September didn’t quite go as planned around here. Take, for instance, this recipe. I started this post nearly two weeks ago, when Italian prune plums were readily available for their fleeting season (I hope you can still find some where you are?), and summer was just showing signs of letting go. Now, moving into the first days of October, I’m finally getting to tell you about this cake, and feeling quite a bit different about life in general than I did just a couple weeks ago.
Let’s talk back-to-school lunchboxes, shall we?
As much as I wish I could be one of Those Moms that packs totally gorgeous, colorblocked, Bento-style lunches on the regular, it really is just not happening around here. For one thing, I’m packing lunch for a notoriously picky eater, who would gladly eat the same turkey sandwich everyday for the rest of her life and would rather talk to her neighbor at lunchtime than waste time doing something as silly as eating food, so sending her to school with glorious, Warhol-esque lunch displays isn’t likely to be a big thrill.
Also? To be real? Raising the packed lunch bar too high stresses me out in the most unnatural manner. Because I’ve seen the amazing, ever-ante-upping, Instagram-worthy lunchbox game that some moms have going on out there. I even “heart”, “favorite”, and “like” these museum-worthy lunches, because really, what OCD person (me) doesn’t enjoy playing voyeur over perfectly-spaced, teeny organic strawberries and cubed dragonfruit and origami-ed finger sandwiches? I’m starting to feel like an artfully packed meal is some kind of status symbol and I’m just not sure I have room for that kind of, um…intensity in my weekday life. You feel me?
…And just like that, Labor Day is behind us. Unreal, right? It’s been a busy summer here–lots of coming and going, more book work (final edits, tweaks, design decisions, last-minute recipe makeovers because I can’t leave well enough alone, etc.), feeling out new projects, starting those first weeks of a new school year. It’s all very exciting and a little bit crazymaking. Something I love about this time of year, though, is celebrating Little C’s birthday at the end of August.
To the surprise of absolutely no one, she’s turned into the type of child who talks about the approach of her “birthday month” during the entire last week of July, so the weeks leading up to the big day can be somewhat excruciating. Both because she likes to remind us roughly every hour how many days are left until her birthday, and because the reminders give me pause and make me think about how fast she’s growing up. I mean, six! SIX. Any trace of baby girl has been left in the dust, blazing a trail of pink and purple glitter and waters-testing sass. It’s a little sad, and fantastic, all at the same time.
Something else that’s fantastic about six is the certainty with which I was given her request for this year’s birthday treats. There was to be no cake at Miss Six’s weekend birthday party (we opted for loads of sprinkle-fied Rice Krispie treats instead, which received raves from the crowd–such a nice change for those of us who attend about 50 caked-up kids’ birthday parties per year). But on her actual birthday, after dinner at home, she wanted “a very tall strawberry cake with cream”. And so we did exactly that. Who can argue with Miss Six?
How terrifically FUN is summer vacation, darling readers?! No school, so much free time! Throwing routine and schedules to the wind until they flit about like snow! Hooray!
Now let me ask the parents of small children the same question.
(GOOD LORD, HOW IS IT ONLY MID-JULY?)
Sound familiar? I feel you. After surviving Kindergarten, this summer marks the beginning of having Little C on a Real School schedule, meaning she is out until the third week of August (the baby, however, is now 16 months and interested in equal parts cuddling and destruction). We’ve been hanging in there so far–there have been days that my girl has done various activities and day camps, but there are still plenty of hours spent here at home in the Fog Known As San Francisco Summer.
Given the free time and the weather, baking together is on the agenda. And really, seeing as we’ll be careening towards fall and the holidays before we know it, my baking-with-my-wombfruit moments are likely to accumulate. And I don’t think I’m the only one, because I’ve gotten a few tweets and e-mails lately asking if I have any tips for baking with kids. So in the spirit of keeping everyone entertained, satisfying our sweet teeth, and doing that oh-so-noble task of getting our kids involved in the kitchen, here are a few of my favorite tips for baking with small people, particularly if you typically enjoy keeping culinary chaos to a minimum (that would be me here, raising my hand).
So far this summer, I’ve made good on my promise to slow down and recalibrate a little after finishing my cookbook manuscript. And just as I was getting stuck, thinking about what kind of recipe I might want to share with you now that I can make ANY RECIPE I WANT TO, EVER, the always entertaining and so-hilarious-somebody-ought-lock-this-boy-UP Billy Green of Wit and Vinegar announced the second coming of Popsicle Week. And BAM, I suddenly had the glittering inspiration to pull together a frozen tasty treat for all y’all. Internet friends can really be the wind beneath your wings like that sometimes, I’m telling you.
Taking part in Popsicle Week is no easy task. You’re basically joining a crew of people who not only develop great recipes, but fabulous photos on the regular. (I made these babies last year, which I’m realizing look a lot like the ones I made this year but believe me, they taste quite different.) I’m not even going to try and compete with all the other fantastical pops and posts out there this time around, but I can at least feel confident that my post is (probably) the only one that will mention Bill Cosby.
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This past Spring marked my 11th year as a California resident. 11 years, people! Unreal. The Illinois blood runs deep–real deep–but no doubt, after that stretch of time lived in one part of the country, things are bound to change within a person, at least a little bit. There are a few things with which the Midwestern gal inside of me will never fall out of love (read: white Christmases, the unbeatable kindness of strangers, Pabst Blue Ribbon, an inexplicable fondness for Cool Whip). But over the years I’ve become very fond of my life in California, whether that be the years spent as a childless newlywed galavanting at the beach in Santa Monica, or the decidedly more grown-up years in San Francisco, where we’ve started our family and become hopelessly snobby about wine and the best artisan breads.
Regardless of what part of California we’ve called home over the past 11 years, one thing has not changed: I still catch myself, every couple of days at least, looking around, taking a deep breath and thinking to myself, I GET TO LIVE HERE. Dang, it feels good to be a Californian.
SUMMAH! It’s hard to believe that this season is already upon us. Seems like just yesterday I was trapped in a nursing chair with a newborn, pitching an idea for a new cookbook in a hormonal haze, with my first baby heading off to kindergarten. Now, as of this week, that newborn is careening into toddlerhood (and careening into everything else in the process), a cookbook manuscript has been officially completed and delivered, and my little girl has just graduated kindergarten the same week that she lost two (!) teeth. The past few seasons have meant serious business.
But just in time for summer, things are shifting, and with that comes a slightly slower pace, and a little more time that can be spent doing whatever the heck we want–more time inhaling my kids’ necks, more time to write in this space, and–hooray!–more time to finally pour over the stack of new cookbooks that I’ve been collecting on my desk since last fall and have barely gotten to flip through.
Having just finished many months of dealing in the currencies of sugars (albeit less-refined ones), butter, and flours, and coming into some glorious weeks of sunshine and gleaming summer fruits, I’ve been in the market for simpler, lighter fare to satiate the sweet teeth around these parts. And during one recent, delicious, totally free moment to flip through all those aforementioned cookbooks, I found my answer in the pages of Donna Hay’s latest, completely gorgeous book Fresh and Light. (Seriously, is there anything that woman can’t make look painfully beautiful? I am constantly in awe of her vision. I call her “Donna Haaayyy Gurl Haaayyy”.)
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