Friday, July 29, 2011

Kitchen Favorite Things

This week, I stumbled upon this fantastic photography collection by Mark Menjivar, which documents the inside of people's refrigerators.  The popularity of this project got me reflecting on what a voyeuristic society we are, and how thrilling it can be to have a little peek inside the lives of others, even when we're just peeking at the minutiae.  In the name of this good fun, I thought I'd close the week by showing you some of my favorite things in my kitchen these days...
An old Perrier Jouet bottle repurposed to hold vegetable oil.
A salt box, a gift from my mother-in-law's travels.  We keep Kosher salt on one side and fine sea salt on the other and keep it next to the stove for easy seasoning access.
I love this print from my sister and keep it at the center of my home as my mantra!  I also love how whatever fruit is in our fruit basket seems to compliment the red in the print.  The basket is also from sister, handmade on an island in the Bahamas where she used to live and where the husband and I got engaged.  Good stuff all around...
There's nothing better than a full fridge.  I was just back from a remarkably smooth grocery run with the little man when I snapped this shot. On the menu for the week ahead: Sesame Noodles with Shrimp, Vegan Salad Nicoise, and carnitas enchiladas verdes.  Recipes to follow!
I'm enamored of a solid fridge collage.  The Real Simple for Target hanging to do/to buy list is one of my all time fave items.  Also adored: great family photos, beautiful birth announcements, the tiny calendar from our local Cuban restaurant, a teeny box grater, and my beloved Make Dinner Not War sticker from DALS (wise words if ever there were any).
And the best thing in my kitchen: a happily noshing little man!
Come back next week for an incredible natural beauty product giveaway from Stonyfield Farms!
And in the meantime, have a wonderful weekend.
On the agenda here: celebrating our SIXTH anniversary!  Nothing but bliss...

Thursday, July 28, 2011

Home Sweet Home

Out the kitchen window at my parents' new house...
The last week has been a blur.  Heat waves do something funny to my state of consciousness.  In the span of ten degrees, I can be melted from a efficient, multi-tasking machine into a slow motion caricature of myself, moving through honey in a shadow of my daily motions.  The intense heat at the end of last week made time simultaneously stop and disappear.  Though it was less than a week ago, the memories are as hazy as those of a weekend last summer.

We segued from this sleepy state into road trips for the whole family.  The husband took off for work for a few days, the little man and I sped up to my parents' new home up north.  Again, time seemed to swirl away up there.  It's amazing how days can be so full, yet time can seem so slow.  Rainstorms turned brutal hot into shocking cold.  We ate lobster rolls.  Worked on plans for my little sister's wedding.  Talked late into the night.  I couldn't put down The Help and that thing happened to me that happens to us bookish ones where suddenly the lines between your novel and reality blur a bit.  I was both on the seacoast with my son and in 1960s Jackson, Mississippi.  I had weird and fitful sleeps, having intense dreams about friends who are pregnant.  I drank strong coffee and ordered toddler-sized formal-wear online.  The little guy did yard work.
Then yesterday, I had one of those singular parental experiences that must earn me some sort of special mama stripes (or at least a strong martini).  The little guy, the dog and I were sitting in stopped traffic approaching the Tobin Bridge on our way back into Boston.  In the backseat: toddler, dog, luggage.  In the front seat: mama, gabbing away to middle sister on cell.  And suddenly, little J puked.  Like The Exorcist.  Three times.  All over the car seat, all over the dog's leash, all over himself.  He was wailing with a tiny goatee of puke on his chin, and there was literally nothing I could do about it... no shoulder, nowhere to pull over, nothing but thirty minutes of stopped traffic between us and a sink.  I have no words.  He was a trooper, and I called upon my intimate knowledge of Boston's Beacon Hill neighborhood, pulled off the highway twenty minutes later, and cleaned him up as best I could with wipes and Kleenex, thoroughly horrifying every chic passerby with the misfortune to glance inside our Volkswagen.  The car smelled of goldfish crackers and yogurt, and I literally thought I might puke myself.  When we finally made it home, I have never been so happy to see the husband, fresh off a flight home, standing at the ready on the porch with his arms full of towels.  The little man seems no worse for the wear this morning, but all four of us are going to take a couple days to bounce back from that one.  Shout out to the husband for dealing with the putrid carseat... I love you.

