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.
Is anyone else feeling like a total Grown Up Cliche this holiday season? I don’t know if it’s because I’m actually older, or that I have two kids now and they’ve sucked everything from me including my brain cells and my metabolism or WHAT, but I don’t think I’ve ever felt the craziness of the holidays quite like this year. Oof. And who has two thumbs and hasn’t even started thinking about shopping for gifts? This lady. Fa-la-la-la-la!!!
Top of the Grown Up Cliche list is three holiday parties in the same weekend, and no idea how we’re going to fit them all in. You too? Excellent. So let’s talk hostess gifts. Maybe my Midwestern-ness is showing, but I do think it’s nice to show up with a little something for folks insane enough to throw a big holiday gathering, especially considering how much effort that entails–shopping, running, organizing, obsessing, cleaning, and then re-cleaning once its all over. I’d say that kind of effort calls something thoughtful, festive, and preferably edible, so that the host/hostess doesn’t have to find a place to put another freaking scented candle that they’ll probably never use, in addition to having to re-scrub the bathroom once all the guests leave. So how about a big bag of Gingerbread Caramel Corn? Oh, and bourbon. Lots.
Ohhh, the food hangover. I’m writing this from my hometown of Chicago, which is basically the best place in the entire universe to celebrate Thanksgiving (I may be a bit biased). We’ve had fantastic late fall weather (very cold for these now-Californian bones, but very little wind, which really is what kills ya out here), great food, and lots of much-needed family time. I hope wherever you are, even if you’re not in a Thanksgiving-celebrating place, you’re doing the same.
But let’s get real.
Now that November is on its way out, we’re about to get into some hardcore crazy holiday times. Shopping and decorating and baking and holding empty threats over our children’s heads so they’ll behave or finish their dinners, lest they get nothing but coal. Fun times! Might I suggest a little something to kickstart your holiday shopping?
Quirk Books, the wonderful publisher of my first two books, knows how to get folks into a holiday gift-giving frenzy. Through their Quirk DIY Book Club, they offer all kinds of creative titles that are perfect for the crafty types on your holiday shopping list. This month, their featured title is Pure Vanilla, woo-hoo! What this means is that for the month of December you can buy the eBook of PV for a mere $3.99. Hot! And because the Quirk people love my people (read: you), they’re offering up TEN free copies for me to give away. Heck yes!
To win one, just enter below using the Rafflecopter (note that you’ll get extra entries for following on Twitter, Facebook, etc.). Winners will be notified by e-mail after December 8th!
Ooh-whee, are you feelin’ the Fall, people? We are, even in San Francisco. As per usual, the sunshine and blue skies have finally joined us just in time for temperature to drop, which I can never quite get used to. You know what else I can’t get used to? Daylight savings time. Before children, this used to mean an extra hour of sleep, and feeling even cozier in the late afternoon as the sun dropped out of the sky earlier and earlier. Kind of dreamy. But all this means now is that my kids’ sleeping schedules are even more terrible than usual, and I have less hours in the day to try and get a decent photograph of some really great hot chocolate for you (I give up; see above). Bah. Luckily I’ve had a few fun things going on that have buoyed my mood and kept me from jumping off the roof in a premature Seasonal Affective Disorder tirade:
1. Our big Kindergarten girl has really started reading and writing and generally blowing us away with her hilarity. She’s started lamenting the fact that she can’t walk to and from school alone like all the “collegers”. “Collegers” meaning the older kids in her school. Invented, earnestly delivered words are the best words.
2. My baby boy is still very much a baby, but is now eight (!) months old. Which means that we are officially in the Very Best Stage with him, the stage that makes people have babies in the first place: squidgy, babbling, present, funny, lovable, crawling, sitting up, and getting into things that I didn’t even know were in my house. Never mind that I still haven’t had a full night’s sleep since February, right?
3. Honeyed Hot Chocolate, which I will get to in a bit.
4. I’m actually back to work–teaching a class here and there, doing all kinds of recipe development with exciting new ingredients (more on that soon), and realizing that the importance of having some kind of creative project going can’t be overstated, especially for moms. Even within the madness of mothering two small people, making my own creative life a priority has supercharged me in a whole new way. I feel like a better version of myself, a better mother, generally just more excited to be in the world. I can’t help but wonder what the world might be like if every mother took the time to nuture her creative self as much as she does her children. With the way we mothers can multitask, can you imagine the results? We could start a revolution! And here is where I get a little Oprah on you for a sec.
The title of this post is a bit misleading, I admit. Because truthfully, the bulk of what I’ve been into lately involves not very exciting things like nursing nonstop (so sitting in a chair, then?), thinking of things to eat that can be prepared and shoved into my face with one hand (which evidently doesn’t leave much time for the baking or taking pictures of food), and trying to find time to pee alone. But what I really wanted to do was pop in today, say hello! and we’re still all alive! and sometimes even bathed!, and share a few things that have made my days a little brighter while careening through the Newborn Tunnel of (Sometimes) Hell.
