Around these parts, it feels like the glory days of summer. The tomatoes are (finally) ripening! The Nuni has finished summer school and is now living out my nostalgic old-fashioned childhood summer dreams at day camp where she gets to swim and ride horses and do archery and build forts and generally have a grand old time. We have been working diligently at our summer bucket list (last weekend: farmer’s market and train ride. Next up: s’mores, and the obligatory weekend hammock time). Hard to believe we are back to school in a month!
1. From the archives:
Tomatoes are finally peaking at the farmer’s markets (and if you planted yours earlier than I did mine, in your garden), and now is the perfect time to capture that ripe goodness in a jar. Sweet tomato jam might sound weird, but the flavor is just wonderful – familiar and exotic all at once. This one tastes exactly like the one my great-grandma used to make.
Get a look at this amazing house (just purchased by Andy Samberg) in LA’s Beechwood Canyon featured on Curbed LA. Mary Astor and Charlie Chaplin once lived there, and it’s a Moorish fantasy, with ornate ceilings, Moroccan tile designs, stained glass, a door with carved camels on it(!) and a cave(!!) near the swimming pool. There also appear to be white subway tiles in the kitchen, if you’re worried about the hipster cred. I’ve been totally obsessed with Moroccan tile designs lately, so this is right up my alley and some serious eye candy.
If you haven’t read Bossypants by Tina Fey, you have to. Rebecca Traister (whom I have long loved) wrote a great piece on being a woman in a man’s world that’s worth a read, and makes excellent use of one of my favorite anecdotes from Bossypants.
I wear glasses almost every day (my job involves a lot of computer time, and if I wear my contacts, I’m crying uncle by 4 pm), and have to recommend these frames. First of all, Zenni is generally awesome -I buy prescription glasses from them all the time, but these, which I totally bought on a whim, get complimented EVERY SINGLE TIME I WEAR THEM. Seriously, I have gotten compliments on them from the other moms at daycare, my daughter’s teachers, my boss, the checkout guy at Trader Joe’s, my dental hygienist. And they only cost me $50, WITH LENSES.
I know the World Cup is over and nobody in the US cares about soccer anymore, but I, for one, have a newfound love of the sport. It’s so dramatic! Every time a player gets a scratch it’s a federal offense! It’s a lot like living with a seven year old, frankly. Anyway, NPR covered this phenomenon beautifully, and asked the question: What if we lived life as if we were in the World Cup?
When it comes to mothers, mine is (almost) always right.
When I was a little girl, I, being a child of the 80’s, wanted nothing more than crap for breakfast. I watched the beguiling commercials – Super Golden Crisp! Pop Tarts! Leggo my Eggo! – and I asked, nay, begged my mother to give me this super-sugary stuff of my dreams for breakfast. My mother, having come of age in the crunchy late 60’s and 70’s in California, wisely turned me down. I had to eat healthy breakfasts, which always included protein. Cream cheese, peanut butter, whole grain breads – on test days I always had eggs. Protein in the morning was her mantra. I, sulking, vowed that when I had children, I would buy Cocoa Krispies for breakfast!
Of course, my mother was right. One day she gave in to my pleading and let me have pancakes for breakfast (though it’s possible my father had a hand in this disaster). 2 hours later the school nurse called her – I felt awful – headache, stomachache, you name it. My mother crisply told the nurse to feed me some cheese and lo and behold! I felt better! Low blood sugar. (I wish I could say that from this day forward, I happily ate my eggs and turned my nose up at Lucky Charms, but, sadly, it took many years of collegiate hangovers and maturity before I submitted to her wisdom.)
Now I am a mother, and Karma is an ahole, because I have the same battles with my kids. Every morning (or every weekend mornings, because weekdays I have learned enough not to ask), the girl says “Please! Can we have pancakes? You never make pancakes!” and the boy, who worships his sister, pipes in with his little voice, shouting “Pancake! I wan’ Pancake!” and then adds, hopefully, “Frosting?” (Because cakes have frosting. I am clearly more relaxed about sugar than my mother was. Pancakes do not, however. I’m not THAT relaxed.) And I repeat back to them my mother’s mantra, and try to wangle some sausages into them and the whole thing, is frankly, exhausting.
I live 2 minutes away from where I grew up. This was a combination of happy chance and deliberate decision making – we knew we wanted the kind of beauty and community my hometown provided, and when we decided to buy a house, the first one we looked at happened to be here, in this neighborhood, 2 minutes away from my childhood home. What that means is that to some extent, my children are living my childhood – playing in the same park, reading in the same library, walking the same streets.
My childhood comes back the most vividly for, me, however, when I’m in the kitchen, with my daughter (who is truly my mini-me), making dinner from my mother’s recipes. Cooking together is a thread that links the generations of my family. One of our family’s favorites is meatloaf – the recipe is forgiving enough for little hands to help, and we can work together – chopping, mixing, shaping. I let her choose the McCormick spices we add (within reason), and she has pride of ownership when the meal comes out of the oven, “Daddy, I MADE UP this recipe.” The meatloaf becomes hers, as it has been mine, and my mother’s before me. When we gather outside to eat (because we are Californians, and we eat outside three quarters of the year), I hope that my children feel the strong sense of home that I felt, that brought me back here, to my home town, to my neighborhood, and to the family table. That is American Homemade to us.