This morning was lazy.  I woke up with a parched-with-thirst little guy at 4:55am, sipped cup after cup of coffee, trying to urge my eyes to open.  I started laundry.  Went through mail.  Unpacked.  Organized.  It was so incredibly soothing to be Home.  In my kitchen, in my pajamas, dealing with my life. I opened my laptop and could hardly believe that a week has gone by since my last post.  The time was packed to the brim, yet it already feels so far past in life's rear view mirror.  There is nothing sweeter than coming home after being gone, and feeling the tight embrace of the life you have created for yourself with the people you love.

The temperatures are cooling a bit, life is calming, and things are slowly coming back to normal.  I have so much to share here, and can't wait to get back to it.  In the next few days you can look for a cookbook review of (and delicious recipe from) Vegan Family Meals, and an amazing natural beauty product giveaway!  Come back soon!

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Summer Lovin'

When the temperature hovers around 100 for days on end and you're scratching your mosquito bites and dreaming of butternut squash and fall knitwear, it is a good time to remind yourself of what makes summer so delicious (and my personal favorite season).  Lovelies, here is my heat wave pep talk of things to love about summer in list form...

1) Grilled everything
It's a good thing the husband loves to grill so much, because every meal plan I create these days has him out there slaving over the hot coals at least three nights a week.  I appreciate not adding to the heat in the house by turning on the stove or oven, and I love ending the day by putting little J down, then standing around in the backyard with the hubs and an icy beverage while he plays with fire.  One of my favorite finds this summer has been grilled leeks (pictured above).  You just cut the leek lengthwise, rinse out the sand, brush on some olive oil, salt and pepper and fan it on the grill.  The result is akin to what many a shmancy restaurant calls "melted leeks" and it takes about 7 minutes of grill-time.  The trick is to turn the leek often so it doesn't burn.  When you get it right, you come out with the most fabulously silky, sweet, salty side dish.  Last night I tossed chopped grilled leeks with orzo and the grilled tomatoes and orange peppers pictured above.  I dressed this with balsamic, honey, olive oil, salt, pepper and paprika, and sprinkled feta over the top.  SO. GOOD.  A shout out to my grillmaster, who makes summer the most delicious time of year around here.

2) Iced Green Tea
Thanks to Magical Iced Coffee, I recently found myself going down a slippery slope of over-caffeination most mornings, yet again.  I realized I needed another equally delicious and refreshing yet less caffeinated option to switch to after my first cup (okay, cup and a half!) of iced coffee.  I had impluse-bought a box of Yogi Super Antioxidant Green Tea on sale at Whole Foods last week, and decided to try icing some.  I boiled a soup pot of water, tied six bags in a knot and threw them in with about a quarter cup of honey and let the whole thing cool before pouring it into a Rubbermaid pitcher to store in the fridge.  YUM.  This is now my go-to summer daytime drink.  Jasmine-scented, perfectly energizing, slightly sweet and full of free-radical killing goodness, I can't get enough. 

3) Sporty Skirts
Picture via
I love wearing skirts and dresses in the summer, but when your day revolves around chasing a very speedy two-year-old daredevil, not just any skirt will do.  I need workhorse pieces that I can still climb a jungle gym and go down a slide in, and that won't slip off or tear on a bike or at the playground.  I'm finding that I love pieces from some of my favorite sportswear companies -- Prana, Patagonia, and Horny Toad -- more than ever.  All the ones in my closet are at least two or three years old, and still (more or less) good as new, which is why I love the durability of these sportswear designs.  I'm constantly grabbing a paisley-print Prana skirt of mine that is about five years old, but also love their Shiloh Skirt (pictured above) from this season.  They represent the best of both worlds in feminine and rugged.  Yay.

