a neighborhood friend to play with.

And sometimes on those days, I get frustrated with him. And sometimes on those days I lose my temper. I am angry that he is short-sighted and impatient and fiery. I become basically intolerant of his six-year-old-boyness.

But sometimes on the worse day ever, I suggest we have a Just Dance Competition, complete with costumes and he comes flying down the stairs as Bathorse. And for a few short moments I am convinced that I am a genius, the best mom ever.

And then a few rounds in, he is back to being bored. And I am backed to being frustrated.
Gone are my delusions of being mother-of-the-year. But at least Arlo liked it.

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

The Dinner Series / 1

Sometimes we eat at my parent's houses, sitting around the same table I ate around with my sisters and brother as a child. The bay strikes the rocks behind us, the clock on the wall ticks away, punctuating our conversation. We start with grace and then pass the butter.

Other nights we eat at my house, at the oblong table my mother bought me last Christmas that already bears the scars of craft projects and temper tantrums. The bay is a block further away, but the meal still starts with bowed heads and gratitude.

These moments around the table are important to me, just as they were important to my parents, just as I believe that they are or will be important to my children. These moments are worth the dirty dishes they produce, worth the stress of stopping for groceries on my way home from work. 

Last night I made shepherd's pie served in my giant cast iron skillet, and I served it on mismatched plates to the people I love. We talked about weddings and the snow outside, and it was good. It was important.

My children won't likely remember this meal, or tomorrow's meal either. They won't likely recall that day, January 8th, the night mom wore her airplane earrings, and there dad was nervous about his first jury trial. And chances are, I won't remember it either. But we will remember the routine, the habit, the tradition of being together, eating together, sharing. 

What I made:

I doubled the base from Alton Brown's Shepherd Pie Recipe with a few minor changes, topped it with a slightly adapted version of this mashed cauliflower recipe instead of the potatoes and cooked it all in my skillet instead of transferring it into a baking dish.

Cast Iron Shepherd's Pie with Cauliflower Crust

Meat filling:

2 tablespoons olive oil
2 medium chopped yellow onions
4 cloves garlic, minced
3 pounds ground lamb
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
8 oz can of tomato paste
2 cup chicken broth
2 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
4 teaspoons freshly chopped rosemary leaves
4 teaspoon freshly chopped thyme leaves
1 bag of frozen peas, carrot, freen bean mix
2 tablespoon cream cheese, softened
1/4 cup grated Parmesan
2 cloves  minced garlic
1 teaspoon sea salt
1/8 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
3 tablespoons unsalted butter

Cauliflower mash:

2 bags of frozen cauliflower florets
2 tablespoon cream cheese, softened
1/4 cup grated Parmesan
1/2 teaspoon minced garlic
1 teaspoon salt
1/8 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1/2 teaspoon chopped fresh or dry chives, for garnish
3 tablespoons unsalted butter


Put frozen cauliflower in a stock pot and cover with water. Cook on high heat until cauliflower is soft, about ten minutes.
Drain. while it is still hot, add the rest of the ingredients. I mash mine, but if you have a food processor or immersion blender ( I do not), now would be a good time to put it to use. 
Set aside.

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.

While the cauliflower is cooking, prepare the filling. Place the olive oil into a 20-inch saute pan and set over medium high heat. Once the oil heats up, add the onion and carrots and saute until they are turning color and just strating to get soft, approximately 3 to 4 minutes. Add the garlic and stir . Add the lamb, salt and pepper and cook until thoroughly browned  approximately 5 minutes. Add the tomato paste, chicken broth, Worcestershire, rosemary, thyme, and stir to combine. Bring to a boil, reduce the heat to low, cover and simmer slowly 10 to 12 minutes or until the sauce is thickened slightly.
Add the corn and peas to the lamb mixture and spread evenly around the cast iron skillet, or transfer to a baking pan if you don't have a big enough skillet. Top with the mashed cauliflower. Bake for about 25 minutes, until the topping is getting a little golden. 

Let it cool for about 15 minutes before eating, even longer, if you're like my mom and eat everything luke warm. 

And if you are like Gus, feel free to add ketchup. Malcolm Gladwell made me feel so much better about my picky son's desire to coat everything in it. Read all about why ketchup just makes sense.

Monday, January 20, 2014


As life goes on, you get less firsts. They become few. They become far between.

