Thursday
Jan152015

coconut- curry cauliflower soup

Interview with Nikolas ( age 8)

I think a lot about being the mom of a little boy. I've learned to wiggle my way into his little life by throwing myself in hour-long Lego-building projects. By saying yes when he wants to kick the soccer ball around in the middle of our busy, bustling kitchen. By immersing myself in books about Clone Wars when I really just want to snuggle in and read The Little Prince. By committing whole-heartedly to the little boy he is and to the young man he's becoming. I want to be a part of his adventures and that means accepting Spiderman sneakers when I really wish he'd want a cool pair of hipster high tops. Trying desperately to plunge into monster trucks and ice hockey and games of wrestling when some days, I wish he'd like to sit and just talk. But the truth is, Nikolas has brought so much joy into our lives. So much beauty and wonder and amazement. A different perspective on absolutely everything.

I loved interviewing him for this little project. I loved how thoughtful and intentional his answers were. How much he paid attention to what I was really asking and tried, with utmost effort, to answer my questions honestly and purposefully. I loved the way he gripped his hands together from time-to-time. The way he gazed into my eyes with intensity and seriousness and then, in the next moment, giggled and blushed unapologetically. This is the eight year old I want to remember. This spunky, self-assured, "plays by- all- the- rules" little boy who has a whirling sense of humor. Mesmerizing chocolaty eyes. He's contemplative and pragmatic and is governed by logic and reason. A perfectly imperfect little boy with a heart so beautiful and pure and golden to the core, the very thought of him makes me recite a silent prayer of gratitude.

So, happy birthday my dear Nikolas. I'm so glad you're mine.

I’m going to make a special birthday dinner for you. What would you like?

Baked wild salmon with roasted sweet potatoes and carrots. Caesar salad too but I want the bottled dressing. I like it better than yours. Sorry mom.

( Uh. Thanks.)

Wild salmon? Do know the difference?

Wild salmon has skin on it. That’s how I know it’s wild. 

( Laughed a little at this one.)

 What is your favorite sport?

Soccer and hockey. But you want me to pick one. Soccer then.

( I bet it's actually tied.)

Favorite book?

The Invisible Boy

( Such a great story.)

Favorite song?

Papa Americano

( He's going to be one of those kids who dances on the speakers someday. I'm sure of it.)

Favorite ice cream?

Chocolate but not MINT chocolate. I hate mint.

( This is true. He hates toothpaste and candy canes too.)

What do love most about your sister?

( He shuffled and smiled and shrugged. And when I said I'd move onto the next question he blurted out..)

My favorite thing about her is that she always includes me in games. Like when Katie comes over and they’re doing a musical. She always finds a job for me. A superhero or a dragon.

(Totally teared up on this one.)

What do you want to be when you grow up?

A Lego Engineer!

What is that?

Someone that creates new Lego Star Wars characters. And new space ships and new stories. 

( He lives and breaths Lego Star Wars  so this is bound to come true.)

 If you were stranded on a dessert island, what 3 things would you want to have with you?

  1. A boat
  2. A life jacket
  3. Food

( Practical. What did I tell you?)

Number one bedtime snack?

Vector cereal. We don’t always have that so….rice krispies is my second choice.

(He’s forgetting his constant pleas for purple popsicles.)

Do you want to get married someday? Do you want children?

Married? Probably. Yes I think! Yes I do. I want four kids like yiayia had. 2 boys and 2 girls. Jack. James. Olivia and Julia.

( He is so nurturing and loving and gentle. He'd be a great little dad.)

What is one word you would use to describe yourself?

ONE word? One word is hard. Happy.

( He is. He's such a happy, sweet little boy.)

Why do you like being a kid?

Kids have more fun than grown ups I think. They don’t have to work so there's more time to play.

(Trying not to read into this one. Trying not to think he’s saying we don’t have enough fun around here.)

What country do you want to visit the most?

Sweden because I love the flag!

(And I love Swedish design Niko so this will work out PERFECTLY.)

