• Family on a Boat

    Sam McFadden and I met when our oldest children were in the same kindergarten class at a fabulous Boston Public school. We both showed up with their younger siblings at pick-up, splitting snacks between the two and managing to watch both the playground-play and the fountain-play at the same time. Our kindergarteners became fast friends, built on a shared love of Minecraft, drawing, Star Wars and imagination.

    In quick succession Sam and I both began showing up looking fatigued, queasy, and then subsequently announced/explained: pregnant.

    Right around when we finished our lease on our North End apartment and moved to Vermont, Sam and her husband Aaron made the decision to follow a lifelong daydream and move their family onto a sailboat. They have been living and homeschooling on their 42′ boat since last year. After watching them spend this past summer sailing around Maine’s harbors, I had to follow up with her and ask a few questions about life these days!

    How long have you lived on your boat as a family of 5?

    After subleasing our Boston apartment and moving in with family for 8 months to help save up for this adventure. We moved aboard our boat in June of 2019 just after our youngest turned two. I had no idea what we were about to get ourselves into!

    Can you describe the living space a bit?

    We live on a 42ft sailboat. There are two cabins (bedrooms), one head (bathroom), a galley (kitchen), and two settees (couches) around a table. We’re not certain how many square feet but it’s safe to call it a tiny home. But our favorite space on the boat is our cockpit, aka our outdoor patio/living room. This is where coffee is sipped in the morning and sundowners are drank in the evening with new friends.

    And how many possessions do you each get to have?

    I’ve never stopped to count how many possessions we each have. There is nothing we want or need that we don’t have on the boat. We cut down the kids toys before moving aboard to the things they play with daily (legos, barbies, books, etc) which was long overdue and felt great to purge (and they didn’t seem to mind). Our ‘wants’ have now changed and they no longer have quite as many indoor toys and we are now investing in outdoor toys such as snorkeling gear, paddle boards, fishing gear…

    What’s something you’ve learned about sharing space as a family that is different from your previous life in a small apartment?

    We’ve learned to utilize space better. In such small quarters, you don’t want any wasted space. I’ve also learned that my husband loves to hoard t-shirts!

    I know you guys were homeschooling pre-Covid. Do you have any advice for those taking it for the first time on this fall?

    Free yourself from all the preconceived thoughts you have about schooling. The experience can be completely different from traditional schooling. Let your imagination run wild and you’ll discover what works best for your children. nWe certainly don’t have it all figured out in this department but we find that a 2-3 hr school day for our oldest (9) works for us as a family. The best advice we got from another cruising family was to figure out what interests your child, and work their schooling around that.

    Please share some highlights of your summer on the boat!

    We spent three months in Maine cruising from island to island and exploring Maine’s cost. We went hiking and exploring almost every day. We met several other families cruising on their boats and forged new friendships. It was a summer we will never forget! Our confidence in our boat and our sailing ability has gone up greatly after being on anchor all summer. Some of our favorite memories were learning the many ways our boat can be turned into a 42’ jungle gym, meeting other cruising families, exploring some of the hundreds of islands that Maine has to offer, and $5 lobsters!

    Share some lowlights to keep it real.

    Our anchor dragged in 40 knots of wind at 1 am, forcing us to get out of bed and relocate in the middle of Hurricane Isaias. Thankfully, with the help of another cruising family, we were able to grab a mooring in the dark. We also had our wind generator snap off while we were underway, fighting 4-5ft seas. I was able to free climb the mizzen mast (holding on for dear life) and secure it before it caused any more damage. We also got caught on a lobster trap in rough seas, which took us 4 hours to finally free ourselves. But all these challenges helped us build confidence as a family that we overcome just about anything.

    All of these are a great adrenaline rush for Aaron, me, not so much! We also are going through the three-nager year with our youngest. He has a gift for throwing temper tantrums at the perfect moments…. like docking and anchoring.

    What’s the plan for this Fall? Heading south?

    The plan is to head to the Bahamas and cruise throughout the Caribbean for a year or so. And hopefully continue our journey beyond that!

    Thank you Sam! Definitely follow their adventures as they head south to the Caribbean this winter on instagram at cruisingGaia.

  • style post no.3: fall/winter boots

    Dear readers, a few dated elements of my old theme broke last week. So I am reconstructing and reimagining this blog space. It’s not perfect yet. But seasonal footwear goes on, and we have a few favorites from my sister Joanie this week. Thank you Joanie!

