Wednesday, July 15, 2015

Midsummer ho-hum, and a few things on my mind

It’s midsummer, Chloe’s between camps, and I’ve been awake since 3:00 am worrying about the tile job in our upstairs bathroom.
Toilet in the tub. Don't panic.
Instead of tossing and turning over such things, I got up and made banana bread, like any sane person would do at 3:45 am.

Here are a few other things that are catching my attention this week:
  1. I’m ridiculously excited to escape this weekend to Providence, Rhode Island, for WaterFire, an evocative nighttime public art event that transforms the Woonasquatucket River with 100 fires floating on the water’s surface. Also on the agenda: An overnight stay at the Omni, cocktails with a view at Rooftop at the ProvidenceG, brunch at The Duck and Bunny (where my favorite meal is served every day!), and a few leisurely hours at the RISD Museum.
  2.  In my overnight bag will be The Iliad, Homer’s 3,000-year-old, epic, and stunningly violent story of the Trojan War. It’s been a bit surreal to read The Iliad against the backdrop of the Greek debt crisis. How to reconcile the poverty and struggles of modern-day Greece with the mythical land of Achilles, Zeus, and Athena?
  3. Homemade sage and rosemary cordials are in the making on my kitchen counter. I’ll blog about the herb cordial-making process when they’re done, but I haven’t been able to resist peeking at their progress every day.

  4. Reading the reviews of Go Set a Watchman has made me realize that pretty much the only thing I remember about reading To Kill a Mockingbird 20 years ago as a high school freshman was learning what morphine was. I guess I should re-read it, which is fitting since I recently decided to work my way through “the classics.” 
  5.  I’m feeling way existential about the 20th anniversary of Clueless, so it was really fun to read this Vanity Fair article filled with reminiscences and insider info from Amy Heckerling, Alicia Silverstone, Paul Rudd, and other Clueless cast members (did you know that they considered Ben Affleck for the part of Josh?). Clueless was released about a year after I read and forgot the plot of To Kill a Mockingbird, and I am looking forward to the day when I can ceremonially preside over Chloe’s first viewing. But watch it with her? As if! She’s got to watch it with her friends.
  6. The New York Times Magazine story, The Mixed-Up Brothers of Bogotá, got under my skin in a big way.
  7. Speaking of The New York Times, did you know its book review panned The Devil Wears Prada when the book came out? Just something I stumbled upon when I fell down the rabbit hole of the Internet at 4:30 am.
  8. A new Canon PowerShot SX520 arrived on my doorstep the other day, and I can’t wait to play with it in Providence this weekend. I send editors enough crappy iPhone pictures with my travel stories that I figured it was time to buy a decent point-and-shoot camera.

    My first picture with the new camera.
    Love the sharp colors! 
  9. And now that I have a camera, it’s time I learn a thing or two about photo composition. I found some basic tips for upping my photography game here.
  10. The incredibly charming 1634 Meadery in Ipswich, MA, makes lots of varieties of honey wines, like apple and strawberry, but I'm partial to the classic Orange Elation, made simply with orange blossom honey. It tastes like a sweet summer afternoon.
  11. If you haven't been to Applecrest Farm Bistro yet and live near the New Hampshire Seacoast, stop what you're doing and go! It's a brand-new concept that takes farm-to-table dining to the next level by putting a year-round restaurant right on the farm itself. Fresh, creative, and delicious dishes and cocktails like these...can't wait for a third visit next week.

    The Dixon Way: Fresh cider, Bulleit rye, orange bitters

    Just-picked asparagus and poached duck egg yolk. OMG

Monday, July 13, 2015

43 days left

In 43 days, my life is going to completely change.

For the past six years and five days, I have given myself over to my daughter’s care. As a work-at-home writer, I’ve been lucky to have the best of both worlds. I’ve been able to be at home with her, drive her to and from school, sneak off to the beach for the day, host playdates, be at every doctor’s appointment (and there have been a lot), bake cookies, take her to story time at the library, volunteer in her classroom, and make her breakfast, lunch, and dinner, every day. I’ve been able to do all this without giving up my career. I couldn’t afford not to work, but I wouldn’t have wanted to stop working anyhow.

