Mikey

devil dog cupcakes {thankful thursdays 02.10.2016}

In the quiet of my house, the words for what I want to share come naturally. They wait, ever so patiently, at the threshold between my mind and reality, the moment when they can spill from my fingertips to the keyboard. But I’m not in the quiet of my house at the moment. I’m in a half-crowded cafe in D.C., and while the noise isn’t unbearable, it’s the background chitter chatter that makes writing feel too disjointed. Oh, and the fact the the top of my tea pot just dropped into my mug, splashing dots of chai all over the table, well, yeah, that didn’t help. Speaking of the chai, the one they serve at Tryst is a good substitute when I’m not making it at home (recipe is in the new issue of City Girl. Country Kitchen).

See what I’m talking about…such lack of focus when I work in cafes or coffeeshops. I applaud people who do this on a daily basis. I much prefer the peace of my house upstate. I felt more productive this past weekend than I’ve felt in a while. Last fall, a renter from Airbnb left me the kindest note, and commented that my house had wonderful energy. He and his girlfriend felt it from the moment they walked in. I knew exactly what he meant. I feel it every time I’m there. Even in the loneliest of moments, usually at night, when darkness falls all around, leaving you feeling isolated from the world, I know what joy daybreak brings.  Continue reading »

7-minute marshmallow frosting

Remember those birthday cupcakes I mentioned in my last post? Well, I’m going to start by sharing my recipe for the best marshmallow frosting ever. Even better? It only takes seven minutes to make (no joke). Think of this as a cupcake cliffhanger.

Six years ago when creating that ring ding cake for Mikey, I made a seven-minute icing to use as the filling. What I loved most about the recipe is that it was no-cook. Most seven-minute icing recipes call for making a simple syrup of water and sugar, then drizzling it into the egg whites while beating them. I don’t like extra, unnecessary steps, and this is one case when it’s really wasteful from a time perspective. Cleaning dishes is also one of my least favorite chores, so if I can save time and have one less pot to wash, then it’s a double win. Continue reading »

city girl, country kitchen

Happy Monday! This is going to be a quickie, so please forgive me. At the moment, I’m readying to make my way back to Maryland (again!). We came upstate for a Bar Mitzvah this weekend, and let me tell you something—I’m beginning to run on empty. Or maybe fumes, at this point. Coming up three weekends in a row means 2,000 miles of driving.  Continue reading »

thankful thursdays {12.10.2015}

I remember the first Christmas M and I spent together. I don’t think his half-Jewish upbringing had quite prepared him for me. We’re talking about the girl who saved her allowance to take lessons on making tin ornaments at a craft store on Long Island when I was in the fourth grade. And the girl who crafted her way towards saving enough money to buy Christmas gifts for family. I found the little tree I made for Mikey, complete with a felt tree skirt, stashed away in our storage unit when I cleaned it out during the move from Brooklyn to Woodstock. I couldn’t believe he had saved it all those years.

I feel like I’m rambling a little. The delicate task of holding on, while not holding myself back has been on mind lately, since reading this essay. See, it’s easier for me to toggle back and forth between memories and reality than most of the other people in my life. That sounds odd, I know, but hear me out. Easy is a relative word. I miss Mikey every day, but not always for the reasons one might think. I miss him most as my best friend, my person—the one who would always be there, who could always finish my sentences. That is not why I still talk often about him, even four years later. No, the reason I talk about him is as Lexi says—I’m proud, and he deserves to be remembered.

There are so many things I want to say about this idea of how we keep loved ones alive once they’ve left our physical world. My thoughts are guarded, though, fearing a bit that people just won’t get it. That feeling when I talk about Mikey, and I see people’s eyes shift, looking a little uncomfortable, or sad. It’s still hard at times for the girls to talk about him, especially the last few months. They both miss so much. But we still talk about him because he deserves to be remembered. We’re all struggling with the reality that we don’t quite remember what he looked like, even though his photos hang on our wall, and sit on our coffee table.