4) Friday Night Lights
Image via
This has nothing to do with summer except for the fact that when it is still 85 degrees at 8pm, sometimes all one can reasonably do is sit by a fan and try to be entertained by the television.  In that case, why not watch the best show ever?  We're just wrapping up season 1 on Netflix, and I really do think that this could be my favorite show of all time.  So much heart!  So much soul!  And, note to self, should I ever have a daughter: be sure to rent and watch season 1, episode 17 when it is time to have The Talk.  Tami Taylor delivers what has to be the most well-executed Talk a mom could ever give her daughter, in my opinion.  Those Taylors, I tell you.  As I texted the husband at the end of the day yesterday, "I'm having the kind of day that only Coach Taylor can fix."  If you haven't been hooked in already, get ye to Netflix and get ordering.  Buy a box of Kleenex and thank me later. 
Oh hi, Tim Riggins.
5) JP Licks Frozen Yogurt
Peanut butter.  Oreo.  Chocolate Chip Cookie.  Mint Chip.  Each low-fat and better than the last, tasting like decadent full-fat ice cream, yet being much healthier.  I am developing a problem, and knew it was getting serious when I considered how many times I could send the husband in to donate blood in their pint for a pint program (Just kidding.  Kind of.  And I can't donate blood in public, passing out ensues).  I can't help it, it is that good.  With apologies to our dear friends, dare I say it is the best part of living in Boston?  Okay, I do have a problem.
What are your favorite things this summer?

Monday, July 18, 2011

Peace Cereals

When the dog days of summer arrive, one of my favorite go-to meals is a simple, refreshing bowl of cereal.  No cooking is required; just a dish, a spoon and some icy cold milk.  Like many items on my grocery list, I'm prone to grab the same crowd-pleasing choices in the cereal aisle week after week (the fattiest granola I can find for the little guy, Honey Nut Cheerios for the big guy, Kashi Strawberry Fields for me), but that is boring and unsustainable!  Our taste buds demand variety, and so I was especially excited when Hearthside Foods sent me two boxes of their Peace Cereals to try and review on Sweet Mama Jane.

I received one box each of their Walnut Spice and Blueberry Pomegranate cereals.  All of the thirteen cereals in the Peace line are GMO-free and feature natural ingredients and whole grains.  We loved the two that we tried.  I am a sucker for any cereal with "clusters", which are featured in the Walnut Spice cereal.  While my mom always said that "comparison is odious", I must say that the Walnut Spice reminds me of a healthy version of Honey Bunches of Oats.  This is a high compliment, as I loved that cereal until I started focusing on whole grains and high fructose corn syrup free foods.  The flakes are tasty, but the ancient grain clusters are the the slightly sweet, slightly nutty highlight.  You have to love a breakfast this healthy that almost tastes like dessert treat.  The husband especially liked this cereal, so much so that its only downfall was that one box only lasted for two days in the house!  The little man has been enjoying the Blueberry Pomegranate cereal, as have I.  It achieves a balanced fruitiness without being too cloyingly sweet.  It also has little rice clusters throughout for a satisfying crunch.

The cereals are high in fiber, but don't have that cardboard-y taste of many fiber rich cereals, and they don't leave your belly feeling overly full.  They are both a bit higher in fat than those I usually choose for the husband and me (6 grams per serving), but that could also contribute to the satiety they provide, and some healthy fats to start your day are a good thing.  All in all, I'd highly recommend both cereals to add some variety to your morning routine.  I can't wait to try the other flavors (Raspberry Ginger and Vanilla Almond are kind of calling my name).  I love finding a new product I can add to the mix and feel good about buying.
Thanks to Hearthside for the delicious samples!

Thursday, July 14, 2011


I've just discovered a new magazine about to launch this month called Kinfolk.  The concept revolves around capturing the special small gatherings we create in our homes.  Entertaining in our home is more or less the hub of our social life these days, and something we love to do, so I was excited to stumble on this new source of inspiration.  You may have noticed a dearth of recipe posts lately, and that is because a certain someone has been stuck in a taco night/Indian night/pizza night/salad night rut since our July 4th barbecue bonanza.  There is nothing I love more than an infusion of kitchen creativity, and the online journal component of Kinfolk is just what the doctor ordered, featuring gorgeous photography and fun concepts for entertaining.  The eclectic team of artists working on the project mean it is bound to be something special.  If there is one hidden blessing to living in these recessionary times, it is that we are given the opportunity, called upon really, to elevate the everyday and make simplicity special.  It looks like Kinfolk will be inspiration to do just that.  Check it out and let me know what you think!
 Photos via Kinfolk