    Madewell Chelsea

    Sam Edelman

    Freda Salvador

    Everlane

    Madewell Regan

    Ugg

    Sorel

    LL Bean

    Cole Haan

    Okay, let’s do fall/winter footwear! Yes, I live in Los Angeles but I take several cold/snow trips every year to Michigan, New York and Colorado so I’m well versed in the subject. I have to keep my shoe lineup tight as I’m generally packing things in a suitcase and don’t have a ton of room. When I’m traveling, I like to bring one boot with a stacked heel that I can wear with pants or a dress with tights, one all weather boot that’s waterproof and a boot that’s weather appropriate but maybe a bit more stylish for when it’s cold but not sleeting or snowing.

    Something that took me way too many years to learn is that when you’re investing in a boot or a shoe, take it to a cobbler and get the sole and heel re-enforced before wearing them. It will add a lot of life to your boots and also prevent you from having to do damage control down the line when you wear a hole in the sole. Many fall/winter shoes are expensive and should last you for years. Properly caring for them from the minute you buy them will help. This doesn’t apply to rubber soles, but ones like the Madewell or Everlane pairs below.

    a. Madewell Chelsea

    b. Sam Edelman

    c.Freda Salvador

    a. I went to Ireland in November and only brought a carry-on suitcase, these were the boots I brought with me and as you can see from the two photos below I wore them everyday with dresses and with jeans. They are chic and comfortable, I walked a lot in them. They recently came out with this version which I also love. The tough sole makes them extra versatile.

    b. I also own these rain boots. They are a great price point and I like that they are more narrow than most options out there. I recommend ordering up a size. I only wear these with thick socks and don’t think they’d be comfortable without them. I also really like this option from Everlane.

    c. This one is a pricer option but I’m a big fan of the shoes that Freda Salvador makes. They are a San Francisco based company that make their shoes in Spain. I have a pair and the quality is excellent. These boots are fully waterproof. I love the little bit of lift of the sole and the fitted upper. I linked them at Bloomingdales because they are currently 25% off and these boots never go on sale!

    d.Everlane

    e.Madewell Regan

    f.Ugg

    d. These boots are not weather proof but they are a very flattering and a fun option for the fall. They have tons of great colors and I recommend picking any of them but the bone color which looks like you’re wearing socks. The black is your safest bet and will give you a great long line when wearing them with dark pants.

    e. I own this boot and love them. I have recommended them to so many people. They look good with jeans or dresses. I’ve worn them in all types of weather and they pair wonderfully with socks peaking out of the top or with no-show socks. This is one of the times I wish I could have gotten the sole and heel reenforced before wearing them but they are still holding up well 3+ years later.

    f. I’ve become that person that travels with a pair of slippers. I wear them all fall and winter, even in California and there is something about having your own pair when you travel that’s comforting. These Uggs are my favorites. If you want cozy feet and don’t have room to pack slippers, these are my favorite socks. They have grips on the bottom which is a nice touch for walking on wood floors.

    g.Sorel

    h.LL Bean

    i.Cole Haan

    g. Sorel knows a thing or two about winter shoes. I love this pair, they make a version of it every year and it sells out quickly. This is a serious boot that can see you through low temps and snowy days.

    h. No cold weather shoe post would be complete without this classic pair from L.L bean! This boot has been around for ages, they are timeless. You can wear these for years and they’ll always be in style. Make sure to pay attention to their sizing tips that they offer. They also come in a high version but I personally like the low one best.

    i. And this surprisingly lightweight and very comfortable pair from Cole Haan which I also own and love (I guess I have a lot of boots for someone who lives in LA). I personally love the winter white color but the black would be a safer option. I wore them all over Telluride last winter and didn’t get cold toes!

    J.Crew

    Amazon

    Hansel from Basel

    One very important last note: socks play a big role in fall/winter footwear! I think the chunky knit sock is underutilized. I love this pair from J.Crew and own it in every color. I pair them with ankle boots and jeans or pants that are fitted all the way down. I like the sock showing.

    It can get repetitive wearing the same pair of boots all winter long, socks are a fun way to mix it up. I also like these from Amazon. And for other fun socks, I’m into Hansel from Basel.

  • october glory

    October, a strange kingdom wherein I try to begin to care about the indoors–organizing, giving away, ordering shoes, check socks sizes. But the outdoors is still the most rewarding and wonderful. There has been weeks of drought here, so I took a chance and left the bedsheets on the line overnight. It rained for the first time in weeks!

    a few things to share…

    Homemade caramel sauce for apple dipping: I just I want to emphasize how easy and pleasant this is to make! It’s like making tea for yourself, waiting for it to steep, and then drinking it. We have been slicing up several apples and leaning in around the table, sharing this delicious treat. Alice notes: stir with a wooden spoon. It’s basically alchemy, magic with sugar and cream, but do stir with a wooden spoon.