Yellow cake with chocolate frosting. Classic. If you ask most people what their favorite cake is, they will answer, “Yellow cake with chocolate frosting.” It’s the cake of our fondest nostalgic imaginings, bringing to mind the best birthdays of childhood.
Not my birthdays, though. I was a child of the 70’s with more imagination than sense, which means my earliest birthday cakes were carrot cakes (of course!) and then, when I was old enough to ask, I’d beg my mother to make a somewhat horrifying concoction of angels food, devils food, chocolate mousse and 7 minute frosting). Now that I am an actual grown up (I can no longer deny this fact due to thenature of 1) my tax return, 2) my grocery list, and 3) my color-coded online family calendar) I have a greater appreciation for classics. Things that never go out of style.ellow cake. Chocolate Frosting.
Last week, my baby turned two. Which means he is hardly my baby anymore. He no longer stays where I put him – instead he is constantly climbing and getting into everything. A few days ago, he went into the kitchen and poured himself a bowl of cereal. With milk. Which was pretty impressive if I ignored the milk all over the table. On the other hand, he is an extraordinarily charming two year old – head of blond curls, little voice that repeats everything, and lots of silliness. I wanted to celebrate his birthday with style, with class – and how better than with the classic – yellow cake with chocolate frosting?
It’s after Memorial day, the Nuni has finished first grade (!) and summer vacation is in full swing around these parts. I am kicking off the summer by breaking my pinky toe and going slowly insane because my children are whining. You?
1. From the archives:
I don’t know about you, but our zucchini plant is growing like crazy. Instead of drowning under a bushel of zucchini come July, pick them while they’re tiny and make these fried zucchini blossoms.
2. Fashion Find:
I bought two pairs of these shoes and they are super cute and super comfortable. Yes, they are made of pleather, and yes, they will probably fall to pieces after about 3 months but for $23, what do you expect? Red shoes!
3. Let’s Get Serious for a Minute
I don’t know if you’ve been following the #YesAllWomen movement, but in the wake of the Isla Vista shooting and the misogynistic hate screed that accompanied it, women are stepping forward to tell their stories. It’s both depressing (so much to be done!) and inspiring (women having a voice!) It’s worth checking out the feed, and if you have something to add, posting.
4. Best of the Blogs:
My friend Rachel Cedar runs a very successful parenting consulting business in New York. In February, she ran a great series with a bunch of talented writers on playing with your kids, called 28 Days of Play. With the long days of summer vacation looming, the series is worth revisiting. (Rachel is also a go-to for very sage parenting advice, so check out the rest of her blog, too).
5. Funny of the day:
Mindy Kaling gave a commencement address at Harvard Law School and knocked it out of the park. This pushes so many of my buttons: Mindy Kaling (love her), lawyer jokes (funny because they’re true!, but I’m only allowed to say that because I’m a lawyer) and just a touch of anti-Harvard bias (go Bulldogs!). So many good quotes, but I particularly love this one:
“You wrote the Terms and Conditions that I scroll through quickly while I download the update for Candy Crush. Terms and Conditions are the only things keeping us from the purge, everybody. I don’t read them—I just hit Accept. iTunes may own my ovaries for all I know.” (OK, this might only be funny to corporate lawyers)
When I talk family traditions and family recipes on The Domestic Front, I’m usually talking about my family – the family I was born into, or the family I’ve made with Ken and Nuni and Boo. My family is close (now that my cousin has moved back to LA from NYC, the farthest away anyone lives is about 2 hours), and we are all food people, so it’s natural to write about our places and recipes and stories. Ken’s family is harder — for one thing, they’re geographically scattered all over the midwest, the east and west coasts, and for another, most of their traditions center around things other than food (like golf. They play a lot of golf.) My mother-in-law is a born and bred southerner, from the hotbed of American regional cuisine, but she’s also a wanderer, and would be perfectly happy to live on seaweed and lentils.
There has only been one major food figure in Ken’s family since I’ve known him (which is why he eats what I cook so happily), and that is Quincey. Quincey was a substitute grandfather to Ken, whose own grandfathers both died rather young. He was a true Southerner, who lived his whole life along the Virginia North Carolina border – he was also a musician, and a storyteller, a former tobacco farmer, a general handyman, and a damn good cook. He taught Ken to play the mandolin, spent hours fixing up my mother-in-law’s house, and, the few times I met him, taught me a thing or two about cooking. Collards with fatback, corn pudding, sweet potato pie, and the best fried apple pies I’ve ever tasted. Quincey’s recipes were inexact — he measured with his fingers, adding a pinch of salt, a joint of butter. I always meant to get them down on paper, in a form that could be reproduced, but Quincey died last year, and I never did.