My own dad gave up. He walked out on me. So, I find myself offering up the fact that I’m a widow and not just a single mom when it isn’t even required. In my mind, it’s a way of honoring, or perhaps defending his absence. He didn’t choose to leave his daughters. But also, I want people to know what an amazing daddy he was in the short time he had with his girls.

Some days, I want to throw in the towel. Raising the girls alone is exhausting. I thought it might feel a little easier as time passed, or with them getting older. The truth is it feels a little bit more difficult with each passing day. Perhaps it’s fatigue setting in, or maybe it’s just because every day that passes puts us one day further from having heard him, seen him, laughed with him.

No matter how hard it gets, I am still thankful to have known him, and shared a life with him. Still share a life with him, as I see our girls grow. During this celebration of Hanukkah, it is evident that while Mikey is no longer with us physically, the mark he left on our lives is one that will last and shine brightly forever.

 

jerusha’s pumpkin cookies

My mind drifted to our old apartment, the one back in Brooklyn, while driving Virginia to school today. Sometimes I feel like a stranger peeking into someone else’s life when I visit these old memories. I recognize the girl in them, but can’t quite connect to her anymore. Funny, how life can feel so short, and so long at the same time.

In a recent Esquire interview, Patti Smith said she’s on Life Four. I often feel that way, too. I remember telling a friend that my life doesn’t feel like chapters, all part of the same story of Me. My childhood, my years with Mikey, my life as a newly minted widow, and my life now—they all feel like separate stories.

Speaking of Patti, I can’t believe that this time tomorrow I’ll be on my way to NYC to see her at The Beacon with an old friend. Tomorrow, November 10th, marks the 40th anniversary of the release of Horses. I had the chance to take Isabella to her book signing in D.C. last month. Such a powerful moment to have her meet her, and walk off stage with Isabella whispering to me, “Mommy, she’s so beautiful”.

Much like the way my mind wanders, so do my words. The real reason I popped in today is to share a recipe for the best pumpkin cookies I’ve ever tasted. I didn’t really expect to be so wowed by them. Not because I didn’t trust the high praise Virginia gave when she first tasted them. It’s just…they’re pumpkin cookies. How exciting can a pumpkin cookie really be?

Her violin teacher baked a batch, and brought them in for her students at Woodstock Day School right around this time last year. I forgot what I was testing a few weeks ago, but it left me with a half can of pumpkin puree sitting in the fridge. I remembered how much Virginia loved those cookies, and luckily still had the recipe Jerusha sent in my email (sometimes clutter comes in handy!).

Later that evening, Virginia put on her apron, and mostly made the cookies on her own. So, there’s that too—the best pumpkin cookies ever, and so easy a seven year old can make them.

One Bowl Pumpkin Cookies | www.injennieskitchen.com

The ingredients sound pretty basic, but don’t be fooled. These soft, chewy cookies burst with all those flavors you expect from a fall cookie. Perhaps it’s the magic of tasting my first treat baked by my little girl. Maybe Jerusha’s email had a helping of good vibes as a secret attachment. Or maybe, and this is more likely the case, the secret is, as my guy says—it’s love. Love is the secret ingredient. Always.

Here’s to my Life Four.

Six Years Ago: Golden Ricotta Pumpkin Fritters

Five Years Ago: Crisp Chocolate Chip Cookies

Four Years Ago: Chocolate Chess Pie

Three Years Ago: Coconut Custard Pie

Two Years Ago: How to Measure Flour

One Year Ago: Homemade Bagels

Continue reading »

collecting dots vs. connecting dots {honey spice cake}

The day is beginning to wake. The sky a chameleon, slowly morphing from deep navy to soft blue. I love watching this transformation. Years ago, I used to go out running at this early hour. The world went from still and quiet, to the squeaking wheels of trucks making their deliveries for the day. Commuters shuffling about, still wiping the sleep from their eyes, some clutching a canister of coffee for a life raft.