What are you most afraid of?

Spiders. Daddy Long Legs. Tarantulas. 

(Indeed. We have a special anti -spider spray that we use -really, it's Meyers Lavender Shower Spray and an anti-spider serum we put on the soles of our feet at night -really, a 5 ml sample of Avon night cream. Whatever. It. Takes.)

How tall do you think you are?

Super tall. Like, 8.5 feet maybe. Somewhere around there.

( 53 inches more like it.) 

What is your most favorite place on earth?

The cottage. Because we have a beach and we can collect sea glass and search for hermit crabs and play washer toss and swim.  And the water isn’t always deep so it’s easy for me. I’m not a very good swimmer.

(This is the very reason we built this place. )

Where do you want to live when you grow up?

Maybe Paris. Or Maine. 

(He probably noticed I looked a bit sad...)

I can’t live with you forever mom. But when you’re a little old lady, you can live with ME.

( It's a deal my boy.)

 

Monday
Dec222014

sesame-glazed meatballs

I came across a list of last year’s resolutions the other day while going through an old box. It was crumpled and creased and at the very bottom of a mound of cards and letters and recipes. And last year’s resolutions ended up in much the same way. Neglected and forgotten at the bottom of a very large pile. A pile of to do's and commitments and pledges. 

The truth is, I'm glad to see 2014 go. It has been long and lingering and although I am grateful for incredible family and friends and opportunities, the biggest draw back for me this year was not checking in with myself enough. Not reviewing that list of resolutions periodically to keep me in check. It’s so easy to lose site of what we need because there are so many distractions that tug away at our spirit leaving us feeling overwhelmed and depleted. So many daily commitments that impact our energy and focus and drive. For someone like me, who postpones and dawdles and constantly defers, I know that I need to review this list every single day.

Am I taking the time to pray every day? Dedicating time to my spiritual health is crucial for me. When I feel that connection slipping, that feeling of loss seeps into every area of my life.

Am I sleeping enough? Am I staying up late to finish proposals and projects I have taken on and waking up feeling hurried and irritable? How does that affect other members of my household?

Am I eating foods that nourish my body and give me the energy I need to be productive? Am I taking the time to exercise so that I am strong and capable?

Am I over-committing? Taking on more than I can handle so that I don’t disappoint others? I tend to get stuck in a cycle of obligations that always seem like a good idea upon introduction but often find myself shuffling and rushing and feeling a bit out of sorts.

Am I dedicating enough time to the people I love? Is there time at the end of a busy day to listen to my children read? To hearing about their day without rushing them off to piano or soccer? To having a meaningful conversation with my husband? Am I nurturing the relationships that are important to me? My mother and siblings and closest friends?

And more importantly, if things aren’t in alignment, am I making the necessary changes to keep myself focused? If the answer is no, then I need to re-evaluate and make modifications quickly.

When I am feeling rested and content and energized, when I am eating well and taking care of my body through proper nutrition and exercise. When I am reviewing my professional objectives and making plans to execute and make them viable. When I devote uninterrupted time to those I love. When I say no to projects that need to be squeezed into my already busy life, I am saying yes to a much greater cause.

I am saying yes to me.

So for 2015, I only have one resolution. Check in with myself. Make sure I am on task and meeting the goals and objectives I need to be strong and healthy and happy on every front. Spiritually, physically, emotionally, professionally.

And my wish for all of you is the very same. Take time to think about what you need to help you lead a more fulfilled life and then write those things down. And review them. Review them every week or  every day. As often as you need that gentle reminder to keep going and stay on track. That little list is going to be a permanent fixture on my bedside table this year. A list I am going to read every single morning before starting my day. 

