On Not Writing / Midwest is Best (But I’m Not Biased or Anything)

21 Jul The view from my sister's house.

I keep thinking about writing a nice, long update. Every single day I think about it. Sundays happen and I say to myself “Tomorrow I’ll post a Margot Mondays.” Then Mondays go by and I say to myself “I should really have posted a Margot Mondays.” By now I’m used to these fleeting pangs of guilt.

I have to ask myself when writing became a second job (and one that I’m failing at miserably). Though I know it’s how I seem, and possibly even who I already am, I’m weary of becoming the New Mom Who Dropped Her Hobbies When Baby Came Along. It’s a hurtful cliché and not at all what I want for myself.

Instead I want to seize my free time triumphantly and pledge to bird and hike and practice yoga and write and maybe see a concert and drink nightly cups of jasmine green tea with my feet up. Trouble is that none of it rings true for me just now. I’m lucky to cobble together enough time for a quick workout or jog through the neighborhood, a few moments in the garden, and a couple of chapters of a good book each evening as I drift off to sleep.

That’ll have to be good enough for the time being.


It’s been a hectic summer, even more so than I’d expected. We spent 10 wonderful days in Michigan and Indiana with family in mid-June, visited my dad outside Sacramento for the 4th of July holiday, and are gearing up to send Mike back to Greece for six weeks at the end of this month. This is all by way of saying that I really haven’t found time to reflect and decompress.

I’ll start at the beginning, with home:

The view from my sister's house.

The view from my sister’s house.

One of several lakes in my hometown.

One of several lakes in my hometown.



At the Fort Wayne Children's Zoo.

At the Fort Wayne Children’s Zoo.

Also from my sister's house. It was nice to watch the storm roll in.

Also from my sister’s house. It was nice to watch the storm roll in.

My girl.

My girl.

We also held Margot's baptism in Indianapolis.

We also held Margot’s baptism in Indianapolis.

She wasn't a fan of any of this.

She wasn’t a fan of any of this…

But it was lovely all the same.

…But it was lovely all the same.

Our beach house on Lake Michigan.

Our beach house on Lake Michigan.

Steps to the beach.

Steps to the beach.



Happy anniversary!

Happy anniversary! 

Celebrating National Iced Tea Day

10 Jun Fresh lavender tea.

If the world were to be divided into two kinds of people, your coffee drinkers and your tea drinkers, I’d know without a doubt what team to join. Give me a piping hot cup of jasmine tea to inhale, sip, and savor. Give me earthy yerba mate for a bounce in my step. Give me delicate teacups and big, bulky mugs. Give me those little earl gray hand pies they make at Atticus, just down the road from me. It needn’t be fancy; even your garden-variety teabag can be dressed up with honey and milk.

Beautiful image via honey & jam.

Beautiful image via honey & jam.

A favorite from my teapot collection.

A favorite from my teapot collection.

And iced tea. Is there anything better than that? I prefer it bitter or herbal; no Southern-style sweet tea for this girl. I have to make sun tea 3-4 times per week to keep up with my demand. I like to toss in whatever herbs I have in my garden, or mix chai tea with green tea or chamomile with raspberry leaf to see what shakes out.

It’s funny, when we moved to England I walked into a pub called The Percy Arms, sat down on a stool, and promptly ordered bangers and mash with an iced tea, more or less on reflex. I know. There was a record scratch. The jukebox stopped playing. A tumbleweed rolllllled by. The bartender looked at me like I’d sprouted another nose.

For a few seconds I felt like such a bad Yank…and then I moved on with my life. Their loss.

Today is National Iced Tea Day in the States. Here’s a recipe in its honor:

Lavender Mint Iced Tea

Crush a handful or two of fresh mint leaves and lavender, both stems and flowers, and place in the bottom of a pitcher. Fill with water and add a couple of teabags (I used green tea, but you could probably go with whatever you have on hand). Set in a sunny spot for at least an hour. Add lemon juice or honey (if desired), strain, and serve over ice.

Fresh lavender tea.


Margot Mondays – Up, Up, and Away!


The air up there in the clouds is very pure and fine, bracing and delicious. And why shouldn’t it be? -it is the same the angels breathe. – Mark Twain

This past weekend we found out from some neighbors that there’s an observation deck attached to the Santa Monica Airport, perfect for kids to watch planes take off and land. Margot’s just learned about planes and is always excitedly pointing them out to us, waving her arms in the air and bellowing “pwane!” at the top of her lungs.

