Mikey

crispy oven fries

The kids are snuggled in their beds, fast asleep. Much as I should be in bed, too, I’m wide-eyed after a cat nap. It’s become part of Virginia’s bedtime routine. After we read books, I usually curl up with her, to help her fall into a peaceful slumber. This wasn’t always our pattern; certainly not when Michael was alive. Then again, I was always firm about bedtime, knowing that a cuddle on the couch was my reward after a long day. The daytime was all about the girls. Nighttime was a standing date with my guy to catch up on our day, relax, and enjoy curling up in the corner of our L-shaped sofa together.

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moroccan mint tea

I love everything about coffee; the ritual, the scent that fills the air as the oils release while the beans grind. The aroma that wafts up the stairs, as it brews on the stove top. The way the steam tickles my nose, as I bring the cup to my lips.

It happens every few months, though. I wake up, and no longer feel an affinity for my usual temptress.

For weeks, I’d been craving Moroccan mint tea. Mint usually a hardy herb, can’t survive this past winter unless taken indoors. Mine is a shriveled pot of twigs on the front stoop. I’m not particularly worried because I know it will come back. Past years have taught me that while winter batters it into submission, spring has a way of reviving it. That mint plant is quite special, too. It’s a holdover from my old apartment, and my old garden, the one I shared with Michael. Each leaf I pluck connects me to my past. It may be dormant now, but it will soon awaken to a new season.

The last two and a half years have felt a lot like the cycles of that mint. Grief is a never ending marathon, the emotional hurdles a bit further apart as time passes. The height of the hurdles, however, seems to get higher. The energy required to jump them, feeling almost insurmountable. Almost, but not completely.

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chewy, bittersweet brownies

I found myself craving brownies the other night, which rarely happens. I must confess that while I love baking chocolate desserts (they generally make everyone happy!), they are not my first choice for eating. I reached for my copy of Homemade with Love to make the walnut fudge brownies on page 185. Honestly, it still blows my mind, and humbles me, every time I pull my own cookbook off the shelf.  A quick scan of the ingredients, and I realized I didn’t have any espresso granules in the house. I decided to brew up a small pot of very strong coffee in its place. While I was at it, I swapped in whole wheat pastry flour for the all-purpose, and used less, too. You can use regular all-purpose flour if that’s all you have on hand, and it’ll be fine. I just figured I’d fool myself into believing the whole wheat would make them healthier.

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the great unknown

What would you attempt if you knew you could not fail?

These words sit atop a vintage blackboard in my kitchen. They’re written on a little pencil box I found in Anthropologie a few months ago. I was never one for inspirational messages, but the last couple of years I find myself clinging to them. Even inscribing them onto my skin, as reminders in my darkest moments. Continue reading »

parmesan brodo

“The whole truth is that you can love your life, and still yearn for what is missing.”

This quote is from an article Katie Devine wrote recently about being 35 and single. What struck me about her piece was the honesty in her words, something we are often too afraid to be with ourselves. I didn’t expect to walk away from it feeling validated. Our lives are on different paths, but the truth she shared summed up so much of what I’ve been feeling lately.

I am incredibly thankful for my health (let’s hope I didn’t just jinx it!). My daughters, though they drive me crazy often, and I will never love being a single parent, are two gifts I feel so thankful to have in my life. I’m in love again, and loved again, by a person who understands me almost better than I do myself. Continue reading »

scrambled eggs, zucchini & pecorino

When I met M, way back in 1995, he had a cat named Jane. She was the living definition of a scaredy cat, hiding on top on bookshelves, slippery as an eel if you dared to pick her up. Jane’s been gone about 13 year now, but I started thinking about her a lot after M died. I realized I didn’t know how Jane got her name. Back when I met M, Jane Says was often playing on his CD player, or in the car, on a cassette tape no less—he drove a little red Toyota Celica back then, and it had a—get this, a benzi box. That was back in the pre-Guiliani New York City; the days when you weren’t always guaranteed to find your car where you left it parked. Continue reading »

Life lessons, and a tip for making pancakes

I’ve clocked over 1,200 miles in the last week and a half, between my journey home from Cape Cod and the four trips I made upstate to deal with my annoying, and unwanted, house guests. All those hours in the car offered much time for reflection. Not always good when I should be focused on the road, but I mastered crying and driving in the early months after M died. There’s something about the act of driving that is very freeing. Perhaps it’s the feeling that I’m actually going someplace; the perception that I’m moving, doing something. The act of driving is powerful because it’s filled with the illusion that I’m steering my own course, instead of just standing around waiting for life to choose what happens.

