We’ve been doing this thing lately

We’ve been doing this thing at the Cape lately, it’s called a cookout (or sometimes just eating-outside-not-at-a-table) and it’s awesome.

For years we’ve been setting beautiful long tables for 17 (or 25 or 30) people, and sitting down to epic, gorgeous meals. For years it’s been lovely. Lately though, it’s sometimes been not-so-lovely, because now we have toddlers.

Having precious little buggers around has a way of turning a pleasant sit-down dinner into a run around and chase your kid and try to get them to stop doing whatever horrible and/or cute but disruptive thing they’re doing dinner. Not so lovely.

So this summer we’re taking it outside, casual-style. Yeah, sometimes it takes us a while to catch on.

 

Leaving New York

Boston_IMG_3803A year ago today, I packed up my last box, gathered my family and cats, and left the city I’d called home for 14 years. I tried to smile as Shane took one last photo of us outside our very own apartment, and my heart broke right there on 78th street.

I didn’t expect heartbreak.

We’d been flirting with leaving the city for years. We considered Rhode Island, spent a day with a realtor in the suburbs of Portland, Maine, put bids on a couple of houses in Westchester.

We loathed the brutal commute we made to Cape Cod 5 months out of the year. We resented it’s potential for being under 5 hours, but somehow always taking 6 hours or more once you finally got over the bridge and found parking.

The parking! So much time spent driving around looking for parking in New York. Eventually one of us would drop the other one off with the kids, and load our stuff into the lobby and dumbwaiter. And then drive around some more, finally finding a space miles away. If we were lucky, we’d get a Thursday spot.

New York is noisy, and I don’t like noise. 8 years of calling 311 about cars honking at the intersection near our building never yielded the ‘No Honking $500 Fine Sign’ I repeatedly requested. In summer it seemed there was always a parade steps from our front door, with a singular anthem playing on repeat at maximum volume, at nap time.

There was the trash smell in summer, the bed bugs, the crowds, the lack of competence in snow. But also I loved it.

I loved my neighborhood, Jackson Heights Queens. I loved my corner store, my local coffee shop, seeing everyone at the Sunday farmer’s market, CSA pickup & compost drop off.

I loved the ease of getting around by Subway and the proximity of all Manhattan has to offer. Taking Rose home from school on the Roosevelt Island tram. I loved that I always met someone I knew on the street. I loved my apartment and our co-op garden. I loved the diversity, my family, friends, neighbors, my community.

We left it all because we needed a change. Shane’s job was making him miserable, my career was going nowhere, we needed another bathroom and more space for our growing family. So when I was offered a job here, we moved to Boston. To be precise, we moved into my childhood home in Brookline Massachusetts, with my parents.

I always admired people who had the good sense to leave New York, and would congratulate my friends as they made their escape. I figured after a few weeks in Boston, we’d wonder why we hadn’t left New York sooner. Instead I’ve spent nearly a year grieving and feeling like a complete failure.

Even though I grew up here, Boston seemed weird and alien at first. They’re so clean! Shane and I whispered, as we marveled at the impeccable personal tidiness demonstrated by our fellow Bostonians. We were in one of those chain restaurants designed to seem like it’s not a chain restaurant—a place we never would have set foot in in New York. We could never look that clean, we said. Do they shave before and after work? Whats with the excessively fancy shoes? How do you get hair to do that?

I was surprised to discover that the T is not designed to handle a lot of passengers, and that people gather by the doors leaving seats unoccupied. Unoccupied! There is a distinct lack of “man spread” but Boston never got the memo about taking off your backpack while on the train. Paying your fare is more or less an honor system at rush hour.

New York doesn’t have a reputation for being friendly, but it really is. There’s a comraderie among New Yorkers, a feeling that we’re all in it together. In New York, you could meet someone on at the playground and have a new best friend by evening. Here it takes work, I’ve had to stalk moms at the park.

I don’t want to become jaded though. There are good things about living here too. I really like my job and my co-workers are rad. My career is finally theoretically going somewhere. I might actually be able to retire one day.