    Favorite easy recipe from Alice Water’s The Art of Simple Food:

    • Measure and set aside: 3/4 cup heavy cream
    • Put 1 cup sugar in a medium heavy-bottomed sauce.
    • Carefully pour in: 6 tablespoons water
    • Cook over medium heat, without stirring, until the sugar starts to caramelize. Swirl the pan gently if the sugar is browning unevenly. When the caramel is uniformly golden brown, remove from the heat (this caramelizing takes about 6-10 minutes). Stand back from the pan and add 1/4 cup of the measured cream. Stir slowly with a wooden spoon, until combined. Add the rest of the cream and: 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract and a pinch of salt.
    • Let cool and strain if necessary. Serve warm or let cool and store in the refrigerator for up 2 weeks. Reheat gently over simmering water before serving.

    To watch: My brother Wilson recommended the Netflix documentary My Octopus Teacher. Gorgeous ocean cinematography, absolutely startling storyline, and intimately relatable narrative. Put it on the list for this weekend.

    In Lux’s opinion, Chris Colfer’s series Land of Stories is the only series on earth that rivals Harry Potter. He has a new book out this week.

    The podcast search trick: Did you know you can search podcasts for specific names? So if you have someone you want to learn from, search for their name, and you’ll find all the interviews they’ve ever done on random podcasts, throughout time. For example, I wanted to find some interview with Yolanda Edwards and just you know, hear her talk about her life. Turns out she’s done tons of interviews. This works on Spotify and the native Apple podcast app. Lovely.

     

  • all the best tees, by Joanie

    This week’s style advice column written by my sister Joanie. Most links are affiliate. Thank you Joanie!

    Rachael has made a request for a denim post, which is coming, but before then we’re going to cover something that I would argue is even more basic than denim and that’s the t-shirt. They can be the workhorse of your closet and something that goes with everything from a pencil skirt to your favorite pair of sweats.

    Remember the sizing discussion we had last time? That applies to this area as well. There is a time and place for the fitted tee and also for a gently oversized one. There is something very chic about a fitted skirt or pair of jeans with a loosely tucked in t-shirt that falls slightly open at the neck. It makes your whole outfit more comfortable which in turn makes you feel better in it which is really the most important part. The #1 key to anything looking good is that you feel good in it. We’ve all (or maybe it’s just me?!) worn those outfits that required constant pulling and tugging and making sure the hem isn’t flying up or the button isn’t gapping and even if it’s this seasons Gucci dress there is nothing stylish about an outfit that requires constant pulling, tucking or tugging. You have to want to be wearing what you’re wearing, that’s really the biggest part of style.

    So if you find a t-shirt you love, buy two and start wearing them with everything. I think, as a foundation, you should have a white, black, grey and striped t-shirt in your closet. Those four will cover most of your needs. And then once you have those you can start adding in other options, like a graphic t-shirt or variations of a white tee. A short sleeve t-shirt is a year round item

    One note on t-shirts that might be slightly see through, I recommend wearing them a white bra. I think it’s chicer than a nude bra but that’s just personal preference.

    Also, I’m going to suggest a couple of t-shirts that will probably seem way over priced. Reason being, I have a couple of $50 tees that have lasted me years and that I truly wear several times a week which makes cost per wear pennies.

    Here are my picks!

    a.LACAUSA

    b.H&M

    c.Everlane

    a. This is hands down my favorite t-shirt. I own it in white, black, grey, pink and striped and I wear them every single week. They are thin and hang just right, not too tight around the neck and sleeve. They fit true to size and I highly recommend.

    b. This ribbed t-shirt is going to fit tight and it’s meant to be tight. It’s something to wear when you want a clean line, tucked into a skirt, under overalls, etc. I would order up a size and try it black. I like a really fitted tee, especially worn with wide leg pants, it’s a nice balance.

    c. Everlane has a couple I’d recommend. I love this cozy waffle option for fall and winter. And this scoop neck one with the fitted sleeve is very chic.

    d.Madewell

    e.J.Crew

    f. Jungmaven

    d. A long sleeved options because it’s fall! This is a great option from Madewell. It comes in three classic colors, and has the right weight to layer under things without causing balk. I also love it in the striped. They also make a short sleeve version that’s great as well.

    e. A great v-neck t-shirt is surprisingly hard to find. I’m suggesting a true classic, the J.crew tissue tee. I’ve owned many of these over the years and they are a safe bet. Wait until they have a sale and stock up!

    f. This one is a Rachael discovery that I ignored for years and finally purchased one and I love it. This one can handle some serious wear, I’ve washed it 30x and slept in it, ran in it, etc and it still looks great. These shirts have a great cut and hang just the way they should.

