We turned on the light in the baby’s room last night and left it on until we went to bed. I’d initially turned it on to hang a watercolor before dinner and had forgotten all about it. An hour or so later, I yelled up the stairs to Sam that the light was still on but he already knew. He didn’t want to turn it off. When you’re almost a week past your due date, it’s nice to sense a little light in there.
Everyone says to enjoy it. To relish this time between the two of you. To catch up on books and movies and make foods you love. And we did this for awhile. But there is this inbetween-ness that won’t vacate the premises, a sense that we’re still firmly in one familiar world (answering work emails and raking leaves) while staring at the hospital bag that’s been packed for weeks and the empty carseat that lays waiting — signs of the next, not-so-familiar world. And yet, we are trying to enjoy it all. I go on long walks and sometimes Sam will join or I’ll meet up with a girlfriend. We’ve been preparing food for each other, seeing a few movies out, making fires, eating donuts and reading. We are ready, now more than ever. But Sprout seems to be letting us know that it’s not yet quite time yet.
The funny thing about this inbetween time (written about so well in this article forwarded by my friend, Lane) is that virtually everything feels like it’s on hold, like there’s this giant pause button that you carefully maneuver around with each passing day. Our dishwasher is broken but I haven’t called the repairman yet because, ‘what if I go into labor on the day he’s to arrive?’ I keep hemming and hawing when making follow-up doctor or acupuncture appointments, assuring each secretary that there’s no way I’ll be back so it’s really not necessary. And then, sure enough, the following week, wearing the same trusty pair of maternity jeans, I’m sheepishly strolling back in.
The more days that pass, the less comfortable I’m feeling in my body. Because I was lucky to have such an easy pregnancy, this part is certainly new and unexpected. For me, the difference between 39 weeks pregnant and almost 41 weeks is notable. My sister says this is what I get for proclaiming how much I loved being pregnant for all those months. That this is the universe’s way of saying ‘you did, did you?’ And she may be right. But I guess in the big picture of things these long, slow days will eventually become blips tumbling into one tangle of memories: lake walks, fallen leaves, coffee, baby manuals, movies, couch naps, ice cream, and doctor’s visits. Lentil stews, black leggings, squats in the shower, acupuncture needles, cod liver oil, and having Sam help hoist me out of bed in the morning. And what will replace those cloudy, tangled blips will be a tiny human that we’re very much hoping to meet this week. Until then, I have a feeling the nursery light will be on.
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I baked these scones late last night in a small bout of sleeplessness. I looked at a bunch of scone recipes I’ve developed in the past and sort of joined them all together, and the result is a new favorite. They’re humble, light and fragrant — not too sweet, very lightly spiced, and really good with butter and jam. Or just warm on their own. The fact that they’re drop scones and don’t require any rolling or shaping make them a great ‘I want to bake something quick and I don’t have a ton of energy treat. And it turns out they’re a most worthwhile time filler for all of the inbetween-ness. I hope you like them as much as we do.
If you’re not familiar with sultanas, they’re really just a fancy name for golden raisins. The kind I use here look a little darker than the ones you may be used to seeing in stores because they’re unsulphered (sulpher dioxide is a preservative that makes them so pretty and golden) but certainly use whichever is easy for you to find. You could also use currents, regular raisins or dried cranberries instead.
Preheat the oven to 375 F. Line a large baking sheet with a silicone mat or parchment paper (or spray with non-stick spray).
In a medium bowl, whisk together both flours, sugar, baking soda, baking powder, ground spices, salt and orange zest. Add the cubed butter and, using your hands or a pastry cutter, rub or cut it into the flour mixture until it resembles small, course peas. It’s o.k. to have a few larger chunks of butter.
In a small mixing bowl, whisk together the egg, heavy cream, maple syrup and vanilla extract. Add the liquid ingredients to the dry ingredients and, with a large wooden spoon or flat spatula, stir until the dough gathers together in an uneven ball. Fold in the sultana raisins. Make sure all the flour is incorporated, but be careful not to overmix. Refrigerate the dough for 10 minutes.
Using a large spoon, drop 10 even mounds of dough onto the prepared baking sheet. Bake for 16-17 minutes, or until tops are golden brown. Let the scones cool on a wire rack before serving.