My kids are developing the most wonderful relationship with my parents whom they now see every day. One of the great pleasures of living here is listening to my parents take care of Sid while I work from home on Fridays.

Brookline has wild turkeys all over the place, which I find surreal and endlessly entertaining. We can garden, and there’s a playground—albeit an often empty one—right out the back gate.

There are really cool houses here, some of them are not even on streets, they’re just behind other houses. This fascinates me. And there are walking paths everywhere. Little ways and stairways that cut between the curvy knotted streets.

We no longer think twice about hopping in the car and going somewhere, because now we have a parking spot. Cape Cod is 2 hours away with traffic. We can go every weekend. We can have dinner there on Sunday and be home by the kids’ bedtime.

Recently, I’ve started to not feel heartbroken all the time. I no longer stand with my eyes closed, brushing my teeth in my new bathroom, picturing myself in my old bathroom, and hoping that when I open them I’ll be back in my old life.

It still makes my stomach sink to look at pictures from our life in New York. I get choked up every time I have to look at a map of Manhattan at work, but I no longer have to talk myself out of taking the rest of the day off to mourn.

What Shane has been saying to me all along is that it’s not better or worse, it’s just different. He’s been right all along too, but I’m just starting to grasp that now. If we hadn’t left that life, we’d only have that life. Now we’ve had that life, and we also have this life.

I’m not sure I’ll fall in love with Boston, but we’ll be good here. We’ll be here, and little pieces of my heart will be there, right there on 78th street.

ByeHome_IMG_1483
Me, Rose, Sid, and a broken heart (or two) on the morning we left New York.
July 16, 2014.

 

 

 

Post-wedding wedding party

A couple of weeks ago, on Father’s Day to be precise, my lovely sister and delightful now brother in law Chris, tied the knot in a surprise ceremony at Chris’ parents house. Actually, they crashed his mom’s party with said wedding, but I’m pretty sure she was cool with it.

It goes without saying that the next time the newlyweds came to the Cape, we had a party.

Dinner was salmon baked in parchment with leeks, an absolutely amazing red rice salad with edamame, walnuts, lemon and herbs (see below) made by Ronni, and a yummy green salad to round things off. It was pretty highbrow for the Cape. And delicious.

For dessert there was a wedding cake made by my mom (aka the mother of the bride). Our family favorite, the chocolate mayonnaise cake with mocha butter cream between the layers to make things fancy, and beach rose embellishments.

See photo captions above and click on images for a bigger view.

• Red (or Black) Rice Salad with Lemon Vinaigrette •
from Bon Appetit

1 cup black rice (we used red)
Kosher salt
1/2 cup walnuts
1/4 cup Meyer lemon juice or 3 tablespoons regular lemon juice
2 tablespoons white wine vinegar
1 tablespoon agave syrup (nectar) or honey
1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
4 scallions, thinly sliced
1 cup frozen shelled edamame, thawed
1 cup grape tomatoes, halved
4 ounces green beans, thinly sliced (about 1 cup)
Freshly ground black pepper
Preheat oven to 350°. Cook rice in a medium saucepan of boiling salted water until tender, 35-40 minutes. Drain well, spread out on a plate or a rimmed baking sheet, and let cool.
Meanwhile, spread out walnuts on another rimmed baking sheet. Toast in oven, tossing once, until fragrant, 8-10 minutes. Let cool; chop.
Whisk lemon juice, vinegar, and agave in a small bowl. Whisking constantly, gradually drizzle in oil. Season vinaigrette with salt.
Toss rice, walnuts, scallions, edamame, tomatoes, green beans, and vinaigrette in a large bowl. Season with salt and pepper.

Cape vacation

Processed with VSCOcam with c1 presetI had several requests to document our first Cape vacation meal, so here you go.

We’re trying hard to simplify this year, fewer dishes and less food. The idea is to be mindful of waste and prevent unnecessary extra work, we’re here to relax after all.

Since there were 22 of us, we fed the 7 kids early so as to make dinner slightly less totally insane.

Shane did an excellent job of commandeering a meal of grilled steak with chimmichuri sauce, grilled asparagus, miso corn salad, and quesadillas with (and without) beans.

