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Friday, June 28, 2013

A Mint Summer Night's Cocktail

A few years ago my sister was living in Rome and I went to visit her for what I will call one of the greatest weeks ever of my life. The food. The culture. The wine. Italy has a lot going on with it's fabulous self.
We went to this stunning town called Nemi that overlooked this gorgeous lake and you just felt so close to the sun, the moon and paradise. And to top that there is this little cafe that serves this glorious, from the Italian gods and goddesses, prosecco with these tiny perfect strawberries in it called fragolini. Oh my. That moment, that drink, that view, that would be my heaven.
Just thinking about that place makes me want to immediately book an Italian getaway but now I have all of these children. Instead I figured I would try to bring a little Rome to our deck that overlooks our slip and slide. Paradise can be found anywhere right?
Here is my recreation of prosecco & fragolini but I also added mint in it as well because it is currently overtaking our garden (and I think it makes most alcohol all the more delicious- trust me on this).
Hope you enjoy wherever your paradise this summer lies. Ciao bellas...

The Players:

  • 1 1/2 cups of mint 
  • 1 cup of sugar
  • 1 cup of water
  • 2 Bottles of Prosecco (you can find it in the champagne section or even substitute champagne)
  • 1 1/2 cups of frozen strawberries, slightly defrosted

The Game:

I've always been slightly afraid of simple syrup- who has the time for that? But then I made it and realized that I do. It is wonderfully easy and adds enough authentic minty sweetness to jazz up any beverage you add it to. In a saucepan bring sugar, water and mint to a boil, stirring until sugar is dissolved. Reduce heat and simmer for two minutes. Pour through a sieve or colander and cool. The best part is that it keeps covered and refrigerated for two weeks. Simple minty love.
Now onto the prosecco. Place the slightly melty (that is a fancy culinary term) strawberries in your blender or Vitamix.

Hello slightly melty giant fragolini.
Pour in all of your mint simple syrup and one bottle of prosecco (or as much as will fit into your blender). Puree until smooth.
Here is the Prosecco I used and the beautiful shade of it all blended with the strawberries.

In a large pitcher or carafe pour in the remaining bottle of prosecco and then stir in the strawberry/prosecco blend. Add mint or additional strawberries to garnish. Raise a glass to paradise.

What do you add mint to? I would love for you to share your recipes and ideas, you brilliant readers.

Monday, June 24, 2013

Momma Who is Rocking It: Brittany Fonte

Meet Brittany Fonte. Amazing writer, English professor and a mother of two. If you haven't read her book Fighting Gravity than dash/run/sprint to get yourself a copy. It is the perfect summer read- beautifully written and has the addictive pace of Gone Girl. She has more greatness in the works so be sure to follow her on twitter- @PoetBFonte. Here is my interview with her on how she makes it all work, including my favorite line- how she talked her partner into becoming parents to be a part of "this lovely chaos"... just beautiful. Thank you Brittany. I can't wait to read what you write next.

Children: Jonas, 7; Keaton, 3
Occupation: English Professor
Books: Buddha in My Belly (prose poetry), Fighting Gravity (YA fiction) and co-editor of a poetry anthology titled Flicker and Spark.
Book in the works: I’m in the process of having an adult fiction book published (Jan 2014), titled A.K.A. Charming (about a modern-day fairytale) and also am working on a kids’ chapter book about an adopted zombie called Chase D. Zombee.

  1. How long have you been a writer? I remember writing in third grade.  I’d write in black and white marble notebooks longhand.  I’d give up on a story when my hand hurt too badly to continue. I wrote my first real “novel” my last year in college, but that novel needs too much revision to even contemplate right now.

  1. Have you always known that you have wanted to write? I, actually, applied and got into law school after undergrad.  Literally two weeks before I was supposed to move I called my mother and cried—that all I wanted to do was be a writer and teach writing. So, yes, I have always wanted to write, it was just a matter of understanding that I could do such as my career.

