Wednesday, November 6, 2019

Homebody

It’s finally autumn, and by that I mean the leaves are all red and gold and the weather is my favorite weather—hovering just under 60 degrees. I love autumn and like the song says, I love autumn in New York. Just spent five glorious days there with my fabulous husband, enjoying the city and the weather and each other. That meant lots of plays—THE HEIGHT OF THE STORM, LINDA VISTA, and MACBETH—and I loved them all. Also lots of good food—a memorable dinner at Gabriel Kreuther and the best ramen at JeJu Noodle Bar. Lots of walking and back at our apartment lots of reading and card playing, whiskey and chocolate.

But now it’s home in RI for a couple weeks (with a few dips back to NYC to teach). And it’s lovely to be here with Annabelle and the cats, writing writing writing and cooking up a storm and knitting as the afternoon turns into evening. I’ve finished ferrymen mitts from Churchmouse Yarns and a mistake rib cowl in orange cashmere from Purl Soho and started a spotted hat from Mason Dixon Knitting and—are you ready?—a SKIRT (also a Churchmouse pattern). I will keep you updated on how that turns out!

I am finishing the book MEET ME AT THE MUSEUM, which is so charming I’m totally smitten. Also, I’m fascinated by bog people so there’s that too. And thank you to the reader here who pointed out the Helen Philllips book I mentioned here is THE NEED, not The Help. Oops!

A big pot of lentil soup is on the stove and I’ll be making vats of Gogo’s sauce and meatballs to replace all that I had to toss because my refrigerator broke! That hurt. But I have a shiny mostly empty one now, begging to be filled.

I hope your autumn is treating you well. Knit. Cook. Read. Repeat. 

Saturday, October 26, 2019

Soup

Last night I made enchiladas suiza for dinner after our pumpkin carving. Cousin GJ has been coming over to carve pumpkins with us since Sam was a baby—26 years. We had nights when it was just the three of us, nights with Grace, a crowd carving with the kitchen fireplace ablaze, new friends, old friends...a tradition that like all traditions adjusts with life’s changes. But on a night close to Halloween, pumpkins will be carved and autumnal food will be eaten!

When autumn—my favorite season—arrives, I think soup. Even living alone on Bleecker Street in NYC, I always had a pot of soup on the stove come autumn. I like to eat soup for breakfast, lunch and dinner, which is what Annabelle and I do whenever I make tortellini en broda. The thing about soup, beside the obvious comfort factor, is its versatility. For example, this week I made black bean soup from a NYT recipe titles The Best Black Bean Soup. It is too. I think what elevates this soup is the step of pushing the softened carrots and onions to the side and toasting cumin and coriander for a minute before combining them with the veggies. It’s even better with Ranch Gorda beans, but I didn’t have any so used supermarket ones and it was still delicious.

All week my soup sat on my stove. I ate it with tortillas. I ate it with sour cream and grated cheddar. I ate it with avocados. By week’s end, the pot was low. So I cooked up some rice, made my enchiladas, and served the last of my soup (which was thicker and less brothy) on top of that rice. By the way, I used rotisserie chicken for the enchiladas and made my brilliant husband’s overnight broth. So it will be a weekend of that tortellini soup, enough to fill a thermos for Annabelle’s lunch on Monday.

Sam is coming home for a visit and requested I make lentil soup. So next week’s soup pot already has a plan.

Emily Post wrote about the power of soup in early twentieth century etiquette book. Bring a grieving person broth, she told us. I say let soup comfort and nourish you through the first chill of autumn and snowy days of winter. Stay in your jammies. Eat soup. Knit. Read. Feed your soul.

On knitting: I was happily finishing my mistake rib cowl in orange cashmere on the train to NYC  Thursday, almost at the eleven inches end point, when I looked down and realized I was almost out of yarn! So I’m tnik-ing like crazy to have enough yarn to bind off, all the while hoping my cowl will still be big enough. I finished my ferryman fingerless mitts from Churchmouse Yarns in denim Donegal Tweed and they are gorgeous! I love this pattern. It was just the right amount of difficulty, speed, and oh I can do that. Next up is a hat from Mason Dixon knitting that requires reading one of those pattern grid things. Wish me luck.

If you haven’t already, you must read THE HELP by Helen Philips. I could not put this book down! Last night I started the second Caz Frear crime fiction novel, STONE COLD HEART. I’m so in love with her detective, Cat Kinsella. There’s nothing like British crime novels in bed after your soup and knitting.

By the way, my husband has a podcast! I’m so proud of him, he is always on the cutting edge of stuff. It’s called From Scratch, which is also the name of his new cookbook. The photos alone in it will send you straight into the kitchen. I hope you check them both out. And more news: my own KITCHEN YARNS is coming out in paperback first of December. The recipe for that tortellini soup is in there!

