The Big Blue Dot

I love resolutions. I make resolutions like some people make bowls of cereal - often and with little regard for the sugary consequence. NYE, Passover, first day of Summer, first day of Winter, Thanksgiving, second thunderstorm of the sixth month of the year... basically, whenever the mood to resolve something strikes me. As you can probably imagine, someone who makes this many resolutions keeps just a small percentage of them. I know this sounds like an insane and fickle system for making life changes but it works for me. The resolutions that stick? Well,  they're basically super glued. For years. A few examples of some are below and in no particular order:

  • Eating one Granny Smith apple every night before bed. (This assuages the need for late night unhealthy sugary snacks.)
  • Purchasing a new wallet every time I start a new job.
  • Cutting out all processed sugar during the week and only indulging on weekends.
  • Purchasing and arranging fresh flowers for the apartment once every week. 
  • Mopping the apartment every Thursday. 

About two years ago I resolved to start lighting Shabbat candles every Friday night. The intent was not only to practice a ritual of my faith which I find especially beautiful but to also find a way to mark time. Life in New York was rolling far too quickly and I wanted to create a moment for myself in each week when I could really hit pause and reflect. At first, the habit was quick - I'd light the candles, say the prayer, and be on my merry way for the night. But gradually, month by month, the resolution turned into much more. I still say the Shabbat blessing but it's the moments after which I find so much more meaningful.

I always thought that if I worked a religious ritual into my life it would mean that I would inevitably ask for things. Instead, it's turned into something completely different. It is during these few minutes each week that I stop and take stock of myself. Even more surprising, I've started saying thank you. For what ever reason, this weekly habit has turned into my own gratitude journal. Some weeks there's a lot to be grateful for and some weeks less but every week without fail, I assess all the things I feel blessed with.

Lately, one thing in particular comes to mind. When we moved into this apartment I was already pregnant and my first question was in regards to the nursery. Could we paint? As expected, the answer was that we could hang anything we wanted but no painting was allowed. At first I was upset because painting my baby's nursery was a right of passage I really looked forward to. But, eventually, as one is often forced to do in New York, I found an alternate solution. Big blue decal dots, purchased on Etsy, all over the bright white walls brought the playfulness called for in a child's room. 

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Ben started smiling a few weeks ago. At first they were uncertain, small, sheepish grins - often in response to boops on the nose. Then, gradually, the smiles got bigger and brighter. Now every morning we're greeted with a radiant baby smile. (It's virtually impossible to wake up with a case of the Mondays, or really any other day, when there's a brightly smiling baby just beaming at you.) Then, a few days ago, we noticed that his attention was squarely focused on one big blue dot - directly in his line of sight whenever we place him on the changing table. It is without fail, tested and tried. Regardless of my baby Ben being in a cranky mood or the best of spirits, the big blue dot makes him smile so wide my heart wants to burst and break at the same time.

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So, this week as the last, when I light candles on Friday night I'm going to say thank you. Thank you for our health, for the food on our table, for lots of different things. But more than anything, thank you for the big blue dot above the changing table. Because it's the first thing my son has identified in this hectic world that makes him inexplicably happy.  I am forever grateful for that. 

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Low Country (but actually Brooklyn) Boil

This past week, as I often do during the warmer months, I stood by our kitchen window and practiced my all time favorite of the New York deadly sins: coveting thy neighbor's backyard. You see, we live on the second floor of our brownstone. Directly beneath our giant kitchen window is our downstairs neighbor's beautiful patio. There's enough space for a deck, a grill, a basketball hoop, even a tree! I stare longingly at their garden as I sip my coffee and imagine all of the outdoor meals I'd love to enjoy if we only had the same. Except, if we had a backyard, I'd refer to it exclusively as "dining al fresco". People would text and ask what we're up to and I'd say, "Oh! We're just dining al fresco in our garden." Or, "Oh! Sipping some wine before we break out the cheese plate, al fresco." I'd wear white linen round the clock and my baby would never spit up on it. Also, we'd have central AC and a dishwasher in this fantasy because why not throw that in while we're dreaming.

Unfortunately, and for the foreseeable future, having an outdoor space of our own is out of the question. The rent on an apartment with a backyard equals roughly Ben's daycare cost so I guess this is where I choose the kid over the patio, right? As much as I would love to host a BBQ, for the time being we're relegated to hosting indoors. Which, to be totally honest, is quite nice if you approach the whole endeavor with a bit of creativity and remind yourself that it's too damn hot to be outside and your Eastern European skin can't handle anything over 80ºF anyway. 

