Wednesday, December 31, 2014

What a year

Let’s see—I started 2014 with few expectations. Andrew and I had moved into our Brooklyn apartment and were beginning to explore wedding venue options, having been engaged for two months. My job was going well and freelance, if lighter than in previous years, gave me the occasional jolt of creativity and excitement. Things were nice and comfortable. I was happy and conscious that my life, overall, was mellowing out.

It was a brutally cold winter. In February we journeyed up the Hudson Valley to Rhinebeck for President’s Day weekend with friends (have you ever been? Super cute town!) We came home and, my sore breasts nagging my conscience, I took a pregnancy test. It was positive. Everything changed.

Springtime became a flurry of doctor and wedding venue appointments as we decided to move the wedding up. (There was time in Miami, London, and a lovely week inParis, too!)

Being of “advanced maternal age,” I had to get frequent ultrasounds to make sure the baby was okay. We heard her heart beating. We sawher 3D photo in the womb. We passed critical tests and milestones and, after holding our breath for months, knew this was our baby.

In the meantime, we threw together our wedding weekend, a celebration filled with such love and joy. It was an ode to this great city of New York and, cliché but true, one of the happiest days of my life.

After a honeymoon in St Bart’s, we spent the summer lazing about Brooklyn and visiting Connecticut, Boston and Pennsylvania.

We cooked a bit, saw some music, and watched some baseball.

We reoutfitted our second bedroom/office into a second bedroom/nursery.

And then on October 8th, we welcomed Parker Anninto this world.

The two and a half months since have been filled with wonder. Just as the first couple weeks were tough—recovering from a c-section, not sleeping at night, not knowing what I was doing, and trying to figure out breastfeeding—and there are days that I can’t help but question my identity and if I’ll continue to write and travel and be motivated by all the things that made me happy in my thirties, I am experiencing a whole new chapter that I couldn’t be happier about. I love that little girl so much, it makes me cry. She is the sweetest, cutest, most delicious peanut in the world. We are so lucky.

Who would have thought that I’d be a bride at 41 and a new mom at 42. And on the eve of 2015, I can’t help but feel excited to think about how life will unfold, surprise and challenge.

Happy New Year, friends!

Saturday, December 20, 2014

Tina Fey's prayer for her daughter... (mine for Parker, too)

One of the benefits of being a housebound, breastfeeding new mom is that you're parked on the couch a lot. Ideally, this would mean marathon sessions of Sex and the City or reading all those classics you always swore you would if only you had the time. But the breastfeeding/newborn care thing means that, while I have the time, I don't have the attention span or ability to dig into complex plots or Russian names. So light reading has been in order.

One of the books I read is Tina Fey's Bossypants, which made me laugh out loud, especially toward the end, when she was delving into motherhood. I especially loved her chapter about breastfeeding and all the "Teat Nazis" who make you feel less than if you're not gleefully breastfeeding until your child is two-years-old. But this little prayer for her daughter is pretty awesome, too:

First, Lord: No tattoos. May neither Chinese symbol for truth nor Winnie-the-Pooh holding the FSU logo stain her tender haunches.

May she be beautiful but not damaged, for it’s the damage that draws the creepy soccer coach’s eye, not the beauty.

When the Crystal Meth is offered, may she remember the parents who cut her grapes in half and stick with beer.
Guide her, protect her when crossing the street, stepping onto boats, swimming in the ocean, swimming in pools, walking near pools, standing on the nearby subway platform, crossing 86th Street, stepping off of boats, using mall restrooms, getting on and off escalators, driving on country roads while arguing, leaning on large windows, walking in parking lots, riding Ferris wheels, roller-coasters, log flumes, or anything called “Hell Drop,” “Tower of Torture,” or “The Death Spiral Rock N’ Zero G Roll featuring Aerosmith,” and standing on any kind of balcony ever, anywhere, at any age.
Lead her away from acting but not all the way to finance. Something where she can make her own hours but still feel intellectually fulfilled and get outside sometimes and not have to wear high heels. What would that be, Lord? Architecture? Midwifery? Golf course design? I’m asking You because if I knew, I’d be doing it, dammit.
May she play the drums to the fiery rhythm of her own heart with the sinewy strength of her own arms, so she need  not lie with drummers.