I also couldn’t afford to put her in daycare, both from a financial perspective and a caring perspective, especially considering how much time we spent shuttling her back and forth to Boston Children’s Hospital during the first year of her life.

“It’s so short,” I remember my mom telling me when Chloe was a baby. There are only a few, short years between birth and full-time school. It’s such a small amount of time to give your child. A relatively small investment for an incredibly big return. I’m glad I was in such a position to give her those years. More than glad. I can’t describe what it’s meant to me, and I hope, to her, too.

And yet it hasn’t been easy or smooth. I might not have given up my career, but it certainly hasn’t come first. I’ve worked the equivalent of part-time for six years, squeezing in writing when I could, first during naps, then during the handful of hours she was in morning preschool and kindergarten. I'm in front of my laptop at 5:00 am and, too often, at midnight. I had help, thank God, a couple days a week, but I never had enough time to really work on my career, to do anything other than feel like I was just hanging on.

And in the summer? Things are even harder without those 2.5 hours of morning kindergarten. On busy summer days (like today) when I’m cramming to meet a deadline and don’t have childcare, Chloe will sit in front of the TV for hours while I crank out my work, always with the promise that we’ll do something fun when I’m finished. And we will—we’re going swimming later today—but still, there are summer days when Chloe is a straight-up couch potato, when I throw food at her and don’t even get her dressed or brush her teeth until I can come up for air.

“I hate Mondays!” she just told me, after I explained that I had too much work to play Hungry Hungry Hippos with her.

So as much as I have cherished these years with her, I know that this special time at home with my baby is coming to its needed end. Because she’s not a baby anymore. And I need to get back to me a little more, too. It’ll be better for both of us, I know this. I won’t have to neglect her for hours at a time or neglect my work, either. I can give 100% to each, and be all hers, totally hers, after school.

No more missed work deadlines and no more “I’m almost done!” promises when she begs to play with me. I will be able to ramp up my career in new ways, and I will give myself to her, every afternoon, maybe even more fully than I’ve been able to before.

I don’t want to wish this time away. The summer is already flying by. My time with her feels like it’s slipping out of my hands like water. And yet, I am excited for a new beginning.

Only 43 days left!

I only have 43 days left. 

How about you make pizza with your kid?

Making pizza might be the most fun and easy meal to make with your kids. We make this one, which we call “Rachael Ray pizza,” all the time. It's adapted from a recipe from Every Day With Rachael Ray Magazine.

We also make a quick (really!) homemade pizza dough using these steps:
  • Mix one cup of very hot (not boiling!) water, a packet of fast-acting yeast, and a teaspoon of sugar and let stand in a bowl for 10 minutes.
  • After 10 minutes, add 3 tablespoons of olive oil and a teaspoon of salt to the yeast mixture (which should look bubbly) and mix it around. 
  • Add 2 and 3/4 cups of flour and kneed it all together for a few minutes until it’s smooth. I do this right in the bowl. Add more flour if it’s too sticky. Substituting up to 1/2 cup whole wheat flour is yummy, too.
  • Rub all over with a bit of olive oil and cover with a towel for at least 10 minutes, but 20-30 would be better. 

Waiting for dough to rise is hard! 

In the meantime, preheat the oven to 425 degrees. Mince a few cloves of garlic and mix with 5 tablespoons of olive oil, a big handful of dried parsley, salt and pepper. Toss the oil mixture with 2 cups of baby spinach and drained and chopped artichoke hearts. (I actually squeeze the extra water out of them, too, so the pizza isn’t soggy).

Now call your kid into help!

Look at that rise! 

When you’re ready, sprinkle some cornmeal on a cookie sheet that’s lined with foil, parchment, or a silicon pan liner.

Punch down the dough.

Turn the dough onto the pan and work it to the edges until it’s spread out. 
Doing this with olive-oiled hands helps

Sprinkle the dough with 1-2 cups grated mozzarella cheese (I like more cheese, but you might like less). Spread the spinach and artichoke mixture on top of the mozzarella, and sprinkle ¼-½ cup of grated Parmesan on top of that.

Don't forget to sample! 

Sampling is expected.

A lot of sampling! 

Feel pride in your creation! And bake pizza for 15 minutes.