We were about

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We were about to head out of the city for the day when it occurred to me that the city is in a brief flurrying state of blooming so we should stay and look around.

It’s so good that it’s hard to look. The bright soft petals will last as long as steam off hot soup.

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Last night Joe and I had an extra 40 minutes of babysitter time after an event and we took it. We went to Marliave for hot fries and cold drinks. We sipped our drinks and shared the salty fries and talked about do-good dreams, the things we’d fix if we were mayor for a day. You should always keep these dreams in mind because someone might ask you to be mayor for a day, and then you’ll be ready.

I would tell you what my dream is but I need to do a little research before I say something and make a fool out of myself.

Do you have any mayoral dreams?

We have been to Marliave so many times for drinks and fries over the years; and oysters too, before they curbed their dollar oyster habit. It’s just the perfect place for that kind of thing–white tablecloths, glossy black trim, dim lights and big laminated menus. A very mixed crowd there and they never judge you for how little you order.

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On Saturday I met with the owner of the Charles River Bistro, a restaurant that is improbably and dreamily located on the Esplanade. The Esplanade is a green park that runs the length of the Charles River alongside Back Bay. It has three pedestrian access bridges and hundreds of daily bikers and runners. This dream space for a restaurant has been poorly and sparsely operated for 25 years and finally, it has proper management and is now open every day into the evenings–9pm on summer nights.

I met with him, I thought, to give him some advice. Turns out he’s doing absolutely everything right. He has jazz brunches and free music lessons, pre-fixe dinners with tablecloths, and brightly strung lights you can see along the river.

And yet I didn’t eat there once last summer. I never heard about it from a friend. Still so few locals know that what used to be rather grim building is now a thriving restaurant.

So I’ve got a new dinner place on my summer bucket list and, before I go pointing fingers at any mayors, a good reminder of how often solid hard work goes unnoticed.

over it

 

 

 

Miso kale dressing

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Even though I’m proud of the boring (and scary?) fact that we have survived 10+ days on one grocery trip, I have been so excited to get more kale in the fridge so I could eat this salad again. So zingy and sweet with miso humming along underneath—it has my favorite flavors! I discovered this recipe from Tim at Lottie + Doof, who wrote about for kale chips.

When I was in the process of making the kale chips, I fell in love with the dressing on the fresh kale. So I skipped the chips part the next few times. Sold. Winner. Dinner.

Even though this looks a little bit like a “massaged kale ” recipe, the type where you rub the dressing into the salad and it tastes better every day from then on, I actually think this tastes best in the first 4-12 hours. I didn’t love it as much 24 hours later.

Sesame Miso Kale Dressing ( from A Modern Way to Eat by Anna Jones.)

  • one bunch kale
  • 1 teaspoon miso paste*
  • 1 tablespoon soy sauce
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon maple syrup
  • juice of 1 lime
  • 3 tablespoons sesame seeds

Chop up your kale as finely as you have time to; bite size pieces is best. Pour all the dressing ingredients in a bottle, screw on the lid, and shake them up. Pour and toss with your hands.

* If you are in Massachusetts, or have a Whole Foods, you might be able to buy the delicious local South River Miso miso.

exposure

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I was so astounded by Sally Mann’s essay in the newspaper on Sunday. It seemed to touch on everything important–family, art, modernity, privacy. I loved that it arced back to when she published a book of family photographs in 1992, and then detailed forward to now, revealing so much about her experience. The act of publishing intimate details of one’s family life is dramatically more common now than it was then. But we’re all still wondering whether it’s a good idea, and if not, why?

Much of her experience circles around the simple fact of her children being naked and her photographing them that way. It beamed across the pages to me, as these days I am hard pressed to get the girls to put on more than underwear. I struggle to take photos of them that aren’t too revealing, and it feels over-censored to me, much of the time.

It was about presenting art and love to the world and getting a very mixed response.

And it was so beautifully written. I’m still thinking her writing about photographing her husband:

To be able to take my pictures, I have to look, all the time, at the people and places I care about. And I must do so with both ardor and cool appraisal, with the passions of the eye and the heart, but in that ardent heart there must also be a splinter of ice.