The first part of your life gets an unfair proportion. First bath. First tooth. First word. First step.

Yesterday was the first day that Arlo grabbed my hand to pull me along with him. He wanted more crackers.
And it was the first time he walked around our yard.

Arlo has been walking for awhile, but it's been winter, and we can't find shoes to fit has fat, little paws. But yesterday I let him muddy his socks and help Tom and Steve build our fire pit.

Two firsts in one day- those days don't happen to grown ups. 

Sunday, January 19, 2014

This Weekend We- A Family of Three

Sena and Gus are in Ocracoke with my mama after begging her to take them there for the past month. And it's amazing to me how one child feels after having three- how easy it seems.
Yesterday was the easiest sort of day, the kind of day when the laundry didn't seem pressing and there were plenty of hours for sitting, for staring, for just being.
And then just when I might have started to get a little stir crazy, as my extroverted tendencies started to peek their heads from the warm blankets of relaxation, we headed to Baltimore for tacos and records with friends.

Some weekends I search so hard for magic, for something special, for something to be remembered. But these lazy weekends remind me that simple is special, that magic is in little moments, just as often as big.

Sometimes when I want something new, I spend an evening with an old friend, the who who carried in her "STOP- The Party's HERE" poster on the first day of college, and I remember that new doesn't mean better, that different doesn't either.

Sometimes all a Saturday needs is men in flannels posing with axes, a ton of store bought cookies, a little bit of funk, and a glass in your hand.

But although it's been easy with just little gremlin to entertain, I'm missing my big guys. 

Today is for book club reading, fire-pit building and a Downton Abbey date after the little guy is fast asleep.  

Hope you're enjoying a long, lazy weekend. 

Friday, January 17, 2014

Crannies and Corners: An Ode to House Plants

When I asked if house plants can be considered a hobby, answers were split. But I've decided that even if my Aunt Kathy isn't willing to include them among knitting and basket weaving, I can claim them as my pastime.

On the heels of feelings of restless, I've been happy in my home. And maybe my favorite part as of late is the bits of green that bring the outdoors in while it's colder and darker outside my doors. The bring me a silly joy. I am maybe a little too pleased with the avocado plant we sprouted from a pit, or the begonia I propagated from my mother's plant, which was propagated from my grandmother's, and my great-grandmother's before her.

The ficus behind the chair is our "marriage tree," given to us by friends at our wedding reception. Somehow no matter how that tree grows or what happens to it, it always seems like a metaphor.

This bulb on my table makes me anxious for spring and dirt under my nails, excited to get my shady little patch of yard to bloom as best I can. I have never been much for yard work, but I've gotten better at house cleaning, so maybe there's hope for me yet.

I love plants sitting on windowsills and trailing down bookcases. And Arlo might like them even more than me- they serve as toys and meals if I'm not careful.  He too likes dirt under his nails, but he also likes it in his mouth and covering his sweet chin.

I mostly think I like them because it's so wonderful to nurture something that, unlike my children, who I would like to freeze in-time at exactly the size they are this moment, I want to see grown and grow and grow.  I would like these stalks and leaves to reach my ceilings, but for my children to remain just as they are.

Tuesday, January 14, 2014

Sometimes I'm Restless

Sometimes I get a little restless. I start thinking that there is something out there that I want, something that I don't already have.

I think that I'd find it, if only I'd leave, if only I'd pack my babies and my mister, and head to some place new.

I've read that people with names like mine feel torn between family and adventure. We are homebodies with gypsy hearts.

This new year has brought desire for newness, for change, and so I've spent hours in my head, not embracing what I have and where I am, but wanting to go.

And then I remind myself, that there is no community better than my dad and mom and sisters. And I remind myself that these bay shores are my home. This town might not have some of the things that I think I want--wine bars, coffee shops, farm to table restaurants-- but it has absolutely everything I need. It has space for my children to run just a little wild. It has brackish water. It has my childhood wrapped in it, as it wraps my children too.

I'm trying to refocus my day dreams, think not of leaving, but how to make this place more like the ones I imagine I want to be.  Maybe I can be the change, or maybe my fancy will pass, as they usually do, and I'll take my kids back to the empty winter beach to look for drift wood and sharks teeth, and we'll come back with sand in our boots, and clean up for a dinner to be eaten with a gaggle of sisters.