A few days ago I went shopping for running shoes for the first time since Oliver was born. I used to run marathons in my early thirties and would look for pretty specific things in a shoe, but these days I knew I’d use them for occasional runs, walks and bike rides, so training shoes, per se? Not as critical. I miss my serious running days, but my priorities (and my body) are a little different now, and I’ve grown ok with that. So there you have it: on a mild afternoon in early March, I strolled into a local running store and strolled out twenty minutes later with not one but three pairs of new running shoes, along with an anger I couldn’t squelch.
A young sales guy was helping me – let’s call him “Jerrod,” if only because that’s his real name – at least to the degree he could while keeping constant vigil over his phone. Jerrod pulls out the three pairs of shoes I was interested in and as I’m trying them on, I chat with another associate on the floor about her son; we both, as it turns out, have toddler boys and set about commiserating about their precipitous emotional highs and lows that, so they say, will one day normalize. When she went to help another customer, Jerrod turns to me to say, “well maybe these shoes are more than you need? Since you’re just home doing the mom thing we can pull out something else that might work better?”
My face felt red hot as I stared down at my feet. Then I looked straight into Jerrod’s eyes and said, “I’ll take all three” (this is the point in the story in which my husband thinks I’ve lost my mind). He seemed confused and kept reiterating his point that he could bring out more shoes that would fit my lifestyle better. I said “I’ll take all three, Jerrod,” grabbed all three, and started walking up to the register. Now sure, a few days later I see that I have more sneakers than I need and perhaps that wasn’t the most prudent financial decision and yes, I have to figure out when Jerrod takes his lunch break so I can return two of them.
I’ve found I have a particularly strong reaction when people say that someone is “just doing the mom thing.” I got it a lot after I sold Marge, even from some close friends — and I don’t blame them; I know what they meant. I didn’t sell Marge to be a stay at home mom; I sold it for a lot of other reasons. But “just doing the mom thing?” I don’t know, Jerrod. I actually like working. I happen to like being a mother, as well. And neither of those two passions really tell you anything about what running shoes I might need, no less want. And had I decided to stay at home with Oliver full time, “just” really wouldn’t be the word I’d use as I’m convinced it’s one of the hardest jobs out there. Try it out for a day, Jerrod. See how you do. Report back.
For now, I’ll keep wearing my three pairs of sneakers around the house, trying to determine which to keep while making breakfast cookies and copywriting a wine website for a client. Oh and ordering Oliver a new backpack for our upcoming trip to see Nana, and racing to the grocery store to use my coupon for free salmon this week at our local coop. You know, just doing the mom thing.
These cookies are a riff on a recipe in my cookbook for Nutty Millet Breakfast cookies that we make quite a bit. With all the flavors of carrot cake (carrots, coconut, raisins) along with toasty pistachios and warm spices they’re great with coffee or tea and make a most welcome second breakfast, for those of you who are up early and are into that sort of thing. I always like to manage expectations with baked goods: these cookies aren’t crispy — they’re quite soft and chewy: imagine a healthy muffin top in cookie form. I hope you love them.
Sidenote: if you haven’t yet seen Brandi Carlile sing her new song, Mother, to her daughter it’s worth a listen/watch; my favorite part is Evangeline mouthing the words towards the end of the song. The absolute sweetest.
Soft and chewy, these cookies bake up quickly and only dirty two bowls in the process. While I love the pops of color from the pistachios, swap in another nut if you’d like (or omit altogether to keep them nut-free). Because of the high moisture content from the fresh carrots, the cookies are best eaten within 2 days of baking. I often freeze a few to have on hand for those late mornings when a warm, whole grain cookie sounds like just the thing.
Preheat the oven to 350F. Line a large baking sheet with parchment paper or a silicone mat.
In a large bowl, whisk together both flours, oats, cardamom, cinnamon, ginger, salt, baking soda and baking powder.
In a separate medium bowl, whisk together the coconut oil, maple syrup, egg, and vanilla extract. Pour the wet ingredients into the flour mixture, folding in with a wooden spoon until incorporated. Stir the carrots, pistachios, coconut and raisins into the dough until combined (feel free to use your hands and get in there to give the dough a few turns to ensure all the dry ingredients are incorporated). The dough will be super sticky; that’s ok. Let the dough rest for 10 minutes.
Scoop out 2 tablespoons of dough and, working quickly, form a ball using your hands. Place the balls about 1 ½ inches apart on the prepared baking sheet. Gently flatten the cookies with the palm of your hand to about ¾ inch thickness.
Bake for about 12 minutes, or until slightly golden brown around the edges and firmed yet still soft in the center (they’ll continue to firm up as they cool). Let the cookies cool for 10 minutes on the baking sheet, then transfer to a wire rack to cool completely.
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.