And so it was with fire and ice that Larry and I made these pictures: exploring what it means to grow older, to let sunshine fall voluptuously on a still-pleasing form, to spend quiet winter afternoons together. The studio’s wood stove was insufficient but he had two fingers of bourbon to warm him. No phone, no kids, NPR turned low, the smell of chemicals, the two of us still in love, still at the work of making pictures that we hope will matter.

I’m going to watch this old Art21 documentary (free, streaming online) with Joe tonight and request her new memoir coming out in May.

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self directed

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Greetings from the planet In Transition. At last I’ve sketched out a map for this murky land, after all we seem to find ourselves here every six months. First comes palpable and nearly omnipresent frustration from your scholar. What worked in the past does not work for them any more, what they used to say yes to, they say no to, how easy they used to be pleased, and now for awhile, they are not pleased at all.

Then comes the actual change: maybe the physical dexterity, maybe the abilities that seem to arrive out of nowhere. Joan had been fighting her diaper for weeks, constantly taking it off, crying when I put it on. I began to dread anytime I had to change her diaper. Finally I pulled out the kid’s potty and started giving her jelly beans if she went pee on it. The allure of the treat and the physical ability fell into place like Mars sighting from the moon. Now I see she’s on some sort of self-directed potty training tract. Simultaneously, she learned to climb out her crib. “I practiced her and showed her how,” was what Lux told me. If I return to the room after putting Joan down for a nap, I find her wandering around instead of sleeping, quietly rearranging toys. The girls have been staying up until 10pm with this new thrill, giggling in each other’s beds, sneaking over to each other whenever we leave the room for more than five minutes. They both use the kid’s potty we keep in their room, trooping out to proudly tell us when they’ve used it. Joe’s and my uninterrupted evenings together seem distant and forgotten.

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And then, after the child has finally settled into their new state and acts as if days have always been such as this and they’re both sleeping and smiling again, then comes your exhaustion. A fresh wave hits right after you’ve bravely mastered the storm, after you’ve wisely let everything fly out the window, let all your habit doors bang open, the bits where you held on and simply tried to steer forward….and now: you’re tired.  But it’s over. And though your normal appears from the fog a bit more slowly than theirs, it will return again soon.

yum lately

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Red beans & rice with chorizo and a bit of ham. Wish I’d doubled this number. We got to eat it for a couple days, but I could have eaten it for a week!

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You know your baking powder is old when…your cream biscuits turn out all slumpy like this. They are so irresistible anyway though. Joan eats the dough, Lux helps me cut them out.

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Almond macadamia date milk. I’ll just quote Noelle because she said it so well I thought of her words the whole time: so creamy, with a hint of brown butter from the macadamia nuts, and a caramelized sugar note from the dates.

the getty, with kids

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I love these photos. When Joe and I are feeling like things are moving along as nicely as water transported via kleenex, we say things are getting scramble-ramble. “This is too scramble ramble” is how it usually sounds. Meaning this is totally cool on many levels but we’re missing it all. Meaning, our situation was not quite what we were hoping for. As soon as we set foot off the tram at the Getty I realized it was huge mistake to have brought grumpy un-napped Joan along with us, but there we were. Three surely she’ll fall asleep in the car/stroller/once we’re walking…later and we were still stuck with the wide awake Bea.

But anyway I knew when we headed to Los Angeles that I wanted to see my internet friend Noelle and meet her son West for the first time, and maybe even her partner (whom she refers to as “le bf” online) if we were extra lucky. It all came true at the Getty and we got to eat lunch together in a beautiful place. It was a pretty different scene conversationally from the last time we met up, but I was so happy to see them nonetheless. Noelle is deep into life with West but when she climbs out for a few minutes here and there, her food blog is my favorite.

Midway through our meal Joan dumped an entire bottle of water on herself, just as Joe had suggested to me she would, just as I had sagely suggested she would not. Noelle lent/gave/thankyousomuch us West’s backup clothes she’d packed for the day and saved everything because that water was cold.

Noelle told me that my How to Make Mom Friends post helped her make one of her best mom friends that she now picnics with weekly. It made me so happy!