    g.Madewell

    h.Currant/Elliot

    i.LouLou Studio

    g. An option for someone who wants something heavier, without a hint of being see through. It has a bit of a shrunken fit so I’d order your regular size and one up.

    h. I don’t often buy from the Outnet but every once in awhile I’ll find something great. Current/Elliott is excellent quality and I love this leopard top. It’s an additional 40% off right now which makes it about $35. Animal print can feel like a bold choice but I think you’ll be surprised by how wearable this is. I’d order your normal size.

    i. It feels almost unspeakable to suggest an $80 t-shirt but I’m doing it anyway. I’m putting this one on my birthday wishlist. I love the black contrast at the neck, the length is perfect tucked in or out and there is the most subtle ribbed detailing. It’s incredibly chic and you’ll feel like you’re wearing Chanel.

  • a Fall at Home Bucket List

    Foamed milk. I was reminded of the glory in a pan of warmed foamed milk with a touch of sugar when we stayed overnight with friends recently. There is something about the shared collective milk pan, tipped to top off each mug, a few extra moments of effort to make a cozy cup of coffee. Laura used a dansk butter warmer to do it on the on the stove, so cheery, and a basic $12 frother.

    Getting better at toasting pumpkin seeds. Ideally making them taste like they’ve actually been toasted. Will defer to Heidi on this one.

    Really good books. An essential as the dark hours grow longer. I have a list I want to share, but the very first one I would like to tell you about is the Hawk and the Dove series. I fell hard for this series last winter. I’ve never seen them in a single library listing (nbd but I belong to three libraries so that is saying something). You’re going to have to buy the series and then be that amazing friend who lends them away. A mom tells her daughters stories of a 14th Century Benedictine abbey, the monks, and its abbot. Each chapter is a new story of failed attempts at human perfection. Lots of tea and sweaters involved on the periphery. Wildly warming and thoughtful.

    Carrots taste so much sweeter after a few frosts so buy more carrots is definitely on the list.

    Bacon and brussel sprouts. I like to chop up a package of bacon, halve 2-3lbs of brussel sprouts, toss everything onto a pan, and roast at 400, reaching in to stir everything around so that the bacon grease slicks the vegetables, until they look brown and crispy. So good.

    One afternoon spent on a brigade of leaves organized by color, just like Andy Goldsworthy. We have found that kids totally understand his documentaries and many of them are available to watch free or $2 on Amazon.

    Dinner. Love the concept but I am currently totally bored with making it. Nonetheless it appears to be of vital importance to the family. I have such fond memories of sitting down to a delicious dinner at the end of the day with my family as a child. I feel like my mom knew how to throw together a caesar salad with her eyes closed. I will seek inspiration from cheerful medley dinners like Jayme posts, and a new challenging cookbook like The New French Cooking by the (absolute master) Melissa Clark. (Go at least to the Penguin site for the book and read her introduction. House swapping in the ’80s?!)

    As always, forever enjoying when I begin dinner in the early afternoon, so the pre-dinner hour is more of a sour cherry garnish to the day instead of an onrush of emotions.

    Made with cashmere and wool and priced below $500, could this be a forever coat?

    Make a calendar for October. Note: full moon on the first. full moon on the 31st. We may not know what our Halloweens will look like, and yes that is painful, but: what a month! Two full moons in one month only happens once every couple of years and thus it is the popular definitions for once in a blue moon. (I thoroughly enjoyed reading the unpacking of that term here.)

     

     

  • fall knits

    I am forever texting my sister Joanie style questions. She understands fashion heritage and trends in a way I will never fathom. I was so excited when she agreed to do a regular column on here! All links are affiliate. You are welcome to suggest a focus for her next column, secretly I’m hoping: jeans. And now, Joanie:

    Joanie writes:

    I’m excited to be collaborating with my sister on this new style column. I can sum up our style relationship as me knowing almost everything that is in her wardrobe and being truly shocked when I see her in something I didn’t pick out or approve for her to buy. Sister honesty is nice when it comes to things like clothing. She can send me a text asking what I think of a sweater and I can simply respond with “no” without fearing that I’ve hurt her feelings!

    The agenda of this column is less trend, more: personal style, share things I’ve found and loved, styling tips, and general clothing fun. I worked in fashion for several years and have dressed hundreds of women of every shape and size which has given me a deep appreciation for the female body and clothing it. I’m also sympathetic for the mass confusion that clothing brands have caused for women trying to dress for themselves. Fashion or style can be categorized into vanity but in reality, it’s something that impacts us everyday. I don’t think it should occupy too much of your brain-space, but I do know there is comfort, efficiency, and power in having some items in your closet that you really love and that make you feel good. And then building on those items over years so that you have a wardrobe that, for the most part, you love.