All the best to all of you dear friends. May 2015 be your best year yet.

xoxo

Monday
Nov172014

butternut squash quinoa with bacon, sage + fresh parmesan

For the past few weeks, my daughter has been asking me about the cold hard truth surrounding Santa Claus. I thought I had another year before I needed to explain the complexities of Santa Claus because up until now, she’s never questioned us about it.  I really believed my 11 -year old daughter, a self-professed believer, would have one more Christmas where that magic would remain in tact. And although this is a natural progression of growth and maturity, it still feels too soon somehow. Deep down, I know she’s ready for more grown up conversations. For discussions involving truths that can’t be measured quantitatively but that need to be expressed and felt and shared.

She yearns for these discussions.  She needs them.

It’s hard to believe that less than a year ago, she was writing letters to her beloved Saint Nick, making sure her penmanship was prominent and curly and dotted with hearts. She’d mail those heartfelt little notes and with them, the splendor and brilliance of the season was anchored into her soul.

I walked into her room the other night, hours after she had finally learned the truth, and watched her sleep.  I remembered the way her chubby baby fingers gripped the edge of her crib and the way she’d pull herself up and smile when I walked into the room. And it didn’t seem possible then. It didn’t seem remotely feasible that one day, she would be too grown up for any of it. All of this inner turmoil I’m feeling is about so much more than Santa Claus. It’s about the practice of placing your faith in things that aren’t always visible. In things we can’t always explain, or touch or even entirely understand. It's that faith that binds our minds and hearts and allows us to trust with conviction and passion and absolute certainty. And it’s all part of a much bigger story. A story I always want her to believe in.

I read a beautiful excerpt by C.S. Lewis once. When he wrote The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe, his dedication to his Goddaughter Lucy Barfield brought tears to my eyes.

“Girls grow quicker than books. As a result, you are already too old for fairy tales…But someday you will be old enough to start reading fairy tales again.” 

Even though the Santa Claus myth isn’t theoretically true, it offers a lot of merit with respect to the human spirit. The idea of giving without the prospect of reciprocation. The notion of receiving and accepting while still maintaining grace and humility. These rituals exert such wonderful life lessons that can be applied to our every day routines. In the way we communicate with our family and friends through meaningful conversations. In the way we become advocates for truth in the face of injustice and ambiguity and adversity. In the way we volunteer our time to a charity or organization we feel a strong connection to. Santa Claus enables these life lessons to flourish in our hearts every single day.

I’ll be there when she’s old enough to read fairytales again. When she’s ready to participate in upholding and making the fairy tale of Santa Claus special for her little brother and new baby cousins and maybe someday, for her very own children. 

Wednesday
Nov122014

roasted cauliflower + red pepper orzo salad with chili

We have very loose plans to travel to France this summer and although it is still months and months away, it hasn't prevented me from researching and daydreaming. I've become obsessed with this gorgeous French Chateau. Have you heard of it? A couple purchased an old French Château and are slowly restoring it and documenting the process on their blog. It's the way I've always pictured the French countryside. Magnificent and yet muted. The sort of brilliance you might expect in a children’s fairytale. And although I’m usually drawn to a more modern esthetic, there is something so beautifully restorative about re-establishing something to its original splendor

I'm most excited because it was my children who, upon my suggestion of a European venue, insisted on France. They are absurdly excited because:

a) They are fluent in French and want to see if they can fool the locals with their faux-Parisian accents.

b) They think artists roam the streets painting haphazurdly and wearing pretty berets.

c) They imagine themselves indulging in chocolate croissants and doughy baguettes and crispy little frites every day which, I might add, is a very real possibility.

Our own personal agendas aside, we're all thrilled for what lies ahead. My daughter has been obsessed with all things French since her school choir sang a song about the Champs-Élysées a few years ago. I still hear her humming it now and then. That sweet, high-pitched tune that propels her to twirl and dance and sing.

My little ones have been very involved in our online apartment hunting expedition and have very strong opinions. Raphaelia is more interested in flats with remarkable views of landmarks and beaches and Nikolas is drawn to the ones that look neat and orderly on the inside. I'm so glad they have all the bases covered. 

