life

second chances: health-ade kombucha

Yes, the title is misleading. This isn’t one of those prolific moments to share, but it is momentarily life changing. I first tried kombucha years ago, just around the time it started to become the new buzz drink. I could barely get past the first sip. It tasted like fizzy vinegar, and who wants to drink that on a regular basis, regardless of any health benefit? Gaby, from What’s Gaby Cooking, is crazy about the stuff, and often posts about it on snapchat. So, when I saw this brand, one she’s mentioned, I decided it was time to give it another try. Holy wow, people. Continue reading »

on just getting by {thankful thursdays 04.21.2016}

My friends, and I don’t use that word lightly. From a young age, my uncle taught me the difference between friends and acquaintances. As I tell my daughters, friends are few and far between, and that’s a good thing. We should be selective about who we let in our inner circle. In this space, though, I feel you’re all friends. Some of you have hung in there with me for a long time, and for that reason, I keep this promise to myself to pop in here every Thursday.

Today, I’m rather spent. The last few weeks have been tough, for lack of a more eloquent word. And it all came out yesterday morning. I still feel the ache in my heart, deep in my bones and joints. Something I’m understanding lately is that the stages of grief are cyclical. You don’t check each one off of your list, move onto the next, and then voila!, you’re all done, grief diploma in hand. Continue reading »

asparagus & arugula panzanella {thankful thursdays 04.14.2016}

Asparagus is akin to childhood—its season is fleeting and by time you realize how good you had it, the moment has passed. I especially like asparagus because it’s a sure sign the growing season is gearing up. After a winter of root vegetables, the first glimmers of green stalks are like seeing old friends again.

The situation in the Hudson Valley is a bit nail biting. Between the warm temps, so uncharacteristic of March, and rebound into colder weather (snow on April 4th!), this year’s harvest is at risk. I’m pretty sure asparagus is sturdy enough to bounce back, but plums, apricots, and cherries may be obsolete for one farmer this summer, according this article in the Poughkeepsie Journal. Continue reading »

thankful thursdays 04.07.2016

With each page, statistic, and tidbit of information I absorb from Most Likely to Succeed (see last week’s Thankful Thursdays), the more confident, and convinced, I become in my decision to unschool our girls. Previously, I viewed the term unschooling as a bit radical, for the more secular, “let’s break all the rules” parents. As I delve deeper into thinking about what I want their learning experience to be like, it turns out unschooling is exactly my goal. The picture painted by Wagner and Dintersmith of our country’s current education goals, both public and private, is startling and familiar. Familiar, because it is everything I’ve felt was wrong with the system. Startling, because, well, I’m not sure true change will ever be achieved. I’ll elaborate on my thoughts about this at another time. I need to be careful and thoughtful with my words since this is a touchy topic.

A little kitchen project I did with Virginia this week emphasizes how learning math, science and even language arts, in a project-based, experiential way is not only more relatable and palatable, but more likely to be remembered. Virginia loves kale chips. I’d bought a bunch to make a fresh batch, but rather than simply do it myself, I decided to do it with her. We stripped the leaves from the stems, tore them into bite size chunks, and then weighed them before baking. If you’ve made kale chips before, you know that at the start it seems like a plentiful, almost never ending yield. After 20 to 25 minutes in a 375ºF oven, you realize you’ll be making kale chips again in two days if your little one devours them as steadfastly as mine. It makes sense, right? You’re removing something, the water from the kale, through a method of dehydration.

Virginia went “wow, mommy”, when we weighed the kale post cooking. It went from 171 grams to a mere 44 grams. She was excited to subtract her before and after numbers to see how much water weight was lost in the cooking process. As summer rolls around, we’ll continue this discussion of dehydrating, and how it relates to the human body. Why do we sweat in the summer? While the kale provides a yummy snack after being dehydrated, why is dehydration a bad thing when it comes to the human body?