I haven’t been around here much, have I? I would say that I haven’t been cooking much, though that’s not exactly true. I haven’t felt like writing? That’s not exactly true either. I suppose you could say that life has gotten in the way. In all its messiness and joy and sadness and stress and angst. And that is not going away any time soon. But I do want to share. September is a hibernation month in Los Angeles. Everyone else in the world is all “lalala I love fall!” and you probably want to kill them because it is DISGUSTINGLY hot here and your sandals have a broken strap and you’re trying to stretch that last summer pedicure out as long as possible but you really shouldn’t be doing that. But October! October brings a little crispness to the air. Hot tea no longer sounds like an abomination. You might even consider wearing a scarf! (But not a wool one. Let’s be realistic.) So here’s my summer, in photos (mostly courtesy of Instagram. You should follow me there. But I will warn you that I work in an office and I thought people might get bored of the 873rd photo of my paper strewn desk and LA traffic, so most pictures come on the weekends).
Thought I’d pop in to share what our dinner plans look like this week.
A few notes:
1) I love the Cozi app (which I’ve recommended before). It puts my dinner plans right into my calendar. I’ve been using it for grocery shopping, too, though I haven’t used their meal planning services. This is a screenshot.
2) I don’t work on Fridays so I usually do my grocery shopping (writhing toddler in tow.) My meal plan goes Friday-Thursday.
3) I was going to make dinner Saturday but ended up just grazing at book club. I made a butternut squash dip with tahini and date molasses out ofJerusalem, my latest cookbook obsession. (The eggplant recipe is also from there.)
5) I get home pretty late on weeknights (after 7) so dinner is usually simple simple simple. The kids don’t always eat with us, either – Nuni usually eats at her after school program (or with my mom, who picks her up two days a week), and I usually feed Bootsy something as soon as I get home so we can get him to bed. He’s a big fan of leftovers – last week’s favorite was barley risotto with feta (also from Jerusalem).
1. From the archives:
Father’s Day is this weekend and if the way to a man’s heart is through his stomach then the way to my man’s heart is through pie. I think Ken is going to be presented with his favorite plum pie.
2. Listen to this:
In the battle of classical composers, I’ve always been a Mozart girl, and anyone who has ever seen Amadeus knows that his final Requiem is pretty compelling. I’ve loved it ever since I sang the Requiem in college, and now I’m minorly obsessed with this version of the Confutatis sung by the band Las Rubias del Norte.
3. Retail Therapy:
My friend Cynthia knows high fashion (she has a hobby of buying and selling Hermes handbags) and she recently launched the plus-sized fashion site and marketplace Abbey Post. If you are looking for that special outfit or have one to sell, check it out!
4. Don’t confuse a buckle and a slump:
With summer stone fruit season coming into its own, many people could use a refresher on the difference between a grunt, a crisp and a cobbler. This rant from Slate reminds us of what a cobbler is, and more importantly, what it is not (hint: if it doesn’t look like cobblestones, it’s not a cobbler!)
5. Don’t skip this PSA.
With summer pool season in full swing, please read this article: How to Recognize Drowning. Then share it with everyone you know. Drowning is one of the leading causes of death among children under 15, and this might just save a child’s life.
Bonus #1:. I love these Fairy Tales for the Modern Woman. My favorite? “Once upon a time a woman was very good at her job, and she knew she had added value to the company she worked for, so even though she was nervous, she talked to her boss, and asked for a raise, and she got it.
Bonus #3: I’ve thought Henry Cavill was cute since I watched those first three episodes of The Tudors (After the first three I got a little bored because I knew how it was going to end) but seeing him in all the promo photos for Man of Steel has made me develop a full-blown crush. For the ladies (or gents who may be interested), here is some eye candy. You’re welcome.
My baby boy has just turned one, and I have no clue how that happened. Just last week he was a tiny little warm bundle, whose floppy body fit – just exactly – into mine. His head smelled like powder and was covered with just the whisper of soft peach fuzz. He slept (and woke!) every two hours, and I was his sun.
I blinked and suddenly he’s walking around the house like a bear on his hind legs. Often with something dangerous – a fork, a length of jump rope, a permanent marker – clutched tight in one grubby little paw. He has the most delightful sly little smile, which is slower to come than it used to be, unless there is something TRULY exciting, which must also be shouted at and banged upon – like a drum, or a dog. He likes to tell jokes, and he wants to know what everything in the world is called, pointed and gesturing, and always saying, “que?” “que?” The peach fuzz is still strawberry blond, but has lengthened into curls – CURLS, which hurt my heart to look at, because WHAT is more darling than a little boy toddling around with blond curls? When he wakes up in the morning, he goes hunting for his sister, who is the MOST fun person in his world. He’s not a baby any more.
As if to squelch any doubt remaining in my mind about the end of his babyhood, the cruel calendar came round to May, and his babyhood year (why only one year?) was officially over. Toddlerhood is officially here, with all the joys that entails (stairs! And talking!)
So we made cake. And because I’m busy chasing the little blond monster all over creation, I didn’t fool around with layers and creaming, and baking and frosting. I made icebox cake.
Based in Los Angeles, the Domestic Front is the home of Kate, a working mom who is low on time but high on life. I hope this site helps you find ways to make your life richer, easier, more beautiful and more delicious. You can read more about me and the site here and feel free to email me with any questions or feedback!