This is such a nice outing and a true rarity in Los Angeles: free parking, no admission fees, a nearby park, kindly police officers who give the kids stickers and toy planes. Margot had the time of her life.












Margot’s 2015 Bucket List – Blueberry Fun

5 May DSC_4185

Earlier this year I wrote about how I wasn’t a fan of New Year’s Resolutions…and then proceeded to make a bucket-style list of things I wanted to do for Margot in the New Year. I don’t always make sense, basically.

And yet I do think it’s fun to plan things I’d like her to experience, and that’s all this is. Mike and I both work full-time, essentially, and that leaves us with maybe one day/week for family outings. Better to squeeze them in now while she still wants to be in the same room as us. As they say, the days are long and the years are short.

The weekend before last marked the start of blueberry season at Underwood Family Farms, one of the best U-Picks in the L.A. area (and where, season depending, you can also pick organic tangerines, blackberries, raspberries, and strawberries). This gave us a nice opportunity to knock an item off of Margot’s list. The drive to Somis was pleasant, thank heavens, the skies were overcast, there was a chill in the air, and it even sprinkled a bit. Perfect blueberry-picking weather. We had entire rows to ourselves; the threat of rain kept the crowds away.




DSC_4087 (1)

DSC_4089 (1)








DSC_4133DSC_4137So what to do with two lbs of blueberries? I knew I wanted to make something of the fabulously named cobbler/crisp/crumble/betty/buckle/grunt/slump variety. I consulted one of my new favorite cookbooks, Lodge’s Cast Iron Nation, and hit pay dirt with a recipe for Florida-style blueberry cobbler (recipe below). Served warm with homemade cinnamon-infused whipped cream? It’s about as high a compliment you can pay to a blueberry.






Florida Blueberry Cobbler

  • ¼ cup (1/2 stick) unsalted butter, melted
  • 1 ¼ cups sugar
  • 1 cup self-rising flour (make sure you get self-rising flour)
  • 1 cup whole milk
  • 2 cups fresh blueberries, picked over for stems, rinsed, and patted dry
  • Vanilla bean ice cream (or whipped cream), for serving
  1. Place the butter in a Lodge 10-inch cast iron skillet, and put in the oven while it preheats to 400°.
  2. In a medium bowl, whisk 1 cup of the sugar with the flour and milk until smooth.
  3. Remove the skillet from the oven, and swirl the butter to evenly coat the bottom and sides. Pour the batter into the skillet, and sprinkle the blueberries evenly over the top. Sprinkle over the remaining ¼ cup sugar.
  4. Bake until golden brown and bubbly, 45 minutes to 1 hour. Serve warm, topped with a dollop of ice cream or whipped cream. Serves 6.

Margot Mondays – Mommy’s a Baboon

27 Apr

Margot’s language has exploded in really exciting ways; in addition to horse, cheese, nose, and dance, she’s now saying gross, cheeks, hairbrush, want more, and froze (thanks for that, Disney). We’re exchanging information now. Actual information. Here’s a recent example:

Margot: Want orange!
Me (handing her the orange): Here you go, babe.
Margot (handing it back to me): Thank you!
Me: Don’t you want to eat the orange?
Margot: No.

Maybe she just wanted to know the orange was there? In any case, it’s great to be in a place where you can have a conversation (of sorts) with your child.

A couple of nights ago we were at the dinner table having just such an exchange when Margot shouted a word that sounded an awful lot like “baboon!”

Do you remember that old episode of the Simpsons where Lisa bonds with her substitute teacher, who represents all the civilized, art-appreciating, book-reading qualities she wants in a father but that Homer clearly lacks? It culminates with Lisa pouring her heart out to her dad at the dinner table, accusing him of always acting like a baboon. The episode jerks my tears something fierce later on when Homer pretends to be a baboon to make Lisa laugh.

Homer's a baboon. Image found here.

Homer’s a baboon. Image found here.

So what do you do when your child calls you a baboon?

You go with it.

You jump up and down, you drag your arms, and you shout “ooooh ooooh ahhhhh ahhhhh!” You go full baboon so that your child laughs as hard as you’ve ever heard them laugh.