This is a simple example, and one you might likely find in an elementary classroom, where project based learning is given more value. When you get to middle school, where Isabella is now in the seventh grade, the value in project based learning erodes greatly. The most crucial years where we should be preparing them for life with real-world life experiences, we put them in a vacuum of tests that drain them of the true skills necessary to be successful—a love of learning, innate curiosity, how to take risks, and understanding that failure is not a negative word. It is simply that—a word, to interpret as you see fit. I see failure as the path to new knowledge. Failure is not an end; it’s a beginning. The proof in that is quite evident for me as a recipe developer. These are the skills I want our daughters to master, and I know Mikey would be in agreement. So, today, I’m especially thankful to have found clarity and courage to set out on this journey. It can feel a bit lonely and isolating when you feel like everyone in your immediate circle doesn’t quite understand, and perhaps even think you’re a bit crazy for your choices.

thankful thursdays {03.31.2016}

We’ve been on spring break since last Thursday, and our time here upstate is winding down. For now, at least. Tomorrow morning, we’ll load the car, and make our way back to Maryland, with a pitstop in NYC to see friends. This trip has been especially replenishing. Unlike most of our visits, this one was longer, more relaxed. I tackled some organizing projects that make me feel a sense of control in our cozy house. The list was much longer, but I had the good sense to realize what I could reasonably get done while making R&R a high priority, too.

And we went for walks along the reservoir, a stroll that brings as much peace as walking along the beach in Cape Cod. I intend to make this a regular routine for us once we move back up here this summer. Yes, another move, but a familiar one this time. Before you ask, my guy and I are okay. We both know I need to come back, for my own sense of well being (and the girls’ too).  Continue reading »

thankful thursdays 03.24.2016

My mind is a swirl with a few different projects, and figuring out why there are never enough hours in the day. But mostly, I’m thrilled to be heading to our house in upstate NY tomorrow morning. Cutting the work week short by two days has added a little stress to my week, but the payoff is walking into my house, the feeling of my arrival like that of a comfy sweater being draped over my shoulders.

Something I’m especially thankful for this week is that I’ve managed to really focus on my time with the kids when they get home from school. The urge to jump back onto the computer is strong. I felt something happening, though, a shift, and the need for me to just be in the moment with them for those hours after school pulled me this week. I just shelve everything until after they go to bed. Around 9:30pm is when I decide to either jump online for round three of work, or just set the alarm for an unholy hour the next morning.

As I write, I’m reminded of Mindy Kaling’s book, Why Not Me?. I just finished reading it last night. I needed to unwind, even though I tucked in way too late. The book ends with her thoughts on where confidence comes from. While I agree with her mostly that the fruits of our efforts are what produce success, something was amiss for me in her otherwise thoughtful words. I do agree that there’s an entire generation of people who don’t get success has to be earned, not simply given. Kaling connected hard work with confidence, and suggested that confidence stems from feeling entitled. Not a bad thing for her, and I understood where she was going with this notion, but something fell short for me as I read her words.

Perhaps it’s my viewpoint as a mother, with more than just my own needs and confidence to manage. Surely, being single, and childless allows you to actualize your determination and hard work faster. I’m not saying this is a bad thing. On the contrary, it’s just the truth of the situation. You can be more singularly focused. I know. I was once in that place, though it feels so long ago.

Thankful Thursdays 03.24.2016 | In Jennie's Kitchen.com

Kaling defends being a workaholic as a necessity to earn the feeling of entitlement, which therein rewards you with confidence. But, I think this is really short sighted. There’s much more involved in having confidence than just attaching it to what you do professionally. I worry often where I will be in 10 years, once the girls are grown, beginning the solo journeys of their lives. I know this is the time to invest in myself, push myself, even if that means some days my head wants to stay glued to the pillow because it just touched it a few hours before.

But, I also know that, for me at least, I want to feel confident in who I am as a mother, a friend, and as myself. That means pressing pause at intervals to spend time with my daughters, turning in early to curl up with a book and get a good night’s rest, and skipping work at 5:30am so I can do my strength training and meditation.

Perhaps I am a workaholic, but it’s not just solely channeled into my career—it’s about being the kind of human being I want to be; therein lies the power of my confidence. And that is a constant work in progress.

thankful thursdays 03.17.2016

Yesterday, Virginia asked me if I wish it were the New Year again. The words “absolutely not” rolled off my tongue faster than a ball rolling downhill. I’m not sure there’s one word that properly sums up what these first 11 weeks of 2016 have been like. It’s been exhausting, sad, anxiety-ridden, but also joyful, surprising, and calming. I’ve been doing a lot of introspection, more so than usual, trying to figure out what will make me feel at peace.