On Monday our little family of three is headed to the airport at 6 am to board our first with-baby cross-country trip. We'll be visiting Sam's family in New Jersey for a few days, then renting a car and driving over to meet up with my family at my mom's lake house in the Adirondacks. Sam's younger sister and her kids have yet to meet Oliver; my grandpa has yet to meet him, and Oliver has yet to take a dunk in a lake, see a firefly, or spend quality time with energetic dogs -- of which there will be three. A lot of firsts. This week my family has been madly texting, volunteering to make certain meals or sweets on assigned days while we're at the cabin and it got me thinking about really simple, effortless summer desserts -- in particular, ones that you can make while staying in a house with an unfamiliar kitchen and unfamiliar equipment and still do a pretty bang-up job. I think fruit crisp is just that thing.
In a few short weeks, we're headed to New York, Vermont and New Jersey to visit family and see my sister Zoe get married. In starting to think through the trip and do a little planning, I found Oliver the cutest tiny-person dress shoes I've ever seen (and he's quite smitten with them), sussed out childcare options for the night of the wedding, and found what feels like the most expensive (and last) rental car in the state of New Jersey. I try very hard not to be one of Those People that begins lamenting the loss of a season before it's remotely appropriate to do so, but this year, as we'll be gone much of September, I've felt a bit of a 'hurry, make all the summery things!' feeling set in. So we've been managing increasingly busy days punctuated with zucchini noodle salads, gazpacho, corn on the cob and homemade popsicles (preferably eaten shirtless outside followed by a good, solid sprinkler run for one small person in particular. Not naming any names).
Somehow, in what seems to have been a blink of an eye, we have a six month old baby. In some ways I can't remember a time we didn't have an Oliver, and in other ways it's all a blur broken up by a few holidays (a Thanksgiving thanks to grocery store takeout, and our very first Christmas in Seattle), a few family visits, a one-day road trip to Portland, a birthday dinner out, a birthday cake, weekend drives to nowhere in particular, swimming at the pool with Oliver, weekly get-togethers with our parent's group, doctor's visits, hundreds of walks around the neighborhood, hundreds of cups of coffee, dozens (or more?) of scoops of ice cream. Most of the worrying about keeping a baby alive has made way for other concerns, and Oliver's need for constant stimulation or soothing walks and car rides has been traded for stretches of time playing with a new toy or checking out his surroundings. In truth, it's thanks to that tiny bit of baby independence that this humble, summery cake came to be in the first place. So we've all got an Oliver to thank for that. Or, really, we have a Yossi Arefi to thank, as it's from her beautiful new cookbook that I've bookmarked heavily and am eager to continue exploring.
A triple berry summer crisp made with oats, quinoa flakes and hazelnuts. Summer in a skillet.
I had a weak moment on our honeymoon in Italy when I decided that I should be making gelato for a living. My enthusiasm for Italian gelato wasn't surprising to anyone. I'd done extensive research, made lists, had Sam map out cities in terms of where the best gelaterias were. I took notes and photos and hemmed and hawed over flavor choices: Sicilian Pistachio! Chestnut Honey! Sweet Cheese, Almond and Fig! In truth, on that particular trip, I cared far more about treats, sunshine, and cobblestone walks than I cared about famous landmarks or tourist attractions, often leaving the camera back at the hotel in favor of my small black notebook which housed detailed jottings on dessert discoveries in each city we visited. Our friends Matteo and Jessica happened to be in Naples on the one night we were there, and we all went out for pizza together followed by a long stroll around the city. At some point the conversation turned to gelato (as it's bound to) and Matteo brought up the famous school in Bologna where many renowned gelato artisans study. My wheels were spinning. Maybe we should visit Bologna. I should see this school! I should talk to these students! I could make Sicilian Pistachio; Chestnut Honey; and Sweet Cheese, Almond and Fig each and every day of our lives. Or at the very least, travel to Bologna to learn how and then come back to Seattle to take our Northwest city by storm. Well here we are six months later, back to reality, and the impetus to pack up my bags and head for Bologna has subsided for the time being ... but not the unwavering gusto to sample. That part will always be with me. It's been awhile since I mixed up a batch of ice cream at home, but the other day a beautiful new cookbook landed on my doorstep and I flipped right to a recipe for dark chocolate sorbet with toasty, salty almonds. I didn't need much convincing.