It was scramble ramble; it was good.

family picking walking viewing

Note the Getty is actually awesome for kids. Free strollers available at the coat check, a perfectly simple and pleasing kids art room, and obviously: lots of open space.

strawberry dream cream

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Strawberries were in season when we were in California, and this coast is now enjoying that fact by way of sumptuous bright red discounted California strawberries in our grocery stores. I let Lux pick a recipe out of the Simply in Season Children’s Cookbook for us to make together. That book’s a good one–a big spiral bound thing with bright photos. Within it, all the recipes are organized by what’s in season. She picked strawberry dream cream, a delicious spring frenzy that ends up tasting like ice cream but does not involve an ice cream maker.

strawberry dream cream, 

  • 3 cups of mashed strawberries
  • 2 cups whipping cream beaten until soft peaks formed
  • 1 can sweetened condensed milk
  • 1 cup of water
  • 1/3 cup of sugar
  • 1 teaspoon of vanilla
  • 1 pinch of salt

Add everything, including the mashed strawberries, to the whipped cream and beat with an electric beater. Pour the mixture into a 9 x 13″ pan. Freeze for three hours. Remove from freezer, scoop back into the bowl and beat again until smooth, but not melted. Distribute into popsicle molds, or bowls and freeze for another three hours.

* I didn’t see a lot of consistency change between the two freezings & mixing, so I think you could experimentally skip the last step. We kept ours uncovered in the freezer, in small ramekins, for up to a week and tasted delicious throughout the time.

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hidden winter

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I hope I always remember this bonkers winter. Walking everywhere with my girls, the stroller completely unable to deal with the curbs, the car buried, the sidewalks nearly impassable. Walking somewhere–usually the library–and then going back outside to walk home, never surprised to see more tufted cold cotton falling from the sky. It was always the loveliest white.

It was our sleeping bear winter. We didn’t go out a lot. I mean, we went out every day, but we didn’t go anywhere or do interesting things. I didn’t really notice. The girls play together now. They danced to the nutcracker suite almost every day. They didn’t melt down before meals. I didn’t have panic attacks if Joe shows up an hour late.

I was always thinking, “one year ago this would have killed me.” I didn’t even join the gym! Goodness what a difference not to have a baby.

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Our energy bill was more expensive this year. We don’t pay for our heat because of the way our building is structured, so we just pay the electric bill for our apartment. Bills were up for all of Massachusetts because they’ve shut down some coal plants and are replacing the power source with natural gas. Seeing this relatively meager bill pop up in my inbox, I would imagine for a moment what we’d done with that energy that we’d siphoned for ourselves. So many nights with the oven at 400, roasting one or two chicken breasts for a simple dinner paired with rice. So many nights of turning on all the lights in the apartment so the girls would feel comfortable using all the rooms, to make me less stir-crazy at 5pm.

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This winter Joan learned to say coco for hot chocolate, mine, sorry, go, why?, and snow.

Snow sounds a lot like no from her mouth, but after she emphatically repeated it 30 times, we would deduce that she wanted a bowlful of snow from outside our window. It wasn’t until mid-March that the snow blocking most of our kitchen and bedroom windows finally melted away. I was so happy to have the light back, but the girls miss their favorite accessible snack.

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All winter Joan liked to play at the sink. She would fill up glasses for each of us and bring them to us. They would spill on the way down from the sink, on the way down from the stool, on the way to us, and right before she’d handed them to us. They would arrive smeared on the edges with whatever else happened to be in the sink, with bits of food floating in them. Her eyes glowed with satisfaction when we would thank her.

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There were people in the same city as me who had a different winter. They had to use their car every day. They only got paid if they made it to work. They counted on a bus that was abruptly cut from the schedule, or was so abbreviated that they had to wait in line to get on it. Their electric bill was inconceivably high, pounds of ice pulled on the edges of their roof and threatened their water lines.

I confess that most of the winter I didn’t think about these folks; how it was going for anyone besides myself. I thought about how fresh the white looked every time snow fell. I muttered a prayer over our car every time I walked past a neighboring car that’d been rilled by a reckless snowplow. I finally read the op-ed Boston’s Winter from Hell with wide eyes. I didn’t change anything after I read it, I guess I just went about more aware of what another storm really meant for the city.

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Every season we finish here I always have a few more things I wish we’d managed. I didn’t take the girls ice skating. We didn’t watch the Christmas lights turn on on the Common. We went Colorado skiing, but not east coast skiing. Because the car was buried, we didn’t go to the MFA at all. Next year, I say to myself. This hint of anticipation, a good chance for a round two, is how I know I want to stay.

