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.
Healthy Comfort Food
People describe raising young kids as a particular season in life. I hadn't heard this until we had a baby, but it brought me a lot of comfort when I'd start to let my mind wander, late at night between feedings, to fears that we'd never travel internationally again or have a sit-down meal in our dining room. Would I ever eat a cardamom bun in Sweden? Soak in Iceland? I loved the heck out of our tiny Oliver, but man what had we done?! Friends would swoop in and reassure us that this was just a season, a blip in the big picture of it all. They promised we'd likely not even remember walking around the house in circles singing made-up songs while eating freezer burritos at odd hours of the day (or night). And it's true.
Oliver is turning two next month, and those all-encompassing baby days feel like a different time, a different Us. In many ways, dare I say it, Toddlerhood actually feels a bit harder. Lately Oliver has become extremely opinionated about what he will and will not wear -- and he enforces these opinions with fervor. Don't get near the kid with a button-down shirt. This week at least. He's obsessed with his rain boots and if it were up to him, he'd keep them on at all times, especially during meals. He insists on ketchup with everything (I created a damn monster), has learned the word "trash" and insists on throwing found items away on his own that really, truly are not trash. I came to pick him up from daycare the other day and he was randomly wearing a bike helmet -- his teacher mentioned he'd had it on most of the day and really, really didn't want to take it off. The kid has FEELINGS. I love that about him, and wouldn't want it any other way. But, man it's also exhausting.
I just finished washing out Oliver's lunchbox and laying it out to dry for the weekend. My favorite time of day is (finally) here: the quiet of the evening when I can actually talk to Sam about our day or sit and reflect on my own thoughts after the inevitable dance party or band practice that precedes the bedtime routine lately. Before becoming pregnant for the second time, I'd have had a glass of wine with the back door propped open right about now -- these days though, I have sparkling water or occasionally take a sip from one of Sam's hard ciders. Except now the back door's closed and we even turned on the heat for the first time yesterday. The racing to water the lawn and clean the grill have been replaced by cozier dinners at home and longer baths in the evening. You blink and it's the first day of fall.
I'd heard from many friends that buying a house wasn't for the faint of heart. But I always shrugged it off, figuring I probably kept better files or was more organized and, really, how hard could it be? Well, I've started (and stopped) writing this post a good fifteen times which may indicate something. BUT! First thing's first: we bought a house! I think! I'm pretty sure! We're still waiting for some tax transcripts to come through and barring any hiccough with that, we'll be moving out of our beloved craftsman in a few weeks and down the block to a great, brick Tudor house that we wanted the second we laid eyes on it. The only problem: it seemed everyone else in Seattle had also laid eyes on it, and wanted it equally as much. I'm not really sure why the homeowner chose us in the end. Our offer actually wasn't the highest, but apparently there were some issues with a few of them. We wrote a letter introducing ourselves and describing why we'd be the best candidates and why we were so drawn to the house; we have a really wonderful broker who pulled out all the stops, and after sifting through 10 offers and spending a number of hours deliberating, they ended up going with ours. We were at a friend's book event at the time when Sam showed me the text from our broker and I kind of just collapsed into his arms. We were both in ecstatic denial (wait, is this real?! Did we just buy a house?) and celebrated by getting chicken salad and potato salad from the neighborhood grocery store and eating it, dazed, on our living room floor. Potato salad never tasted so good.
If your house is anything like ours, last week wasn't our most inspired in terms of cooking. We're all suffering from the post-election blues -- the sole upside being Oliver's decision to sleep-in until 7 am for the first time in many, many months; I think he's trying to tell us that pulling the covers over our heads and hibernating for awhile is ok. It's half-convincing. For much of the week, instead of cooking, there'd been takeout pizza and canned soup before, at week's end, I decided it was time to pour a glass of wine and get back into the kitchen. I was craving something hearty and comforting that we could eat for a few days. Something that wouldn't remind me too much of Thanksgiving because, frankly, I can't quite gather the steam to start planning for that yet. It was time for a big bowl of chili.
Porridge is not the sexiest of breakfasts, it's true. It doesn't have a stylish name like strata or shakshuka, and it doesn't have perfectly domed tops like your favorite fruity muffin. It doesn't crumble into delightful bits like a good scone nor does it fall into buttery shards like a well-made croissant. But when you wake up and it's 17 degrees outside (as it has been, give or take a few, for the last week), there's nothing that satisfies like a bowl of porridge or oatmeal. It's warm and hearty and can be made sweet or savory with any number of toppings. The problem? Over the years, it's gotten a bad rap as gluey or gummy or just downright boring or dutiful -- and it's because not everyone knows the secrets to making a great pot of warm morning cereal. So let's talk porridge (also: my cookbook comes out this month! So let's take a peek inside, shall we?)