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.
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?)