November 12, 2012 § Leave a Comment
I have been on a soup-making kick lately. A few weeks ago, I had a rotten cold and, simultaneously, the weather became decidedly fall-like. There was a cold bite in the air accompanied by crimson, burnt sienna, and bright yellow leaves pressed against the clear blue sky. (I don’t know about you, but I feel like my eyes are widest in the fall, taking in all the breathtaking colors and drastic changes of scenery. Things change so fast during this season that I hate to blink and chance missing the most beautiful leaf or pine cone I’ve ever seen. I walk around my neighborhood taking pictures of trees and whatever else catches my eye and I imagine that to anyone driving by or looking out their window, I must look like a tourist visiting a place for the first and last time. )
Anyway, the combination of illness and chilly air had me craving hot and nutritious soup.
I started off with Angela’s Carrot, Apple, Ginger Soup
Then, for a family party, I made a pot of Butternut Squash Soup (combining the “Roasted” and “Warm Spices” variations)
and a pot of chili (ok, it’s not technically a soup, but it’s warm and made in a pot, so there you go.)
That brings us to yesterday when I made a pot of Spicy African Peanut Soup. It is sensational. I fell in love with an African Peanut Soup I ate at Armsby Abbey last weekend and I couldn’t wait to hop online to find a recipe to make at home. The recipe I found closely mimics the flavor of Armsby’s soup, but the texture wasn’t a perfect match. I think Armsby must have included heavy cream to create such a smooth, velvety texture. Don’t get me wrong, the soup I made is smooth, but I wouldn’t call it velvety. Maybe velour-like (ha ha).
I love that carrots and yellow pepper are added along with the sweet potato for a real beta carotene boost. And I feel like the combination of the ginger and cayenne could knock any nasty cold germ to the curb. Ok, so there is no science behind that feeling…you just have to trust me on that one!
Have you made any good soups lately?
October 24, 2012 § 1 Comment
In no particular order, these are 13 random questionable things I do on an almost daily basis since becoming a stay-at-home mom, and now a stay-at-home mom of a full-time student:
1. Regardless of where I am, I call out “I’m going to the potty,” before heading to the restroom.
2. I find that I am generally showering every two days. I know. Gross.
3. I am always on the lookout for inexpensive clothes that double as pajamas and day-wear. I roll out of bed ready to start my day! Ahem.
4. I have started an early Monday morning tradition of going to the Salvation Army to look for good quality, inexpensive furniture and house ware. Un-showered and in my “day wear.” (see 2 & 3 above). Gross x 2.
5. I want to slap whoever asks me “So, what did you do today?”
6. When Peter is home from school, one of our frequent games is playing “cat against the flashlight.” I am the cat who chases the flashlight beam which is controlled by Peter. I run into walls at full speed and jump towards the ceiling trying to get my paws on the light. Crazy? Maybe. But the full-on belly laughs my stupendous physical humor elicits is priceless.
7. I really, really enjoy folding Peter’s size 5/6 clothes.
8. I unlock the back door every time I get out of the car even though nobody is sitting back there.
9. I paint my fingernails after eating a delicious home-cooked lunch. (Ok, that is just awesome, not crazy)
10. I spend a lot of time wondering how I kept up with the laundry and grocery shopping when I worked full time.
11. I read a novel. During the day. Sometimes for hours. (and suffer from tremendous guilt).
12. I contemplate what could be done in 6 hours: run 2 or more marathons, drive to NYC and back, fly to Europe, watch 3 movies, see 12 or more patients (uh, if I were a doctor)…and often feel very bad about my unproductive self.
13. I feel a renewed sense of thankfulness and gratitude for my friends, all of them, but these days especially for those who are local. Y’all are super.
October 22, 2012 § Leave a Comment
Okay, I am not actually childless, but this year Peter is attending full-time preschool, so for 6 hours every weekday I am without a child. Alone. Feeling like a plastic bag, drifting through the wind, wanting to start again. Thanks to Katy Perry for putting my feelings into lyrics.
I have not been without a job for 20 years. When I was between the ages of 19 and 22, I was in a state limbo. Caught in that purgatory between high school and adulthood. Some people have the best years of their life in that limbo stage. I did not. I went to college part-time (sometimes) and I worked part-time as a receptionist at a convalescent home. And that was it. My main occupation during that time was nurturing a burgeoning eating disorder. That kept me quite busy, what with all of the writing down of everything I ate, calculating the calories, and power walking (this was in the early 1990s when power walking was the shizz).
