Margot Mondays – Working on our night cheese.

20 Oct

The last few Margot Mondays posts were a little heavy, so here’s an antidote for seriousness.

Each day I come home from work, set my purse down, take off my shoes, wash my hands, and scoop up my daughter. We hug for a few moments. I ask her if she had a fun day: Can you tell mama all about your fun day? She claps and chatters away. After a minute or two she starts wiggling in my arms to get down and I know that’s my cue.

My cue for cheese.

I put her down and she follows me to the fridge. I pull out a little piece of extra sharp cheddar and sit on the living room floor.  I ask her if she’s ready for our “night cheese.”  We split our night cheese. One small bite for her, one bigger bite for mommy. I always give her the last little bite, show her my empty hands, and say “all done!”

And then it’s time to go for our walk, play on the swings, and water the garden.

My night. Each and every time.

Margot Mondays: Dear Margot

6 Oct

Now that Margot’s personality is emerging in full-force and we’re past the panic! stage of having a newborn,  it’s becoming easier to imagine navigating the rest of what being a parent entails: rules, discipline, guidance, decisions about schooling and cell phones and dating. All are coming down the pipeline. All will be here before we know it.

Beyond those issues, though, are other, more complicated thoughts.

Dear Margot,

Your dad and I are not perfect, despite how badly we wish we were. We are feeling this out as we go. We’ll try very hard to get it right. We’ll show up each and every day. There are a bunch of things we don’t know, though, and we’ll have to work together (the three of us) to figure it all out:

  • How to teach you to be open to new experiences and trusting of others without being naive, unprepared, or victimized.
  • How to show kindness and generosity without being taken advantage of.
  • How to work hard, use elbow grease, and “practice makes perfect” without devoting precious time to things that don’t make you happy. Life’s too short.
  • How to tell the truth at all times, except for the times when to do so would be to needlessly, brutally hurt feelings.
  • How to be resourceful and independent, but to always know that Mom and Dad are here to offer you a safe place to land.
  • How to love fully and openly, get your heart broken, and do it all again, all the while knowing (and never questioning) your value.
  • How to make friends and fit in without ever compromising your values or resorting to cruelty.
  • How to change the world but be at total peace with your role in it, no matter what you choose to be or how much you make.
  • How to be humble and down-to-earth despite being raised by your parents, who think that you’re, like, only the best thing to ever walk the face of the planet.

Love,

Mom and Dad

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Processing the writing process.

1 Oct

You don’t start out writing good stuff. You start out writing crap and thinking it’s good stuff, and then gradually you get better at it. That’s why I say one of the most valuable traits is persistence. – Octavia Butler

I’ve had a lot of new blog followers over the recent weeks, and that’s fantastic! Welcome! I hope I can simultaneously manage to be real without oversharing, energetic without straight up lying to you (I’m tired!), friendly without the saccharine, “truthy” without sanctimony, and inspiring without making you all roll your eyes and eventually hate me.

I’ve been writing here since…2011…I think? My stats tell me that people think my posts about travel and photography are swell, are mildly interested in recipes (although that baked buffalo wing post is killing it on Pinterest), and love reading about my family. Most people stumble upon my blog whilst searching for famous quotes, as above, or, and this amuses me, because they’re looking for a photo of SpongeBob crying or Homer Simpson drooling. Occasionally people find me because they’ve lost a parent and are looking for support. That’s something I’m proud of (and if you’re here for that reason I’m giving you virtual hugs).

I enjoy looking at these kinds of things, but I admit that I don’t let them persuade me in what I write. Very few people read my post about tutoring a little boy in Indianapolis, but it remains one of my favorite pieces of writing. My post on art and design in Lima, Peru was Freshly Pressed, but as I look back on it I wish I’d done it a bit differently.

Abel Bentin exhibit in Lima, Peru. If you came here looking for vaguely threatening ice cream cones, I've got you covered.

Abel Bentin exhibit in Lima, Peru. If you came here looking for vaguely threatening ice cream cones, I’ve got you covered. This piece is called “I don’t believe in Guilt.”

All this has had me thinking, though, about how I write. Like, how do I decide what to talk about? And then how do I put idea to keyboard?

Honestly it varies. In the olden days of Loni Found Herself I’d plan weekend trips with the very idea of taking photographs and writing about my experiences. I had a lot of fun doing that, too, but then it felt like I wasn’t really absorbing the experience so much as documenting it. Around the time I had Margot I read an article imploring women, especially, to put down the cameras and phones, stop recording every moment of their child’s life, and actively participate in those moments. What’s more important? Having photos of your child so that they can have memories or actually being a part of those memories? Will Margot remember me as the mom who stood off to the side taking pictures of her swimming, or will she remember me as the mom who jumped into the pool with her?

So now I write less about outings (though I still do from time to time) and more about, well, other stuff. Really, whatever strikes my fancy. Sometimes the idea comes to my head and I mull it over for a few days. Sometimes I sit down intending to write one thing and, through the course of typing, it turns into something else entirely. Like this post. I thought it would be a list of my favorite pieces of writing from my blog. You can see where it maybe could have gone in that direction, just after the paragraph about tutoring and Peru.

