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).
A few weeks back we went blueberry picking with our friends John and Emily and their son, Lewis (Oliver’s best friend). While we love Bow Hill Blueberries, it was a bit of a trek this year with the little guys, so we checked out Bybee Farms instead, right at the base of Mount Si. We loaded up the car early, got a strong latte on the way out of town and pulled up just as the hot (hot, hot) sun was starting to peek out from behind the mountain.
The boys spent much of their time picking and almost immediately eating their blueberries, so we didn’t win any awards for Most Blueberries Picked, 2017. No medals, no crowns, but we did leave with almost 3 pounds and spent the weekend snacking on handfuls and sprinkling them on morning cereal. I ended up freezing a few cups, thinking I’d make a crisp or cobbler. Maybe some muffins.
But then, the ‘hurry, make all the summery things!’ feeling moved into the house and I was lying in bed drinking coconut Le Croix and reading A Year Between Friends by Maria Alexandra Vettese and Stephanie Congdon Barnes, and stumbled across their Raspberry Ripple pops. It was a sign: 10:30 pm popsicles were in order.
If you’re not familiar with A Year Between Friends, it’s by the women who started 3191 Miles Apart, a website devoted to chronicling a friendship, mostly in photographs, from two homes across the country (Portland, OR and Portland, ME). A few times a week they each post a photo and a few words, encapsulating their day. It’s often something domestic and, perhaps, some would say insignificant but the simple moments all add up to tell the story of their lives, family, and their own friendship with one another. I’ve kept the book on my nightstand for a few months now, and dip into it as an escape and for a little inspiration surge: there are craft projects (naturally dyed baby clothes!), recipes, letters and stories — tales of family passing away, sugar cookies baked, babies born. Lives getting lived.
Maria and Stephanie wrote this recipe for raspberry pops, but I was specifically looking for something to do with our blueberries – so there you have it. But feel free to use any summer berry you like. I ended up straying from instructions a bit and cooking down the berries with sugar and lemon juice to make the mixture a bit jammier before throwing it into the food processor; this is nice, too, because it allows you to use frozen berries instead (or along with) fresh, so these can be a season-less affair.
Adapted from: A Year Between Friends
In a small heavy-bottomed saucepan, cook down the blueberries, lemon juice and 2 tablespoons of sugar for 2-3 minutes, or until berries soften and become a little jammy bit and sugar is dissolved (if using frozen berries, this will take longer). Let cool, off the heat, for 10 minutes.
In a blender or food processor, blend the berry mixture until liquified.
In a small mixing bowl, whisk together yogurt, remaining 3 tablespoons (40g) sugar, and vanilla extract.
Dividing evenly, layer the blueberry puree and vanilla yogurt in the pop molds until they’re nearly filled (leave 1/4-1/2 inch at the top for expansion). To create the swirls, gently poke each pop with the end of a chopstick before placing the lid on the mold and adding the popsicle sticks.
Freeze until firm, at least 4 hours. To remove the pops, run warm water over the outside of the molds and slide them out. Store in the freezer in an airtight container between layers of parchment or wax paper.
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?)