  1. How many hours do you spend writing in a typical week? There’s rarely a “typical” week for me.  When I have a project due, I can write anywhere from 10-20 hours a week.  Normally, though, I eek out a poem or a few paragraphs at a time once the kids get to bed.

  1. Best advice for someone wanting to become a published author: Never, ever give up.  There are literally thousands of writers out there who are award-winners now but once were simply rejected by every agent and publishing house they submitted to.  Writing is absolutely subjective, but if you keep sending out work, and don’t take the rejections to heart (writers I know say you aren’t a “real” writer until you have been rejected 100 times) you will make that one break.  And that’s all you need!

  1. What is your favorite work that you have written so far? They are all so different! I am particularly attached to A.K.A. Charming, as it’s a story about a marriage and many moments in that book are moments from my own relationship—at least in feeling.  In addition, it’s my first “grown-up” fiction book. It comes out January 2014.

  1. What is the best part of being a writer? The best part, by far, is when people tell me my work has touched them emotionally.  I love when readers of totally different backgrounds find something in common with one another, and with me.

  1. Most challenging part? It’s incredibly difficult to be rejected as often as it takes to make a name for yourself! It’s certainly not a profession for the faint of heart, and I have spent more than a few days crying in response to something an editor or professor has said about my writing.

  1. Where do you find your inspiration? I think inspiration is everywhere.  Some days I am more open to that inspiration, and some days I am so focused on the “have tos” of my life as a mother and wife that I don’t allow myself that room to be selfish and think only of my writing, my artistic wants.  It’s like anything else as a mother, you have to train yourself to put yourself first every once in awhile for the good of the whole family.

  1. What is your favorite book? This is an easy one! My very favorite book of all time is To Kill a Mockingbird.  I have so many books that touch me, though, including The Bluest Eye by Toni Morrison, and “fun” reading like mystery stories (my new favorite “guilty” reading author is Mo Hayder, a British crime writer who used to be a cinematographer.)

  1. How long have you and your partner been together and what is your best tip for making it work. My partner and I have been together eleven years.  We are, ultimately, total opposites in the scope of our interests.  I think this, alone, is a strength for us.  Though she doesn’t really understand my poetry and my writing, she does support it and we learn from one another on a regular basis.  It also keeps our lives fresh—each of us trying new things that we would never have tried before. So my tip to others would be try to engage your better half in something you are passionate about, and allow him or her to show you what he or she is passionate about.  I think sharing passions often sparks some!

  1. Last time you had a date with your significant other? Man, I knew there would be a trick question here! May is the month of birthdays in our house; our son’s birthday is the 13th and our daughter’s is the 29th.  So we don’t have very many “free” weekend evenings once you add in family birthday parties and friends’ parties.  Add to that my ten day trip to Minnesota in April for a family emergency, and I would have to say that our last date was probably early April.

  1. Can you tell me about what the journey was like in becoming parents? My partner says I talked her into this lovely chaos! I always knew I wanted to be a mother, and my partner did not think that was in the stars for her.  I think, after two years together, I whined enough that we had a serious discussion about it.  It’s a long process, of course, to have children when you lack both of the biological necessities—and this is true in heterosexual couples, too.  We decided I would carry the baby (we had decided on one child, initially, and were comfortable with that decision until my partner lost both her parents and the only person she had left in this world who really understood her and her upbringing was her sister) because her salary paid the majority of the bills and mine, if medical processes necessitated it, could be deleted. We went through seven months of trying IUI with our son and, with our daughter, we tried three times with IUI and then chose to go onto IVF.  The process, itself, was heartbreaking and amazing and definitely more than we expected.  With my son, I remember calling our friend, an obgyn, on a regular basis to ask if the things I was going through were normal.  

  1. Last time one of your children made you smile. This morning My daughter literally woke up and asked to play Barbies.  The Barbies needed to go to Whole Foods to get steak and cookies.