The leaves are showing off here, and I’m in deep nesting mode. I hope you are taking care of yourself. Put a pot of soup on your stove. Comfort.

Thursday, October 17, 2019

Autumn!

Some people like the sultry weather of summer, others come alive when daffodils poke their heads out and trees fill with blossoms, and surprising to me there are even those who love the cold and snow of winter (people who like things like skiing and snowshoeing!) Me, I love autumn. The leaves of course. The crisp chill at night and the particular blue of an autumn sky. The food—sweet potatoes and Brussels sprouts. Oatmeal with dates and gigs and nuts. Apples! But I think why I love autumn most is the A student in me still starts the year on the first day of school. Sharpen your pencils, line up your books, get started. For one so long out of school—me!—that means getting back to my 2 2 2 schedule: write two hours, read two hours, knit two hours. Then I head to the store and buy stuff for dinner—stews and soups and braised things. Since the weather finally changed,  Annabelle and I have has pasta fagiola, tortellini soup, pork chops. I’ve been eating roasted sweet potatoes (a little butter and salt) and pumpkin seed bread smeared with avocado for breakfast. I’ve lined up my knitting projects: orange mistake rib cashmere cowl from Purl Soho, Ferrymen fingerless mitts from Churchmouse Yarns in blue Donegal tweed, striped hats from Mason Dixon’s new field guide, socks and even a skirt! After dinner Annabelle and I cozy up on the couch and I knit while we watch The Gilmore Girls, an endless pleasure before book and bed. One of us has a wee dram of whiskey.

Some may be reading this and wondering where the husband is. Another delight of autumn is that NYC comes alive on stage, and we’ve been going to plays every chance we get. Mostly we have long weekends together as he launches his podcast From Scratch (subscribe!) and his new cookbook of the same name (a glorious gorgeous book, the only cookbook you’ll need said The Barefoot Contessa). The recipes are terrific and the pictures are stunning, all taken right in my loft. Plus he’s writing a new cookbook with the chef Gabriel Kreuther and the next French Laundry cookbook...the guy can barely come up for air. When he does, we get Chines food delivered and hide out in our Greenwich Village pad, emerging for shows and friends and drinks and movies. We just saw Pain and Glory and were gobsmacked. Tonight, after I teach, we are going to see Parasite, advance tickets in hand as it sells out every show.

I’m fulfilling my love of British crime novels by reading Caz Frear—Sweet Little Lies and now Stone Cold Heart. My stack of books to read this fall is a beautiful thing that includes Mrs. Palfrey at the Claremont, The Child Finder, Mr. Fox, and more. Also, Annabelle has started a book club with her aunt, me, and our dear friend. We read the fantastic We Were Liars and next up Turtles All the Way Down.

This weekend my beloved and I will be at the Brattleboro Literary Festival in Vermont, where the leaves should be putting on quite the show. Tonight it’s dinner with friends at Gene’s, a favorite old school Italian place of ours before I teach, movie after. Tomorrow I’ll be writing, getting in my two hours, while Michael interviews a chef in the Bronx for his podcast, lunch with the chef, then onward to Brattleboro. En route we will keep reading the masterpiece Revolutionary Road by Richard Yates out loud. Hopefully I’ll get some stitches done on that cashmere cowl. And there it is: 2 2 2.

I hope your autumn is full of soups and yarn and good books. 

Tuesday, September 24, 2019

To Grace at 23

You are an artist living near your brother in Bushwick

You are a hipster in Portland Oregon.

You went to RISD. You went to Reed. You went to Oberlin.

You are six feet tall, as the pediatrician predicted.

You are fearless.

You and your brother are still best friends.

You speak Mandarin.

You are funny.

Your hair is long, or pink, or shaved.

You still wear glasses, maybe like John Lennon.

You love the Beatles. Still.

Maybe you draw pictures for The New Yorker. You love Charles Addams and I bet by now also Roz Chast.

You are so smart. You are so ironic. You are 23. You are 23. You are 23. 

Sunday, September 22, 2019

Autumn

I can’t believe I have not written here since May. Yet in some ways I can believe it. As you know, my mom died last year. But you probably don’t know how paralyzed by grief I’ve been. I’m writing at a glacial pace. My energy level is about as low as it can be. Everything is taking so much more time than usual. Yet I also know that grief is exhausting. It’s time consuming. It reeks havoc with you. And so, here I am. Undone.

Still, I’ve had such a wonderful summer. And my life is pretty darn good. I just am grieving hard. Giving myself time for that.