When I was 22, I was hired at my first publishing company and I never looked back. From age 22 to age 39 I worked. And worked. And worked. Often at my full-time job and one or two part-time jobs. Clearly, I was making up for my earlier slacker ways. I was determined to support myself, never ask anyone for help and be the best employee in the history of employees.
And now here I am, age 42 (what?!?), and I’m feeling like I’m 21 again. But not in a good ”whoo-hoo! Let’s do shots of jagermeister” way. I’m feeling lost, unsure, and off-balance. Fortunately, I kicked the eating disorder 15 years ago, but now I really have nothing to do. ( That is a joke.) I have a to-do list a mile long, but nobody is giving me end dates. I know that I should take advantage of this time and revel in it. Roll around in it like a pig in mud. And I will soon. I may write a bit here on my blog. I may practice my photography. I may cook a little more. Bake a little more. For two years I’ve been dying to bake my own bread. I’ll tackle that to-do list one boring thing at a time and feel great accomplishment as I cross off completed tasks.
If there is one thing I have learned about myself recently is that I really love to be praised and receive recognition for my work. I am a praise whore. I fed off those slaps on my back for a job well done. I felt glowingly invincible after receiving an award for finishing a project on time and under budget…
I have come to realize that these are not the attributes of an entrepreneur. Or a stay-at-home mom. Especially a childless stay-at-home mom. But I will persevere and make this new era of my life work. Stay tuned.
May 14, 2011 § 6 Comments
I knew I wanted to share this poem once I read it on Monday. But, time got away from me. I had a linen closet to organize (so proud of myself) and parks to go to (spring is finally, finally here).
On Sunday, we had a great Mother’s Day brunch at my sister’s house. All the young cousins played…well, more accurately, all the young cousins bounced themselves into a sweaty frenzy in the bouncy house while the adults drank mimosas and Bloody Marys on the deck and inexplicably spent an inordinate amount of time listening to and watching “Friday,” by Rebecca Black. (I will not link to it. You’re welcome.)
Oh, and 3 of the adults (my husband, sister, and brother-in-law) played Words with Friends on their i-things, while sitting next to each other.
My husband is now obsessed with Rebecca Black and Words With Friends. Thanks a lot Mother’s Day.
(I have to say, I received two lovely gifts as thanks for my motherly duties: luxurious new bath towels, which I ordered myself a week before Mother’s Day and then emailed my husband–”here’s the Mother’s Day gift I ordered. Thanks!” But as usual, he felt the need to one-up me and went and bought me a case–A CASE–of assorted red wines. Thanks, I think. It’s hard to focus; I’m so buzzed. Oh, and thanks to my Dad who gave me and my sisters massage and dinner gift certificates! We cannot wait for our girls’ day.)
But back to the poem, The Lanyard, that was shared in an RJ Julia newsletter, this poem, it brought me to tears. As I mentioned, I read it on Monday. And if you aren’t aware, there’s Sunday and then Monday comes afterwards. (Thanks, Rebecca Black).
Well, the poem especially resonated on the tail of my sister Kerry telling my Mom on Sunday how thankful she is for all she’s done for us. Especially in the years after the divorce when my sisters were very young and I was young, but not too young. Kerry, bless her and mimosas, said many of the things I wanted to say to my Mom, but was not able to say without succumbing to my leaky eye/shaky voice syndrome. Kerry, who has 4 kids, also said “I don’t know how you did it.” She doesn’t know how my mom raised 3 girls on her own. I don’t know how she did it either. I. Don’t. Know. How. She. Did. It.
(I’m not knocking my Dad at all. At all. But divorce is divorce and the Mom usually gets custody of the kids. My Dad was ALWAYS there when we needed him; he followed the shared custody agreement, which stipulated dinner on Wednesdays and full custody every-other weekend. He never missed a date.)
I, on the other hand, in my evil and–I truly believe– possessed teenage years missed many dates. I also tormented (there’s no better word to describe my antics) my Mom who worked crazy hours and had two other younger girls to care for. I showed no mercy to her in my teenage years.
I don’t want to embarrass myself on the internet by recounting how awful I was when I was younger. Nobody believes me when I tell the stories anyway because I’m so nice now. Seriously. I am often nauseatingly nice. I’m totally overcompensating for my past miscreant behavior. I want everyone to like me and that is a huge character flaw and a different blog post. </analysis>
Suffice to say, I was a good measure worse than your average teenager.