    There are lots of tips to make shopping (in-person and online) easier and I’ll share some along the way. Feel free to leave a comment if you have a question! The first thing I want to touch on as a baseline  for all posts going forward is size/sizing, since it impacts every part of shopping. We’ll call this tip, “letting go of your grip on size”. Fashion has become a numbers game with people constantly telling themselves,  “I’m a 6”, or “I’m a 12” and living and dying by that number. Every brand (and within that brand every item) is going to run differently. Even if you ordered the same pair of pants year after year they would all fit slightly different. I can’t tell you how many great pieces I would have missed out if I only tried the item in “my size”. And beyond that, how many amazing sale rack pieces I’ve found because the sizing was clearly wrong and most people left the piece behind when their believed size didn’t fit.  I have things that fit in my closet from a size 0-8 and that’s a realistic range, given that I’m generally a size 4. Plan on freely going up or down two sizes whenever you’re trying something on. We have such a strong relationship to our size equalling some part of our self-worth that a self-identified Size 6 fitting best in a 10 can throw some people off. Focus more on the fit than the number. I’ll make notes around items if I believe they run large or small. Some brands like H&M always runs small and others, like Everlane, run on the bigger size. And don’t be afraid to order multiple of the same item. We are fully in the online-shopping age and surrendering our access to the dressing room means creating options within your online order.

    A note on items that I pick, I get feedback from both sides of people saying please don’t promote fast fashion and others who say please make things affordable. And I see both sides, the reality is not everyone can afford to spend $150 on a dress and as much as I promote ethical manufacturing and practices I also want to be inclusive so you’ll see a mix of all brands here. I also believe that vintage/second hand shopping is one of the best ways to shop for a number of reasons but that’s hard to include in a blog post. I would say that 50% of my wardrobe is second hand and I’ll include tips, when I can, for the best ways to shop secondhand.

    And now for today’s topic, KNITS! to me, knits are year-round, but Fall is upon us which means they’re even more in focus. H&M and Mango happen to be one of my favorite places to buy them and I’ve included several in this round-up. My recommendation is if you see something you love, act quickly, things sell out fast. Knitwear is also easy to find secondhand, when people clean out their closets to make space they give away bulky items like sweaters and coats. The Men’s section of the thrift store generally yields better results.

    a.H&M

    b.H&M

    c.H&M

    a. I love the vibrant red of this cardigan. Nothing more cheery than a bright sweater on a gray winter day.

    b. This cable knit sweater is going to give you the feel of an Irish fisherman sweater, it’s supposed to be boxy! I’d order a size up and embrace the chunkiness of the knit by wearing it over a slim t-shirt or dress.

    c. I find myself reaching for my oversized v-neck sweater more than any other. This is going to be slouchy so maybe try ordering down in size, but the extra room makes it the perfect thing to pair with a slim pencil skirt or a pair of skinny jeans.

    d. & other stories

    e. Uniqlo

    f. JCrew

    d. There is a special place in my heart for ribbed knits. They’re classic and the ribbed element is a nice detail. I like that they’re showing this sweater with a cuffed sleeve giving it an extra level of relaxed. On par with ribbed is waffle knit, like this sweater (not pictured), which reminds me of old school thermals that people used to wear.

    e. I love this turtleneck sweater from Uniqlo. It would look great with denim or with a knee length silky skirt and low boots. All four colors are beautiful but I can’t resist a winter white (natural).

    f. I really like the preppy feeling the collar give to this J.Crew cashmere sweater. The price point is excellent for cashmere. I’d order one size up so that I could layer a striped t-shirt under it or wear it alone with a little slouch at the neckline.

    g. babaa

    h. MANGO

    i. MANGO

    g.If you’re looking for an investment piece, the answer is Babaà. I only have one of their sweaters, this one (not pictured), and I love it, and I’m planning how to get my hands on another one. I love the option for 100% cotton. Wool is beautiful, but I love how easy it is to wash cotton and the way it feels on my skin. For investment pieces, I think buying in a neutral shade is safe but I respect a statement sweater as well, like green, yellow, or red. Her colors are perfect.

    h. This cardigan from mango is beautiful and a great price point at $60. This sweater is a classic, from the length to the buttons.

    i. I could write an entire blogpost on dusters (long sweaters/sweater coats) but in the mean time I’m here to tell you that it’s the missing item in your closet. It’s as comfortable as wearing a bathrobe while being as chic as a trench coat. They are amazingly versatile from traveling to morning school runs. My one point of advice is not to buy any that are too thin. They end up being clingy and not cozy and relaxed. I also love this one (not pictured).