Summer. A trip to Northern California where my wonderful husband is working on the new French Laundry Cookbook. Which means I had the opportunity to eat at The French Laundry, for a meal and a night I will never forget. Champagne outside under that Northern California sky. Romantic dinner with astounding food and wine. That just began a trip that was practically perfect in every way: staying in a lodge in Big Sur, playing Yahtzee with Annabelle and her pal; hiking there the next day; visiting my old roomie in Santa Barbara where we had an unforgettable Fourth of July; dinner with my dear buddy Matt in LA...what a way to kick off summer.

And what a way to end it—five weeks in Europe with the people I love most (Sam, Annabelle, Michael...added bonus of GJ for a week and darling Katherine!), eating and drinking and card playing our way through Ireland, France and Italy. A dream trip.

And knitting and reading too. Socks (that’s the knitting) for the first time in ten years. I forgot how much fun they are! I have an autumn (and winter) worth of projects lined up—mitts and more docks and cashmere cowls and a skirt and...)

Have you read Barbara Trapido? Four books that had me charmed all summer. The new Kate Atkinson. WE WERE LIARS. Caz Frear’s British procedurals. A PLACE FOR US. PICTURES AT A REVOLUTION. ASK AGAIN, YES. Every one of them a must must read.

Today is officially the first day of fall. I’ve put my self on a familiar schedule. Write two hours. Read two hours. Knit two hours. This schedule works for me. Slowly, slowly. Grief abates. It doesn’t leave. It shouldn’t, should it?

Here’s to autumn. Today I saw red and yellow leaves here and there. 

Thursday, May 23, 2019

Up, Up and Away!

I'm delighted to announce that I am working on a new book about my days as a flight attendant, back when flying was still glamorous. It’s been such fun researching the origins and development of that job over time, and to relive my own days in the sky. Michael and I were lucky enough to go to the opening of the new TWA Hotel, made right from TWA terminal 5 at JFK, my own place of departure for trips to Cairo, Athens, Rome, Paris, London, Madrid, and more. As soon as we walked in to that gorgeous building, designed by Eero Saarinen and opened in @1962, memories washed over me. The indescribable feeling of walking through the Jetson-like tunnel to my gate as part of a TWA 747 crew, all of us dressed in our Ralph Lauren uniforms and pulling our roller bags along. No one but flight attendants had those wheelie suitcases back then!  And standing under the departure board as it click click clicked. I admit I got teary a few times! There’s an old spiffed up Constellation parked there and used as a bar, where we sipped champagne. Jean-George Vongerichten has opened The Paris Cafe there, awash in pale pinks and oranges and the sunlight or airport lights that spill through the gorgeous windows and he gave us a tour, adding tidbits on the building’s history and on TWA and the renovation.

I can’t wait to return and actually stay in the hotel! And I can’t wait to write this book and share this story with all of you. For those of you who have asked where my next novel is, it’s coming along too. The title is THE MUSUEM OF TEARS.

Happy long weekend, though I know it’s a solemn one too. We are heading to Indiana yo eat lots and lots of fried chicken. You’ll read all about that in Michael’s New York Times piece about it, and my own piece in Food and Wine. May yours be filled with comfort food too.

Thursday, March 28, 2019

Fourteen years ago today...

...we adopted Annabelle! Last night  I found myself remembering where I was on that night 14 years ago. In Hunan China. In a hotel with 10 other families, all of us waiting for morning when a bus would pull up and we would climb in and go to a government building and get our babies. How did I even sleep that night? I remember looking at the crib in the hotel room, empty, as if waiting for a baby to fill it. I remember arranging stuffed animals in it, folding and refolding the baby blanket knit together square by square by loving friends. I remember laying out the baby clothes, the diapers and bottles, the tiny shoes. We are spicy food with bad Great Wall if China wine. How did I even sleep that night?

Most of the people I loved supported the decision to add to our family after Grace died. But a very few worried it wasn’t the right thing to do. Me? I knew in my bones that it was exactly right, and I never once thought otherwise. This morning I realized that Grace had been dead almost exactly three years when we boarded that plane to Beijing, and the pain of losing her was still searing hot and ever present. But suddenly something else was moving in: joy.

At 10:00 the bus arrived and in no time we were being rushed into a room in that government building. Orphanage workers with babies ran down the corridor outside the room and before our guide closed the door I saw Annabelle, scared and confused, race past. If they hadn’t called us to come out I might have run after her. In no time our name was called and Annabelle was in our arms. I knew immediately that I would kill for her if I had to. The love I felt was that instantaneous. She was mine.

Somehow fourteen years have passed. Unbelievably, that baby in the purple footy pajamas is a freshman in high school, fluent in French, voracious reader, math whiz, card shark, loyal friend, fierce defender of what is right, hardworking student, musical theatre lover, loyal sister, teasing companion to my husband, cat owner, purple haired, curious traveler, my sidekick in all things, my daughter. My love and gratitude for her and for the mystery of this glorious mess called life knows no bounds.