egg-free

creamy turnip soup with croutons & fried sage leaves

Finding some inner peace has been more challenging than usual lately. I’m so thankful I started running again before it all hit me. That time I carve out for myself every morning helps me reset my feelings a bit. Breathing in the salty, sometimes funky air rolling off the river as I run by Brooklyn Bridge Park wakes up my soul (and sense of smell!). The only other place that awakens me in such a way is the kitchen. So, lately my time has been filled with clocking miles and cooking.

A few days ago, I had turnips on my mind. They’re this week’s theme for Food Network’s Fall Fest, and it was a welcome distraction from the other thoughts in my head. Growing up, the only time I ever remember seeing my mom use turnips was when she made chicken soup. I’ll admit that they still aren’t part of my every day cooking repertoire, but I’ve certainly branched out from just using them to make stock. Turnips pose a creative challenge because on their own the flavor is rather bland, with a hint of bitterness if that makes any sense. In one way they’re a blank canvas, blending into the flavors of the ingredients you pair them with, but you have to pay attention to that aforementioned slight bitter quality. You want flavors that will tame it, not accentuate it. Continue reading »

apple breakfast bars

I want to say it took me a full two weeks to get used to the back to school schedule, but truth is I’m not even close. I simply tolerate it, and consider the juggle associated with the school year to be one of those things in life I can’t avoid (like death and taxes). After a lazy summer of no alarm clocks, the early morning routine has completely thrown off the girls’ eating habits. They’re simply not hungry for breakfast at 7:30am. Even their favorites, like pancakes and waffles, have been met with a lukewarm reception. The pep talks about needing their energy, and how it’s not good to go to school on an empty stomach weren’t cutting it either. Continue reading »

homemade corn broth

This is my seventeenth summer going to Cape Cod. Michael first took me just a few months after we started dating in August of 1995. I was a kid back then, just 21 years old, but still remember that summer so vividly. The 300 mile drive in his little red Toyota Celica, and the box of cassette tapes he used to pack for road trips. It was the first time I’d heard Cracker, and found myself singing Movie Star again all these years later as I made the drive out here last week. I still keep the Best of Van Morrison, Vol. 2 cassette in the glove compartment.

As we make the drive out here, I still murmur silly things like Bic Pen Drive, as we pass the Bic Drive exit on the I95. And crude things like “Exeter, I wasn’t even in her”—Mikey made that one up as we drove through Rhode Island once. Then there’s Mash-the-peas, as we pass Mashpee, one of the towns on the Cape. The motel we stayed at, Terrace Dunes, is just down the road from the house we rent now. I glance at the efficiency unit we called home for those two weeks every time I drive by it on my way down Shore Road.

And there I go with the “we” again. Technically, I’m still part of “we” because it’s me and the girls, but often the “we” I refer to in conversations is me and Mikey. It’s hard to remember that “we” is now just “me”, at least in the immediate, physical sense of the being.

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this little light of mine

When Isabella was in pre-K she sang This Little Light of Mine at her winter recital. She would practice the song over and over again at home, and every time it would end with me in tears.  Mikey used to laugh, in a very loving, teasing way, for how freely my tears flowed at school performances because I’m generally a tough Brooklyn gal.

Tonight that song popped into my head while I was cleaning the dinner dishes. The line “no one’s gonna blow it out” hit a particular chord every time Isabella used to sing it. I saw my job as a mommy to keep that light going—make sure no one ever tried to extinguish her dreams. Now I’m faced with keeping that flame lit all by myself, and heaven knows her inner light was challenged in the most painful way.

Over the last 373 days, I’ve felt depleted and numb in ways I never want to feel again. One year ago, I had a house full of people. Michael’s death was still so fresh and raw for them, so my home—our home, overflowed with people flocking to support me. I know the sentiments are still there, but one year later, it’s just me and the girls mostly. People have moved forward in their own ways, the way families do—the way they should. There’s still that moment during dinner when a silence falls upon the house because he usually came home while we were eating.

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fairytales for grown ups

My head feels like Dorothy’s house as it’s swirling into the eye of the tornado. This is what New York City does to me. It divides my heart from my mind. This is something I was beginning to realize even before Michael died. In six days it has slowly undone the careful stitches Paris wove into place. For a few weeks my fractured life felt whole again. Going to a new city, embracing a new culture and way of life, gave special meaning to learning a new kind of normal.