  1. What is the most challenging part of being a parent? Patience is a challenge for me.  As the parent who is always at home with the kids, and also balancing my real work and my writing, I have to remember to be patient.  And I have little patience if I don’t take care of myself, so that part is hard, too.  Finding time for naps, if I need them, or runs, or a coffee to contemplate the next chapter of a book is sometimes impossible.

  1. Last time that you feel like you failed as a parent. My daughter is three, and she is a normal three-year-old girl, which means she has emotional break downs about every thirty minutes. My son is a normal seven-year-old boy, which means he rarely listens to what I say, as he is more interested in the television, or a game, or going outside.  When the two of them decide to egg one another on, I lose it.  About a week ago I literally yelled because my older one would not stop pinning the younger one down and the little one wouldn’t stop taunting the older one.  Yelling is definitely when I feel like I have failed as a parent.

  1. Last time that you feel like you rocked as a parent. I took the two kids (with a little help from my 17 year old niece) to the National Zoo last week!  I let them hang out and play in the sprinklers and eat Dippin’ Dots and wear themselves totally out.

  1. Who is easier, your daughter or your son? That is a tough question! In general, my son is able to entertain himself and get his own snacks, etc.  However, neither of them is “easy”!   I literally fantasize about a time when they can get up themselves on a Saturday morning, turn on cartoons, and get their own breakfasts!

  1. Is there a trip you hope to take either with your partner or as a family? We are looking at going to Disney World in February.  My son has been, at two and a half, and my daughter is much more of a risk taker, so I think she will really enjoy the rides.  We just bought a new van, so we will be driving to Florida!  It will definitely be an adventure!

  1. What is your best time management tip? I use a planner for everything.  If I don’t write it down, I don’t remember it.  So I would say my best time management tip is to write every place you need to be in a week on a planner, and also all of the big tasks you need to accomplish. Allow yourself a little treat (coffee? Five minutes in the bathroom with the door closed?) when you finish something.  If you are struggling with time in a day, get up just 15 minutes earlier the next day.

  1. Best organization tip? I try to clean out/ organize one small part of my home a day.  Sometimes it is as small as the junk drawer in the kitchen.  Sometimes I tackle a toy chest.  But I do something every day.

  1. What is your standby recipe when you don’t have the time or energy to cook? I am addicted to Pinterest! My son is really, really into pizza, and I found a recipe on Pinterest for “bubble pizza.”  It’s literally cut up refrigerated biscuits on the bottom of a pan, then sauce, then cheese, then veggies.  You can get gluten-free biscuits, use low-sugar sauce, and even use vegan cheese. You can pile on whatever veggies/ fruits your kids will eat.

  1. If you won the lottery what would be the first thing you would do? Pay tuition! My kids go to an amazing private school, The Key School, and if the tuition disappeared from our financial plates we would be happy campers!

  1. Do you have a mantra or words that you live by? Yes: Progress, not Perfection.  I also am a practicing Buddhist, so this is important to me: “For as long as space endures, and for as long as living beings remain, until then may I, too, abide, to dispel the misery of the world” (from The Way of the Bodhisattva, 8th century).

  1. What lesson or lessons do you hope your children are truly listening to you about? My friends think I’m odd, because I don’t allow my kids to squish bugs.  Literally, we had a small cockroach in the house the other day.  We had to catch him with a cup and put him outside in the yard.  I do this because I want my children to understand compassion, and a reverence for life. I believe that all living creatures have inherent worth, and I hope that my children hear me when I tell them this.

  1. If you could create more hours in a day, what do you wish that you had more time for? I’d love more time to cuddle with my partner  We work so hard to be sure the kids are taken care of and our work is taken care of that sometimes we neglect time for one another.

Thursday, June 20, 2013

The Farmers Market Challenge

You may spend too much time at Target if while at home your children pretend to play house by pretending to live at Target.
Target is now officially our home away from home. Not that this is all bad. I would be lying if I said I wasn't enamored by its indoor Starbucks, affordably chic swimwear and aisle after everything we never  knew we absolutely can not live without all in one sparkly shiny place. I can bribe my kids with soft pretzels, the dollar section and hot wheels cars. We can spend a good four hours and entirely too much money on too much... well... stuff. We could be on Hoarders: the Target Addicts edition. Do I really need a kitchen condiment caddy, a new hair glaze (what does that even mean?) and three different types of Oreos to celebrate the end of the school year? No, maybe (hair glaze is kind of amazing) and a definite no.

