READY, SET, CELEBRATE

November 26, 2014

piecrust

last year’s pie in progress, which will definitely be making a repeat performance this year

Cue the carols and pop the champagne, it’s Prep Day!

I think today might be my favorite day of the year, if I had to choose just one. Fact is, there is absolutely nothing at all that warms me to the core the way spending hours in the kitchen cooking for the people I love most does, especially when the meal I’m preparing happens to be our Thanksgiving Feast. It is perhaps the only occasion that requires meticulous planning and expert execution in terms of my culinary prowess, which is to say it’s the one time I feel even a little bit like a real chef, my not-so-secret aspiration.

I headed to the markets early this morning, fully prepared to brave absolute chaos as penance for my procrastination, when instead I was treated to the most charming and fortuitous shopping experience ever at both Trader Joe’s and Whole Foods, and if you’re a Central San Diego local, you know exactly how truly special an event this was. Parking spot directly across from the front entrance? Check, check. Every ingredient I needed (and then some, ahem)? Check, check. No lines and friendly cashiers? Check, check! Bonus points to the cute old ladies at TJ’s, whom I was more than happy to assist in locating the green beans. Did I mention that I was alone? CHECK, CHECK, CHECK!!!

Homeward bound, laden with delicious abundance, this is when the Holidays really begin. The next 24 hours will be spent carefully and lovingly crafting a positively royal spread to be enjoyed by the finest of folk, followed immediately by Christmas movies + cookies + the decking of our halls. It just doesn’t get any better, it really doesn’t.

I have so so so much gratitude bursting forth from my soul for all the many blessings that have been showered upon me this year. Yes, it has been a painful year, quite literally so, but it’s also been the kind of year that is transformative. I can’t remember the last time I cooked Thanksgiving in the same kitchen two years in a row because I don’t think it has ever happened before. We are so fortunate to call this place home, and even more fortunate are we to have added a new place setting at our Holiday table, for one Roux Huckleberry, the most scrumptious baby in all the land. You can bet I will be nibbling on him for dessert tomorrow, thank you very much.

The time has come for me to throw on my apron and get to work. I’m trying my hand at plant-based pumpkin pie, a special request from my eldest child, along with all of our favorite festive dishes. And stuffing. Stuffffing. Lots of good things in store for our bellies, my friends, and I wish the very same to you. Happy Thanksgiving!

NOTE TO SELF

November 24, 2014

poinsettia

Well, we didn’t make it out the door in time for jazz class Saturday morning, on account of too much hot cocoa and too many cookies, which I think might be the eight year old equivalent to a hangover? We partied preeeety hard Friday night, not one but two Christmas movies, and I stayed up extra late finishing the gift she and I made for her friend, the birthday girl. Mama + Daughter Date Nights are some of the very best, just saying.

I found myself with a few extra minutes on my hands this morning, which I put to good use by sitting down at my computer while sipping an extra cup of coffee, a rare luxury these days. Oh, Pinterest! How I’ve missed you! It’s the little things, really. The weekend flew by, and I blame it all on the fact we were busy busy busy. But here we are, Monday morning, with no school routine to speak of and how gloriously extravagant it feels to still be in my pajamas at nearly 10 AM. It helps that said pajamas are a pair of these, the coziest pants of all time. I might not ever take them off, actually. Sorry, B.

I’ve only two things on the agenda today – clean my house top to bottom, and brave the holiday crowds at the markets to gather the last of the necessities for Thursday’s feast – neither of which sounds particularly appealing. I’d much rather spend my day lazing about, making a mess in my studio and avoiding people altogether. There is nothing worse, in my humble opinion, than a parking lot during the Holidays. What is it with drivers? I miss my life as a cyclist every single day, but never more than during this time of year!

I realize none of this is particularly interesting, which, to me, is precisely what makes it so compelling. There is a kind of sweet, calm energy pulsing through my home, and it’s rather lovely to have nothing else clouding my brain for a change except how deliciously simple things can be if I choose to see them that way.

THANKSGIVING BREAK STARTS NOW

November 21, 2014

hotcocoa

When you’re a teacher, even an assistant teacher as I am, there is no greater sense of accomplishment than arriving at the end of the last school day before vacation. All Fridays are special, but the Fridays before a long holiday are the stuff dreams are made of. I’ve been eagerly anticipating today for exactly such a reason, and I’m here to tell you that yes, it is as glorious an occasion as I’d expected.