  • Favorite Camping Dinners

    As I drove to the grocery store to buy supplies for our camping trip, I asked Instagram for inspiration. I received a flood of Favorite Camping Meals ideas in response.

    One of the groundbreaking moments came among the first messages: you can buy pancake mix in a bottle to which you just add water. This has been on the shelves of my grocery store all this time and I never noticed it. (Admittedly I don’t buy pancake mix because I make them from scratch with a near-obsessive ranking of recipes. But still!)

    Back in February, I found out when a nearby church did their camping trip, and then booked a spot for our family. Once the date approached I shortened our trip dates and removed our younger children from the reservation. I did the grocery shopping and borrowed a cooler from a friend to store the food. But it was Joe who loaded up the bikes, found the sleeping bags, packed the cooler and took the two older girls camping for two nights. That’s how we sort these things through these days.

    In addition to packing our kettle for making pour-over coffee in the morning, Joe brought our 12″ dual-handle cast iron pan that we use for almost everything on our stove at home. I really prefer the dual-handle style, less risk of random wrist burns on a crowded stovetop.

    The girls’ favorite meal were the pancakes, made from the shake n’ pour, cooked in the grease from the breakfast sausage. Vermont maple syrup, of course

    The List

    Major theme among the messages: Tinfoil dinners. Packets of chopped veggies, hamburger meat (or no meat), butter, salt. I get the sense these are very nostalgic? Lovely idea.

    Second major theme: pie irons. Another lovely idea. Primarily people suggested making personalized sandwiches, sweet or savory.

    • Freeze things ahead of time and use them to keep your cooler chilled:
      • Taco meat: I am partial to Julia Turshen’s approach to making taco meat: cook the meat, once it’s no longer pink, add a jar of salsa, let it cook down. Done!
      • Baked cinnamon rolls: I make em, bake em, freeze em, and then get very excited about how they work as an ice pack in our cooler and by the second morning camping they are exactly thawed enough to cut in half. We just toast them over the fire.-nikaelamarie
      • Pork or chicken fried rice (simplicityfound14)
      • Taco soup–serve with toppings
    • If you like carne asada buy some skirt steak and marinade it in ziplocks with Italian dressing. (mhandmaid)
    • Tacos: prep everything in advance and warm up the meat and shells by the fire.
    • Stomboli: wrap it in foil and warm it in/near the farm. (ephie_jg)
    • Pesto pasta, made with jarred pesto sauce.
    • Box of spanish fried rice with diced tomatoes, black beans, and shredded cheese on top. Throw in some cut up hot dogs if you’re feeling feisty. (monicaeshortell)
    • Baked beans with molasses over cornbread in a skillet. (fieldandhome_)
    • Pre-made chili or other soups. (brooklinheirloomhome)
    • Quick cooking oats in a bag mixed with nuts, raisins, cinnamon. (krosenberg3)
    • Splurging on Justin’s peanut butter or almond butter packets.
    • Skillet nachos.
    • Marinated steak tips cooked over the fire with veggie kabobs. (abbiebabble)
    • Chocolate chip cookies s’mores–less crumble than graham crackers. (mcusack7)
    • Shrimp tacos: I love this idea because shrimp cook instantly and are always over-cooking in the home kitchen! (bethannender)
    • Bread toasted over the fire with avocado on top. (scusack3)
    • Kebabs: marinate chicken and veggies beforehand, skewer and roast over the fire. (emilyhgardner).
    • Baked potatoes: rub them in oil, wrap in foil, throw them in the coals. (ritacusack)
    • Breakfast burritos
    • Anything you can make ahead of time and reheat. (kottenweller).
    • Peppers/potatoes/onions & olive oil, generous pat of butter, wrap well in foil and throw on the fire. Top with creole, sour cream, and grated cheddar. (itsahuntlife) Bridget and I have a longstanding joke on how she always manages to eat the most vegetables per meal. This…proves it again.
    • Kendall’s Catwalk Chicken & Dumplings (kkpinckney)
    • Ramen (mulvihilla)
    • Extra sharp cheddar and wheat thins. (jennyschmucker) I gave a little sigh of joy I read this one.
    • Big juicy burgers with grilled onions and avocado and a can of bush’s baked beans. (merrittkinkadegee)
    • Banana boats (honeybeebop): I’ve had walking tacos, but I’ve never heard of banana boats! Such a fun idea. I ended up sending bananas and nutella with Joe, but the inspiration was the same.
    • Steamed mussels: I love this idea because, like shrimp, mussels cook so quickly at home. (mgoscinski)
    • Frozen cheese tortellini layered in marinara sauce with mozzarella. (The tortellini is frozen when packed into the cooler.) Cook over the coals in a Dutch oven for thirty minutes. Serve with bread and bag of caesar salad. (kayceann)

    I tried to attribute all specific ideas. Many ideas were mentioned several times! Thank you so much to everyone for helping us!