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hazelnut thin crisp cookies

I burned a pot boiling water today. I’m not joking, and, thankfully, was able to laugh when I realized what I’d done. There I was, yapping away on Skype with a friend, wondering who was grilling a steak at 10:30am. After I hung up, I looked into the bottom of my empty glass, and remembered I had been in the middle of making more Moroccan mint tea before I got on the Jetson’s version of the telephone. More specifically, I had been in the middle of boiling water—in my little copper pot. So, that’s what it smells like when water has completely evaporated in a copper pot, and said pot continues to cook at medium high heat. Apparently, my brain and attention span have been on vacation too long. Continue reading »

favorite zucchini recipes

I’m offering an apology before I go any further. The zucchini hazelnut quick bread you see above isn’t making it into this post. I don’t know when I will be ready to share it; I just know I’ll feel it, that moment when I’m ready to cut the apron strings and set my little recipe out into the world. I know, it sounds so dramatic. Mikey would’ve surely rolled his eyes at that one, albeit with a teasingly, mischevious smile, the kind where his thick eyebrows would stretch to the sky.

Then why did I even pop in here, you’re probably wondering, right? Well, someone asked if I could share the recipe for that quick bread, and while I’m not ready to give that baby her wings to fly into your kitchen, I do have a few other favorite zucchini recipes here on the blog. I figure we’re all scrambling to use up, or just plain enjoy, the end of summer bounty. Truth be told, my heart is tightening a bit at the thought of saying goodbye to the summer growing season. As I perused my archives, one post in particular struck me. I wrote it exactly one month before M passed away. It was incredible to read myself talking about the book proposal. Just two years and two months ago, Homemade with Love was still in utero. It boggles my mind to think of all that has happened during that time. Continue reading »

day 742

The first time I came back to the Cape after Michael died, it had just been thirteen days. I remember the bay breeze rushing across my face, feeling as though his spirit was enveloping me. I look back on my old posts, and I’m not sure how I got this far. Back then seconds felt like hours, and minutes felt like years. The thought of living a lifetime without him was simply incomprehensible. Still, going to the Cape so soon afterwards provided comfort, and a connection to him.

Last year, I felt hollow being here. Every sunset burned a hole in my heart. I contemplated never coming back, feeling all the good moments here had been used up. I ultimately decided to make the trip back this summer because Virginia really wanted to come. Her memories of Michael are so few, and the Cape is a place she associates with happy family times. So, I figured I’d push through with a stiff upper lip. In my mind, I’d resolved this would be our last trip.

As I stood on the deck watching the sunset last night, something felt different. And then I realized what it was—I was smiling.  A real, genuine one. The kind that only happens when you feel happiness in your heart. I wasn’t thinking of Mikey, though. The joy came from simply capturing the beauty of the sun’s warm glow as it tucked in for the evening.

When I woke up the next morning, something else incredible had happened. I stirred from my slumber fresh from a dream about him. I’ve been hoping to see him for so long. We were in an apartment that was unfamiliar, and both packing our bags. I was getting ready to settle into a hot bath, then realized the time. I’d be late for the airport if we didn’t leave right away, so I gathered the girls. Mikey looked at me, and said “I’m sorry I can’t go with you, I have a different flight”.

And then, I woke up.

Just like that, he was gone, again. I’m a little panicked now that he may not be coming back. Ever. And yet, I feel a quiet peace in my heart. As though he has finally accepted the reality of it all, and is ready to move forward, too.

Music Pairings: Summer Wind by Frank Sinatra

The Flip Side: Babe by Styx