Blue and evergreen

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Well here we are first day of spring, and guess what? It’s the season to book your summer trip to Maine. Itty bitty rental agencies across the coast are turning on the wifi and posting their rentals. Most agencies take half at the time of contract, and half a week or two before your rental, so you can save up if need be.

With that on my mind, I dug up my photos from when we went to Deer Isle last October. Just a few hours north of famous Bar Harbor lies a land of charm and warmth beyond anything I’d encountered before. Deer Isle, a lovely spanning island just one green bridge away from the wonderful little town of Blue Hill. It was magical and we fell in love.

October is when rentals are about as cheap as they get. We are off-season-people who thrive with our sweaters and extra socks, when most things are closed and the nooks are quiet too. But you might want to think about visiting in August. That is true Maine glory time, blueberries, sailing, funny town fairs and no black flies (black fly season is May/June), with open ice cream shops. And just maybe, quite possibly, air that is just hot enough to make that freezing ocean look enticing.

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We fell completely in love with the architecture of our rental house. It was a collection of four cabins surrounding one large main building that contained the kitchen and living space. It was the type of place that just grabbed your attention anytime you looked its way. Every perspective of it seemed better than the last. I found myself thinking of the architect constantly–how much thought and planning most had gone into creating such a careful collection.

We had a few days of lovely weather and then it became stormy and rainy for our last few days. We read books, bought the newspaper, and built lots of fire to stay warm in our cabins.

We ate oysters we’d bought on the way up, packaged cinnamon rolls, s’mores, mussels we pulled off rocks on the beach, and fresh bread from Tinder Hearth.

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The pathways between the cabins alternated between dirt and stone slabs. The stone became the pathway—moss-covered and a little precarious. I didn’t pack the right shoes, so in the evening when I walked the girls over to the cabin to put them to bed, and then when I went back again to check on them, I would wear my slippers. The slippers soaked up water from the wet moss. So then I just went barefoot.

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^Our friend David came up with us for a few days and built this blanket fort for the girls.

blue_hill_wine_shopJust before we arrived at our rental the first night, we stopped by the Blue Hill Wine Shop. Shop of dreams! They made coffee in the morning, sold fresh bread, cheeses, salamis, and tons of beautifully affordable wines. They had wonderful front porch for watching the sunset and it was clearly a hub of love and conversation.

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With all the enormous windows lining the main house, we couldn’t help but stare at the layers of ocean, then granite, then trees. Blue, stone, green.  It was the most soothing sight.

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Joe took outdoor showers in the freezing October rain. He promised me they were wonderful and warm despite the pummeling rain. It seemed unfathomable to me that was true, so I would watch from the window. The mist from the cold rain hitting the warm shower water seemed pick him up onto a cloud. By chance, he was reading a biography of Benjamin Franklin at the time and told me about Franklin’s daily naked “wind showers,” with admiration.

We took walks down to the damp shore, the girls delighting in collecting snail shells and stepping on the spongy seaweed. Often we would see lobster boats drive by to check on their traps. Thousands of cracked mussel shells mixed into the rocks and brightened the beach.

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One morning David stayed with the girls at the house while Joe and I drove off to find 44 North Coffee. In the upstairs of a once stately building on a quiet island road, lies a coffee roaster. 44 North, with a jar of triangle donuts by the door, sold on the honor system. Their coffee is meticulous pour-over. Their coffee bags are hand drawn cartoons and nearly collectible. Joe and I brought donuts back for the girls and a big bag of coffee for the cottage.

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It was the off season, yet it felt as if many things were open. Guided by our gps off the island and into quiet backwoods, we found Tinder Hearth Pizza. It was elegantly gourmet in a wood hewn way.The only time we saw a sign for the spot was when we finally pulled in front of the house. A table was stacked with plates, silverware and mismatched glassware. In the front of the room was an enormous brick pizza oven emanating a delicious smell. On “pizza nights” (best checked via Facebook) they welcome people inside to sit and eat. And during the summer, everyone comes to eat and sprawl on their back lawn! We watched as couples came in and picked up their pizzas to go, but all the families who stopped by sat down at the community table. In no time we had friendly local faces on all sides of us. It’s also BYOB which is the best—pulling out the great bottle you’ve picked out, with no upscaled prices.