Grant her a rough patch from twelve to seventeen. 

Let her draw horses and be interested in Barbies for much too long, for childhood is short — a tiger flower blooming magenta for one day – and adulthood is long and dry-humping in cars will wait.
O Lord, break the Internet forever, that she may be spared the misspelled invective of her peers and the online marketing campaign for Rape Hostel V: Girls Just Wanna Get Stabbed.
And when she one day turns on me and calls me a bitch in front of Hollister, give me the strength, Lord, to yank her directly into a cab in front of her friends, for I will not have that shit. I will not have it.
And should she choose to be a mother one day, be my eyes, Lord, that I may see her, lying on a blanket on the floor at 4:50 a.m., all-at-once exhausted, bored, and in love with the little creature whose poop is leaking up its back.“My mother did this for me once,” she will realize as she cleans feces off her baby’s neck.“My mother did this for me.” And the delayed gratitude will wash over her as it does each generation and she will make a mental note to call me. And she will forget. But I’ll know, because I peeped it with Your God eyes.


Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Oh, hello

Yes, we’re still here in Brooklyn, living in a little cocoon of new parenthood. Sometimes it’s blissful. It’s raining outside and I’m inside, eating m&m’s and watching Footloose on AMC.

Other times it’s tough, really tough. Parker is screaming, I’m starving, my teeth feel fuzzy, my nipples are on fire, and I wonder what day it is, why I’m doing this, will it ever get easier.

And it always does. The little lessons that emerge along the way: This too shall pass. One day at a time. Be in the moment. Find something positive in what is difficult. Count your blessings. Clichés, all, but true and comforting nonetheless. The love from family and friends, near and far, is astonishing.

And one week slides into another. Parker is now nine weeks old (nine weeks old!!). She’s regained her birth weight and eats like a champ. She’s able to chill out on her own for as long as 20 or 30 minutes. We can tease smiles out of her. And she is absolutely delicious.

Oh, and speaking of delicious, I’ve gotten out to some new spots. Doughnut Plant debuted in Brooklyn pretty much down the street from us. Tres dangereux.

And last weekend I had my first extended break for a hair appointment in Soho. Andrew stayed home and gave Parker bottles and danced to entertain her. I rode the subway, pumped in a bathroom, got a fabulous blow-out and tried, Maman, this killer new French café that has introduced some of the best cookies in the city. I felt part of the human race again.

I’m about midway through my maternity leave. I’m starting to meet other new moms, look into childcare, and fall deeper in love with Parker. It’s bee an interesting exploration of self and identity. After a couple decades of being so focused on a writing career, being home without the ability or ambition to write (to say nothing of exercising, keeping up on news, engaging with the community) is weird. It’s hard. I can feel alienated and adrift, wondering what I’m going to do from here. What I want to do. Sometimes when I tell Andrew that I did nothing all day, he corrects me and points out that I kept a little human being alive. Enough said. I mean, look at her!!

So here we are. Me and my girl. In love with her and my husband. Embracing the nuttiness. Wondering about the future. Another day. Lucky me.

Thursday, November 27, 2014

Sweet Thanksgiving

So much to be grateful for this year. The family that has enveloped me in love for 42 years. My friends who have helped shape me into the person I am. My health. My good fortune. All my memories, dreams and opportunities from throughout the years. And my new family: my husband and this sweet little lamb.
Happy Thanksgiving to all of you. May your days be filled with love, wonder, copious amounts of food and whatever makes you happy and at peace. xo

Saturday, November 22, 2014

Life on the inside

Parker is now six weeks old. It's funny how the days and weeks are simultaneously long and short. So much happens (like, her brain growing five centimeters so far and little fat rolls slowly forming on her jambes), and yet we do nothing but eat, read and take walks.

This is what a typical day at home looks like.
And evening.
And every moment in between.
It's nothing. And everything.

Monday, November 10, 2014

The comfort of pie & a great French giveaway

When I first met Ann Mah in Paris, there was an immediate kinship. She had previously lived in New York and was a wonderful writer of mostly food and travel pieces—a girl after my own heart. Plus, she was understatedly cool, modest, and a great conversationalist. Over the past few years, that admiration of Ann evolved into a friendship with many parallels in our lives: we both returned to New York, published books, and are now mothers.

