Friday, July 30, 2010

That blessed union, that dream within a dream

What makes it work?
Patience.  Humor. Friendship. Teamwork. Traditions. Room to grow and change. The ability to laugh at life's imperfections. Freedom to be yourself. And good food never hurt anything either.
Happy 5th Anniversary, B!
I'm off to prepare for a weekend of celebration, which includes the pièce de résistance, tickets to see the Red Sox tomorrow!  Because what, I ask you, is more romantic than thousands of screaming fans at Fenway Park?  When you live in Boston, not much.
Go marriage!  Go Sox!

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Eat, Pray, Fresh

Well.  This is very intriguing....
The Eat, Pray, Love movie isn't even out yet, but I was one of those people who adored the book (seems like it is a love it or hate it kind of thing), and I have always loved everything by the beauty line Fresh.  Now, they've paired together to create a fragrance line inspired by Elizabeth Gilbert's travels through Italy, India and Indonesia just in time for the August 13 release of the film.  While I am aware that this is all just one huge, shameless marketing ploy, I don't even care.  I just want to douse myself in Love (a sunny floral with tropical fruity notes inspired by Bali), brew a pot of ginger tea, and curl up and read the whole thing over again start to finish.  

I can't help myself, I love Elizabeth Gilbert.  If you're on the fence, next time you have 19 minutes to spare, I can't recommend watching her TED talk enough.  I defy you not to be inspired.

Monday, July 26, 2010

Muffins + Mellowness

After a week of relentless insomnia and heat, I decided last weekend was the perfect time to retreat to the beach.
Gin and tonics were consumed, rays were soaked in, and the healing power of the ocean finally allowed me some rest.  Grandparents and aunties took the early shift and I slept in long and blissfully.  We noshed on Mexican take out and had long family chats. My sister and I even sneaked out and finally saw SATC2, which was as terrible as everyone said it would be, but still delicious in its own irresistible SATC way.  And J dug his heart out in the sand and greeted fellow beach goers with an enthusiastic "HI!" from his wagon.
All in all, it was a lovely respite of a weekend; one that made me feel like expressing my joy through baking.  So, while the family slept and little J and I hung out on Sunday morning, I eyed the baskets on baskets of fresh Maine blueberries in the kitchen, and decided that muffins were in order.  There was a gentle breeze coming in from the ocean, a strong pot of coffee brewing and the Sunday New York Times awaiting us on the kitchen table; what could be better, I figured, than hot, fresh muffins?  My recipe uses slightly too many blueberries in the best possible way... I love when a muffin is just falling apart with fruit... but think about scaling back by a half-cup or so if you like a doughier muffin.  My sister made to-die-for Smitten Kitchen scrambled eggs to go alongside, and this was a heavenly breakfast.  I return to the city ready to stay on a sleeping roll and face the week head on.  That's the power of the beach, family time, and some quality muffins.
Blissful Blueberry Muffins
2 cups of all-purpose flour
1 cup whole wheat flour
1 Tbsp baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
10 Tbsp unsalted butter, softened
1 cup sugar
2 large eggs
1 1/2 cup plain yogurt
2 cups blueberries
1 teaspoon cinnamon + 1 teaspoon sugar for topping
1) Preheat oven to 375°F.  Grease all of the cups in a 12-cup muffin tin.
2) Mix the flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt and set aside.
3) In a large mixing bowl, cream butter and sugar together, beating until fluffy. Add eggs and beat well.
4) In stages, beat the dry ingredients and yogurt into the butter-sugar-egg mixture until just incorporated (stir in one third of the flour, followed by one third of the yogurt, until all of both have been mixed in).
5) Fold in the berries. Again, be careful not to over mix -- the secret to light, fluffy muffins is a dough that is just barely mixed together.
6) Distribute the muffin dough equally among the cups in the muffin tin. Sprinkle the tops with just a tad of cinnamon and sugar. Bake until muffins are golden brown, about 25 to 30 minutes. Test with a toothpick to make sure the centers of the muffins are done. Allow to cool at least 5 or 10 minutes before turning the muffins out of the tin.  These are amazing served warm from the oven with a little smear of jam.

