Love for Momma Love


Nearly two years ago, I posted this, about discovering Ali Smith, being smitten, and my quest to get my hands on her seemingly elusive book.  The mystery was solved when she responded directly to me, letting me know that I couldn’t find it because it hadn’t yet been published.  She was close, very close, to finding a publisher.  Her photographs were so stunning, felt so important, that I just assumed the publication was in progress, the details of which can be drawn-out over years, and I’ve been here, twiddling my thumbs, waiting.

Turns out her publisher folded, along with the funds she had put towards the book.  Today I made my first foray onto Kickstarter to contribute to get this book, (now twelve years in the making), published at last.  I knew about Kickstarter, mostly via swissmiss, and found it both mystifying and heartening that people were helping other people get projects off the ground, strangers, simply because they believed in the work or product.  It is, in reality, not an investment, but a gift.  The “return” on your “investment”, in this case, is that something you believe in, that has meaning to you, will exist in the world.  There was an interesting article about this in the New York Times (click here to read).

I am so not into trying to separate people and their money. You will never find me on any fund-raising committees. Can’t do it.  So consider this a Public Service Announcement.  Her Kickstarter campaign ends tonight.

Thank you Baked Eggs, for being there

Baked eggs, a month ago I hardly knew ye, and in such a short time, you’ve made yourself  such a well-worn indispensible part of the family.  No guest, you’re here to stay.

I’ve been wanting to make Baked Eggs after reading Laurie Colwin’s description in Home Cooking (here’s a whole post I did about that book).   So basically I’ve had Baked Eggs on the brain for years now, and only this very month did I finally settle in to the task.  Not very ambitious, I know.  But necessary.

It was in a Chapter called, Nursery Food (aka Comfort Food).  In these dark days of February, I’ve been in need of some.  Plus, I’ve been looking for a good excuse to buy some of those Le Creuset mini oval gratins.  They look like gratin dishes for dolls.  I came home with five of them, one for each member of my family.

Baked (or Shirred) Eggs are one of those non-recipe recipes.  It’s kind of embarrassing that I’m even posting about it.  But this is no smittenkitchen, folks. (Holy time on your hands, did you see the latest homemade lasagna recipe with homemade pasta sheets and bechamel sauce and Bolognese that you cook and assemble over days? That is a recipe I loved to read but will never make.  I am a huge fan of all that Deb does over at smittenkitchen.  Inspiring food writing + food photography.  She just nails it over there).

While there are long leisurely weekends for taking on a cooking project that requires so very many pans, these days, I need easy.  I need reassurance.  Cheerful, even.  Baked eggs are that.

I can crack a couple of eggs while the oven warms, top with a pat of butter, sprinkle with Maldon salt, and be rewarded with something hearty and comforting inside of twenty minutes.

Here are Colwin’s directions:

“The Pyrex dish is put in the oven to hotten up.  When hot, a lump of butter the size of a walnut (as the old cookbooks say) is dropped in to melt.  When the butter is just slightly sizzling, break in the eggs, never more than four.  Sprinkle with black pepper and Parmesan but no salt, as the  Parmesan is salty enough.  Cover and bake in a 325 degree oven until done.  Done can mean just cooked, or pink around the edges of the yolks, or baked to the consistency of a rubber eraser–some children like eggs this way.  Baked eggs, though, have to be watched.”

A few notes on what I did. I tried to get all fancy and tried baking the dishes in a water bath as I saw recommended someplace.  I’ve done it both ways and say skip the trouble.  They seem to turn out the same.  Also I went with salt instead of the cheese, but imagine the cheese would be worthwhile, too.  And I used a spray oil on the dish before dropping the eggs in, and a pat of butter on top.

These always take longer to cook than I think they will.  If you’re in a rush, go scrambled.  But if you’ve got a little time (and some ramekins or mini Pyrex dishes), baking adds a little extra something.  I have eaten these for breakfast and lunch and could also see coming home to them for dinner after a long cold and rainy day and being very, very happy.

Assessing Risks

The Freakonomics podcast on (among other things)  how we assess risks was just what I needed to hear today.  It’s not exactly on the topic of fear I last posted about, but I think it fits in places.  Besides, it’s just really thought-provoking, as all these podcasts are. (Go here to listen).

Some gold nuggets culled from the various interviewees :

  • Risk can be measured, uncertainty can not.
  • We take our cues from other people.
  • We seek out information that confirms our pre-existing bias and we’re congenitally bad at assessing risk.
  • We seek patterns, whether they are accurate or not.
  • We worry about the wrong things.  Chances are, it’s the cheeseburgers that are going to kill us, not the other things we (needlessly) worry about.
  • Michael Shermer explained how we are programmed to believe that all rustles in the grass are dangerous predators just in case they are.  There is no evolutionary advantage to being mistaken in this assessment.  Being wrong means being eaten.  But this means that most of the time our assessments of danger are not accurate.

Image found here.

Joanna Newsom

So let’s just act like it hasn’t been since forever October and get on with it, shall we?

Cool people, I’m sure, already know about Joanna Newsom.  I’m happy to have stumbled upon her recently on one of my iTunes benders.  Better late to the party than to miss entirely, yes?  As long as they haven’t brought out cake yet?