Is this blog any good? I hope so.

And, more than that, I hope it’s getting better.

 

A Basic Girl who loves fall.

29 Sep Image via Glitter Guide.

This is, what, the third or fourth year I’ve put together an “I LOVE FALL” blog post, writ large. And, heaven help me, here I go again.

In photos, this fall I will be:

Cooking: wild rice and mushroom soup

Wild rice and mushroom soup photo and recipe via America's Test Kitchen.

Wild rice and mushroom soup photo and recipe via America’s Test Kitchen.

Baking: French apple cake

French apple cake recipe and photo via For the Feast.

French apple cake recipe and photo via For the Feast.

Eating: Is this a trick question? In addition to the above, I’ll be eating:

Apple cider donut photo and recipe via Everyday Occasions by Jenny Steffens Hobick

Apple cider donut photo and recipe via Everyday Occasions by Jenny Steffens Hobick

Drinking: It’s never too early for Egg Nog.

Egg nog photo and recipe via Dashing Dish.

Egg nog photo and recipe via Dashing Dish.

Playing: Scopa!

Photo by me!

Photo by me!

Watching: My bouncing baby transition from infant to toddler.

She loves her ball.

She loves her ball.

Wearing: I don’t know. I have this marigold-yellow scarf I love and get lots of compliments on. So probably that.

Yellow!

Yellow!

Making: Loads and loads of tissue flowers for Margot’s first birthday party!

Writing: Did you know that I’m writing a book? I’ll keep at it this fall.

When I write I do not look this glamorous. Image via Lovely Indeed.

When I write I do not look this glamorous. Image via Lovely Indeed.

Daydreaming about: Christmas and seeing family and friends in the Midwest for the first time in two years.

Kitty snuggles at my in-laws' house in 2012.

Kitty snuggles at my in-laws’ house in 2012.

Celebrating: Margot’s first birthday! Can you tell I’m excited? I’ve never had the chance to plan a party for someone, let alone someone so dear to me.

Image via Glitter Guide.

Image via Glitter Guide.

Loving: Our brand new car.

Zoom zoom. Image via Yahoo Autos.

Zoom zoom. Image via Yahoo Autos.

Carving: How weird would it be if I wrote something other than “pumpkins” here? Like, maybe I’ll take up whittling.

Taken Halloween 2013, before we knew Margot was a she but after we knew baby would probably cry all the time.

Taken Halloween 2013, before we knew Margot was a she but after we knew baby would probably cry all the time.

Doing: Lots of Thanksgiving dishes, putting together our new garden, and our family Christmas photos at a tree farm in Apple Hill, California:

Image via me!

Image via me!

Lighting: the Christmas tree. We put ours up just after Thanksgiving.

One of Mike's favorite ornaments. The Tin Man.

One of Mike’s favorite ornaments. The Tin Man.

Going: To the Spider Pavilion at the Natural History Museum this very weekend. What could be better as we lead up to Halloween?

Painting: …vicariously through Bob Ross. I love watching the Create channel and they show The Joy of Painting often.

I found this handy chart on FiveThirtyEight.

I found this handy chart on FiveThirtyEight.

Reading: I’m currently wrapping up a reread of Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings Trilogy. I’m now on Return of the King.

Dreaming big

18 Sep

Dreams come true. Without that possibility, nature would not incite us to have them. – John Updike

Lately I’ve spent time dreaming about my life and what I want from it. Perhaps it’s because I’m 33 and rapidly approaching middle-age. Or maybe it’s because my baby daughter is almost a year old, as sure a reminder of the passage of time as anything else I’ve experienced.

What do I want for my family? What do I want professionally? Most importantly, what do I want for myself?

In the short-term, I’m working on:

  • Running a 5k. I’ve lost 12 lbs in the last three months and I’m enrolled in another boot camp class. I feel energized and ready to take on new challenges. Running is my final frontier.
  • Writing a manuscript. It’s a closely guarded secret that I’ve always wanted to be a writer. At any given time I’m cultivating several ideas, none of which are probably any good. I have no expectations of success with this, I just really want to put something down on paper that I can be proud of. In the last few days I’ve fleshed out 11 chapters. It’s time.
  • My 10-year wedding anniversary. In August 2015 we’ll celebrate 10 years together. The years have been simultaneously effortless and back-breaking, and we work hard at moving forward in the same direction. I’d like to celebrate that with a trip and a vow renewal for just the three of us. Something heartfelt and honest. Our wedding wasn’t big by any stretch of the imagination, but I’d always envisioned myself getting married in front of a fireplace somewhere, just closest family and friends present. We’ve decided to celebrate 10 years over Christmas so that I can have the fireplace this time around.

But what’s bigger than a list of New Year’s resolutions, things like running, writing, and anniversaries? What’s bigger than a desire to visit Disneyland soon, or to restore the chest I’ve inherited? Bigger than even a new house or a car?