Which is why I get so emotional when it comes to thanking my Mom now. How do I begin to thank her for not murdering me or sending me away? How can I ever repay her for her sacrifices, patience, and limitless love? All of the Fiestaware pitchers, wii Fit Zumba videos, and ceramic fruit bowls in the world will never be sufficient thanks or repayment.
The line in Billy Collins’ poem that I believe is an absolute truth is: “…you can never repay your mother.”
But you can, I can, cherish her for the rest of my life. Love you and thank you, Mom <3
by Billy Collins
The other day as I was ricocheting slowly
off the pale blue walls of this room,
bouncing from typewriter to piano,
from bookshelf to an envelope lying on the floor,
I found myself in the L section of the dictionary
where my eyes fell upon the word lanyard.
No cookie nibbled by a French novelist
could send one more suddenly into the past–
a past where I sat at a workbench at a camp
by a deep Adirondack lake
learning how to braid thin plastic strips
into a lanyard, a gift for my mother.
I had never seen anyone use a lanyard
or wear one, if that’s what you did with them,
but that did not keep me from crossing
strand over strand again and again
until I had made a boxy
red and white lanyard for my mother.
She gave me life and milk from her breast,
and I gave her a lanyard.
She nursed me in many a sickroom,
lifted teaspoons of medicine to my lips,
set cold face-cloths on my forehead,
and then led me out into the airy light
and taught me to walk and swim,
and I, in turn, presented her with a lanyard.
Here are thousands of meals, she said,
and here is clothing and a good education.
And here is your lanyard, I replied,
which I made with a little help from a counselor.
Here is a breathing body and a beating heart,
strong legs, bones and teeth,
and two clear eyes to read the world, she whispered,
and here, I said, is the lanyard I made at camp.
And here, I wish to say to her now,
is a smaller gift–not the archaic truth
that you can never repay your mother,
but the rueful admission that when she took
that two-tone lanyard from my hands,
I was as sure as a boy could be
that this useless, worthless thing I wove
out of boredom would be enough to make us even.
May 8, 2011 § 1 Comment
Happy Mother’s Day to my mom, my sisters, my mother-in-law, my sister-in-law, Peter’s GiGis, and all my mother friends! I hope you’re all treated like the queens you are on this special day <3 <3
I also want to say "Thank You" to my Peters for making me a Mommy. Thank you, thank you, thank you for making my life better than I ever imagined. I love you to the moon and back, a million times. xoxo
May 5, 2011 § 4 Comments
First of all: Happy Cinco de Mayo! I hope some Mexican food and a margarita are on your agenda today. I was in Starbucks this morning and a man asked the barista “What’s today’s date?” The barista chirped, “It’s Cinco de Mayo!” and in an irritated tone the man snapped, “No, what is the date?” Um, yeah. Not his finest moment, I’m sure. Kudos to the barista for not laughing in his face when she answered, “It’s May 5th.”
Anyway, I thought I’d share one of my deepest, darkest secrets today. Here it goes: I’m a history nerd.
Yes, hello, my name is Amy and I’m a history nerd.
I’m interested in all kinds of history, but I get especially nutty over Biblical history.
For my 30th birthday, I fled the country and spent 3 weeks working on an archaelogical dig in Israel. Each day, rather than finding proof of Saint Peter’s house in the sand, I found camels’ teeth, multiple mouthfuls of camels’ teeth… but those teeth were hundreds, if not a thousand, years old! Cool, right?! (Uh, right?)
Here’s a picture of me on my birthday, riding, you guessed it, a camel through the banana plantation on the grounds of the kibbutz I was staying at:
(Riding the camel was great fun until it came time to dismount. That was one of the most painful experiences of my life. I think even more painful than my natural childbirth experience.) I have many more pictures of my trip, but unfortunately, they’re all hardcopy. One of these days I’ll scan and share them. It was an awesome experience.
Two weeks ago, after digging a hole in our yard to transplant a maple tree (which Peter insists is an apple tree), my husband came into the house to tell me that he found a bunch of pottery shards. My heart started pounding, my mind started whirling, and I broke into a sweat, imagining that our house was sitting atop a 17th century village. Visions of grids danced in my head while I wracked my brain thinking about how best to excavate the yard. But, sadly, the “pottery,” turned out to be broken china from the early-mid 20th century. It was still cool, but not as cool as living atop an old village. Le sigh.
As early as the fourth grade, I was into old things. After a field trip to Old Sturbridge Village, I became so infatuated with the olden days that I wrote to the Village asking if I could work there in the summer. There was nothing I wanted more than to churn butter in 100 degree weather while wearing a bonnet and a calico dress.