I want to take a vacation from my mushy Target mind who puts 112 items in her cart without really thinking about any of them and forgets the three items that her family actually needs, leading to another mindless Target trip. I'm trading that mind in for the farmers market momma. This girl is bright, together and remembers to bring her own reusable shopping bags for goodness sake! She cares about the farmers, shopping locally and thinking globally. I love her and you know what I realized is that I can be her too.

I'm challenging myself to shop for all that goes inside our bodies all summer long to be purchased from farmers markets. I'm a pescatarian (or as I like to call it: vegetarian with a side of crab) living with a couple of carnivores and one child so picky he had me pack the same exact lunch every day for the entire school year. If we can do it, anyone can. With the exception of a few items,  primarily olive oil and alcohol (come on farmers markets, surely you can open a moonshine stand), I think it can be done.  How is this for a startling statistic: The Agriculture Department indicates that by the end of last year, the United States had imported 4.1 billion pounds of food products from China. Say what? Billions of pounds of food from a country thousands of miles away, read the article here from MSN- it is absolutely shocking.

At our Annapolis farmers market, there are so many stands selling gorgeous seasonal produce and even a few selling locally raised chicken, beef, honey, bread, eggs and cheeses. These markets are a feast for the eyes and the wallet. Shopping there I feel both a sense of giving back and what it feels like to shop with joy and intention. When you are thanked at a market stand with such genuine gratitude, often from the farmers themselves, you just can't help to feel that you are contributing to something worthwhile. Big chain stores may have the shiny lights and the soy lattes but they will never have the depth of character of those hard-working hands.

Let's do this. Join me in being part of the change, the fresh farmed revolution. Learn where your food is from and teach your kids the same. Let me know if you are on board for trying it for the summer. Let me know how it feels to shop in season and support your corner of the world. Trust me, you will be thanked.

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

The Summer of Survival

My two older children just have two short days left of school. This simultaneously elates me and terrifies me. I can not wait to absorb the lazy mornings, cloud watching and bare toes in the grass. Ahhh. But then there is the inevitable trying to rip each others throats out and the shrieking chorus of "I'm bored/ it's not fair/ Mmmmmoooommmm" that make me want to invest in the best earplugs ever made. Not to mention the pressure hope that this summer will be better than the last. Every freaking time I feel like I have to outdo myself to show them how awesome I am at motherhood. I am exhausted thinking about my own expectations and summer has yet to begin.

I remember as a kid there being only two things on my to do list:
1. Play outside all day.
2. Come home when mom rings the dinner bell (you could hear it from anywhere in our neighborhood.  Note to self: invest in insanely loud dinner bell).

That was it. No responsibilities. Just joy. Sunshine. Mudpies. Sprinklers. Fireflies. And each summer
Clearly good haircuts were not on the summer to do list. 
was the best there ever was. So I'm kicking it old school this time around. While we have a few fun getaways planned, I have decided to not overschedule us. There are not even any camps on the horizon. I will have to throw in some playdates in here otherwise I will have zero incentive to clean the house for a solid three months. Other than that, we are looking at wide open days. Frightening but simple.

Here's hoping that we all survive Staycation 2013. Maybe my kids will even be grateful for it one day. For now though, let's just focus on survival. Everything else will just be the icing on the mudpie.

May there peace on your journey of summer survival...
I wish you luck (and an endless supply of wine) my dear rockstars.