Friday, July 23, 2010

Sleeplessness and Window Treatments

Insomnia strikes again.  Brutal.  On the mental roster tonight: travel plans, budgets, today's pediatrician adventures, Boston driving and, last but not least, window treatments.  Light blocking curtains at my hotel last weekend were a revelation.  I think they could be the thing that gets Baby J to sleep past 5:30am and helpful to my insomnia issues as well.  I figured, why not put these extra waking hours to good use, and retreat to the office with a glass of water and the interwebs.  I'm getting some work done, and finding window treatments to boot.  Look at these highly affordable cotton canvas lovelies from West Elm:
 Loving the Blue Sage for the two windows in the baby's room.  Hard to tell how much light they'd block, but they could be just the thing.

And I feel like there is something soothing about these Pewter silk dupioni ones (on sale!) for our room.  I'm thinking gray is the new black.
Of course, in my Moroccan dream palace, I'd do a little something like this:
From Anthropologie (of course)
And as long as we're soothing our insomnia with home decor fantasies at 3am, have you guys ever taken a gander at Ina Garten (aka the Barefoot Contessa)'s Paris apartment?
From the purple glasses to the peonies everywhere to the muted gray furniture, I love it all.
I think if Ina was here to make me a croque monsieur right now, my insomnia problems would just evaporate.
With visions of grilled cheese, Paris, window treatments and this sweet woman dancing in my head, I'm off to try another round of falling asleep.
Is it wrong to count Ina Garten's like others count sheep?
If it is, I don't want to be right.

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Night --> Morning

9:59.  Can't sleep.  So tired.  Hip sore.  Don't know why.  Need to call health insurance in the morning.  Need to send birthday card tomorrow.  Need to take better care of my feet... my heels feel like they belong to a 90-year-old distance runner.  Head to toe analysis of what I ought to do to take better care - haircut, eyebrow wax, really should floss more, need to get my abs back in shape, need to shave my legs + the feet.  10:15.  Forgot to run dishwasher. Get up.  Dishwasher soap, hit the button, soothing whir. Write birthday card.  Find stamp. So many phone calls to return.  Should I call someone now?  No.  Too late, too tired.  Poke through mail.  Hit light.  Back to bed.  Wonder about work, fall, childcare.  Falls to come.  Where will little J go to school?  Public?  Private?  I love this neighborhood.  The schools aren't great.  We'll have to move again.  Ugh... moving.  Still need to unpack the office.  Need to figure out why the printer eats paper now.  Need office supplies.  Need to go to Target.  Need to schedule work call around J's nap schedule for Wednesday.  Need to get rid of this blackhead on my nose. 11:00.  Maybe I'll turn the clock the other way now.  Want to try making curried eggplant, the winning dish on Top Chef this week.  Friend has lots of eggplants in her community garden.  Should call her.  Neighbors' light goes on, neighbors' light goes off.  Car blasting reggaeton rolls down the street.  Hot.  Cold.  Need to take better care of my feet.

Morning Run
5:15.  The baby calls over the monitor and wakes me from the lightest of sleeps.  Quick, quick out of bed to grab him before he wakes the husband... one of us should sleep in.  He's wide awake and thirsty.  Cuddle through a bottle.  My body is addled with insomnia nerves... it's time to change it up.  Red Sox shorts, sports bra, tank, socks.  Foot lotion before the socks... so there!  Grab a toy for J and strap him into the jogging stroller.  We've never run in this 'hood before.  I head towards the pond and feel the last few weeks in my achy hips... lots of lifting, carrying, unpacking, but no running, and I feel it.  Take off down the sidewalk.  In Vermont and Maine, my run was solitary down a dirt road or through the woods.  I've forgotten what it is like to be part of a community of morning runners.  I LOVE it.  I love the older people, out for a slow but deliberate walk.  I love the marathoners, no body fat, trucking past me at warp speed.  I love reading the slogans on peoples' t-shirts, uttering a breathless "mornin'" as we pass eachother.  And J likes to wave at people from his stroller, so I get lots of grins and waves as we roll by.  Positive energy.  I feel my body chemistry shift.  Endorphins replace sleepless adrenaline.  I exhale.  Jamaica Pond is so beautiful, I want to cry.  I love that this is my new run... this mix of nature and city, right out my door.  I take a wrong turn, hit a dead end in a path, turn around and there's the husband on his bike.  "I thought you might get turned around", he grins.  We take off together, people watching and chatting.  This is our new life.  Relief washes over me and the night fades away.   It's a new day.  Embrace it.
Art Credit:  Above, Edward Hopper, Night Windows.  Below, Edward Gault, Jamaica Pond #1.