Ann had a beautiful baby girl, Lucy, a little over a year ago. As I approached my due date, she was full of helpful suggestions and down to earth advice (which, if you’re a mom, you know is not as common as you might think or hope). And when she actually offered to cook a chicken pot pie with parsley biscuits for us the week after Parker was born, I was all too happy and grateful to accept.

So, you think that shows Ann’s thoughtful, generous nature? Now take into consideration that she made the offer—and the beautiful pot pie—in the midst of her paperback release of her New York Times-acclaimed book, Mastering the Art of French Eating.

I thought it only appropriate to spread the generosity, and yumminess, in two ways: by sharing Ann's recipe and offering a copy of her fantastic book.

First, the recipe...

Chicken pot pie with parsley biscuits

Serves four

For the chicken stew:
2 tablespoons butter
3 tablespoons olive oil, divided
2/3 cup flour
1/4 cup cream sherry (optional)
5 cups chicken broth
1 onion, peeled and chopped
1 lb white button mushrooms, diced
1 lb asparagus, ends snapped off, and cut into 1-inch segments
3/4 cup frozen peas
1/2 teaspoon dried thyme
4 cups roast chicken, diced
Salt and pepper

Parsley yogurt biscuits:
1 1/2 cups flour
1 teaspoon sugar
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 cup chopped parsley
2 oz cold butter, cut into 1/2-inch cubes
3/4 cup buttermilk, or yogurt (NOT Greek-style, or strained)

Preheat the oven to 425ºF.

In a large pot, heat the butter and 2 tablespoons olive oil over medium-low heat. Add the flour and cook over low heat for 2-3 minutes, stirring constantly. Add the sherry (if using) and allow the alcohol to evaporate. Add the chicken broth and simmer, stirring often, until the sauce is thick.

Meanwhile, warm the remaining 1 tablespoon of olive oil in a sauté pan. Add the onion and sauté until fragrant. Add the mushrooms, asparagus, peas, and dried thyme. Season with salt and pepper. Sauté until the vegetables are tender, about 10 minutes.

Stir the vegetables into the sauce, along with the chicken. Taste and adjust seasonings. 

Place the stew in a 9″ x 13″ ceramic baking dish.

Make the biscuits. Stir together the flour, sugar, baking powder, salt, and parsley. Blend in the butter with your fingertips until the mixture resembles breadcrumbs. Add the yogurt and stir with a fork until the dough comes together—it will be sticky, with bits of flour on the side of the bowl. I like to knead the dough a couple of times in the bowl to bring everything together.

Turn the dough onto a lightly floured surface. Using gentle, floured fingertips, pat the dough into an 8-inch x 10-inch rectangle, about 1-inch thick. Cut the dough into 2 to 3-inch squares (or use the rim of a 2-inch juice glass). 

Arrange the biscuits on top of the stew. 

Bake for 15-20 minutes until the biscuits are golden and the stew is bubbly around the sides.

Now, that you're appropriately hungry, get ready for a delicious giveaway...

What's your favorite memory associated with French food? 

Answer in the comment box below by November 20 for a chance to receive a copy of Ann's wonderful Mastering the Art of French Eating!

Thursday, November 6, 2014

Lucky number 42

I’ve always known I’m lucky. And I knew 42 was going to be a good year. The first hours of my birthday confirmed both.

I woke up to the sweet embrace of my husband and the 4-week-old grunts of my sweet daughter. Then I got to hop in the shower before mothering duties beckoned.

When I came out to the living room, it was like Christmas morning. Andrew had gotten pretzel croissants (and chocolate chip cookies for later!) from City Bakery and warmed them up in the oven. That alone made my day.

But then there were gifts. Cards (yep, Parker got me a birthday card, too). More love and weepy moments.

It’s been my middle-aged, modern version of this:

Sunday, November 2, 2014

Kindred spirits

It’s been interesting watching Milo watch Parker these past few weeks. He’s curious yet aloof; aware and needy, but giving us and her a wide berth. I’m not sure if he’s displeased to be bounced from his throne, or is looking out for the new family member.

One thing for sure: their body language and daily routines are strikingly similar.