My application was rejected, but my dream never died.
I spent most of my adult life working at a publishing company that archived primary source material (original books, photos, newspapers, sheet music, diaries, etc.) on microfilm. Supposedly, we had the 10th largest library in the world in our vault. To keep up with technology, we began to digitize the microfilm, which allowed the primary sources to be fully searchable online. For most of my time at the company I was enthralled, not exactly with my job, but with the material I was working with.
Hello, my name is Amy, and I love primary sources.
I love antiques and artifacts of all sorts, but I tend to gravitate towards old books. One of my most favorite possessions is an old book titled “The Importance of Living,” which I found at a used book sale in Vermont. I started flipping through the pages and found underlined passages, pieces of fabric, news clippings from the 1940s, dried flowers, and even a feather, pressed between the yellowed pages. I couldn’t help but wonder who saved those items and why he or she saved them. I did find a name written in the book, Gertrude Miriam Potwin, but Google turned up nothing on her! Just for fun, here are some pictures of another person’s treasures, possibly Gertrude’s, saved in the pages of a book for me to find decades later:
So, there you have it. I feel kind of liberated now that my secret has been shared! From this day forward, I shall wear my bonnets and calico dresses with pride!
My husband will be thrilled.
May 4, 2011 § Leave a Comment
(Better late than never!)
Hello! How are you today? We’re doing pretty well, despite fighting off another sore throat. Honestly, I kind of can’t wait for preschool to be over in a month. The germs produced and shared by those 14 adorable kids in that little classroom nearly incapacitated me this year. Clearly, I need to build up my immune system. But who cares about that.
A new made-in-America Ethan Allen coffee table! Can you believe it’s the first time I’ve used Craigslist?!? I’m so 2003!
As much as I love pretty things and home decor, I rarely (ok, never) buy large items for my home. Before I married, I was a vagabond, moving from apartment to apartment every few years and making do with whatever beat up hand-me-down furniture I could get my hands on from friends and family. Sure, I purchased pillows and other decorations to make the place of the moment look cute and homey, but I never bit the bullet and invested in good furniture.
In those days, I thought of money in terms of how many bottles of wine or how many trips it could buy. $1500 for a new couch? That could buy 100 bottles of wine or round trip tickets to visit my best friends in Vegas and Seattle! I also figured: why spend money on stuff that may not fit in my next apartment? For years my mattress was on a futon frame. It didn’t bother me–I liked, and still do like, the platform bed look! (Although, we have moved on up to a real bed frame, minus a headboard. It’s on the list of things to get.)
I was hesitant to invest time or money in decorating the house we’re in now because we thought we’d move from here to our “forever home” in 4 or 5 years. Well, as I mentioned in an earlier post, it appears that we’re on a 10 year plan here. With that reality staring me in the face, I decided that now is the time to put on my big girl panties and make this house a permanent home. The days of rolling stone youth, flowing wine, and frivolous trips are over, so there should be money in the budget for real furniture.
I’m not in a huge rush to buy things. The coffee table was first on the list because our old coffee table was just disgusting. It had a rattan top that had become encrusted with old food and play-doh. Since we do all of our entertaining in our living room, I was at the point where I was embarrassed to serve appetizers on it!
Anyway, I plan on buying as many items as possible (console table, end table, dining room furniture, etc.) from second-hand sources like Craigslist, antique stores, and yard/estate sales for 3 reasons:
1. Financial benefit- Second-hand items are less expensive than new items. I bought the coffee table for less than half of the retail price. There are a few small scratches and marks on it, but nothing really noticeable. I negotiated a little bit and got $20 knocked off the asking price. Honestly, the asking price was totally reasonable, but I thought it wouldn’t hurt to haggle a little bit. (And I can use that 20 bucks to buy a bottle of wine! Just kidding.)
2. Environmental benefit - Why buy new things (most likely manufactured in a foreign country using questionable materials) that will just end up in a landfill someday, when there are plenty of previously loved, quality things in good condition? Save trees and create less pollution by buying second-hand.
3. Uniqueness benefit – I’m going for a beachy-cottagey look here and luckily that style lends itself well to second-hand shopping. I love Pottery Barn, West Elm, and Restoration Hardware as much as the next person, and I’m sure I’ll buy some things from a name brand at some point, but I don’t want my house to look like a catalog picture. I’m excited to go on the hunt for unique, great quality items that I truly love.
I’m indebted to The Nesting Place newsletter for inspiring me to go on the second-hand special hunt!
Have a good night!