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Bicycle Love

I grew up as an avid bike rider.  My childhood took place in the glory days where parents would let their children out the back door to play, and we wouldn't be seen or heard from for hours until we were called back in.  More often than not, my sisters and I were off somewhere tearing it up on our bikes.  We moved from a suburb of New York where our neighbors and we were a de facto bicycle gang, riding all over the neighborhood all day, to a resort in Oregon that featured an extensive network of bike paths.  Living at the resort was a revelation.  We no longer depended on our parents to take us anywhere!  We biked to friends houses, to town for ice cream, to spots to go wading on the Deschutes River... the whole town was ours for the taking.  And if that wasn't enough, our next move after Oregon was to Holland, the bicycle capitol of the known universe.  There we bought old cruiser bikes and rode far and wide through the old cobblestone streets.  I have a scar on my chin from one rowdy ride home from a girlfriend's house (hi Meghan!) that landed me on the pavement, and fond memories of the lot of us riding all over our neighborhood, perhaps one too many times past the home of a particularly adorable Dutch boy.

Then something happened.  High school, I believe it was.  Life got busy, and bikes weren't cool, and somehow the riding stopped.  I did get a mountain bike for my high school graduation, anticipating taking up mountain biking at college in Colorado, but it turns out I am a huge weinie, and "mountain biking" doesn't technically involve riding the brakes down the hill screaming "Help!!!"  My lovely purple Trek then proceeded to collect dust for some time.  I was petrified of riding in the cities I lived in in my twenties (San Francisco hills!  Boston drivers!), and intimidated by the steep hills in our towns in Vermont.  I kind of thought my biking days were over.  The adventurer and environmentalist in me was sad about this, but the weinie was comforted.

And then the little man came along.  The husband, not being a weinie, loves biking, and was eager to rig his bike with a seat for little J as soon as was age-appropriate.  We do live in a part of Boston which happens to feature miles and miles of contiguous bike paths.  In fact, you can ride from our house to the heart of downtown in about 20 minutes, and almost entirely on protected paths.  So, this spring, B got an iBert Safe-T seat for his bike and took to the road with J.  Immediately, both boys were smitten with their new pastime.
Adorable, I must say.
Little J LOVES riding with his daddy.  The new front-mounted child seats provide such an exciting and intimate experience for parent and child.  I spent the late-70s looking at my parents' sweaty backs on rides, whereas little J looks out to the road ahead with the wind in his face; far more exhilarating!  The boys also chat with each other throughout their rides, as their faces are more or less side by side.  It is wonderful, and I was eager to join, yet my inner weinie was still getting the best of me.  We witnessed a terrible bike accident when we first moved back here last fall, and it really traumatized me for city riding.  It took the husband's gentle coaxing, baby steps of some incredibly short first rides out, and spending an afternoon at the local bike shop for a tune up to really get me back out on the road.  And now...

I LOVE IT!  There really is something about riding a bike.  Not only do your mind and body somehow never forget how to do it, but riding down the street with the wind whipping past your ears creates a sense memory of carefree childhood that is like no other.  Riding down the bike paths, I get a glimpse back to the days where my sisters and I would stay out riding for hours without a care in the world.  It is amazing for the soul and, incidentally, not so bad for the tuchas either.  I've been running a lot and biking is providing the perfect cross-training break for my knees -- bonus!

Also, like so many other things (having a baby, or a dog, come to mind), it isn't until you take up something yourself that you start to notice it all around you.  Bike culture is everywhere, and incredibly intriguing.  Aside from the physical and environmental benefits of riding, there is some stunning bike style to admire.  I was flipping through Lucky Magazine this month, and in a feature about the designer Lela Rose there was a snapshot of her and her daughter on her custom bike.
Photo via Lucky Magazine
How amazing is this cruiser-pedicab hybrid?  I love the green basket and upholstered seats, and I really love the sheer joy on both of their faces.
Photo via Tribeca Citizen
Lela even arrived at this year's Tribeca Ball on this contraption (extra points for coordinating earrings with bike basket).  I love her for having the balls to ride to a formal event in heels, and for the conversation-starter such a maneuver represents (although, as an event planner, I pity the poor soul who had to find an impromptu space to store the beast -- unless she made arrangements ahead of time, in which case she is officially my top hero).  Turns out, everywhere you look there are beautiful images of people enjoying their cities on bicycles...
Photo via sdbikecommuter
Photo via Cup of Jo

I'm charmed, inspired, and grateful to be back on my bike!  If yours has been collecting dust for awhile, I urge you to take it for a spin.  It's amazing how good you'll feel both physically and mentally.
Mama sporting awesome Bern helmet, little J trying desperately to escape to expedite start of ride.
Have little ones and just considering getting back on the road?  Check out this great article from Babble on 23 Things to Know About Biking with Kids.

