Lately, time has been a hungry monster, digesting every second of my days before I’ve had a chance to comprehend the passing hours. There are a few posts in my drafts, studded with snippets of recipes, and random thoughts trying to find a thread. Truth is even my journal writing has been a rambling of words, spilling from my mind to the pages of my powder blue notebook.
Two years ago, just before M passed away I started another blog, called Simple Scratch Cooking. I wanted a place to share recipes without the clutter of my personal life. I know, it sounds odd even writing that. I created this space for myself five years ago so I could write on my own terms. No deadlines, no schedules, no pressure except the self-imposed kind.
What I decide to share here is done so with a purpose, a selfish one at that. Perhaps this won’t come out right, but what I write here is more for me, than all of you. Can you understand what I mean in saying that? I don’t intend for it to come across as thankless. In fact, I feel incredibly grateful that so many of you have stayed with me on this journey, especially the last two years. The truth is, all my professional experience aside, publishers make decisions based on numbers and statistics these days. Homemade with Love was made possible because of the generous support, and interest, you’ve all shown in visiting me here.
A few days ago, something happened relating to the blog that has not sat well in my mind, and heart. Someone did not agree with my choice of words. They mistook something I said as coming off as being better than all of you. I’m not writing this in defense. In fact, that reader prompted me to do something I’ve been thinking about for a while. At the end of the day, this space is my space. I have no intentions of stopping what I do here, or how I do it. I question myself often as I press the publish button on every post.
This blog may be in the public realm, but the writing I do here is of the most personal kind. Crazy as it sounds, and I’ve said this in a few interviews during my book publicity, but each post I publish helps me free some space in a very crowded mind. A mind filled with a mish mosh of happiness, fear, love and loss. What I’ve been doing here the last two years is leaving a trail of breadcrumbs in a sense of my past, to help get me through the present, and into the future. I can only see that now as I reflect back.
I take no offense to people who fast forward past the post, and go straight to the recipes. My intention with every recipe I create is to make cooking easier, and enjoyable. What I am going to try and balance, though, is a reboot of Simple Scratch Cooking, so you have a place to go if you just want recipes without them being weaved into the personal aspects of my life.
I think this proverbial fork in the road is a win-win, provided I can manage it all. I get to keep writing what, and how, I want. Simultaneously, I get to follow my other passion, which is to continue showing people how easy it is to cook from scratch. Sometimes you might see a recipe on both sites, if it’s one that has a backstory connecting to something that’s inspired me in a more personal way. At some point, I might decide to give the design an overhaul, and maybe this will be a short-lived experiment, yet again. The second book manuscript is due next February, so this will be a delicate balance.
In the case of the blueberry kale smoothie recipe you see above, well, that one is going to live over at Simple Scratch Cooking. It was one of those “let’s clean out the vacation kitchen” recipes, but is sure to be on regular rotation when I get back home. So, go whip yourself up a smoothie, and let’s say cheers to moving forward, and new horizons.
Get the recipe for my blueberry kale smoothie here.
Music Pairing: Come Together by The Beatles
I bought a house. Upstate. In the country.
There are crazier things this city-slicker, born and bred Brooklyn gal could’ve done, but right now I’m drawing a blank. Towards the end of last year I started giving thought to buying a place I could plant some roots with the girls. Not necessarily a full-time, big-time move, but more a place we could recharge our batteries on a regular basis.
On my own, and with the girls, I’ve traveled a lot this past year. I watched pita bread being baked in an outdoor, clay oven in the mountains of Morocco. I had a snowball fight in Paris at midnight. I walked the snow-covered beaches of Normandy, listening to razor clam shells crackle under the heels of my boots. Continue reading »
I’ve written dozens of lines on this screen, and deleted them all, not knowing how to describe what I’m feeling. Being a tightrope walker sums it up a bit, at least the last few weeks. Don’t look down, that’s the key, right? Keep my eyes focused on the path ahead, and getting across to the other side.
But what is the other side of grief?