Monday, July 19, 2010

Business Travel

Sorry to go radio silent for a bit there, ya'll.  I spent last Friday, Saturday and Sunday traveling to Vermont and back for work.  This was my first time away from Baby J overnight other than the night of our move, my first time back to Vermont since we officially moved away, and my first business travel in 2+ years.  Whew!

Driving through the Green Mountains in all their summer glory made me especially reflective (Note to self: when feeling emotional and wearing mascara en route to a day of professional commitments, perhaps do NOT listen to Michael Jackson's "Man in Mirror" . Who knew that one was such a tearjerker?).  I will always have a soft spot for what I believe is one of the most beautiful places in the country.  After work on Friday I ran up to our old house and crammed one last load of our belongings into our Subaru, and with that, truly marked the end of our residence in that beautiful place and our transition to the city.
This morning, I find myself a little all over the place.  There are suitcases to unpack, laundry to do, a home office to organize, and I kicked the whole day off with a double latte and a trip over to a collision repair shop in the nether regions of Hyde Park, since my car was hit in a parking lot last week and needs some auto-body love.  Monday, you are cruel and unusual.   As I kiss the weekend farewell, however, I have several shout outs to make:
1) Patagonia Morning Glory Skirt, you are the ultimate work travel item.

You roll up into a wee, unwrinkleable ball.  You are a work-appropriate length with a nice top during the day, and can transform into a saucy sundress (pictured above) for the evening.  You are comfortable, flattering, versatile, and everything travel clothing should be.  I love you.
2) Apple iPhone, where have you been all my life?
You make texting easy, even for a text-challenged person like me.  You acted as a reliable communication device, a DJ for my event with your iPod function, and a way to stay connected and manage e-mail logistics as I dashed all over the state.  Yes, this is old news to all you iPhone/Blackberry peeps, but as a new adopter, I just have to share my joy and gratitude for this little piece of heaven.

3) Husband, you are a ridiculously talented and capable individual.  Many women, upon leaving their little ones home alone with Dad for a weekend, would encounter multiple "how do I do this" phone calls and arrive home to find a house in disarray, with everyone covered in food and needing care and cleaning.  Not in this house.  My boys did massive amounts of unpacking, cleaned the house, found the local farmers market, plotted our new neighborhood run, and generally took care of business while I was gone.  I arrived home to find two clean, cute and happy fellows enjoying eachother's company, and this amazing dinner waiting for me.
This would be spice-rubbed skirt steak, grilled sweet onions and barbecued chicken legs (the man knew I would need a grub sesh after many long days of working and driving).  Skirt steak is my new favorite meat treat; it's tender, tasty and inexpensive and does amazing things on the grill.  The hub simply rubbed this one with some Rufus Teague's Meat Rub, and grilled away.  The chicken legs were tossed in Stubb's Original Barbecue Sauce and slow-grilled.  Finally, one sweet Vidalia onion was sliced, placed in a foil hobo-pack and drizzled with olive oil, salt and pepper, sealed and slow-grilled alongside the chicken.  Amazing.  I think I need to go away more often.  Husband, I don't know how I got so lucky and scored a man like you, but I am so very grateful that I did.

And now, with my shout-outs complete, let the Monday multi-tasking begin. 