We’ve got a busy weekend of dance classes, baseball tournaments, birthday parties (Happy Birthday, Mareluna!), and errands ahead of us, but first things first, I say. There is but one way to properly welcome the Holiday Season, and that is by sipping hot cocoa and nibbling on cookies while watching a Christmas movie.

It just so happens that I managed to perfect the most delicious dairy-free hot chocolate, which might actually be just the most delicious hot chocolate, period.

Unsweetened Vanilla Coconut Milk
High Quality Dark Chocolate (I used a 56% since I was making this for my daughter, but I think it would be superb with an even darker chocolate)
Maple Syrup
Dandies Marshmallows

In a saucepan over medium heat, whisk coconut milk until evenly heated through but not boiling or scalded. Add a few pieces of chocolate, and continue whisking until well incorporated. Sweeten to taste with a splash of maple syrup, top with a few marshmallows, and cozy up with your loved ones. Pro tip: anything made to the accompaniment of Christmas music tastes better.

It’s called the most wonderful time of year because it is!

BEFORE THE HUSTLE AND BUSTLE

November 19, 2014

halloweenowl

my little owl on halloween

This time last year is still so vivid to me, the way it felt to have a baby in my belly and the anticipation of what it would be like to have a new little person join our family.

On Monday, that little person, one Roux Huckleberry Baker, turned precisely 39 weeks old. 9 whole calendar months, exactly. And as cozy as it was to be pregnant during the Holiday Season, it is that much more delicious to have a squishy baby with whom to enjoy all the festivities. Especially a baby as magnificent as my tiny guy.

Practically overnight, he had a massive growth spurt. He woke up one morning last week and actually fit into onesies I didn’t think he’d wear until well after his first birthday. And the scooching! All of the sudden, he’s everywhere. Under the couch, next to the ironing board (the iron wasn’t on, but still!), one minute he’s playing happily under his gym and the next he’s all the way wedged between my desk and a basket of silks. I have a lot of baby proofing to do!

We have experimented with Baby Led Weaning, which is both fascinating and terrifying. On the one hand, it makes complete sense to me, and on the other hand, it’s challenging and risky. While I have been really pleased with the success we’ve had with foods like broccoli and sweet potato and even these little baked lentil quinoa cakes, a small hemoglobin test at yesterday’s check up showed that Huckle is rather anemic. We’re introducing fortified cereals and a liquid supplement with the hope such remedies will increase the iron in his blood.

To think this is the only hiccup we’ve encountered since his birth is a reminder how blessed we have been. He really has come so far. And he is so darn cute, it’s almost silly. On Saturday mornings, I’ve been taking tap classes in Balboa Park. I wear Roux in my Solly Baby wrap, easily one of the highlights of my week, and oh how the sweet old ladies in my class adore him! They kiss his sweet cheeks and fawn over him and all I can think is how lucky I am that this incredible creature chose me to be his mama.

Our days begin well before the sun rises, my Huckle likes to get up early. Once I resigned myself to our predawn routine, I came to cherish those quiet hours when nearly everything is still asleep except us two. We keep all the lights off and snuggle under covers on the couch, babbling to each other before I have to begin my duties for the day. As much as I love my job, and am grateful to have work that is fulfilling and meaningful, it’s getting harder and harder for me to head off to work each morning, feeling like I’m missing out on so many little moments that I can never get back.

Time is passing by faster than ever, we’re heading into the part of year that seems to happen at warp speed, and all I want to do is stop here for a little while. Be with my baby before he’s not a baby anymore, to enjoy my home and my family and this season. To somehow remember all the tiny details – the nuances of his voice and the myriad of sounds that are beginning to emerge, to capture exactly the way it feels when his eager little fingers reach up to explore the landscape of my face, the way he smiles at me when he nurses – because honestly, it’s as if it’s all happened in an instant. And yet, as I plan next week’s menu, I know it’s been a year, a whole entire year, since I prepared a feast in my kitchen with a bump tucked under my apron.

I’m going to try my best to take it slow this season, to live in to each experience, to treasure the time and marvel at just how bittersweet its fleeting can be.

BUT TONIGHT, YOU BELONG TO ME

October 26, 2014

hucklehandmamaface

from a few days ago, when I wasn’t feeling well and he was my nurse

In my heart, I’ve always been a New Yorker. It’s been over a decade since I lived there, yet every year around this time I get really nostalgic for life in that magnificent city, and I miiiight have poked around Craigslist for apartments (ha!) in the midst of a “what if” moment last night. MAKE OF THAT WHAT YOU WILL, UNIVERSE.

But that is not what this post is about.

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