It is so hard to shed the cloak of being a widow. It’s a double-edged sword, not wanting to be identified as the girl who’s husband died, our story being interrupted so abruptly. And yet, when people start to see me as I am today, on my own, it saddens me. I have to remind myself they’ve not forgotten him; it’s just the natural progression of things. I’m just becoming comfortable with being seen as a single mother, even though that isn’t exactly how I feel. Yes, I do the daily job of parenting alone, but he is always in my heart, guiding me in the decisions I make for our family.
I am alone, but not really.
Until the memories start to fade…
and the sound of his laughter becomes a distant echo I struggle to remember.
It’s almost two years since that moment, and I’m still standing. I looked down at my boots the other day and realized they’ve strolled the streets of Paris, walked the beaches of Normandy strewn with razor clam shells and a thick layer of snow, and clocked many miles making my way up a mountain in Morocco.
Two years almost down; the rest of my life to go.
Oh dear May, your exit feels as abrupt as your entry. Time feels like a treadmill full speed ahead. Much as I try to keep up, I always seems to fall behind. In some ways it’s a good salve. One day you pluck your head from the fog and realize in just two months, it’ll be two years since a jagged gap was suddenly inserted into your life.
How did that happen? How is it I’ve managed to live almost two years since that moment? I suppose it’s resilience and determination. But mostly, it’s the fact that I learned very early that bad things happen to good people. Life is fickle, and the same day that brings immense joy and happiness can also wield deep heartache.
But still I keep going because deep down I do want to be happy. I’m an incredibly independent, headstrong woman, but oh did I love being part of a couple. Michael and I were about as opposite as two people could be. The fact that we spent almost 17 years together is often perplexing. As I read his journals, though, what I’m beginning to understand is we weathered all of our differences because we were both hopeless romantics deep down. We believed in love, longed for it, and intrinsically understood that love is a living, breathing thing that requires respect and care. Love is susceptible to the elements, and left unattended it will simply wither and die.
Having said this, what I’m about to admit next may seem contrary. Yesterday I resumed my weekly date nights with myself. My recent Paris trip reminded me that I need that weekly outlet to nourish my mind and soul. I’m not good when I’m forced into any one role 24/7. I never just identified as being a wife, mother, or even writer. Before I can be any of those, I need to first be Jennifer. She is the foundation upon which all those characters are built.
I’ve wandered far from my goal of sharing a few things that I’ve really been enjoying lately, so before I lose you all together, here it goes…
— I saw this on my recent date night…Before Midnight. I hate movie spoilers, so I won’t say anything more than if you loved the first two movies, you will not be disappointed in this last installment.
— I read Let’s Talk About Owls with Diabetes during my trip to Paris, and like every David Sedaris novel it was the perfect cure when laughter is on short supply.
—I started reading The Forgotten Gift: An Interrupted Novel a couple of moths ago, and only turned my attention away because it’s on my kindle. Sometimes, most times actually, I just want a real book to hold and read, to feel the pages turn between my fingers. Well, that’s a silly excuse once you start reading this compelling novel. The back story is it was written by a friend’s sister-in-law while she was dying of cancer. It’s a captivating story, and the proceeds go towards helping her son come to terms with the loss of his mother. Good news is it’s now available in paperback too. Definitely add this to your summer reading list.
—This video I captured while strolling through Paris.
—Of all the interviews I did for the book, this one is perhaps my favorite. After a month of being on the road, and doing dozens of radio, print and TV interviews, I finally felt like I hit my stride.
—These muffins Luisa wrote about recently. Once this heatwave breaks next week, I’m so making them.
—Spring and summer means the farmers’ market brings back some old friends…strawberries, asparagus, and peas, oh my! I’ve linked to a few of my favorite recipes, and here’s an oldie but goodie below to nudge you into the kitchen.
