A Happy Life.

3rd August 2014

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I’ve been thinking a lot about the future lately. I’m always baffled by how my life has turned out so far. Sometimes it makes me sad to know that my “life plan” that I made in high school didn’t quite pan out, but really, I shouldn’t complain. I’ve got my family, even though we’ve lost a few people along the way. I have my pup. I have a job. I have a partner. When I was seventeen, I dreamed of being a writer. Maybe I would write for a newspaper or a magazine. Hard news. Investigative pieces. Maybe it would be the lovely lifestyle fluff. Maybe I would be a film critic. I would definitely be married. I would definitely have a kid by now.

I’m mostly okay with who I’ve become. Mostly. But I do find that it’s always fun to dream about other things, too. One of the things that I love about Steven, is that he’s a secret dreamer just like I am. We dream of our future together and I’m realizing that I’m with someone who can help make those dreams tangible. We went on a day trip recently to a town called Cold Spring and we had such an amazing time just walking around and enjoying the sights. We met some nice people, ate delicious food, and admired cozy homes. We plotted our future–the one where we will live in a town like Cold Spring, be a part of a community, source from local farmers, and build with local materials. I know it all sounds so silly, but it made me feel good. Because even if things don’t go as planned (read: when they don’t go as planned), I have someone who I’ll still be able to dream with.

In my seventeen year old head, I thought the ultimate thing would be to live in New York City. Now I can never see that happening. Give me small town life with a dose of the city and I’m good. I want to live in a house that we can grow with. I want enough property to build some kick ass gardens and a studio space where Steven and I can make beautiful things. I want to cook wonderful food. I want to know the people who are growing that food. I want to have some chickens. I’ll draw the line at having a cow, because those majestic creatures are incredibly smelly. I want to have a family. I want my kids to play outside and not ever be afraid to get dirty. I want to know my neighbors. I want to be happy.

It’s easy to get wrapped up in dreams and not take the steps to actually help those dreams come to life. It’s easy to read my blog feed be inspired and frustrated by the projects, recipes, and materials that other people are making. But it’s better to tuck those bits of inspiration away and then sit down to figure out how to make the future happen. I can’t say that Steven and I are in control of our destiny, because I certainly don’t believe that we are, but we can make choices to help lead us in a specific direction. I appreciate the little moments we have now, before everything sets in. Before the wedding. Before we live together. Before kids. I love sketching out our future in my mind and thinking and how we’ll get there.

Those little scraps of ideas pile up as we craft our happy life. I can’t wait.

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Life right now.

28th July 2014

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July is almost over which, in my head, means that summer is almost over. I’ve always had not-so-great feelings about August, because August signaled the start of the school year. August is like the Sunday of months. Basically, it’s the worst. The dread of the start of something new. Now that I’m a teacher, I have that same feeling, because my work is school.

This month I went back to college to get some credits towards my Early Childhood certification. New York City was approved for universal pre-k; our school was one of the few charters approved, too. So in September, I’ll be the lead teacher (finally) of a pre-k/kindergarten class. It’s exciting and really, really scary. I wish I had been able to do a lot more this summer, but it’s been nice so far. Class was pretty fun. I’ve always loved learning, so it was nice to get some more information and learn some new tricks to take with me into the coming school year.

A big thing that I’ve been doing this summer is cooking. Well, baking mostly. And taking pictures. A lot of both. I purchased an older DSLR from Megan (Freckled Italian) and have been learning to shoot with it. I have a PDF of the manual saved in a tab, but mostly I’ve been tinkering with it on my own. It’s been a little frustrating not being able to immediately snap the shots that I see in my mind, but with more and more practice I’ve really been getting the hang of it. It’s so exciting to finally have a “real” camera, though I still use my trusty iPhone, Eames, as much as possible. It’s dope.

(Photo by Steven)
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So the things that I’ve been photographing have been food items. Steven has been working on setting up a new blog, thanks to some inspiration from my bestie and her husband, so I’ve been shooting photos for him to use. Then I’ve been trying out new recipes for my Adventures in Cooking series. I probably have about ten different things that I’ve made and photographed over the past few months that I’ve just been holding onto, but a lot of things were holding me back. But if Steven can get his stuff together, then so can I. I can’t wait to share some of the new things that I’ve tried! It’s funny because I really like to cook and I do, in fact, make things other than dessert/baked goods. But I realized that whenever I cook, I use different amounts of everything. I have a standard idea of how I make my chicken parmesan, but I would never be able to share a specific recipe, since it’s always “a little of this and a little of that.” My goal is to start photographing some actual meals, but I’ll have to start with what I have.