  • Warm times and the rhubarb bellini

    The upper reaches of the United States are at fifteen and a quarter hours of daylight and counting. My day begins at 6am with the youngest child, and I typically kiss the oldest goodnight between ten and eleven pm. It’s not a period with much sleep, but the outdoors are stoked with brilliant green, the furious buzzing of bees and wasps, sneech kasnitches of the crickets, and the casual side-eye of the garter snakes that shyly circle the yard. Wild strawberries are just beginning to turn red, and if you walk very slowly, you will see their garnet teacups, the size of baby fingernails, peeking out.

    The interior of the house slopes into neglect. Dishes gather around the sink, laundry quietly piles up, the floors seem gently rugged with grass clippings and chip crumbs. Walking in from the brilliant sunshine outside the kitchen looks dimly lit–sleepy hollow at noon. No matter how tidy, the sensation of the indoors is a damp envelope compared to the rolling plateau of the lawn and trees.

    As a month June is generously supplied with biting insects of many kinds. They come out and disappear again at certain times of day, so the only way to be sure you’re not missing a wonderful hour outside, is to constantly wander out to check. You take the wonderful hours as much as you can get them.

    I have so many observations from this wildly vocal and informed time on social media, alongside the viscerally physical protests, marchs, vigils, rallies that I have scoped, as if with binoculars, through my screen from afar. I don’t have any particularly unique thoughts to share yet, but mostly mundanely, for myself, I took on the following delightful commitment: of those I follow on instagram, at least 15% of them should be Black. Such a tiny step, yet far beyond what I had. Therefore far beyond what my daily feed and intake of stories was mixed to reflect. It humbles me to share that with you, and yet I think it’s important to start honestly and begin with the stories.

    Perhaps it’s too late for rhubarb in your region, but I’m putting this recipe here for next year anyway. We received three enormous starter plants from Joe’s mom, but my batch of eating rhubarb came from a neighbor–brilliantly pink and tart.

    Joe’s mom told us she can remember as a girl sitting with a friend, each of them holding a cup of sugar and a stalk of rhubarb–dipping and biting. I treated myself to this same snack while chopping up the rhubarb for this recipe. Faintly jammy, wonderfully tart and but uniquely rhubarb flavored, you can put this in the bottom of the cup to pour soda or prosecco over. Kids and adults sipped with delight. And it is so pretty in the glass.

    rhubarb bellini puree

    • 2 cups rhubarb (about 4 slender stalks) cut into 1-inch pieces
    • 1/2 cup sugar
    • grated zest of a lemon
    • 1/4 water
    • 2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
    1. Place the rhubarb, sugar, lemon zest, water, and lemon juice into a medium saucepan, bring to a simmer, and cook for about 15 minutes. It will steadily break down as you check on it, and stir. Some of the texture will remain, but that’s the fun of it.
    2. Remove from the heat and place the saucepan in a bowl of ice water to cool it quickly, about ten minutes. (I skipped this step, just turned off the heat and left it alone for twenty minutes.)
    3. Place about 1.5 tablespoons puree in the bottom of the glass. Pour in prosecco one-third full. Stir well to blend in the rhubarb puree. Gradually top up each glass with more prosecco, stirring to prevent the sparkling wine from bubbling over.

    Serve, share, be thankful.

    From The New York Times Cookbook.

     

     

  • Curriculum and Homeschool Resources I Love

    Let’s think broadly for a moment about what homeschooling in Fall 2020 might look like. It will be pieced together like a very homemade pie crust. You might be working in the mornings, and homeschooling in the afternoon. Your neighbors might be homeschooling one day a week (twice on Thursdays, as Eeyore likes to say). Your mother-in-law might take on dictation with one child. Your dad might take on science with all of them. You agree to some sort of co-op lunch program with your neighbor where every other day the kids eat lunch at the other’s house and hear a story read aloud.

    Or, perhaps you will be handling quite a lot. You are totally by yourself. You do two hours a day, whenever it fits. 

    The rest of the time the children are checking chores off a list, creatively playing/trashing the one room you conveniently never deign to look in, helping you prep lunch, staying up too late in their room telling stories to each other, and sleeping in. They wake up and tell you their dreams with enviable recall. They learn how to use wikipedia and tell you at dinner what they read. Likely, very likely, they take on projects of their own, like listing the personality traits of every character in their favorite book or designing bug traps that are eerily successful. 

    Would that be so bad? 