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Wall Letters

Now that we've got clothes in closets, knives in knife blocks and at least some of the books on bookshelves, it's time to move on to some of the more fun elements of making our house home...nesting, decorating, beautifying... making this place ours.  The longer I live in the rooms here, the more ideas I have of what I'd like to do to make them prettier.  One thing I am a tad obsessed with for the baby's room are wall letters.
Did you watch 9 by Design on Bravo this spring?  Not surprisingly, I did, and I developed a huge girl-crush on Cortney Novogratz (gorgeous, calm mother of 7, with serious style...LOVE her) and a lust for their eclectic-chic design esthetic.  The photo above is from their dining area.  They found different letter prints and had them framed in lightboxes to spell "family."  I love the colorful pop and point of interest they provide on the gray wall.  And  you often see letters employed in childrens room design... seen here with this lovely selection from Pottery Barn Kids. I kind of have a love-hate relationship with old PBK.  I love some of their thematic decorating ideas (I am particularly smitten with their little boys' surfer room), but I hate their prices, and think that sometimes they take the matchiness to a bit of an extreme beyond what I can stomach.  But, I love the idea of wall letters, and of spelling lil' J's name out on the wall above his dresser.  There's just a big, long, empty space there, and he is so into words and reading that I think it would be a fun way to translate that into our decor.   But, I feel that little Tristan's letters are a bit austere.  What to do? Enter one of my favorite design websites Apartment Therapy Ohdeeoh:
I LOVE this fun wall of eclectic letters!  Novogratz meets PBK meets SMJ!  We don't have wall real estate for a whole alphabet, but I think finding his name in quirky letters would be a great little scavenger hunt and fun way to eventually personalize his room.  Care to join me?  If in your greater New England or interweb adventures, you happen to encounter a very cool J, H, D, A and/or U (word scramble time! AND scavenger hunt!  How fun am I this morning?), please drop me a line and let me know!  I am on the hunt and am not afraid to get crafty with a paint brush!
What's your favorite eclectic, affordable room decorating trick?

Monday, July 12, 2010

Celebration Cake

So much to celebrate... after a Herculean unpacking effort over the weekend, our new apartment finally feels like home.  I love our new neighborhood so much.  Baby J is officially walking.  The heat wave has broken with a glorious summer thunderstorm (love those).  My sister is here!  And life is good.  What better way to celebrate than with cake?   Would you like the hands-down best cake recipe in the world?  Yes?  Well, here you go:
Photo by cake goddess and wine-making genius Haley
Celebration Cake
2 cups sugar
4 eggs
1 cup vegetable oil
1 cup dry white wine (never use anything you wouldn't drink!)
2.5 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 1/4 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon vanilla
1) Pre-heat the oven to 350F. Grease and flour 9-inch round pans.
2) Beat the sugar and eggs together with an electric mixer.  Add oil, wine, flour, salt, baking powder and vanilla and beat.
3) Bake for 30 minutes, until a toothpick inserted in the center of each cake comes out clean.
And the best part, the Icing
3 cups semi-sweet chocolate morsels
2 sticks unsalted butter
2 teaspoons vanilla
2 cups powdered sugar
1) Melt butter and chocolate together over very low heat, or in a double boiler.
2) Remove from heat, add vanilla.
3) Add sugar, beating gradually until combined.
Allow the cakes to cool completely before removing from their pans and icing them in layers.  I say without compunction that this cake is THE BEST.  It is adapted from the Great Yellow Cake recipe in the Silver Palate New Basics cookbook, that 80s classic which is full of gems from all of our childhoods.  This cake is the best thing to come from all three of their volumes as far as I am concerned.  How often do you find a winning cake recipe that doesn't involve a lick of sifting, obscure ingredients, or undue fuss?  This celebration cake is an all-time crowd-pleaser, delighting even those people who claim to only like pie (I don't believe you).  Try it and let me know what you think... you won't be disappointed!