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^ A #momlife travel moment for me. I envisioned us serenely draped across the boat watching the waves fly by, learning about the wildlife. Naturally everyone wanted to sit on my lap at the same time and I couldn’t hear a word. : )

A few affordable rentals in the area for this summer that caught my eye while internet-hunting: a darling studio cottage for $495/wk, a cozy two-bedroom in Brooksville for $1150/wk, a rustic waterfront with a lovely dock for $1045/wk, and a modern two bedroom in Stonington for $1200/wk. And a pleasantly rustic spot on Deer Isle for $685/wk. All prices listed in August rates; other months are cheaper.

The house we stayed at last year is The Sunshine House.

I didn’t have much luck on airbnb.com for this area, Downeast Maine Rental Agency seemed to have the best spots.  

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for richer for poorer

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Call me a scrapbooker but I want to post my Maid of Honor speech for my sister. It’s such a wild honor to get to speak at your sister’s wedding. Sort of bizarre, no? Why do we hear from a random person and not the bride? Why do the new in-laws have to hear from a wandering relative when they want to get to know the lady herself?

Well, because I know the lady herself better than she does. And it’s not a funeral is it? I’ll see her again. But really, it’s one of the few chances you get to publicly say how much you love someone. We don’t toast enough these days.

Of course I was all sorts of anxious before this. I love public speaking, not that I do it anymore (miss you, college!). But it’s a boat of a different sort when you’re totally adrift on a sea of confusing emotion–elated for love, sad for the past behind, proud of her, overwhelmed by the power of 100 humans you love being in one room. I was nervous and not eating my food, twiddling my thumbs, waiting for my moment coming just after the second course, crying when it came anyway. I felt the weight of all my siblings when I wrote it. My brothers didn’t get a speech, after all.

anyway, here it is…..
For much of her life Joanie has been an outlier. And I mean that in the flattering, Malcolm Gladwell sense of the word. At the youngest age of anyone in my family, Joanie thanked my mom for her good work and bid adieu to homeschooling. Later, after trying out school for a bit, she realized our putzy Michigan high school wasn’t up to her standards she found a school in the Bahamas instead.  She was the first one in my family to pick California for college and to declare she always wanted to live here. Now that I’ve brought my family our from boston and spent a week here, I think she might be the first one who has truly seen the light.

Although this isn’t an award my family actually gives out, she would win most frequent communicator. Despite the long distance, she is an outlier within my siblings for how often she calls and keeps up with my parents.

She has always been pretanaturally stylish. It feels like for years she and I were picking out clothes alongside each other. Then suddenly she began selecting the things that looked crazy in the store and one week later became elegant and cool. She is fearless in the face of understanding a new trend. In the old saying you are only as strong as your strongest member, for my brothers and I, in our younger years we have only ever been as stylish as Joanie deigned to guide us to be.  And she has always deigned to guide, I’ve never seen her down turn down someone’s request for help and advice with what to wear.

This city of angels is actually a city full of artists. These artist may feel valued, or probably instead often do not feel valued, or not even noticed until they’ve worked for a very long time. Living as they do in this city, I so admire the way Joanie and Cale value each other’s art and the hard work behind the art. I love that Joanie tries to get to a movie at least once a week with Cale and keeps up with his conversation about his passion. I love that Cale admires Joanie’s taste and thoughtful presentation of herself. Although….I think some of that support might have turned to concern when as a kind of modern day hope chest, Cale realized all those clothes are coming to a closet near him.

They can both talk to you at length about their favorite restaurants in the city and why they love them, or the very best pour over coffee, the coziest breakfast, their favorite walks to take together, until you get the feeling that they’d better go ahead and write a Happy Couple’s Guide to Los Angeles. These are good things in life they can share. These things also ebb and flow, as they said in their vows, for richer for poorer.

And that is why it is truly wonderful to notice that the things they value most in each other are kindness and sensitivity of each other’s hearts. They are givers, of actual physical gifts, but also of words and thoughtful observations. As I stand before so many already married people here, I know we can all speak to how incredible valuably these abilities are.

I speak for all of my siblings when I say Joanie, beautiful, talented, gracious Joanie is an incredibly vital part in our family. We take our cues from her in so many ways. We are so excited for Joanie to have find this matching soul, and I am delighted today to cheers this Union. To Joanie and Cale.