(And then you wonder what the neighbors downstairs must think of you)

Easter, so longed for, is gone in a day. – James Howell

20 Apr Hay rides aren't just for fall.

Ah, but if you celebrate it over several weekends, you can stretch it out until it feels like at least two days.

Traditions are funny things. For some reason, at least in America, it is customary to force small children to sit on a deranged-looking, pastel-wearing, giant man-bunny to have their photo taken. Why is that a thing? 

We took Margot to an Easter celebration in Orange, California a few weekends ago and, like all American parents, we got her all dressed up and made her meet this Easter Bunny fellow. She waved at him happily from about 20 feet away. At five feet away? Nope. Her knees turned to jello and she collapsed in hysterics. I can’t blame her.


Here’s Mike, doing a commendable job of pretending Margot isn’t convulsing.

Scary bunny aside, Margot really had fun. The Irvine Park Railroad Easter Eggstravanganza is worth a visit. Egg hunts. Train rides. A nearby zoo. Horses. Cookie decorating. Ice cream. The gang’s all here. Sometimes as parents we go to these things because they look good on paper. This event delivered.

The surrounding park is breathtaking.

The surrounding park is breathtaking.

How's that for pastel?

How’s that for pastel?

Fun and games, Easter-style.

Fun and games, Easter-style.



Margot cannot contain her excitement.

Margot cannot contain her excitement.



Hay rides aren't just for fall.

Hay rides aren’t just for fall.



The hunt.

The hunt.

Not too crowded.

Not too crowded.

Margot loved the pony ride. She's been saying "horse!" nonstop ever since.

Margot loved the pony ride. She’s been saying “horse!” nonstop ever since.

Spring! Easter! Huzzah!

Spring! Easter! Huzzah!

Happy belated Easter!



Eggs with friends.

Eggs with friends.

And Peeps. The End.

And Peeps. The End.

The Recurring Dream

16 Apr

All that we see or seem is but a dream within a dream. – Edgar Allan Poe

It occurred to me as I typed the “dream” quote from Edgar Allan Poe that it sounded familiar. Inception, anyone? A dream within a dream is probably fine, but if you start having a dream within a dream within a dream within a dream you’d probably best watch out for gun battles.

I have this recurring dream and I had it again last night. In the dream I’m me as an adult, but I’m in my childhood home wearing my childhood pajamas. I had lots of childhood homes, but this was the one I loved best. It sat on Main Street, a sort of quintessential Midwestern small-town home, complete with daylilies planted along the fence, a rusty shed no one used, and the perfect front window behind which to display the perfect, twinkling Christmas tree.

My home on Main Street in small-town USA had a powder-blue bathroom: blue walls, blue carpeting (I think?), blue towels, and a blue shower curtain. The little blue glass bird I once wrote about was kept in the bathroom. It fit beautifully.

dsc_1199-001The blue bathroom was nothing special by today’s standards. It was probably too small when you considered that six people routinely used it.

Anyway, I have this recurring dream that starts and ends with me, an adult in my childhood pajamas, in the blue bathroom. And in this dream I’m always happily, but purposefully, going through my mother’s makeup, perfume, and jewelry. I find a little box where she kept her earrings, and I’m holding them up, one by one, and then putting them back. I’m looking at the color of her lipstick and eye-shadow, spritzing her hairspray, and then moving on to the next item. I do this and only this for the duration of the dream.

The items I’m rummaging through are probably imaginary. I mean, I probably don’t really remember each pair of her earrings or the shade of lipstick she might have worn. But maybe some of it is real. Who knows?

A psychologist would have a field day with me, I’m sure. I’m no expert, but I don’t believe I have this dream because I want to literally be my mom. I’m not trying to spend some time “in her skin,” and in the dream I’m always aware that she’s gone. In the dream I don’t want to keep her things, I just want to see them.

My guess is more that I want the closure that might come from being able to help pack away her things, or to at least say goodbye to them. I don’t know where they went and even when they went. I’m also guessing that I dream about going through her jewelry, makeup,  and perfume (and not, say, her clothes or papers) because those were the things I was mesmerized by as a 12-year-old. There’s a reason I’m always wearing my childhood pajamas. Too young to wear makeup myself, I loved watching mom with hers.


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