{2014} looking back

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This is New York City, the view from my (former) home subway stop. Having lived in the same apartment for all 3.5 years of my stay, I saw this view in every season, and being a pastry cook meant I saw it at all (odd) hours of the day and night.

This particular day was early autumn, Sunday, and one of the first actually cold mornings of the season. It was about 6:30am when my sister in-law, Bathsheba, and I ventured out on an experience that only crazy people or real foodies (or real crazy foodie people) would do. We left the warmth and comfort of our beds to wait in line for hours, shivering and holding our pee so that we could taste the original, the infamous, the one and only cronut09.14-NYCskyline209.14-bathshebaThis girl is kind of badass in every way, but waiting in the cold for hours just to taste a pricey weird dessert, well…she’s also a girl after my own heart.

09.14-cronutbox09.14-BashCronut09.14-cuttingcronutThe cronut flavor changes each month, so we actually ended up meeting a few other NYC residents who were returning to try October’s Pumpkin Spice. There are no other choices, it’s just whatever flavor the bakery makes that month.

The boys showed up in time for doors to open and the dessert purchasing to begin to eat. As we finished our indulgent breakfast an older woman approached our table and whispered, “Was it worth it?”  Still taking it all in, I immediately replied ” I don’t know.” She turned to a man by her side and said something about being glad they didn’t have to wait. Anyone can just walk into the bakery if they’re ordering anything besides cronuts.

Now that it’s been a few months, and I’ve been able to try some of the “imitation” cronuts out there, my answer has changed. It was totally worth it! The cronut from the Dominique Ansel Bakery had a very distinct flavor (beyond the pumpkin spice), and the experience of putting forth effort and then waiting patiently for a treat makes it that much more special to savor. Just my thoughts.

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After dessert, we walked from SOHO to Chinatown for a much needed savory lunch, at a vegetarian dim sum place that we’d had on our list to try for almost as long as we’d been in NYC. Why? Because “good fortune” and “unicorn” were featured on the menu. And it was delicious!

Lesson learned. Never put off vegetarian dim sum, ever.

09.14-BW-HoldingHands09.14-BW-SOHO 09.14-BW-Rivers209.14-BW-Chinatown 09.14-BW-RiversCronuts, dim sum and an afternoon of flirting with the friendliest waitresses on the planet was too much for this kid.

One of my favorite days ever!

 

{2014} looking back

After quite an unexpectedly long hiatus from blogging (and almost all internet in general), it’s difficult to know just where to pick up again. The last three and a half months were blissfully spent enjoying one another and our final days in New York before the move to the midwest. We toured the south, visited with each set of grandparents at least twice, traveled to seven different cities, spent quality time with great grandparents, ran a half marathon, had our first weekend away (sans baby), packed a moving van, unpacked a moving van, celebrated a birthday, then jumped right into holiday mode and made feast after feast for family get-togethers.

I wish I could have juggled blogging too, but I didn’t have internet half the time and I didn’t really care. My 2014 resolution was a one word mantra (actually two words), Mindfulness and Presence. In the midst of the bustling journey it felt best to honor the mantra. I immersed myself in our move and our adventures and feel more alive because of it.

I chose a new word for 2015, but first things first. It is the season for reflection, and now that the stream of life has slowed its pace somewhat, I shall take the time to do just that.

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Since his birth we’ve been writing anecdotes about our trips and sending Rivers a postcard from just about every city he’s ever called home for the night. In early September, Jonathan surprised us with a trip to Cape Cod to see the cranberry harvest. It was one of those trips that is planned out just right, but in practice does not unfold at all the way it’s expected. The cranberry harvest turned out to be mostly baby wrangling in a sandpit, and thoughts of whale watching were dashed when we realized that more baby wrangling (on a boat for four hours!) might actually kill us. We opted for ice cream instead.

The trip didn’t unfold the way it was expected, but the way it should. We hiked, dipped our toes in the ocean, met a drag queen mermaid, climbed the pilgrim tower, learned some Spanish lingo from toddlers, adopted grandparents and saw an old narwhal tusk.

I’d return in a second!

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Gray cedar siding. Cape Cod could be described by this photo alone.
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 The very last day I used the baby carrier, on the cranberry tour. See how well that went? Rivers nabbed a friendly, sharing child’s camera and was off like a true tourist.

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The final blooms of fall, captured by Jonathan’s eye.
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Trying to figure out how to get the the beach.
(Check out the family in the background with the amazing, inflated beach wheelchair.)