That old life feels so far from reality as I sit on my sofa in Maryland right now. We’ve been in the thick of adjusting to new schools, again. Virginia attends a tiny Montessori school, and hit the ground running. She’s always been my shadow, and while she’d much rather stay home with mama all day, she seems very content in her school environment. Continue reading »

with an open mind and heart

I’m constantly in awe of the way life revolves, continuing on and on, whether or not you’re ready for the ride. Sometimes you can anticipate the hurdles, and other times they come careening out of nowhere. And sometimes the hurdles don’t trip you up; they just make you stop to pause and appreciate or contemplate. The point is we need the hurdles, the challenges, the good days, and the bad days. They’re the ingredients that come together to make a life.

I registered the kids at their new pediatrician today. It was pretty routine, but I was taken aback a bit when requesting their records from Brooklyn to be transferred. The words, “I understand by signing this I’m no longer a patient of this practice,” stopped me in my tracks.

I remember the day I met with Dr. Price, back in 2003, just before Isabella was born. My mom went with me to the appointment. I’d never even held a baby before she came into the world at 8:00pm on May 11th that year. I didn’t know what questions to ask in this meeting, so she tagged along for support. Back then the practice was just three doctors. Over these last 12 years it’s grown, and moved to bigger digs. Dr. Julie became our regular pediatrician, and saw us through some tough times.

Through all the changes, though, the very first receptionist we met there stayed (with a brief break in between). She always had a big smile and warm hello for The Perillos. Even as the staff grew, and the office got busier, I knew I could ask for to help circumvent the craziness. She remembers M fondly, too. In a weird way, that office became an extension of our family. We were only there for annual wellness visits, and the rare sick visit (thank heavens for that!), but these two women never made us feel like a patient in a sea of folders. We felt like real people whom they knew and cared about. Even with my move upstate, I stayed with the practice, unable to break the comfort and security we’d created for the girls.

Saying goodbye to the practice is another one of those not-so-little goodbyes to an old chapter of my life. Every time it happens, a new goodbye, that is, it feels like an updated edition of an old story goes into print. Mentally, it’s a transition from being a widow to a single woman, ready to write new chapters with an open mind and heart.

Music Pairing: Blood, Muscle, Skin & Bone by Brandi Carlile

peanut butter & banana smoothie

This has been our view the last few days. Our new home in Maryland is in a full-service building, and this pool is one of the perks of living there. I’ve never felt humidity like this before, and while I have dreams about taking in all D.C. has to offer, lugging two kids around in the heat is far from my idea of fun. For now, I’m quite content to let them frolic in the cool water while I take cover under the shade of the trees. By day four Isabella joked that I was a vampire. Sorry kid, mama is just not a summer person. Give me spring and fall, and even winter with all its snow. I’d rather bundle up than have to shed layers for refuge.

I do love what summer rewards us with, though. I baked up my first blueberry pie of the season for my guy this past father’s day. And just this morning, I made a batch of blueberry-cherry conserves. I’ve been meaning to write more about conserves, for like, four years now. I got hot and heavy with them in the months just before M passed away, inspired by this recipe in Bon Appetit. One of the recipes I’ve yet to share is for apricot & lemon thyme conserves. It’s one of the last recipes recorded in my journal before August 7, 2011. I have a few of those recipes, the last ones he ever tasted, that I’m reluctant to let go. Part of me feels like those recipes keep him alive in some odd way. Continue reading »

daybreak

Moving forward is not as easy as one might suspect.

Moving forward means leaving something behind.

I found out something last week that I’d been trying to uncover for years. Michael and I were never sure the exact date of our first date. We both knew it was in May. I vaguely remember because it was close to the birthday of a college friend of mine at the time.