This is a song that if my husband heard it, he’d say, Really?  You like that?  Really? 

Yes, honey. I do.  I really really do.  It tickles my ears.

Her voice is part old lady, part magical wood sprite.  Her music is in the Appalachia harp indie show tune genre.  You know the one?

“Good Intentions Paving Company” is the song I love that I keep listening to.   Long title, long song.   A seven-minute aural one-woman show. (click here to have a listen)

Welcome back.

Or for me, welcome back to having a life.  The summer was. . . taxing.  Love my boys I sure do, and we all needed that respite from our scheduled lives.  But let me say here, loud and clear, I now know, with one hundred percent certainty, that structure and schedules are my friend.  Do you hear me, structure and schedules?  I love you.  With all my heart.  Please wave this post in my face when I’m whining about it in March.

One thing that happened over the summer is that I turned the corner off the thirties, and now walk proudly on fortieth street.  Which is to say, I turned FORTY.  I didn’t much feel like writing about it at the time, was far too busy being angsty for about the six months preceding the big day.  Turns out the actual birthday was not such a big deal.  And it was, indeed, happy.  I got to have dinner with some of my most lovely friends, met my husband for cozy afternoon tea downtown right before.  I felt pretty much the same as I did the day before, maybe even a little more peaceful, slightly more grateful. I still have my moments of quiet desperation, that feeling like I’m running out of time and can not do one thing to slow it down.  I’d say I better get used to that feeling.  Welcome her in and offer her the most comfortable chair in the house.

A list of a few things I am enjoying at the moment:

  • New photos of yarn bombing (click here for more)
  • This post by my friend, Rachel.  It is short.  And it is perfect. (click here)
  • My Nike ID running shoes, designed for me by Thomas and Ben, in honor of my big birthday. They are quite something. Maybe even the best present ever.

  • My new Sharpie liquid pencils are rocking my world. Discovered them while shopping with the boys for school supplies.  It’s the little things, isn’t it?
  • This I believe essay on the power of writing by my young friend, Ellery.  Who I think may be, like, seventeen by now?  To me she’ll always be twelve and tiny.  I think I want to be her when I grow up.

My balance series at Cup of Jo

A few months back, I came across a post from Goop offering sample schedules of high-powered, highly successful, working mothers, a day in the life, if you will.

It kind of set me off, honestly.  Made me feel like a slouch.  During the school year, I’m just trying to figure out how to workout/get to the grocery store/maybe write a blog post/figure out the meaning of life/be on time for nursery school pick-up. Though I admire their accomplishments, I think maybe these aren’t “my women”, you know?

So maybe I will never be the woman buying all birthday gifts in advance for the year, wrapped, filed, ready to go.  And maybe my evening plans won’t include meeting up with Stella McCartney for a little “girlfriend time” after the kids go to bed. Or fittings with a stylist.  I did make a mental note, however, that the equation seems to be this: extremely organized+ structured days=highly productive.  Good childcare figures in heavily.

The post was like candy, kind of enjoyable but in the end kind of made me feel bad.  I couldn’t resist it, though, as I am always wondering how the heck everyone else is doing this, whether they are working, working part-time, not working.  Don’t you really want to peek into other women’s days, to see what they’re doing and how they’re doing it?  Is that just me?

From my small cross-section of friends, two things have become clear: one, everyone else is just trying to figure this out, too, and two, no arrangement is perfect.  Oh, and that it changes over time.  Just when you’ve found an arrangement that is working, a babysitter moves on/your career plans change/your now older children need you in different ways/summer comes, et cetera.  There is no such thing as “having it all”.  We are constantly making decisions about what is most important and what can go (at least for now).

I was so pleased when I came across the “My balance” series over at Cup of Jo.  If you haven’t met Jo, you should pay her a visit.  She has a lovely design-y blog.  The series asks questions about work/life/parenting balance of many well-loved faces in the blog world.  I’m kind of remedial as far as reading other blogs, but I was pleased to see that I was familiar with most of the women and admire the work they are doing.

If you, too, are fascinated with how women are making creative, productive work/family lives, check it out.

This one scared me a little (no offense, Jenny. But I need way more sleep than you).

But this and this made me feel like we’re all in this together.

P.S. In case you’re curious about MY balance, I started writing this while everyone was still asleep, but am finishing up having plied one child with my iPhone in the next room, soon after begging another child to give his littlest brother a bowl of cereal.  Or anything. Please.  Just five more minutes. . . .

“Momma Love” Book Mystery Solved

Don’t you just love how the internet makes it possible for us to reach out to pretty much anyone in the world, even if we don’t know them?  Yesterday I contacted Ali Smith through her website in an attempt to go straight to the source to solve the mystery of where to buy her book, Momma Love.  And don’t you know I heard back from her today, just like that.  It’s magic, really.  A source of great time-wasting sometimes, this internet (Facebook, I’m talking to you).  But also an amazing tool for connecting people.