Thursday, July 8, 2010

Heat Wave Dinner

The heat wave continues, although it seems to be abating a bit today.  Last night, though, it was the end of a long, hot day, and my whole being felt sticky and impatient.  Neither the husband nor I felt inspired to do any cooking whatsoever, and he stated a strong preference for not turning on the oven or stove at all, which was just fine by me.  I honestly could have skipped dinner altogether and just sat in front of a fan with my eyes closed instead, but an active day had my stomach rumbling, and she needed to be fed.  Nights like these call for easy, ready-in-minutes, from the fridge/freezer, no fuss meals.  Here's what I had:
My newest obsession: a Morningstar Farms Tomato and Basil Pizza Burger, which is essentially a veggie burger with a lot of flavor and flare.  I love the cheesiness and Italian zest of these burgers, and they have great nutritional stats for a speedy din (120 calories, 10 grams protein, 6 grams fat).  I served mine on a piece of Trader Joe's Garlic Naan, which we had leftover from a Quickie Indian dinner we had a few nights ago, cut in half and fashioned into a bun.  I spread it with goat cheese, added a handful of baby spinach, and I'll tell you what: it was absolutely delicious, and ready in less than 5 minutes.

On the side, I had grilled zucchini, summer squash and red onions.  This is one of my favorite things to do during peak veggie/peak grilling season.... the husband was manning the grill making some ribs for 4th of July, so I quartered a ton of veggies, tossed them in olive oil, salt and pepper, and put them in the queue for him to grill while he was at the helm of the barbecue anyway.  We had a few of these on the side of the ribs, but the majority went in a Tupperware to be used all week long.  I've tossed them into our green salads, served them along side some orzo salad (hence the little piece of runaway orzo in the forground), and used them as a side.  There's nothing better than having a bunch of grilled veggies on hand!

A jackhammer has just awakened Baby J from a brief morning nap, so it is time for our day to truly begin.  I see many iced beverages in our future.

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Brilliant and/or slightly insane Stay Cool Tip

The heat wave continues, and I forgot to share my favorite totally free tip for staying cool with you last night.  As it is now pushing 90 degrees before 10am, I thought I'd share bright and early.  Here it is: sing Christmas carols.  You heard me.  I'm talking Chestnuts Roasting on an Open Fire, Jingle Bells, Frosty the Snowman type crooning.  Preferably at the top of your lungs while sipping ice water.  I defy you not to feel a little chill in your bones as you trill out "Jack Frost nipping at your nose..."  I swear, it works wonders.  The baby enjoys it too.
Don't you feel cooler just looking at that?
Yes, I'm Jewish.
Have a good one, peeps.

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Hot Times, Summer in the City

Dudes.  It is really flipping hot here in Beantown.  Guess we picked the wrong week to move away from the beach.  It is the kind of muggy, oppressive heat that pretty much incapacitates you and makes your limbs feel like lead.  I am so happy to be back here, and have so much to download about the move, the new 'hood, and a tasty little 4th of July beverage I concocted and dubbed "The Freedom Fizzy", but I'm sorry, right now I am too hot to put that many coherent sentences together.  And any recipe I would write today would go something like this:  Turn on stove.  Decide you'd be insane to cook in this weather.  Turn off stove. Eat cold cereal for dinner. Finish with ice cream. So instead, I've decided to bring you...
SMJ's Guide to Ways to Keep Cool in Boston for $10 or less
When packing up for the beach is not an option, these are our next best ideas...
1) The Children's Playspace at the Atrium Mall is awesome.  Tidy, well-appointed and filled with fun kids and awesome moms and caregivers all looking to stay cool, this was a perfect place for Baby J to get out his morning antsies today.  There is a lounge for resting and snacking, a bathroom pimped out with a super-nice changing table, and plenty of sweet, sweet air-conditioning. Normally, I despise malls, but today, I was loving that cool air, and even the soothing, ambient mall muzak.  (Cost: As long as you can keep your wallet in your pocket as you pass Crewcuts, Baby Gap and, most dangerously for me, the huge, gorgeous Anthropologie mothership that is right next door, this play experience is totally FREE).
 Baby J in "Stroller Parking" at the Mall.
2) Large iced coffee from City Feed and Supply, my fave new neighborhood coffee and lunch joint.  Doors open at 7am, which is a blessed thing when you've been up most of the night and since dawn (someone is still adjusting to sleeping in his new home).  The coffee is fair trade and fantastic.  (Cost: $2.57 for the coffee, but neighborhood gossip, fabulous people watching and sweet, sweet air conditioning are all FREE)
3) Three words: Ice Cold Grapes (Cost: about 3 bucks for the organic ones at Trader Joes's, but sharing them with the baby is priceless).