I hope you all are enjoying your summer so far! Unless you live in Australia, in which case I hope you’ve been enjoying your winter. ♥

(P.S.-I have a new blog design! It’s from The Blog Boat on Etsy. The original design is super clean, but I’ve been adding some extra bits of color here and there. I’m not sure that it’s done yet, but I’m happy with it so far.)

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Stop all the clocks…

11th July 2014

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A month ago, I watched my grandmother die on my bathroom floor.

She had been given the common “three to six months” speech that all too many cancer patients get and she was okay with it. Maybe. Probably not. We never really had the chance to talk about it. I was afraid to ask. Either way, it doesn’t matter because she didn’t even make it a month. My grandma had ovarian cancer, but we think she actually died of a heart attack. She had been receiving at home hospice care and my father was making arrangements to go a beautiful hospice location a few miles away. Just days before, she had been zipping around her apartment, cracking jokes, and being her wonderful self. She started feeling ill on a Friday. On Saturday, my mother had the idea to bring her home for the weekend. On Sunday morning, she was dead.

She woke up on Sunday morning hot, sweaty, and disoriented; tangled in her blankets. Dad helped her and she asked about me. I came into the room to help. So did mom. Then grandma started saying things that didn’t make sense. We thought she needed to use the toilet. It took all three of us to help her into the bathroom and before she could sit down, she collapsed onto the floor, her breath ragged. Deep gasps for air that I will never forget.

Everything happened quickly and slowly all at once. Dad left to get grandma’s oxygen tank from her apartment. Mom and I took turns sitting behind grandma, on the ledge of my tub, to make sure she wouldn’t hit her head. I prayed and prayed and prayed. Grandma’s breath started to slow down, which mom took as a good sign. I knew, in that very instant, that this was it. Her breath was slowing too much. The seconds that passed as she inhaled were too far apart.

I looked at grandma and realized she wasn’t there anymore. Not really. And I looked at my mom and shook my head, not wanting to say it out loud: she’s dying. If any part of grandma was still in there, I didn’t want her last moments to be filled with sobs and screams. I sat down in front of her and rubbed her legs. I put my had on her chest as it rose and fell for the last time. She died in my mother’s arms. Dad still wasn’t back yet.

I remember saying “amen” in my head, not wanting to get angry with God for taking my grandmother away. I had prayed for Him to comfort her and be with her and I knew that He had been. I had prayed that He would strengthen my family and I knew that He would. I prayed again, right there on the bathroom floor and tried to comfort my mother, who sat sobbing in disbelief. I thought about how sad it was that my mom had lost her mom and mother-in-law in just three years. I thought about how I didn’t have a grandma anymore. Not one.

I called my dad and told him that grandma died. I hugged him a few minutes later when he pulled into the driveway, oxygen tank in the back of his car. I texted Steven the news and asked him to help. The hospice nurse called to check in and I told her what happened, too.

I remember Steven and my father lifting my grandmother’s body off of the floor and into the bed. My mother had arranged the blankets first. I know that I called David Ryan. Texted my cousin to call our home. I remember desperately wanting to clean the bathroom and Steven helping me out with that. I remember being sad that Steven had to help with any of this, but being so grateful that he was there.

More phone calls and visitors. Grandma’s sister came over and yelled at her for following their sister’s footsteps. I learned that watching people grieve just kick started my own sadness. Through all of this, grandma’s body was warm. She looked like she was sleeping. We kissed her and held her hand. We straightened out her nightgown. We cried a lot. We laughed. We said our long goodbyes.

In the days and weeks that followed, there was a memorial, family time, a moving up ceremony for my students, starting up a grad school class, bridesmaid obligations, and lots and lots of football. I’ve held my dog during a thunderstorm, I’ve hugged my boyfriend, and I’ve said goodbye to my brother, who I won’t see again for another year. It’s been…life.

I think about that W.H. Auden poem a lot and how when someone dies, you expect everything to stop. You want everyone to take a second to mourn the life that has been lost. But that’s not what happens. That’s not the way things work. Instead, people send condolences and give hugs and then continue on with their lives. And that’s better, in a way. Because that’s how you move on.