Strawberry Rhubarb Crumble
serves 8 to 10
For the Topping:
1 cup (125 grams) old-fashioned oats
1/2 cup (45 grams) toasted hazelnuts
1/4 cup (49 grams) coarse natural cane sugar (like Sugar in the Raw)
1/4 teaspoon (1 gram) fine sea salt
Leaves only from 3 sprigs of lemon thyme
Dash of ground cinnamon
4 tablespoons (2 ounces) butter, melted
For the filling:
1 pint (10 ounces) strawberries, stems removed
4 stalks (12 ounces) rhubarb, cut into 3/4-inch pieces
1 tablespoon (10 grams) cornstarch
3/4 cup (150 grams) granulated natural cane sugar
Preheat the oven to 375ºF.
To make the topping, add the oats, hazelnuts, coarse sugar, salt, lemon thyme and cinnamon to the bowl of a food processor. Pulse until it forms a coarse, sandy mixture. Pour in the butter and pulse 3 to 4 more times until the mixture comes together into little clumps. Set bowl in the refrigerator to chill while you prepare the filling.
Cut the strawberries into quarters and place in a deep bowl. Add the rhubarb, sugar and cornstarch to the bowl. Using a spoon to stir together until well coated. Scrape fruit mixture into a 10-inch deep ceramic pie plate or 8-inch square glass baking dish.
Sprinkle the oat topping evenly over the fruit and bake for 35 minutes, until the juices bubble and the topping is a deep golden color. Remove from oven and let sit on a wire rack until cooled, about 2 hours. May be prepared and baked the night before—just cover the top with plastic wrap and let sit on the counter until ready to serve the next day.
Dairy-Free Strawberry Rhubarb Crumble
Omit the butter in the crumble topping. In its place, add 1 tablespoon olive oil and 2 tablespoons (30 ml) pure maple syrup.
I love a few generous spoons of this over thick, creamy yogurt, especially for breakfast when I’m feeling a little decadent.
The crumble is fine covered with plastic wrap overnight at room temperature. Anything longer than that, I suggest popping it into the fridge.
Seven years ago we planted a tree in our old yard. It was a Japanese maple, Michael’s favorite. Our marriage had hit a crisis point, and while we did the necessary work to put our relationship back on track, that tree served as a symbol of our love and strength. As Michael patted the soil around the base of the tree, beads of sweat slowly slipping from his forehead to his shoulders, he said “if this tree survives, then so will we”.
When I planned my move from the old apartment, I couldn’t imagine leaving that Japanese maple prey to a new owner’s like or dislikes. What if they decided to re-do the garden and toss the tree? My friend tracked down this organization that would find the tree a new home for a modest donation. Our Japanese maple was supposed to spend its days nestled among one of the city’s community gardens. They were going to tell us where exactly, so the girls and I could go visit it. See, having had him cremated (his wishes), we have no place to escape to, where we can deposit some of our feelings of loss. Not that it ever leaves you, it’s just that having a resting place allows loved ones to stop, reflect, yet remove themselves a little with each visit from the feeling of loss, if that makes any sense.
Right now, his ashes sit in a box next to my desk, a post-it note tacked to it that reads “JP don’t forget me”. Across the street from my current apartment, there’s a large pot with a little Japanese maple like the fledgling one we planted, and it sends a pang to my heart. Every time I see a Japanese maple like the one that used to enjoy a shady corner in my old backyard, my loss feels heightened. Is my tree thriving, or is struggling to survive? When the tree was first removed by the New York Restoration Project in the winter of 2012 it was placed in a greenhouse because they said spring was a better time to plant it. Last time I checked in, I was told the tree was moved to a community garden, and they would get back to us with the exact location. Follow up phone calls and emails went unanswered. I’m sure to them it’s just a tree, but to me it was so much more.
That Japanese maple was a symbol of our love, of our commitment to each other and the life we built together. I’m starting to come to peace with having lost track of the tree. It’s out there somewhere. I just can’t touch it, or feel it.
I can’t see it.
But its roots are buried deep within my heart forever.
Music Pairing: Roadmovies by Bettie Serveert
I’m not really sure where to start. See, this is my inherent problem. A million things always seem to be whirling in my mind, and I can’t keep up with them, let alone prioritize which ones to focus on. A couple of things suddenly became quite clear in the last 12 hours.