Ali’s response:

 “I appreciate your post so much and am thrilled you responded to the work! It’s been getting really strong responses from so many. Makes me feel very good about the project. Like it’s really needed.  The book project is currently with my agent and I’m hoping it will find its proper home soon. I will definitely keep you informed about the progress and when there’s purchasing info, I’d be grateful if you could share it with your crowd”.

Being able to connect with someone whose creative work I really admire  via the invisible  but all-knowing web is really an amazing thing.  Today it’s making me feel like the world is wide open, all out there for us decide what we would like to select from the buffet.

Do you have any experiences to share about connecting with your tribe or like-minded individuals or sources of creative inspiration?  I’d love to hear about it in comments section.

If you’re interested in Ali’s work, check out her blog here.


Momma Love

A while back, I came across the work of Ali Smith at momfilter, and made a mental note to find out more.  A conversation with a photojournalist friend last week jogged my memory and thankfully, I circled back to Smith’s book project that had initially caught my eye. Smith spent eight years photographing mothers with their children. The resulting project, Momma Love; How the Mother Half Lives, looks like a gorgeous pairing of these photos with text.  As I am endlessly interested in and moved by the lives and stories of mothers, I must. have. this. book.  All Google searches have left me empty-handed as far as a buying option.  Never fear!  I will not be deterred!  I will find this book.

Image from "Momma Love" by Ali Smith

In the meantime, watch the lovely video trailer for Momma Love:

And if you know where to get it, kindly let me know in the comments section.

What I’m Reading (when not reading cookbooks)

I’m still reading this one, mainly because I’m trying to stretch it out to make it last.  I love it that much.  I’m hanging on to the last few chapters, just don’t want it to be over.  Flynn is a poetic, inventive writer who just happens to have an amazing story to tell.  The one about his life working in a homeless shelter in Boston intersecting with his relationship with his estranged, homeless father.   It’s complicated, as you can imagine. 

Think Growing Up by Russell Baker and The Glass Castle by Jeanette Walls on crystal meth, without the redeeming characters or unconditional love.  Or Mary Carr’s Liar’s Club but without Carr’s twangy humor.  Yet somehow not grim or depressing.  Somehow clear-eyed and beautiful.  Illuminating.  Full of humanity and vulnerability. 

It’s such a compelling story that I wasn’t surprised to find that there is a movie version being made (Julianne Moore in the cast!).  Quick!  Read it before the movie spoils it for you. The movie may end up being great, who knows?  But like I tell my boys, always read the book first.  That way you get to see it in your head first the way you imagine it.  Seeing the movie spoils that possibility.  Discovering halfway through that there’s a movie version crept into my reading, (as in, how in the world will they film this scene?), and I kind of resent that.  So let’s forget I mentioned it.

(Find the book here).

Have you read it?  What did you think?  What are you reading?  I’m lining up my next book , always looking for recommendations, dear readers. . . .

Food Writing

“One of the delights of life is eating with friends; second to that is talking about eating.  And, for an unsurpassed double whammy, there is talking about eating while you are eating with friends”.  – Laurie Colwin, from Home Cooking

My friend, Nicole, and I call our food talk, “talking dirty”.  Pictures I take of dinner before I put it on the table and email to her will most likely carry the subject line, “more food porn”.  Describing to Nicole what I made for dinner over the phone or what I had in a restaurant or talking about the food we are eating as we’re eating it, unintentionally takes on this hushed, almost salacious tone and is pretty much my favorite thing to do in the world.

Turns out my second favorite thing is READING about food.

There are a few books I keep on the shelves that I circle back to every few years.  Reading them is like touching base with an old friend.  Their voices are reliable, grounded, familiar.  This is probably my sixth or seventh go-round with Home Cooking.  To me, this book is the perfect combination of Colwin’s compelling voice and a topic she clearly loved (food)– and how you can be writing about food (or anything), but really be writing about other things (like life, or love).

To be honest, I have never used any of the recipes from the book, but that’s not what this book is about for me.  While I’m reading, I feel like I’m front row in a master writing class.  It’s magic, really: how someone can write about Baked Eggs or Steamed Chocolate Pudding and make it riveting.  The backstory of her unexpected death by heart failure in her sleep one night at age 48 somehow creates another layer of meaning for me.  Her enduring voice (still so clear) feels especially poignant. That she wrote about food and home and family and friends with such love, even more so.

I like this article written about her life and writing (click here).

Another book with great Food Writing is this:

Rachel gave this to me last summer for my birthday and I kept picking it up and reading it all summer.  Have I made any of the recipes?  you ask, confused.  No.  Don’t you get it?  I really really like food writing.  (I should mention that Rachel made the Olive Oil Bundt Cake from this book for her son’s birthday party I attended over two years ago, and I haven’t stop thinking about it, thinking maybe one day I might actually make it, too. . .)

I’ve picked this book up again. It feels especially summery and even if I don’t explicitly use the recipes, I love summer cooking and feel inspired to fire up the grill and let all the fresh flavors from all those summer vegetables speak for themselves (the Frankies would encourage me to do this).  Find the book here.

Three blogs with some really juicy food writing (along with gorgeous photography) I visit for inspiration:  (I have even actually used the recipes to create real food to feed my family)


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