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.

Being able to disconnect is something I’m working on. I want to live life in the present, and spending too much time immersed in the world of social media often means I’m not paying attention to the here and now. I don’t like definitives, like “I’m taking the weekends off twitter”. I think they’re silly proclamations, actually. I find it much better to just go with what feels right. The last two days, I just haven’t felt like putting it all out there.

This morning, though, I was reminded how things tend to come full circle, and sometimes the online distractions actually help remind me of the truly amazing things in my everyday life. I woke up and saw some shares on Facebook about a little boy who built a cardboard arcade in his dad’s auto supplies garage.

As I watched the short film, I was reminded of Romeo. He came about from a little girl’s imagination, with help from her daddy and the recycling bin.

Meet Romeo.


He’s our official family mascot. Before Mikey passed away, I joked that we could never get rid of him. Now, it’s no joke. That robot is laced with Mikey’s energy, and the creativity he passed down to his oldest daughter.

Romeo was created one cold, rainy day, the winter of 2010. He’s fashioned from shoeboxes (one was Isabella’s, one was Mikey’s), egg cartons, scraps of cardboard and cable ties. Virginia’s contribution were two Elmo cupcake liners for his eyes. I don’t remember where I was exactly when they made him, since this was a papa and kid project, but I remember being impressed  with their vision and bringing it to life.


As I watched the precision and passion with which Caine created his cardboard arcade, it reminded me I need to realize it’s the little things like this that will empower them to follow their dreams as they get older. Romeo is a seedling of Isabella’s imagination. The same way Mikey enouraged and supported my dreams, it’s up to me now to give Isabella that same gift. The next time Isabella asks for a shipping box or to dig through the recycling bin, as she often does, I will remember that day Mikey nourished her creativity. I will try not to roll my eyes and mutter something about “not needing more clutter around the house”. We may have lost our real life Romeo, but we can still keep building dreams together.

As for my dreams, right now they’re filled with longing for scarlet stalks of rhubarb.

Roasted Rhubarb Jam

makes one generous cup

This is seriously the easiest jam recipe you’ll ever make. No pectin, no need for constant stirring, and you only need three ingredients. The recipe is one I created back in 2010, and you can read the original post here.

1 pound (16 ounces) rhubarb, tough ends removed & cut into large chunks

1/2 cup (100 grams) sugar

1/4 teaspoon cinnamon, optional

Preheat oven to 400ºF. Toss rhubarb with sugar and cinnamon, if using, in a 9-inch by 13-inch nonstick baking dish. Roast for 20 minutes until thick and bubbly. Stir to mix well, then let cool completely. Transfer to tightly sealed jar and store in refrigerator for up to two weeks. May also be processed in a hot water bath using sterilized glass jars.


  • IlinaP

    My own Romeo happens to be a huge fan of rhubarb. By the way, when my boys first met Isabella last weekend, her robot was the very first thing she showed them. You must come see us so we can let our kids’ imagination burst into flames at the Scrap Exchange http://www.scrapexchange.org/. And based on my disdain for clutter, I might have referred to it as the Crap Exchange under my breath (just between you and me).

  • Tracey Alvernaz

    Good morning Jennie-
    Ok, another tear jerker so early in the morning. I know, your life will never be the same, will it? I appreciate more, love more, and notice more.(Ok, so I am hyper-sensitive, but I always have been, so that hasn’t changed!) Anyway, look to the stars, the sun and the moon. There is a smile in each.

  • Diane

    Love your post today.
    Building dreams memories our families and Love that’s what life is all about!

  • Deborah

    I happened onto your blog shortly after my husband died. I know the longing you are feeling. We can get through this but it is by far the hardest thing I’ve ever done. Thank you for sharing thoughts and food. It helps me.

  • kimber

    Creativity takes time and energy… but is so important to foster while kids are still young and unafraid of failure. What a sweet, treasured memory.

  • michelle

    Great post…i hope your readers take the time to watch the short film with their kids @ cainesarcade.com It is precious! I love that it helped spark a great memory for you and your girls also!

  • Kathleen Richardson

    It was just this week that I, too, saw the video about the cardboard arcade. Children need their ideas, practical and crazy, nurtured and accepted. That’s a beautiful father/daughter project for your (and your daughter’s) memory.

  • Terry

    Oh Jennie that photo of the two creative partners is so very wonderful. I watched Caine’s Arcade with little 5 year old Leah and she kept asking questions and now wants to go visit him, which we can do because we live close by. Always nurture the creative spark because it is so much fun to watch it ignite and burn brightly. I love Romeo–he is a great mascot!

  • Kelly

    I just watched the Caine’s Arcade movie and what a timely parallel the “Making of Romeo” is. Both stories had me shedding tears – but happy tears – about love and kindness and the wonderful gift of supportive fathers. Thank you for sharing. You are an amazing writer. I can’t wait to read your book next year.

  • Denise @ Creative Kitchen

    Thankfully you have memories…but I know that will never be enough. And I’m sorry!!
    The rhubarb jam looks amazingly easy. I can’t wait to try it!
    I agree about the social media. I’m new to my Iphone and am quite addicted to Instagram. Wonder when I’ll overcome the need to share and document daily there. hehe…I think as bloggers it can be hard to know how to balance and draw the line. I strive for that too.
    Just Easter weekend, I taught my girls how to play scrabble and also rummikub. I don’t want to miss it all because of the virtual world. The line can blur at times….

  • von

    Nurturing creativity is priceless. Just checking in because I love the way you craft words and to say ‘hi’.

  • Carmar

    This post made me cry more than others. My father used to get down on the floor with me after he came home from work to spontaneously make entire towns out of cereal boxes. It is one of my favorite memories of my childhood, and completely embodies his spirit.

  • Amanda W in the UK

    This is great so quick and easy! I made this last night with rhubarb from our alotment. The plant dates back over a hundred years and has been passed down through the family. I am now eating the Jam on top of some thick plain yoghurt and it is delicious it’s a real winner. I did not have cinnamon so added powdered ginger instead 🙂 Thank you x

  • Suzanne

    Thankyou for this……. hoping each day is healing your beautiful heart a bit more.

    I am thinking of blending some softened dates up to replace the sugar.. will have to play around with measurements . Or try some local honey.

  • Julie

    I stumbled across your blog by accident. I was looking for a rhubarb recipe to make on the anniversary of my Mom’s passing. She loved rhubarb. I was so sad to read about your husband but comforting in a way that we were both making rhubarb as we remembered. What a heart warming story about Romeo. Wishing you peace and lots of love today and everyday as you work through all your grief. Thank you for sharing your story and your recipe. XOXO