Life right now is happy and sad and mix of other things. And I don’t have my grandma anymore, but I have years and years of memories to consider, along with a trunk full of things that Steven and I will use when we start our life together. That’s really all I can ask for.

Adventures in cooking: Banana Bread

7th May 2014

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We’re always buying bananas around here. Usually the goal is to use them in a smoothie, but more often than not, I come home and I’m starving for actual food and the bananas don’t get eaten. I had the thought to bake some banana bread and switch up our batter-covered family recipe for something new. The lovely and amazing Joy from Joy the Baker posted a recipe for Brown Butter Banana Bread that looked simple and delicious. It made for a light and sweet loaf that felt just right.

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The thing I love about Joy’s posts is that every recipe tells a story. I really look forward to the way that she develops each one. They all seem familiar, accessible, and fun. It’s like cooking with a good friend. Who doesn’t love that? She’s also great with explaining new (to me) concepts. I had no idea that I could make buttermilk and I had never browned butter before! (Full disclosure, I totally did not brown the butter correctly the first time I tried. I did it in a pot, instead of a pan, and I didn’t leave it in for long enough. I have some proper brown-butter banana loaf baking as I type and it smells like perfection. So: Saucepan. Give the butter time to brown. Yes.)

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I used this recipe to bake banana bread with the children and they ate it all up! It was so much fun to cook with them and they all got a kick out of mashing the bananas and smelling all of the ingredients. They were not down with the buttermilk or the vanilla, but they certainly appreciated the taste in the loaf itself.

Recipe: Brown Butter Banana Bread
Blogger: Joy the Baker

Mash. Bake. Enjoy!

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The Friday Five…

26th April 2014

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Today we went on a field trip to the American Museum of Natural History, which I’ve been to so many times that I always forget that it’s kind of a big deal. The most exciting part of the trip (besides the massive whale in the Hall of Biodiversity) was going to the planetarium. I’ve only been inside a few times and I was so excited to let Neil DeGrasse Tyson’s voice wash over all of us. The kids were completely mesmerized (except for the kid next to me who was bouncing and nearly in tears because he had to pee so badly) and couldn’t stop talking about it for the rest of the day. Most of them said it was their favorite part of the museum visit, too. Though one child said that his favorite part was the elevator ride to the planetarium. It’s the little things.

In other news, I have a terrible problem where I leave a billion tabs open because I have links I want to pass along to people, but never do. Here are five to check out…

1. Ten Things Happy People Don’t Believe //
I appreciate that despite my regularly case of “The Feels,” I’m so very in line with these ten points. I do believe (unless you have a clinical issue) that happiness is a choice. It’s too easy to fall into negativity and to feel sorry for yourself. To be able to take the good with the bad and to understand that there are many ways to actively pursue positivity is what can make all the difference. Seeing the beauty in the universe and enjoying every minute of its radiance.

2. Sing-Ed Sheeran. //
I wasn’t totally on board the Sheeran train before this song, but now? Hell to the yes. So he’s basically a British version of Patrick Stump, right? I can work with this. Sing is completely addictive and poppy and hot and it has made my commute this week infinitely better.

3. One wonderful thing about being back at work is witnessing all of the wonderful moments of greatness that my students create. One of my students is obsessed with tattoos and art. He came in the other day with a little bookmark type flyer for a new tattoo shop that opened on our block. I encouraged him to draw the lovely work that he saw and he was able to replicate it beautifully! I instagrammed it and the shop owners gave him a thumbs up. The kid was thrilled.
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4. NYC Tips and Etiquette-Nathan W. Pyle //
I saw this linked on tumblr and again on A Cup of Jo. I laughed so hard that I teared up because it’s so incredibly accurate. New York City is a magical and often rage-inducing place. I love it. It’s really not all that difficult to follow these rules. The basically boil down to this: don’t be a jerk and get the hell out of the way.
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5. And the Waltz Goes On-Sir Anthony Hopkins //
Another tumblr find. Actor, Anthony Hopkins hears a waltz that he wrote 50 years ago for the very first time. Take a second to wrap your head around that. I had no idea that he had ever been a composer. To know that he wrote this waltz when he was just a teenager is astounding. It’s a beautiful piece of music and the look on his face throughout it just lovely.

I’m off to close my tabs now. Have a great weekend, friends! ♥

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