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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.

a whole lotta pizza

I remember years ago, Isabella came home from elementary school, and told me her gym teacher said pizza was junk food. They were covering a healthy eating unit in Phys Ed. You’ve never seen a head whip around quicker than mine. If you do it right, and take a balanced approach, I’d go so far as to say pizza is health food. Okay, I know. I’m reaching far here, people. But really, the homemade version is nothing to demonize. The crust is a simple combination of flour, yeast, salt, and water. A homemade tomato sauce is nothing more than tomatoes, olive oil, salt, and basil. And when it comes to the cheese, I try to mostly use a freshmade mozzarella from the Italian market. You should see my freezer, with containers of mozzarella balls suspended in a sea of water from Caputo’s. Continue reading »

and so, the countdown begins

It’s been a while. I wonder how many times I’ve started a post with that sentence. It feels like quite a few in my mind. The last few weeks feel clear, and a blur, all at the same time. The thing about grief is that it catches up with you at the most inconvenient moments. I was well aware that this is a tender time of year, and yet it still doesn’t make it any easier. Perhaps, the right way of looking at is that it makes me more aware. More conscious that I need to be gentle with myself, that I’ll have to dig deeper to find more patience for our daughters, and that I’ll have to find a way to acknowledge my loss, but not let it get the best of me.

In the weeks I was away from here, I had two interactions with friends that left me feeling misunderstood. And it opened the door to a larger question in my mind, that if some of my closest friends don’t get me, will there ever be someone else who can understand me as deeply as the best friend I lost three and a half years ago. The closeness you develop in an intimate relationship is one that can’t be mimicked by even your closest friends. It’s the innate understanding of what you need, and willing to put your own needs on hold at moments when the weight needs to be carried by one, instead of two. Continue reading »

turmeric tea

My desk is covered with printouts about reusing cooking oil, turning old cooking oil into biodiesel, maltrodextrin, MSG, and a recipe for making homemade Funyuns. What began as a challenge by my daughter to make a healthier version, has blossomed into a two-part cooking series with her sixth grade class. The crazy part here is that none of us have even tasted a Funyun. It began as a discussion in class, while reading the ingredients on the package from another student. Isabella chimed in, and said “I bet my mom can make them healthier”. I love her confidence in me, but food can be a tricky issue with families. Not everyone has the same litmus test for what they should, and shouldn’t be eating. Continue reading »

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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chewy white chocolate & pistachio cookies

Write. Delete. Repeat.

This has been my habit as I stare blankly into the screen this morning. It’s not so much that I’m at a loss for words. In fact, the words are scattered in my mind, a mental game of 52 pick up in progress. Still, my lack of clarity to how I’m feeling lately shouldn’t get in the way of sharing these cookies with you. They’re inspired by a recipe for chocolate chip cookies from a bakery in Paris called Laura Todd. It took a little detective work to figure out if levure sans phosphate was baking powder or baking soda, so thanks to Mardi for helping me out with that one.

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candied pecans {easy homemade gift-giving}

We had our first big snowfall in the country this weekend. Well, not in the country, as in the United States of America. I mean the country, as in the area where our house is upstate. I figure you all probably knew what I was talking about, but the writer in me felt compelled to make it very clear. I have readers around the globe (it boggles my mind, really), and I didn’t want anyone to confuse my country with the country.

See how easy it is to get caught up on the little details? Something as simple as me coming here to share an easy recipe for a quick last-minute homemade gift has me pondering the clarity of my own words. Perhaps the simple things are the tasks that truly push us to look closer at the finer details of life. I’ve been contemplating this a lot lately. 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 »

Homemade with Love photo shoot, day two

Day two of the Homemade with Love photo shoot is where Penny De Los Santos captured the cover shoot for the book. We tried it with a few different tops and various baked goods. This wasn’t the final of either, but everyone had a good laugh when Penny attached those clamps to my shirt—one of my friends cleverly refers to them as my suspenders.

Looking back on this photo, almost a month after the shoot, I realized I have a twinkle in my eye. The photo shoot was emotional, but to see that genuine smile on my face warmed my heart. It reminds me that somewhere inside is the old me, and she comes out, ever so slowly as each day passes.

You can get “extra helpings” from day two of the photo shoot over at my Flickr page.

in search of an anchor

It used to be I woke up and knew what kind of day I was going to have, or at least what mindset I would approach it with. Most days it was with a sunnier side of life outlook. On the days I stirred feeling a restlessness in my core, I'd do my best to break out of it.

Nowadays, unpredictability seems to be the name of the game. I feel lost, like I'm in need of an anchor, something to ground me and assure me that everything will be okay. I know this is only a phase, but the anxiety on my part stems from the wonder of how long this phase will last. The feelings of sadness and insecurity also come barreling out of nowhere. One minute I'm fine, fondling Valentino dresses at Loehmann's—I didn't buy any, the next I'm a teary mess talking to the salesman at West Elm. It just seems to be par for the course these days.

I needed something to center me, keep me focused and remind me that I can do this, even during the seconds and minutes when I don't want to. See, everyone seems to think my girls are enough to keep moving forward. I love them, gosh knows I really do. Isabella and Virginia, if you girls read this post one day when you grow up, you should know that next to your daddy, the two of you are my beacons. I am very aware, though, that you both need to be free to grow up one day and live your own lives. You do not need to be tethered to a mom who is utterly dependent on you for her own happiness. I've always been keenly aware of this, long before your papa died.

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