The less serious, and kind of funny one, was the realization that I was actually correct is saying “c’est fin” in my last post. As I made my way up the Metro stairs in search of caramels, a conversation Isabella and I had at dinner one night popped into my head. Saying “je suis fin” is the incorrect way of saying “I’m done”—that actually means you’re dead. “C’est fin” is akin to saying “that’s it”. It can be used interchangeably, depending on the inflection in your voice at the end of the sentence—either saying it with a period at the end, or with a questioning tone, as a waiter will often ask when he sees you’ve finished eating.
I know, this doesn’t seem significant. I mean, who hasn’t stumbled in a foreign language? For me, this was a bit of a revelation. One of those lightbulb moments, where you say “aha!” to yourself. I knew all along the correct phrase to say, and doubted myself the rest of the day, feeling foolish, as if I’d made some colossal mistake. I profess that mistakes are a part of life, both to my children, and to the crowds of people that came out to support me the last six weeks. Like many others, though, I’m good at doling out wisdom, but not always capable of applying it to my own situation. Continue reading »
My mind is constantly racing with things I want, and need, to do. Giving birth to a book is more exhausting than actual childbirth in some ways. This book in particular has picked at the scab that slowly began forming over my wounds. I’ve found my heart and mind throbbing with an ache, wondering if I will ever feel emotionally safe and secure again.
I worry that I will die before I see my girls grow into women—happy women, not completely stunted in their own emotional growth by the premature death of their father. I worry that my time here will end before I get to see the rest of my own dreams come to fruition. I worry that everyone I love will go before I’m ready to say goodbye, or more importantly, have a chance to say goodbye.
I guess, at the heart of it all, I just worry way more than I ever did. Before I was carefree in my understanding of the reality that everything living will die. I suppose this is a natural reaction when death occurs outside of the natural order of things. Continue reading »
From the get-go, I knew promoting a book would be more challenging than writing one. That theory is proving to be true. It’s not to say that publicity is more work, it’s just that it’s a different kind of work, and one with which I’m trying to find a comfort-level. I’m incredibly shy, and don’t like talking about myself, which I realize sounds odd to say for someone who has shared so much of her life in a public manner. Sitting behind a screen, clacking away at a keyboard, it is easy to feel anonymous, when the reality is so far from that. Continue reading »
I spent 12 hours traveling home today. No, I didn’t go to Paris. Nor did I venture to the west coast. I was simply trying to get back to NYC from Chicago. The details of my travel aren’t important, though if you follow me on twitter, you likely saw my heated exchange with American Airlines.
And now here I am at my laptop, clacking away when I should be going to bed. Alas, sleep will have to wait until mid-May when the book publicity settles down. But I had to pop in here and share something. Before coming upstairs to my office to start the night shift, I made a blueberry spritzer. I had some blueberry syrup in the fridge from this event last week, and simply mixed it with some Pellegrino. As I took the last sip and looked down in my glass, six tiny wild blueberries had settled to the bottom of it, all in a row, forming a smile. At that moment, my cup wasn’t half empty or full. It was simply smiling at me, reminding me that happiness is a choice as long as you keep yourself focused on it at all times.
I’m adding a few links for your reading and viewing pleasure below. Hope everyone is having a great week, and be back in a bit. À bientôt.
Music Pairing: The 59th Street Bridge Song (Feelin’ Groovy) by Simon & Garfunkel
My cooking segment on Good Day Chicago.
A peek into the NYC launch event for Homemade with Love.
Some reviews of Homemade with Love from Edible Brooklyn and The Washington Post. Plus a few of my friends hosted a virtual potluck this week to celebrate the book’s publication. Go see what Gina, Ilina, Jodi, Amy, and Kim cooked from the book. I’ve also started a Pinterest board to gather all the reviews of the book in one place.
p.s. if you ever find yourself traveling with the kids to Chicago, or just want the ability to cook a meal in your hotel room, I highly recommend the Residence Inn on East Walton Place. The suite didn’t break the bank, and the staff was incredible.