  • Anything for 30 minutes

    The sky was moody yesterday and my mood matched. I did that thing where you just sit quietly in the center of the action and respond to the queries that come to you, but you don’t seek them out. Don’t try to intervene in an argument, don’t redirect energy, don’t suggest other activities to try beside arguing about who sat on the white pillow first.

    You’re just there, present, but gazing softly at your notebook.

    Much to my dismay, time in the warp of social distancing seems to be speeding up. Weeks are the new state of being. I feel that without the book markers of the calendar–the festival, the birthday party, the spring parade–the months are’t being perceived. Are we entering an alter-planet, like that of the space voyager in interstellar (film, 2014), where a few moments spent too long evaluating a dust-storm on a distant planet means his missed his daughter’s high school years back on earth?

    As part of their homeschool curriculum the girls memorize a timeline of historic events. Indus River Valley Civilization. China’s Shang Dynasty. Roman Republic. India’s Gupta Dynasty. Black Death. Seven Years War. Mexican revolution. President Nixon resigns. Apartheid abolished in South Africa. (I’m just sharing a few examples, there are 161 total markers on the timeline.)

    I’ve relied on this timeline concept in recent weeks when we’ve had to announce camp weeks that will not happen, and the cancellation of festivals they were looking forward to attending. “This will be on the timeline, girls. You’ll tell your children about this year. And your grandchilden!”

    It seems to help lend a bit of the perspective that is easier to come by as an adult. This is unique, and it’s not forever.

    I was chatting with my sister the other day when I shared this incredibly clever cocktail with her that I had just invented: half a lime squeezed into a white ale beer. “It is very evocative,” I said. “Of what?,” she asked. “A corona with lime?”

    Critics notwithstanding, I recommend to you simple riffs like this. Take a moment or two or ten to make something nice for yourself. I’ve also returned to the erstwhile negroni, that Italian cocktail that seems to taste best when the sun is setting. Evaluating the bar cupboard, I made the simple riff decision to replace the vermouth with chilled box white wine. I didn’t notice the difference actually, I felt it tasted better than the traditional vermouth version!

    Whenever I’m feeling dread or intimidation over an activity a child has asked for help with, I remind myself: I can do anything for 30 minutes. Reading aloud book I don’t like. A sewing project I don’t understand myself, much more understand enough to explain it out loud. Standing sentry behind the toddler while she practices climbing the stairs. Surely I have thirty minutes for this child, right? Right.

    I’m all for boundaries and saying no, but there are those projects that your child will insist on, with patience and eager hope in their eyes: please, please do this with me. I settle in, privately deciding if, at thirty minutes it’s as awful as I suspected it might be, I can be done. If we’ve done nothing but muddle the cutting and sewing project, it can be done. If the book is barely readable, if the experiment seems a meaningless mess, either way, we can be done. I can even have the presence of mind to say as the end approaches, “Just ten more minutes and then I’d like to do something else.”

    The result is almost always that the child is satisfied with my time spent and very nearly on the verge of moving on themselves. I am satisfied that I’ve finally done the thing, and only thirty minutes has elapsed. It works very well. Try it, anything for thirty minutes, but keep it a secret from your fellow participants.

    As for the way I like to sometimes spend thirty minutes, these brownies take about that to whip together, and they are exactly what I always hope brownies will taste like. They are steady staples in our stay-home dessert rotation.

    Thick & Chewy Brownies from Canal House Cook Something

    • 12 tablespoons butter
    • 1 cup (120 grams) all-purpose flour
    • 2 cups granulated sugar
    • 4 oz semisweet chocolate, chopped
    • 2 ounces unsweetened chocolate, chopped
    • 1 teaspoon instant espresso powder (I do this, but I feel its optional too)
    • 1/4 teaspoon salt
    • 4 large eggs
    • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
    • 1 cup chopped walnuts (very optional)

    Preheat the oven to 350 degrees with a rack set in the middle of the oven. Grease a 9-inch square baking pan with some butter, then dust it with some flour, tapping out any excess.

    Melt the butter in a medium saucepan over medium heat. Add the sugar, stirring until it has the consistency of soft slush and just begins to bubble around the edges, 1-2 minutes. Remove the pan from the heat. Add both chocolates, the espresso, and the salt to the pan, stirring until the chocolate melts and the mixture is well combined.

    Put the eggs in a large mixing bowl and beat with an electric mixer fitted with the whisk attachment on medium speed. Gradually add the warm chocolate mixture, about 1/4 cup at a time, beating constantly until well combined. Stir in the vanilla. Add the flour and walnuts, if using, stirring until just combined. Pour the batter into the prepared pan.

    Bake the brownies until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean, 45-60 minutes. Let the brownies cool in the pan on a rack, then into squares.