I’ve managed to get back on track with exercise, which has been key in maintaining my sanity. In an unexplained bout of inspiration (and a longing to get back into my regular clothes), two weeks ago I decided to take up running again after nearly a year. To be kind to my post-pregnancy joints and bones, I’ve decided to take it allll the way back to 2003 when I first started running, and ease back into a running routine with the Couch to 5k program. Of course now, instead of obsessively glancing at a watch to track intervals while listening to the very first Maroon 5 album on a CD walkman, there are fancy things like this Couch to 5k app that does all the thinking for you, and features voice cues that gently interrupt your iPhone’s playlist to tell you when to run and when to walk. Awesome. I love technology when it’s idiot-proof.
I ordered this book recently and have bookmarked the bananas out of it. I’ve got mad kitchen plans, believe you me.
I’ve been making this recipe for dinner probably once a week since the baby was born. Add some broccoli and instant brown rice (cooked with chicken or veg stock instead of water), and BOOM. Ultimate easy-yet-satisfying meal. So simple, cheap, kind of old school, kid-friendly, and unreal delicious. And good for two night’s worth of dinners–hallelujah!
We also got a few awesome meals out of this fantastic take on Spanikopita from one of my favorite people, The Wednesday Chef. No better way to get your greens, people. Just add wine.
In the “I’ve made them 100 times, but never blogged about them” category, here are some of the world’s best cookies. In fact, I have a Ziploc full of these frozen cookie dough balls in my freezer right now. It’s how I’ve been keeping my family in freshly baked cookies all these weeks like some kind of deranged June Cleaver.
I haven’t bought any new clothes just yet, but when I do, I’m using this resource. The concept gives me a major case of “Why didn’t I think of that?!”. I’m getting all into it within the next couple months, which is to say when I get a bit more weight off of my maternal midsection.
Okay, so, I lied on that last point. I have purchased these flip flops in Light Gold, which add a little bit of something special to my Dreary Mom Outfits.
To further celebrate the fact that I’m no longer retaining water and my feet have stopped looking like Shrek’s, I got a glorious pedicure with this nail color, which is always my Happy Color. It makes me feel more together even when I’m in pajamas. I have decided that it’s my Forever Toenail Polish. I’ll be working it into my will.
Unlike my strategy with my first child, I’ve had this new kid on the move and out in the world since day 4. It’s saved my sanity. But it’s a bonus when the days involve more than marathon trips to Target. Like lunch at the perfect restaurant with an amazing friend, and making it a double with a dessert pitstop at one of San Francisco’s best bakeries. Now that’s a good day, even if you’ve got a sweaty baby strapped to your chest.
Add to that an actual, in-person meeting (at a new-ish, and completely perfect SF bakery) with a heretofore strictly online friend, during which you find out that she’s as fabulous as you’d hoped, and every bit as lovely as her website. Again with aforementioned baby strapped to chest, but a magical meeting nonetheless. Big ups for real people in an unreal world.
It’s a chilly, dreary, rainy day here in San Francisco (the California way of ushering in winter).
I’m getting more pregnant by the minute (now firmly in my third trimester, and by the looks of yesterday’s ultrasound, all is good with Sir Baby, thank you).
I have also been hit with some ungodly cold-ish virus that I know I caught from Little C, who was sick earlier this week (so dirty, little kids, I tell ya).
I’ve just dropped my precious offspring off at school for the last time this year, and am now back in bed, surrounded by pillows and tissues and hot water, which seems to be the only freaking thing with which they let sick pregnant people medicate other than the occasional Tylenol, which is a liar and a complete joke when what I really need is, like, 12 DayQuil capsules and a nebulizer full of Xanax to quell my holiday to-do list anxiety.
But! Despite all this doom and gloom and wahhhh, my life is so harrrrd…, yesterday was glorious. Glorious, I say! We were a fine-tuned baking operation, me and Little C, cranking out cookies, brownies, and an extra special holiday confection to add to the tins of goodies we assembled for her teachers. These Candy Cane Nougat Bites are sweet, minty, melt-in-your-mouth pillows of heaven and I encourage you to try making them as your One Last Thing to do before Christmas, which I’m sure you don’t have enough of already, right?
111 East Chicago Avenue
Chicago, IL 60611
Space is limited for the tasting; call to RSVP
I have to say, the past few months have really blown my hair back. Between new books and new babies and what not, there’s been some great surprises that have come along and smacked me upside the head. One of them was finding out that Anthropologie, otherwise known as the Mecca of Every Material Good A Lady Could Possibly Want and/or The Curators of Cool, had agreed to carry Pure Vanilla. Apparently they haven’t seen photos of me from the 90s. At any rate, I am positively thrilled to be a part of their utterly inspiring cookbook selection for the season.
And in a twist of the awesome getting awesomer, I am headed out to Chicago for a few days of family time and book-related events, and one of the events is at the Anthropologie store downtown on Chicago Avenue–just a stone’s throw from where I once worked as a touring makeup artist for Bobbi Brown, wondering what the heck I was going to end up doing with my life. This is a fabulous, life-affirming, Oprah-level moment, friends. I really hope you’ll come join me if you’re in the area.
I’ll be doing a brief talk and vanilla tasting (little cookies!!) for the first hour–I’ve gotten word that space is tight for the tasting, so if you’re interested, please call to RSVP. Afterwards, we’ll do a book signing where we can meet and chat and compliment each other’s skin and hair, and you can see how hugely pregnant I am already (bonus!).
Hope to see you there!
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