Monday, March 18, 2013


Saturday morning, I tried the trick of warming vanilla extract in the oven to give our condo a welcoming scent for visiting house hunters. It's two tablespoons of vanilla extract in a mug, warmed in the oven at 300 degrees for 30-60 minutes. The results were so-so, in my opinion.

Sunday morning, I came to my senses and perfumed the house with something much more inviting.

Classic blueberry muffins
From Cook's Illustrated

2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
1 tablespoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon table salt
1 large egg
1 cup granulated sugar
4 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted and cooled slightly
1 1/4 cups sour cream
1 1/2 cups frozen blueberries, preferably wild

Adjust oven rack to middle position and heat oven to 350 degrees. Spray standard muffin tin with nonstick vegetable cooking spray.

Whisk flour, baking powder, and salt in medium bowl until combined. Whisk egg in second medium bowl until well-combined and light-colored, about 20 seconds. Add sugar and whisk vigorously until thick and homogenous, about 30 seconds; add melted butter in 2 or 3 steps, whisking to combine after each addition. Add sour cream in 2 steps, whisking just to combine.

Add frozen berries to dry ingredients and gently toss to combine. Add sour cream mixture and fold with rubber spatula until batter comes together and berries are evenly distributed, 25 to 30 seconds (small spots of flour may remain and batter will be thick). Do not overmix.

Use ice cream scoop or large spoon to drop batter into greased muffin tin. Bake until light golden brown and toothpick or skewer inserted into center of muffin comes out clean, 25 to 30 minutes, rotating pan from front to back halfway through baking time. Invert muffins onto wire rack, stand muffins upright, and cool 5 minutes.

In the afternoon, we drove north with our sights set on a visit to the Chicago Botanic Garden. Jossie fell asleep as we neared the garden, so we traveled farther north instead. We ended up in Lake Bluff, a sleepy (and wealthy) village along the shores of Lake Michigan.  Jack's first school friend - Charlie - and his family had moved to Lake Bluff in the past few months, and I regretted not having their contact information to reach out to them for a last-minute visit.

Jeremy and I love the cafe Wisma, which also has a location nearby his office downtown, so we stopped in for a cup of coffee. If you're ever there, try the butternut squash soup - not a touch of dairy in it but yet so heavenly and creamy.

So - lo and behold - as Jeremy and I are oogling the prepared food and wine selection, Jack looks out the window and nonchalantly says, "Hey...there's Charlie." I wave frantically at Charlie's mom to get her attention and they bound into the little shop. Lots of big reuniting ensues with hugs and laughter. Jossie and Charlie's little brother, both 2, escape us and start making mischief, running their chubby hands against the hanging wine glasses; the glasses twinkle like wind chimes.

Charlie's mom invites us back to their house so the kids can play. We head out together. The kids wreak havoc while the parents drink wine; the waning afternoon sun spills through the windows as we talk.

A writer I admire talks about the "daily surprise." I like the idea of that - opening yourself up to an element of surprise each day. It's liberating, really.

And this was truly ours - our surprising luck in running into dear friends. No telling news yet on any pending sales of our blueberry-scented condo, but if all of our luck had to be expended on this happy reunion and the accompanying good memories this St. Patrick's Day, I'll take it.

Saturday, March 16, 2013

Here I am

Am I tired?

Jack looked at me tonight as I gave him his bath and said, "Mommy, your eyes look cracked."

Yes, I'm tired.

It's a good tired from a busy week. We listed our condo Monday and by tomorrow night, we'll have had at least 16 showings. That is a lot of rounds of sweeping up crumbs, putting out the "show" towels and cleaning off the counters. I'm also trying to give work its due attention as things heat up there and have even scheduled some much-needed friend time. And I'm doing our income taxes. Fun.

Our week with the kids has taken two paths. One path is the refugee one - spending hours at a time away from our condo, packing our car with the essentials (snacks, water bottles and diapers) and the not-so-essentials (a bunch of Jack's art projects and Jossie's baby doll collection). The other path is time spent at home, trying to stick to routines, wash laundry, wash babies and eat plain meals to combat the restaurant meals we are eating otherwise.

So that's me on the Saturday night of St. Patrick's Day weekend in Chicago. The river is green; revelry is in the air; and Jeremy and I are at home with two sleeping babies after an early dinner with good friends. More to come.

Wednesday, March 6, 2013

My shoes

At best, my wardrobe has always been conservative. I have never been that interested in fashion; I have always worn my hair down. My jewelry is pretty straight-forward, when I wear any. My make-up is the same for day and evening.  This morning, I put a bit of lip gloss on, and Jack actually asked what was different about my face.

This past weekend, I was going through my closet and pulling out things to donate, and Jossie surveys my shoes, her baby doll clutched in her hand. She pulls out a very worn pair of Cole Haan flats. She sets them on the floor and says, “pretty shoes,” which couldn’t be further from the truth.

She slips her feet into them. My heart melts a little at this moment of my daughter trying on my shoes.

But I almost feel sorry for Joss. Her mama doesn’t own glamorous high heels. Or even some good sparkly shoes. Or shoes that aren’t black.

But they are mine.  I have walked miles in those shoes. I have felt sad, happy, proud, and disgruntled in those shoes.

And she is mine. For now.  She doesn’t look at me with adoration or disdain. Right now, I’m just the Truth – mama, protector and provider.  These are my shoes and they are pretty because they are her mama’s, and that is good enough for now.