And I remember it was before Memorial Day. I have a vivid memory of searching for a payphone near Battery Park City to call him while having a picnic with the family for which I used to be a nanny. The only clue I had as to the day was that it was the same as my best friend’s graduation from F.I.T. Over the years I’ve asked her if she remembered the date, but it was lost on her, too. Continue reading »

and we strolled there together…

Twenty four hours ago I was walking out of Webster Hall. It was my first time ever going to a gig alone. I don’t think I’d even seen a live concert until I met Michael. He was my muse and mentor, all at once. Some of it is undoubtedly chalked up to the 14 year age difference. Though I suppose at 21, the age I was when we met, there was no excuse I hadn’t seen a live show, except for the fact that music just didn’t have the relevance in my life as it holds today.

I remember the day George Harrison died. I heard the DJ mention it on the radio as I was driving home from running errands. M was sullen, and mournful, when I walked in the door. He was in a funk, and there was no shaking it. I very unthoughtfully told him to snap out of it after a few hours…it wasn’t like he knew Harrison. Why the need to put a damper on our day? It would be years later, and losing part of my own past, to understand what that connection meant to him. The Sunday I woke up to hear that Lou Reed had died, I felt empty and numb inside. I lost something I couldn’t get back the day Reed left this great earth. I lost a piece of my love all over again. He saw Reed many times, but me, I only saw him twice, and both with M. We heard him recite the Raven someplace in the city…I should know that, shouldn’t I (note to self: go look in M’s box of old ticket stubs). We also went to see him perform Berlin at St. Ann’s when it was in Brooklyn Heights, not Dumbo (is it even there anymore?).

I got lost in Lou and Patti Smith when M died. I got lost in all the music he loved when he died. It was my life raft, my arm stretched out, fingertips grasping to him in the distance. Lou’s passing was a reminder that you can’t hold on forever. The tangibles eventually become intangible.

Today I caught up with a dear friend, someone who has believed in me since the beginning, in a way only Mikey ever did. I told her that last night, going to see Patti by myself, it taught me something. For the last few years, and probably long before that, I thought I had no claim to his music. It was his, and I simply liked it by default. In preparation for our move six months ago, I made the decision to sell part of M’s record collection (or is it albums? I never remember the difference between a record and an album). It took three passes before I had a “sell” pile.

The first pass was purely sentimental.

The second run through resulted in a slightly larger “sell” pile, having discarded some stuff I knew I had no interest in (if only I’d known that damn Leonard Nimoy album was worth more money!!!).

The third pass was a ruthless stripping away at the layers. It was no longer about my allegiance to him. The stakes were higher. What did I like (not the Sex Pistols!!!)? What did I think was essential for the girls to have as part of their father’s musical history?

Finally, the pile was whittled down to half, a mere 200 albums. The day the guy from St. Mark’s came, I felt somewhat dirty as he handed me a wad of cash. It felt tinted with betrayal. But the truth is that he had threatened many times to digitize it all, and get rid of the vinyl, to which I always protested “over my dead body”. Guess he won that argument…

Anyway, last night I realized that while I came into my own musically under his tutelage, the ownership of taste is all mine now. So much of our relationship, the first nine years in fact, were quibbles usually about me demanding to be heard and loved for who I was at my core. I may not have been as well-read, and I liked 80s music because I was a kid of that generation. I pushed back at every step of the way in our relationship, screaming (often literally) to just be loved for the person deep down. Back then I viewed books and music as window dressing. And in a way that’s what they represent. They’re the goods that pique your interest. I get that today, and only time and experience can teach that lesson. At 21 we think we know the rules. At 41, I realize we’re just making them up as we go along.

As 2014 winds down, I say goodbye to my sweet love. It is not the first, and I know it will not be the last. This goodbye is a thank you in a way, for the gift he gave to the soundtrack of my life. And these songs are for his journey.

I love you Mikey. See you on the other side. One day.

Music Pairing: Trampin’ by Patti Smith

Video: People Have the Power – Webster Hall 12/29/2014