Friday, July 8, 2011

Stilista|Boston & Madewell FUN

My lovely friend Marisa works for a fabulous Boston company called Stilista, which provides styling and personal shopping services.  She's asked me to spread the word that next Thursday, July 14, from 7-9pm, Stilista and Madewell Boston are co-hosting a private shopping party, and that YOU, my friends, are invited to attend!
The free event will feature Stilista's styling services, as well as sangria, cupcakes and discounts.  Fashion advice, dessert, cocktails and deals all in one place?  Pinch me.
Once a workwear company specializing in jeans, Madewell now features downtown-chic goodies from espadrilles to fedoras, as well as some of the sweetest summer dresses you could hope to get your hands on.  You also may have noticed their website popping up on your last visit to, as Madewell is now part of the J.Crew group.   Think of that same utilitarian vibe that J.Crew comes from, and add a funky twist, and you've got Madewell. 

I love this Roppongi Dress made by Cambodian artisans, and love even more that the profits go back to the Siem Riep province where it was made.  I shall see on Thursday if my 5'2"-ness makes the length a tad more age-appropriate.
Someday the trend may end, but until it does, I can't get enough of the French, nautical stripy-ness!  

I adore the vintage look of these sandals and the "Thai chili" color.
The Stilista/Madewell event sounds like just about the perfect night out on the town.  And Madewell is nestled right at the end of Newbury Street, where many a darling cafe awaits you to rest and rehydrate after a solid bout of shopping.   SMJ readers, if you're in the Boston area or plan to be next week, please come enjoy this event.  
Thanks for the invite, Marisa!  
See you there!

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Gluttony --> Health

Like the true patriots we are, we celebrated Independence Day by firing up our grill three times in three days.  Nothing says freedom like food cooked over an open flame! Some of my top favorite recipes of the weekend came from other food bloggers and chefs, and I wanted to pass them on for your enjoyment.
We loved:
The Barefoot Contessa's Maple Baked Beans
I used cannellini beans instead of kidney and loved the milder flavor.  You can't go wrong with Ina.

Dinner: A Love Story's Mustardy Potato Salad
A simple new potato salad with fresh basil and two kinds of mustard, this was the perfect lighter side on a table full of fattier goodies. This is now my official go-to potato salad for mayo boycotters, although my own heart remains true to my mother-in-law's ridiculously good mayo-based potato salad, which I like to eat for breakfast if she makes it when we visit... don't judge.

Eat Live Run's Gingered Peach and Blackberry Cobbler
My first foray into biscuit-topped cobbler, and it was mind blowing.  The husband, who usually avoids hyperbole, deemed it one of the best desserts of all time.  The chopped crystalized ginger in the biscuits takes it right over the top.  Please make this ASAP while the peaches are sweet and perfect... truly an ode to summer.

We also ate: barbecued ribs, ridiculous homemade burgers on peppered brioche rolls, grilled chicken, tons of corn, and more frozen yogurt than I care to discuss.  We looked at each other over hot dogs on Monday and knew we needed a bit of a health kick for the week to counteract the extreme indulgence, so we did what any pair of good health foodies would do and hauled out the juicer.   Now is the time to juice, juice, juice, when produce is flavorful and inexpensive, and chilled liquid makes the start of the day brighter and more energized.  My favorite juices of late have been:
The Classic: carrot, beet, ginger and apple. This juice is the ultimate detoxifier and will leave you feeling vibrant and awake.
The Pink Lady: juice grapefruit, lemon, lime and ginger in the juicer, then blend with strawberries, ice and a teaspoon of honey to balance the acidity of the citrus.  Holy delicious!  This juice is also a detoxifier, as well as an immune booster thanks to the healthy dose of Vitamin C from the citrus and berries.
A bike ride around the city on Monday and four miles around the pond this morning pushing the toddler (hubs) and pulling the dog back (me), and we're feeling pretty back in business over here.
How are you bouncing back from your holiday weekend?
And is it me, or are "short weeks" sometimes the longest?