I began working out more regularly in January, and I’m quite proud that I’ve stuck with it, for the most part, this long. I go through stops and starts, and often need a boost to get me back on track. Continue reading »

thankful thursdays {03.10.2016}

Hello, friends. Today This entire week has been non-stop. I’ve been very work focused during my kid-free hours, and then come 3:00pm, I switch to mama mode, until the girls are tucked in, and I inevitably melt into a pool of exhaustion under the covers. I’m in NYC at the moment; a crazy quick 24-hour trip, involving 400 miles of driving, three meetings, and sneaking in some much needed time with a few girlfriends.

Of course, I over booked myself, and missed plans with two friends (I hope they’re not too miffed with me). A very nice surprise, though, was seeing my oldest, dearest friend, for a 20 minute conversation outside her office building. She’s the friend who knows everything, including where the bodies are buried (kidding). I remember the day I met Jeanise like it was yesterday, leaning against a car outside the High School of Fashion Industries. In reality, it’s been 29 years. We’ve racked up some wrinkles (me, not her), a few dress sizes (again, me), and four kids between us, but none of that matters. The years morph into mere minutes when we’re together. The moment I see her, I know I’m home. I’m 13 again.

So, today, I’m really thankful that our worlds aligned. I called on a whim, while in between meetings. I knew I was vaguely near her office. I figured the chances of her picking up were slim since she’s often super busy at work, but guess what happened? She answered, and she was free to run down. I got a hug that reached deep into my soul, and we did the speed version of catching up on each other’s lives.

And then like that, she disappeared into the revolving doors, and I dashed up 39th Street to my next appointment. Life is often unpredictable. Today was a reminder to seize the moment. Often the smaller, seemingly uneventful ones are as beautiful and meaningful as the big ones.

thankful thursdays 03.03.2016

The thing about time is that it’s not about how much of it you get, it’s what you do with it that matters most. It’s the old game of quality vs. quantity.  The concept of time is hard for me to grasp the last few years. This TED talk by Robert Waldinger left me feeling spent. I have to remember that some rules just don’t apply to everyone. Sometimes life presents physical limitations, and challenges, that disturb the natural order. In Mikey’s case, it was a serious auto-immune disease we didn’t know about.

I know my words feel a little disconnected, but they’ll come into focus once you watch this video. But before you go, thank you. Thank you for joining me in this space. Relationship is a relative term in this era where connections know no physical boundaries. And we, my friends who join me here every Thursday, we most certainly have a relationship that adds great meaning and value to my life. Thank you for your gift of time each week.

xo-jennie

thankful thursdays 02.25.2016

This is one of those Thursdays where I’m not sure I have anything particularly special to share. I suppose that’s the point of these weekly posts, in a way. They keep me in check, reinforce that thankfulness comes in all sizes, no sentiment too small to evoke a feeling of being grateful.

We had an uneventful week, and that is fine with me. Last week I was out of sorts; the construction in my apartment building rocking me to my core. It left me feeling mentally drained, in spite of having a pretty productive workweek. I decided to dust off an old project, one that lay in my laptop for two years now. I dedicated a good deal of my time to it last week, and am really excited about it. I’ll share more on that as it takes a more definite shape in terms of readiness.

The big event in our house this week my little one losing her top front tooth. This wasn’t her first tooth to go, but something about those bigger ones, front and center, that make me nostalgic for the baby she used to be. Now her smile has this little gap, and once it closes, another tiny chapter of childhood goes into the memory books. She decided to write a note asking the Tooth Fairy if she could please keep her tooth (as she does with all of her baby teeth). What really struck me was that she also made the Tooth Fairy a little gift, a fairy friend crafted from sparkly paper and a toothpick. Virginia said, “the Tooth Fairy gives everyone gifts for their teeth, but I bet no one thinks to leave her a gift in return”.

Thankful Thursdays 02.25.2016 | www.injennieskitchen.com

Now, I’m sure this isn’t true, but still, it made me quite proud. This little girl tries my patience a lot (I mean a lot). Little acts of kindness like this help remind me that deep down there’s a sweet person growing who understands the value of being thankful and kind. Tucked away in my journal, an old one, hidden in my file cabinet, is a little fairy friend to remind me that even in the toughest times of being a single parent, there were bright spots, moments that made it all worthwhile.