4) Another Trader Joe's related three words: Indaba Sauvignon Blanc.  Served iced cold 'round quitting time, there is nothing better. It goes very well with almost any cheese and crackers, or chips and salsa, and it pairs well with a nice green salad, which is a great dinner option in this weather... I'm loving baby greens with sliced strawberries and orange peppers, crumbled feta and balsamic vinaigrette. (Cost: Less than $6/bottle from TJ's!!! And I swear it doesn't taste like it. Not bad for a crisp and drinkable white which "shows focused dried herbal flavors with an accent of tart citrus and a fresh and lively aftertaste."  Indeed.).

5)  The Boston Department of Conservation and Recreation maintains several "spray decks" for kids in parks across the city, the most famous of which is the Frog Pond on the Boston Common.
I am still getting over my personal fear that these places are nothing but festering tetanus swamps, and I have some time to continue letting that notion go, as Baby J is still just a bit too small to fend for himself in one of these aquatic free-for-alls.  However, there are two of these beauties within 5 blocks of our house, and all the kids in them look cool, calm and comfy.  As soon as his walk is a bit more steady, I can totally see us being spray deck junkies.  (Cost: Free + $10 co-pay for tetanus shot).

The weatherman on the evening news said that today was the hottest day Boston has seen in the last decade or so, and that the heat wave isn't going anywhere anytime soon, so I sense a series coming on here.  Stay tuned for more heat remedies, and several ideas for amazing whole-dinner salads, which we are seriously rocking around here these days.  There's nothing better than a complete and delicious meal which involves little to no work around the stove.    

That's all for now.  The sun has set here, and so have the last of my functional brain cells.
Stay cool, my friends.

Friday, July 2, 2010

And the winners are...

Happy Friday!  I can't think of a better way to kick off a sunny holiday weekend than to give away 2 gorgeous prizes to 2 gorgeous SMJ readers.  The Random Integer Generator at has helped me select the recipients of our beautiful Amy Dunn clutch and wallet. 
 The Dewdrop clutch goes to anonymous/hpw (comment #15).
and Angella (#13) the wallet is yours!
  And if you did not win, don't despair...Amy's creations can still be yours!  
Visit her Etsy shop and fill your cart with her reasonably priced and beautiful wares.  
Mamas shoppin' mamas is an economic theory I can get behind.
Thanks for playing and have a wonderful 4th of July!

Oh, and check out the fine print... 
So, my attorney (aka The Husband) suggested I "disclose my giveaway policy" to you, my loyal readers.  In the interest of staying in good standing with my legal counsel, here it is:  when I do giveaways, I assign a number to each commenter based on the order of comment.  Then, when it is time to select a winner, I use the Random Integer Generator at to select a winner or winners.  I enter the range of numbers (1 through 25 for this giveaway), the number of integers I'd like generated (2 for this giveaway), and I hit "get numbers".  I count down which commenter corresponds to the numbers spit out by the Integer Generator, et voilà! This is how I choose my winners... totally impartial, totally random, totally monitored by Mr. SMJ, Esquire.  I knew those 3 years of law school would come in handy at some point...

Thursday, July 1, 2010

Things I am Loving Today

1) That our move is over!  Since my last post, we have finally moved all of our things from Vermont and Maine to Boston and are here at last!  There are still a million boxes to unpack and tiny chores to attack, but we are home sweet home and it feels so good.
 Our neighbors' gorgeous!

2) Living near a Trader Joe's again.  TJ's, I will never move more than 30 minutes from you again.  I've missed you so.  My fridge abounds with TJ's loveliness, reasonably priced and delicious all.  Baby J gives two thumbs up to the peanut butter sandwich crackers.  Delish.
3) My new work station.
4) My afternoon snack.
5) How many of you have entered the Amy Dunn giveaway!  Isn't her stuff fantastic?  You have 24 hours left to leave a comment on the post below for a chance to win her darling clutch or wallet.  I'll be randomly selecting two winners tomorrow! 

I am totally worn out but totally excited to finally be here.  
I can't wait to share our Boston adventures with you!