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.
Glimpses of Spring
We returned home from San Francisco on New Years Eve just in time for dinner, and craving greens -- or anything other than baked goods and pizza (ohhhh San Francisco, how I love your bakeries. And citrus. And winter sunshine). Instead of driving straight home, we stopped at our co-op where I ran in for some arugula, an avocado, a bottle of Prosecco, and for the checkout guys to not-so-subtly mock the outlook of our New Years Eve: rousing party, eh? They looked to be in their mid-twenties and I figured I probably looked ancient to them, sad even. But really, there wasn't much sad (or rousing, to be fair) about our evening: putting Oliver to bed, opening up holiday cards and hanging them in the kitchen, and toasting the New Year with arugula, half a quesadilla and sparkling wine. It wasn't lavish. But it's what we both needed. (Or at least what we had to work with.) Since then, I've been more inspired to cook lots of "real" food versus all of the treats and appetizers and snacks the holidays always bring on. I made Julia Turshen's curried red lentils for the millionth time, a wintry whole grain salad with tuna and fennel, roasted potatoes, and this simple green minestrone that I've taken for lunch this week. Determined to fit as many seasonal vegetables into a bowl as humanly possible, I spooned a colorful pesto on top, as much for the reminder of warmer days to come as for the accent in the soup (and for the enjoyment later of slathering the leftover pesto on crusty bread).
It turns out shopping for wedding dresses is nothing like they make it appear in the movies. Or at least it hasn't been for me. Angels don't sing. Stars don't explode. Relatives don't cry. There isn't a sudden heart-stopping moment that this is, in fact, "the one." To be honest, I always knew that I wasn't the kind of gal for whom angels would sing or stars would explode but I did think I'd have some kind of moment where I could tell I'd found the best dress. Instead, my mom flew into town and we spent three (yes, three!!) days shopping for dresses, and since then I've been back to the stores we visited -- and I'm more undecided than ever. Tomorrow morning I'll return with my friend Keena to try and tie this business up once and for all. Cross your fingers.
When I was single and living alone in the Bay Area, I made virtually the same thing for dinner each night. I ate meals quickly while in front of the computer. Or even worse: the television. This most often included what I call "Mexican Pizzas" which were basically glorified quesadillas baked in the oven until crispy. Sometimes, if I was really feeling like cooking, I'd whip up a quick stir-fry with frozen vegetables from Trader Joe's or a mushroom frittata using pre-sliced mushrooms. Mostly, though, it was Mexican Pizzas -- a good four or five nights a week. Today, thankfully, dinner looks a lot different. Meals in general look a lot different. How would I explain that difference? I think that ultimately how we feel about our life colors how we choose to feed ourselves and the importance that we place on preparing our own meals.
Today was 75 degrees in Seattle and it seemed the whole city was out and about drinking iced coffee in tank tops and perhaps not working all that hard. When we have a hit of sunshine like this in April (or, really, any time of the year), we're all really good at making excuses to leave the office early -- or, simply, to "work from home." I just got back from LA last night, unpacked in a whirlwind this morning, and took Oliver to meet up with three friends from our parents group at the zoo. The only other time I'd been to the Seattle zoo was once with Sam a few years ago when we arrived thirty minutes before closing and ended up doing a whirlwind tour -- sprinting from the giraffes to the massive brown bear to the meerkat. The visit today was much different: we strolled slowly trying to avoid the spring break crowds and beating sun. I managed to only get one of Oliver's cheeks sunburned, and he even got in a decent nap. A success of an afternoon, I'd say. Coming home I realized we didn't have much in the fridge for lunch -- but thankfully there was a respectable stash of Le Croix (Le Croix season is back!) and a small bowl of this whole grain salad I made right before I left town. It's the kind of salad that's meant for this time of year: it pulls off colorful and fresh despite the fact that much of the true spring and summer produce isn't yet available. And for that reason, I make a few versions of it in early spring, often doubling the recipe so there's always the possibility of having a small bowl at 1 p.m. while the baby naps in the car seat, one cheek sunburned, windows and back door open -- a warm breeze creeping into the kitchen.
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.