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It took this kid about two seconds to persuade his adopted grandfather, Mr. Robert, to escort him to the beach. He ran right up to inspect the wheel then raised his arms for a “pick up.” Jonathan and I were flabbergasted. Mr. Robert’s family happily snapped about six photos before we managed one. capecod4

Just as quickly as he befriended his way into a ride, he waved goodbye and raced off. capecod11

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The obligatory family photo on the beach, the effort before the perfect edit.

cheers to a first birthday

bearmountain1-2bearmountain6tassajara-bananabreadbearmountain3 bearmountain2bearmountain7One year olds, they have no concept of birthdays. What do you do? High-five your partner, pop open the champagne and toast your mimosa glasses to a job well done, I guess. We have a party planned next week, so for the actual day we decided to celebrate quietly.

Flurries fell, then rain, then flurries again. Following my cookbook challenge, I baked banana bread in an effort to warm up the kitchen. Just as we retrieved our sweet treat, the sun broke through the pale sky and we high-tailed it outdoors before the weather changed its mind again. The bread was still steaming as I sliced and packed.

About an hour outside of New York City, the mountains are in reach and there isn’t a skyscraper as far as the eye can see. We took a little walk, spied ice blocks moving along the river, crinkled forgotten leaves and breathed the frigid fresh air until our noses turned red, indicating it was time to return indoors.

a winter’s day

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It’s taking a bit of time for us to adjust to the new family schedule, juggling work and baby care between the two of us. The shift in habits sent all three of us our first colds of the season. We didn’t let it stop us from enjoying the first real-ish snow this winter. I say real-ish, because it was very wet and promptly melted after we photographed. Never-the-less, after a little snooze in the car, Rivers was way excited about the weird substance.

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It’s been over one week since our return home. And it’s taken all this time for the hum of the plane (and car) engine to leave my ringing ears. Funny how traveling can stay in the body for so long like a phantom vibration, leaving one so utterly exhausted. Our little man, who’s earning quite the collection of airline wings, bounced back in no time. Too bad, because I would have loved a long family nap!

About one month ago exactly we waved “sayonara” to our cats and our home to celebrate two weddings and scout out another two, very distant, cities as possible spots to raise our son. The vibrant, buzzing cityscape here in NYC is slowing squeezing us out as rent prices skyrocket. I’m beginning to feel like Alice in Wonderland after the “Eat Me” cake catastrophe, but there is no way we can move from our, seemingly shrinking, one-bedroom. Our neighborhood is no longer in our price-range, and since it’s one of the cheapest to begin with…well, it may be time for a yard now anyway.

Among the list of possible city homes, we chose to visit Austin, Texas and Portland, Oregon this autumn. Both are community-centered metropolitan areas with decent public transit systems, delicious grub, affordable houses, bike lanes and exceptionally friendly tattoo artists (as we discovered). Having friends in both areas also tipped the scale. That being said, our visits ignited a bidding war on social media. It’s so awesome to feel loved! Our tour guide companions one-upped each other with breath-taking views of waterways and filled us with mouth-watering meals at local favorites. Think black bean burger between two donuts in place of a regular bun. I never thought I would eat that, but when in Rome right? Or Austin for that matter.

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This kind of trip, scoping out a new home, is what I assume speed-dating is like. Initially awkward, followed by a mental list of pros and cons, and a desperate focus to find any sort of spark before time runs out. If the spark does appear, the remainder of the date may become carefree and uninhibited. At least this is what my meet-and-greet session to find a doula was like last year. An attempt to fall in love after twelve minutes of conversation. With the cities, we had two and four days.

Both sparkled.

Austin serves fresh fruit smoothies nearly everywhere, even at a plant nursery. (Um, yes please!) Solar panels could transform all that sunshine into power for me to write more posts. Maybe posts about tex-mex, which I am confident I could survive strictly on that sort of diet. Among other Austin specialties, there are more Willie Nelson look-alikes than I could shake a stick at.

Why would I do that? I dunno. That’s just the spark excitement talking. It makes me ignore the fact that the rest of Texas attempted to secede from the US just one year ago. Friends like this help too. Again, it’s so awesome to feel loved.

Portland is basically the wintery wonderland from underneath the Christmas tree, minus the snow. The city is so quaint that the only dark alleyway I could find was a very dim restaurant with a creative name and location. Maybe it wasn’t a restaurant. Maybe that’s just how Portland rolls. Fancy alleyways that serve drinks under chandeliers. Unlike Austin, the sun stubbornly hid for two days during our visit in Portland, but we saw the ocean, Multnomah Falls, mountains and the Goonies house. Portland didn’t shower us with poetry, but she did treat us to a handmade breakfast at her cafe. And it was delicious.

So…

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Now that the journey is over, the real work begins. Time to find jobs and search for a house. It might be nice to have more than one bedroom someday. Who knows, maybe I’ll feel like Alice after the “Drink Me” fiasco and wishing for tighter quarters sometime down the road. We may visit another potential in the spring, but for now we’re focusing on these sparks and just trying to determine what is next for our family.