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Life Lesson a la Music Class

On Tuesday mornings I take the little man to music class.  This is one of my favorite parts of the week, as we're guaranteed an hour of good companionship and fun in a lovely, air-conditioned room, I love to sing and dance around like the huge dork that I am, and the teacher, Christy, is hands down the little guy's first true love (he gets starry-eyed at the mere mention of her name).  For summer session, Christy has a lovely intern who will take on her own class in the fall.  The intern is sweet, has sparkly eyes and a calm demeanor, and seems to genuinely get a kick out the kids (0 to 5-year-olds at music class can either be hilarious or incredibly annoying, depending on the day).  And today she offered me a great life lesson, completely unintentionally.

Christy is an old pro, and could probably lead music class in her sleep.  She is adored by all the kids, and her role is something akin to Jerry Garcia playing to a packed stadium of Deadheads... she's already a hero just for showing up, making noise, and not passing out before the thing is over.  Today she opened with a few songs, that handed it over to her intern, who instantly and totally froze.  Music played on silently (if that is possible -- what I mean is that it was the karaoke version of the song, because the intern was supposed to provide the words, and the silence was deafening), and she looked increasingly panicked.  Christy gently urged her to start singing, and she finally sang a few words before burying her head in agony and embarrassment.  You could tell every mom and nanny in that room just wanted to run over and give her a hug.  Finally, she pulled it together and sang again, and we all chimed in with so much enthusiasm and loudness, the volume alone conveyed our sympathy.

So, here's the thing... everyone in that room was just an exhausted, overheated mom or caregiver looking for something fun to do and a little help in keeping their little one happy, stimulated, and entertained for an hour or so.  We don't need Pavarotti, we don't even need Raffi... we just need someone else to be the most alert person in the room and give us a break for a few.  We're not judging anyone on their singing or creativity, we're just grateful that the music teacher is there, and charmed by our kids, and giving us a chance to play a tambourine and zone out without being a professional go-go dancer.  All she had to do was say "la la la", and we were ready to join her in a resounding, supportive chorus.

I think you know where I'm headed with this... so many times in life we hold back because we want to be perfect or nothing.  We're afraid to sing out when we have nothing planned to sing, for fear that our freestyling will be inadequate or embarrassing.  We think that unless we are Christy, everyone is going to judge us and think we're not doing it right and wish the pretty blond lady would just take back over already.  And we're wrong.  Nine times out of ten, everyone is pulling for the intern.  The vast majority of people want us to succeed and want to help us get there.  This little microcosmic music incident drove home for me that perfection is truly the enemy of progress.  It is so much better to just open your mouth and sing... whatever comes out, the crowd is ready and willing to hear it and there is a good chance they'll chime right in.  They may even dance around like dorks.  And be grateful to you for just being there and trying.
Anyone who helps with this ball of energy is a hero in my book.

Friday, July 1, 2011

To the wonderful women in my life...

The Sartorialist captured these sisters in Italy, and the shot just says it all about women and our friendships.  LOVE.
Thank you.
For baring your soul to me on the phone on a Monday afternoon.
For watching my son so I can sit at a coffee shop and stare out the window and think my thoughts (and do my work!) for the morning.
For watching my son with so much love that I can travel away for work and not think twice about leaving him.
For inviting me to your home and feeding me when you know I'm home alone.
For being the persistent sender of the best mail ever.
For making me laugh until I cry.
For being the person on the receiving end of my quirky photo texts and responding in kind.
For pouring me another glass of Sauvignon Blanc.
For loving my son to the moon and the stars, and letting it show.
For being the world's best traveling companions.
Vietnam, 2001
For having magical healing powers.
For encouraging me to talk about my birth experience with little J, and for helping me get over it.
For making killer guacamole.
For making work fun.
For pushing me to run another mile.
For sending me a plane ticket (or trying damn hard to).
For hand-me-downs and shared products and heartfelt recommendations.
For commenting on my blog so I know I'm not just talking to myself!
For having a bit of a dark side.
For ordering the dessert.
For being there when we need you.
Thank you.
I feel truly blessed.