Monday, June 10, 2013

Sunshine on a Rainy Day

I am addicted to quotes. As far as addiction goes, I suppose this is a great choice. I love to seek the great ones out. The ones that inspire me. The greatest ones are shared at the end of my yoga classes. The best ones have yoga classes built around their ideas. My all-time favorite one to date is one that internalizes with me every time I read or share it. It is from Mark Nepo's Book of Awakening from the passage "Precious Human Birth" (just beautiful). Thank you Mr. Nepo.
Here it is my dear ones...

That I can rise from some depth of awareness to express this to you and that you can receive me in this instant is part of our precious human birth. You could have been an ant. I could have been an anteater. You could have been rain. I could have been a lick of salt. But we were blessed- in this time, in this place- to be human beings, alive in rare ways we often take for granted.
All of this to say, this precious human birth is unrepeatable. So what will you do today knowing that you are one of the rarest forms of life to walk the Earth? How will you carry yourself? What will you do with your hands? What will you ask of and of whom?
Tomorrow you could die and become an ant and someone will be setting traps for you. But today you are precious and rare and awake. It ushers us into grateful living. It makes hesitation useless. Grateful and awake, ask what you need to know now. Say what you feel now. Love what you love now.

A little sunshine for you on this rainy day.
So much love and joy to you for reading... Katie

Thursday, June 6, 2013

The Power of the Poppas

Almost every time I ask my three year old son what his favorite part of his day was he innocently says, "when Daddy came home."

As much time and energy I invest in my children, the relationship I have with them could never touch the one that they have with my husband. And that is okay by me. I understand. I'm a daddy's girl too. He delivers the play and the fun and the laughter and can do it in these short amazing windows of time. I may give them the quantity but he sure can bring out the quality.

The power of the poppas is a fascinating thing. Our mothers, generous and stunning as they are, have their to-do lists in hand, endless places to be at the same time and they have to keep their (comfortable) shoes planted on the ground. They are reliable. They are constant. It is usually a given that they will always be your number one fan. So safe and nurturing. But the fathers... the fathers get the pedestal.  They are the protectors and superheroes of our world. The comedians, the magicians, the fixers of anything that is broken. They have the ability to be stronger than they could ever hope to be when they are looked at through their children's eyes. While we look into our mothers, we look up to our fathers.

This is my advice for all of you dads out there: own it. Own that red cape as much as you can for as long as you can. When your children are young you are their hero. The only person that can change that is you.

Take your son to gymnastics. Have a catch with your daughter. Hold your newborn baby. Let them dance on your toes. Teach them something that is hilarious. Teach them that there is power in your words. Tell them that you are proud of them. Be there. Take them out for ice cream. Take your wife out for wine. Love her and that love will translate to your children. They will learn love, respect and compassion through the way that you treat her. They are watching more than you think that they are so you might as well do them proud.

And to all the men out there who are doing just that and are present for their children: thank you. You are making this world a greater place. Thank you doesn't even begin to cover it.

In gratitude, love & hope... happy almost Father's Day.

Tuesday, June 4, 2013

Hungry for Hummus, Black Bean Style

Hummus is a staple at our house. It is a snack, a meal, a party pleaser. One three year old around here prefers to forgo anything to dip it with besides his fingers. Deliciously satisfying all around.
The trick is that I have yet to find a recipe that really does it justice. It is often grainy and tastes strikingly homemade (not in a good way). So I started playing in the bean department and found a worthy star: black beans. Scoot over garbanzos, these black beauties give the taste and texture that I adore without a boatload of olive oil that seems inevitable in other recipes. Raise your hummus loving fingers and give this recipe a whirl.

The Players:

1 can black beans, drained but not rinsed (I just opened the lid and poured out the excess liquid)
1 garlic clove

1/4 cup tahini
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
1 tablespoon red wine vinegar
1/2 teaspoon ground cumin

1/2 teaspoon greek seasoning
Sea salt and black pepper, to taste

The Game:

Blend all the ingredients in your Vitamix or blender until smooth. Serve with cucumbers, carrots or pita bread or make yourself a happy veggie wrap and line the inside with this hummus. Yum...

Born to be BFFs. Who knew?

Finger-licking good.