There were lots of oohs and aahs and excellents when we finally tucked in. And there were hardly any leftovers!

Here’s another look at that corn salad, watch the comments for recipes, coming soon.
MisoCornSalad_IMG_6756

 

The answer is shakshuka

Processed with VSCOcam with c1 presetOn Sunday, while working on our weekly meal plan, I wondered aloud on facebook whether we should have pasta with corn on Monday, or shakshuka. Only my friend Rachel replied, and she did so after I’d already decided on shakshuka (which is what she thought I should make too).

So there you go.

It’s a dish I’ve wanted to try for years. Why didn’t I? It’s really, really good. My mom (who made it) says there are quicker recipes than the one I chose. But man it was good.

Rose complained a lot at first, but ultimately loved it. Shane didn’t fuss, even though he thinks eggs are not a “proper meal.”

Don’t, don’t, don’t forget the grilled bread!

 

Last week’s highlights: chicken in milk & pasta con asparagi

Processed with VSCOcam with c1 presetA couple of new recipes made their appearance last week. First was Jamie Oliver’s Chicken in Milk (recipe via Food52).

My mom had just finished making the chicken when I got home from work and said: “We should make Jamie Oliver all the time, I think he really gets it.”Processed with VSCOcam with c1 presetThe men were not so easily wooed, and felt the dish was a bit bland. I’m going to have to get a 3rd party opinion on this one, since I don’t eat chicken. Rose seemed to like the it just fine. And Sid who leans vegetarian, opted for peanut butter, straight up.

Processed with VSCOcam with c1 presetOn Wednesday we had Craig Claiborne’s Pasta con Asparagi (also via Food52). This one was well received all around.

It’s a funny-seeming combo of tomatoes, egg, asparagus and cheese, that comes out really nice, with a nice high ratio of veggies to pasta. It’s also really easy to make quickly if you have 20 minutes or so to do the prep earlier in the day or the night before.Processed with VSCOcam with c1 preset

 

 

 

Last weekend

We had a very, very quiet weekend at the Cape. There were only 7 of us, including the kids.

We celebrated the birthday of someone who shall remain nameless, with burgers, corn, beer, iceberg wedges, tater tots and cake (see previous post for cake recipe).

In an unexpected turn of events, we didn’t have anyone present who knew how to grill. This problem was quickly remedied with a phone call to Shane and a few stiff cocktails.

45 minutes later, everyone was lit enough for the grilled stuff to seem perfectly acceptable. Did I mention there were iceberg wedges?

The cake had been made earlier by me, and embellished by Rose with her inimitable flair. Happy Birthday you-know-who!

 

Cake

 I’m always up for making a chocolate mayonnaise cake. Recipe here, enjoy!

Pasta with asparagus, mushrooms, lemon & herbed ricotta

Processed with VSCOcam with a5 presetLast Sunday I was on the computer doing our family meal plan for the week, and my mom asked what I was up to. “I’m looking for a recipe for Thursday that’s not pasta.” I already had pasta on the menu for Monday, bread & cheese on Tuesday, and pizza scheduled for Wednesday.

And then I happened upon the recipe for Lemony Asparagus Pasta with Mushrooms and Herbed Ricotta at Food 52 which sounded awful good. I said screw it, and my mom helpfully pointed out that Italians eat pasta every day.

Done deal! I’ll make this again, with a bit more oil, and a lot more salt.

 

Baby dinner

Processed with VSCOcam with hb1 presetA little baby dinner post, because on Cape Cod we rarely eat before 9.

Pictured is a pasta I like to make for my kids in a pinch, it’s easier than mac & cheese from a box, and usually more well received by my two.

Here’s what you do: Boil up some pasta, drain it (but not too well), put it back in the pot with a big blob of cream cheese, a pat of butter and a handful of grated cheese. Whatever cheese you have on hand will work, mozzarella, cheddar, parm, it’s all good.

Mix it up until the cheeses are melted and smooth, add salt and pepper (if you like), and serve. You can even throw in some peas if you’ve got ‘em.

And how cute are those tiny crocs?