{I wish I could bore you with all the details of our long absence, but there has been a kid at my heels all week as I compiled this. It’s time to send this post off, move on and limit myself to brief thoughts and shorter sabbaticals.}

adventures in NYC

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Playing tour-guide in our hometown is one of my favorite pastimes. Actually with a camera in-tow I probably look more like a tourist than anyone else, but wearing that hat every now and then is good for perspective and appreciating the local flair for what it is. I’d never tailored a city adventure for a thirteen year old before, but what I learned is that it’s pretty much on-point with my interests too.

…we dodged fine-dining for award-winning street grub, so that we could wear whatever we wanted and picnic in the grass on the waterfront. No reservations needed, just an appetite.

…the mandatory NYC art museum tour was a lego exhibit. Modern art and replicas which we could relate. All the work was completed by Nathan Sawaya, one fella who has taken the plastic toy to a whole new level. I was in total awe at this guy’s talent. I can’t imagine creating anything with legos beyond little villages.

…our colorful neighborhood gem, an old factory building turned graffiti display. The scenery is constantly transforming and only created by permitted artists, which means the area is preserved from inappropriate tagging. It’s free to visit, but some of the works can only be viewed from the train.

My brother is a pretty chill guy, so judging by his simple, “Yeah, that’s neat,” I hopefully hit the bull’s eye with the tour this week.

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ten thousand thousand fruit

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               …There were ten thousand thousand fruit to touch,
                  Cherish in hand, lift down, and not let fall.
                  For all
                  That struck the Earth, 
                  No matter if not bruised or spiked with stubble,
                  Went surely to the cider-apple heap…
                  – After Apple-Picking by Robert Frost

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Perhaps the calendar marked the first day of fall sometimes last week, but it’s not officially autumn for this family until an apple-picking adventure. It’s always a blessing to break away from the city, but especially so when a bounty is involved. And handcrafted donuts to top it off.

The road winding around the orchard is familiar to Jonathan, as it’s very popular with cyclists. So of course he acted as our sudo tour-guide,  sharing the best spot for sweet treats and taking us along the back roads that follow the Hudson. We couldn’t have asked for better weather. Nothing but blue skies as far as the eye could see.  At one point, our little boy was sunbathing with nothing but training-pants and a smile. I only wished I’d brought a blanket, because it’s certainly a full-time job trying to keep the little man from eating grass, and dirt, and rocks, and leaves. Basically everything but the abundance of fruit that littered the fields and trees. That is, unless we count the extremely rotten apple that landed in his jaw for about two seconds before I swiped it and sent it flying through field. I’m all about letting him learn on his own, but my goodness, does he really have to try the most inedible items around?

It’s time we settle on what we’re going to make with our half bushel. Certainly one birthday pie for the young uncle is due and then maybe cider. Rivers is hinting to it. His interest in apples peaked considerably once we returned home. Half the bag was tossed across the kitchen floor within the first ten minutes.

I can only smile. So much for avoiding all the bruised ones.

by the sea shore

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Within one month and one week, we managed to visit all three sets of grandparents and all seven aunts and uncles.  Despite sitting, or sleeping on my lap, this kid should totally be able to earn sky miles now. He definitely flirts enough with flight attendants!

Our most recent adventure took place on an island in South Carolina. My brother was recently accepted into the Navy Seals program and is set to leave next month for training. Before he does, our parents decided to rented a lovely beach house and gather us together for a family vacation. We had a breath-taking view of the grassy dunes and the sea shore from the back deck. Pelicans routinely flew over the house and two young bucks made our acquaintance daily before hunkering down in the reeds and brush during the hottest hours. Jonathan and I found two sharks, one of which my father bravely caught with his bare hands from a tide pool, then released into the receding sea. It was a toothless sand shark pup that I mistook initially for a fish, but what the heck, a brave catch none-the-less. I on the other hand, chose to watch Jonathan video a little hammerhead at a safe distance while I engaged crabs and starfish with my camera.

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feathers and fur

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Two weeks ago we walked off the plane, immediately greeted by the delicious fragrance of honeysuckle moving through the early summer humidity. Today a cool shower refreshes the air as we begin our journey home. I spent more time reflecting a bit in a journal rather than schlepping around the laptop. There was no equal time spent for reflection and being in the present moment. We lived in the present. That’s what these visits are for. Reflection will come later, when rainy days don’t bring turtles, sails and adventure, but an empty urban landscape.

Before we head off for the airport I want to post these special moments of my mama sharing the evening chores with Rivers. He learned to gather the hens into the coop for the night, collect eggs and bring the furry guards in the house for dinner. The dogs were absolutely obsessed with the little guest, always stretching for a rub or gently licking him clean. We’ll be back in October for my brother’s wedding and I’m so curious as to how Rivers will behave once he can sit up and toss a ball to those gentle giants.

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