All of this preliminary planning has made me think about what’s really important. The disposal of the mundane and the acceptance of the meaningful. And I’m not suggesting that memorable experiences require an international destination or expensive vacations or any money at all for that matter. There is just something so incredibly beautiful about experiencing something for the first time as a family. My husband had the opportunity to travel extensively with his parents when he was a young boy and one of the things he loved the most was that they were able to live those moments together. For the very first time. 

I think when possible, travel offers such unique instruction. There is something so enlightening about learning through tangible means because that kind of physical connection can’t be learned through textbooks or classroom theory.

I'm going to ask my children to keep a short journal for the duration of this holiday. They’re old enough now to experience the culture and beauty on their own terms and I want them to remember those wonderful little tidbits. Those tiny details that would otherwise go unmentioned. Forgotten. One of my favorite things is going back and re-reading old journal entries from my childhood. It was such an important part of growing up for me because it helped me to appreciate those periods in an altogether new light. It allowed me to value them for what they were; fleeting moments that made an impression.

And impressions form opinions. And opinions form ideas. And ideas form personalities.

I can’t wait to watch their little personalities ripen.

Now about this dish. I know. I know. Two orzo recipes back to back but I honestly couldn't help myself. I wasn't even planning on writing about it which is why there is only one, mediocre photograph. Sorry about that. It was so incredibly delicious and easy, just the sort of thing I know you'll all love. The really fabulous part is that it's equally delicious served hot or cold and it's one of those dishes that tastes even better the next day. Go make it. It's superb.

 

Wednesday
Oct152014

tomato-orzo stew with parmesan + basil

Oh my. I had no idea I've been away from this space for so long. I've been wrapped up in birthday celebrations and preparations for Thanksgiving. Time passes quickly and there are days where that feels like a good thing, and then other times, you sort of feel sad about it because it might mean that you’re not loving and embracing it enough. That's how I'm feeling these days. Time is hurtling and I don't like it one bit. It’s evident when I’m with my beautiful little niece who is now seven months old. Or when I look at photos of my darling nephew who is already two months old. How did that happen?

Autumn is in full bloom and that means bright colored, honey-toned leaves with flecks of red and orange. It means chunky knits and tall boots and spiced-lattes. Soups and stews and chilis and homemade biscuits. Roaring fires and brisk, nippy strolls. And although the days are getting shorted by the minute, I've embraced it by delving into some fine reading material. My book club is currently into this little gem which is terrifying and exhilarating and inconceivable. It makes the early departure of sunlight a little more bearable when there’s a good book and warm cup of tea in hand.

We had a really wonderful weekend. The weather was perfect and it was spent in the company of family and good friends. We shared a meal and played board games and took long walks on the beach. The children collected sea glass and we made hearts in the sand out of rocks and my mom helped me collect some driftwood. I’m not sure what I’ll use it for but I’ve always loved the twists and bends and color of wood that’s been bathed in salt water and sun. All year long, it’s a reminder that summer is never too far away and in the depths of winter, that is a welcomed reprieve.  I used to always think of this time of year as a precursor to winter which made it nearly impossible for me to embrace the beauty and splendor of the season. But slowly, I’ve learned that every period offers something poetic and beautiful. I have to try really hard to remember that when it’s minus 30 and the cold is thrashing with bitterness and fury. It’s times like this, even in the midst of wet slushy winters and blowing, prickly snow that I am grateful for this place. For living near the ocean and amidst valleys and farms and beautiful orchards where a breathtaking hike and the opportunity to gather your own apples and pumpkins are so very close.  

While we were walking and collecting things and looking out into the beautiful ocean, we couldn’t help but feel grateful. For the water and the warm October breeze and the tall sun-lit trees. That feeling of being immersed in nature is so invigorating and freeing. It's peaceful and quiet and because that little stretch of beach is so private, the solitude sort of allows you to lose yourself in your own private thoughts. I realize now that this place in the north shore saved me in so many ways. From being too busy or too involved or too immersed in so many extras that crowd your mind and leave you feeling a bit worn out. This past Thanksgiving weekend, in my own private tribute of gratitude, this space was near the top.

And I imagine it always will be.