Where does my mind go when I think about myself at 63?

In the long-term my thoughts are jumbled together. Do I want to retire to France and live in a tiny flat in a quiet arrondissement? Or is it Rome, where Mike wants to settle? Or do we build roots somewhere in the space between, maybe in the countryside so that Margot and her children can run around barefoot, making messes and being noisier than we’re used to? We’ll set aside time for things like canoeing and gardening. Maybe Mike will learn to sketch a passable portrait and maybe I’ll finally get around to making my own cheese.

Or maybe it’s the other dream. The one where Mike and I open a little cafe in a small town. We’ll sell freshly made pasta, jars of red sauce, bread, cheese (always cheese!), olive oil, chocolate, tea, coffee, and wine, and maybe have a few tables and chairs so that people can order sandwiches and visit with one another. In his spare time Mike will run for a minor political office and I’ll take time off and do a Big Year, boarding planes to parts unknown in search of an elusive warbler of some kind. We’ll both walk Margot down the aisle and only Mike will know that I spent the entire morning weeping about letting her go.

Where to?

Where to?

Thoughts on a Wednesday

10 Sep

It’s almost fall! We’ve even had a smattering of “rain” on my side of the city. This “rain” was more like how it feels to walk through the Rain Forest room at a zoo (with all that gentle mist they spray on the plants), but that’s what sometimes passes for changing seasons around here and I take what I can get.

Mike will be home soon, and I’m so glad. These seven weeks have been hectic and tiring, but also wonderful. My mettle has been tested and I’m proud of what’s been revealed. I’m so thankful that Margot is my daughter. I tell her that every single day and I mean it.

Yes, we made a little mommy-daughter world for ourselves, figured out what worked, and bonded in ways I couldn’t have imagined. Now I have to share that with Mike again, which is a good thing but also a little bittersweet for me if I’m being honest. She crawls around the apartment after me, bellowing “mom-mom-mom” now. Lately she’s been teething and sometimes she wakes up at 1 am or 2 am or 4 am and just wants a quick, tight hug and to be rocked for five minutes. It’s like maybe a piece of her missed me, even in sleeping. Or at least that’s what I tell myself when the going gets rough.

Mike needs to have those moments, too, and he shall have them.

In addition to the crawling, cruising, clapping, pointing out toes and noses, peek-a-boo, friend-making, and playing, we also:

Learned to stand on our own two feet in more ways than one.

Learned to stand on our own two feet in more ways than one.

We hung out with family.

Hung out with family.

We said goodbye to "baby" things.

Outgrew our “baby” things.

We missed Daddy.

Missed Daddy.

Had fun.

Had fun.

Palmiers: Two Ways

3 Sep Lay your puff pastry out and sprinkle with more cinnamon sugar. Flatten a bit with a rolling pin, and then roll both sides in toward the middle. Pop back in the fridge for about 15 minutes to set and then slice.

“The only time to eat diet food is while you’re waiting for the steak to cook.” – Julia Child

Have you guys seen this auto-tuned PBS ode to Julia Child? I was watching the Create channel (my favorite) one evening while folding laundry and I had to stop and do a double-take. What in the world was I watching!?

Brilliance, that’s what:

 

Which brings me back to food. French food, in particular.

The easiest dessert in the world to make, the palmier, is also one of the fanciest looking. All you need is puff pastry, some cinnamon and sugar, and whatever else floats your boat, topping-wise. The trick is in the folding.

Prep your station: roll out your thawed (but still firm) puff pastry on a work surface dusted in cinnamon and sugar.

Prep your station: roll out your thawed (but still firm) puff pastry on a work surface dusted in cinnamon and sugar. Playing with your food first is optional but recommended.

Lay your puff pastry out and sprinkle with more cinnamon sugar. Flatten a bit with a rolling pin, and then roll both sides in toward the middle. Pop back in the fridge for about 15 minutes to set and then slice.

Lay your puff pastry out and sprinkle with more cinnamon sugar. Flatten a bit with a rolling pin, and then roll both sides in toward the middle. Pop back in the fridge for about 15 minutes to set and then slice. Place on a parchment-lined baking sheet and bake at 400 for about 10 minutes.

See how darling they are? Not too sweet and perfect served warm with coffee or tea.

See how darling they are? Not too sweet and perfect served warm with coffee or tea. On Christmas morning these would kill.

There’s all kinds of variations to this. Add nutella, pumpkin puree, chocolate chips, or orange zest. You can even, you know, make the puff pastry yourself.  But that’s kind of hard to do.  Julia Child could do it.

But there’s more!

How about a savory version?

Here we have puff pastry topped with pesto, pine nuts, goat cheese, and sun-dried tomatoes. Again, just roll the sides in toward the middle, chill for 15 minutes or so, slice, and bake.

Here we have puff pastry topped with pesto, pine nuts, goat cheese, and sun-dried tomatoes. Again, just roll the sides in toward the middle, chill for 15 minutes or so, slice, and bake.

Voila!

Voila! People will think you are classy and accomplished.

 

 

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