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about a boy {day 268}

Yes, I’m counting the days again. Panic set in last week, and I’m back to playing that number game. Soon it will be nine months. I know—it made me gasp for breathe too. It seems inconceivable. I find myself staring at his pictures lately, recalling memories, and they seem to have this blurry haze around them. I look at our wedding photo, and think “gee, that girl looks really happy”.

And yet that girl used to be me.

I used to polish my nails sheer white. Now I choose brooding, dark shades of bing cherry.

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just her imagination {roasted rhubarb jam}

Someone mentioned seeing rhubarb at the farmers’ market this weekend. Well, actually they heard from someone else that there was a rhubarb sighting at the Grand Army Plaza market. I went to the Union Square one with the girls, and while I’m tempted to jump the gun and say there was none to be had, the truth is I wasn’t looking for it, so I don’t know.

Rhubarb wasn’t on my radar, and my visit to the market was with laser sharp precision, hitting only the stands I needed since I was short on time. Now I know to keep an eye out for this weekend. This simple tangent led me to another thought. How much are we missing out on, in the intensity of this 24/7 world? Just because we can do something every second of the day, doens’t mean we should. There’s so much to be said for unplugging, and savoring life’s smaller moments.

I thought I had mastered this long before Mikey died. I always prided myself on being the mommy who didn’t overschedule her family. I only accepted one birthday party invite per weekend, and that was only on Saturdays. Sundays were strictly mommy, baby, bella and daddy day. We often set sail in the car on Saturdays, with no goal in mind, except to have fun together.

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slow-roasted tomato soup {day 166}

 

This past week, we started group therapy with a “feelings check-in”. I said mine are a never-ending game of ping pong. Sure, I’ve had some very good, downright funny, moments throughout the days, weeks and months since Mikey died, but at the core lies a gaping hole where my deep-rooted happiness used to gently simmer.

I was anxious about starting group last week, but decided to take the leap because I convinced myself it was more for Isabella than myself. The group is organized by a non-profit called A Caring Hand, and is first and foremost to help children understand and manage their grief. Obviously, parents have a great impact on how their kids handle a traumatic event like this, so while the kids are in smaller groups, by age, the parents talk about parallel issues the kids are working on that week.

I went into group feeling confused. I really didn’t think I had anything to offer anyone, since I barely know how to help myself on some days.

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toasted vanilla bean muesli {day 149}

I'm sitting here, pounding away at the keyboard when I should be sleeping. It's not too late, just shy of 11:00pm, but I had two back-to-back baking flops, and don't take defeat lightly.

I've also had muesli on my mind, and figured I could go out on a high note with a no-cook recipe before showering and tucking in.

But then I decided to toast the muesli, so there went the no-cook idea. Truth is I tried to like muesli a year ago, last January in fact. I decided to start 2011 on a healthy note. It was more about listening to my body—it was in need of a makeover. I decided to get more daring with whole grains thanks to inspiration from galleys of Heidi's Super Natural Everyday (that cookbook, by the way, is a must own). I began with an oat soda bread, wet my feet more using whole wheat pastry flour in these brown butter pear and meyer lemon muffins, oat ricotta pancakes, and cheddar rye muffins. I even started an affair with kale which is going strong to this day (this soup is still one of my favorites, and the girls love it too).

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spiced scented cranberry sauce {day 106}

Thanksgiving preparation has officially started, and I wasn't sure what to expect as I set out to make the cranberry sauce. I'd bought the cranberries last week, and there they sat in the fruit drawer of my fridge. I'd stare at them each time I opened the door, and think "maybe tomorrow the mood will strike to make it".

Well, Thanksgiving is only three days away, and this year I'm blinking in disbelief at how fast this fall has gone by. I go to bed each night thinking of how I found him when I heard he had collapsed. I replay this scene over in my mind before I go to sleep to remind myself that this is really my life, my reality.

I've written about being thankful, and I encourage the girls every day to remember how fortunate we are in spite of this sad truth. For now, my goal is a short term one—get through Thanksgiving. A reader who has also suffered this kind of loss, commented that the anticipation leading up to the "day", be it an anniversary, birthday, or holiday is sometimes harder than the day itself. I've hit two big "days" so far, and I believe that to be true too.

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