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So, in light of still wanting contact with the outside world while on maternity leave, but also not wanting shell out for a babysitter - we decided to host. To keep thing simple and not super labor intensive Ian made his recipe for a low country boil. Corn, potatoes, onions, shrimp. He's made it a few times now and it comes together beautifully every time. To switch things up a bit we moved the living room table and set it up for standing and picking. The entire meal took less than an hour to prepare and the clean up was blessedly simple. I topped everything off with banana pudding for dessert because it's not officially summer until there's banana pudding. Honestly, backyard or no backyard - lovely friends, cold beer, and delicious food are what make this season what it is. Ok, enough with the cheesy stuff - hope you make this and enjoy as much as we did! 

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Low Country Boil

Ingredients

(we doubled this recipe in two large pots and it was plenty for 7 people.)

  • 2 lbs peeled shrimp
  • 1 lemon, quartered
  • 3 stalks corn, halved
  • 1 large sweet onion, quartered
  • 1 large link smoked turkey sausage, sliced into 1/2 inch pieces
  • 4 red potatoes, quartered
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 1/2 stick butter
  • Old Bay, 1/2 cup
  • 3 tbsp salt
  • 2 tbsp pepper
  • 2-3 bay leaves
  • 1 lemon for drizzling
  1. Fill a large pot with cold water about 3/4 of the way. 
  2. Put the old bay, lemon, salt, pepper, and bay leaves into the water. Let this "marinade" sit for 20-30 min before cooking. 
  3. Bring mixture to a boil and put in potatoes. Keep the water boiling and 5-7 min later put in sausage and onions. 5 min after that put in the corn.
  4.  Once the corn and potatoes seem firm but tender to the touch, put in the shrimp until it turns pink. 
  5. Drain everything and toss on a tray. We chose aluminum for easy clean up. 
  6. Melt the butter with the garlic in a small sauté pan and drizzle on the cooked food. 
  7. Squeeze lemon on top.
  8. Serve immediately.
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Baby Boy Ben

He's here! (Seven weeks ago...)

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It's been almost two months since we brought Ben home. Seven weeks of sleepless nights, eight bottles sterilized twice a day, five types of pacifiers tested, two bottle cleaning brushes used until they broke, three times being peed on, roughly fifteen thousand diaper changes, and countless "We made him! Look at that face!" exclamations later, I finally carved out some time to write.  

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Before you get nervous - no, this is not turning into a site exclusively about motherhood and recipes for pureeing farm stand cruelty free baby food. I promise not to regurgitate what's been written about by countless others. Keeping this space platitude free is critical. Even as a new mother the last thing I want to read is yet another post about how beautiful motherhood is or how breastfeeding is the most difficult. No kidding. Also, the sky is blue. 

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Bringing Ben home, becoming a parent, it's every single emotion. Exhilarating, inspiring, frustrating, annoying, decadent, surreal... every possible feeling wrapped up into one big one that hits you like a brick flying through a glass window. At first I tried going about things as if nothing had changed - cleaning, cooking, checking email, trying to keep up with life in the same way. But, eventually, I slowed down. Or rather, forced myself to slow down. Trying to keep the same pace as before is unsustainable and not just because we're sleeping only four hours a night.

We're settling into this new life and trying to find balance and rhythm in our little family. Below, a few lessons learned and experiences gathered over the last two months, from deep within these sleepless trenches. 

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Two Months with Baby Ben

1. Sleeping when the baby sleeps is a big fat myth. Unless you have a housekeeper or nanny daytime naps are when it's time for laundry, dusting, cleaning, bottle sterilizing, laundry, dog walking, did I mention laundry?

Also, let's be real, when baby naps is the only time to indulge abandoned but well loved previous behaviors such as binge watching Billions while fixing a chipped manicure. Oh, and afternoon naps make me as groggy and grumpy as Ben. Unfortunately, the 5 S's don't work as well on a 33 year old woman. 

2. You need coffee. So much coffee. BUT here's the thing - all coffee will remain unfinished. Don't even try to drink a whole cup in one sitting. There will be feeding, burping, swinging, shushing, and swaddling between sips. Thank goodness for the microwave. Learning to enjoy reheated coffee - huge part of the motherhood gauntlet. 

3. It is incredible how much can be done while holding a baby in one arm. Two weeks ago I made a full dinner of pasta with meat sauce all while balancing Ben on my hip. There was even a chiffonade of basil involved! I've also watered plants, organized books, even lint rolled a pillow. Maybe when he goes to college I'll take up juggling.

4. Baby has more outfit changes than Linda Evangelista in a '92 Versace show. Don't bother salvaging onesies. Just move onto the next one. Accept that you will probably never again outrun the laundry. (Yes, that reference dates me but, whatever. There are no models walking today that live up to the glory that were the 1990s Supers.) 

5. Babies sleep better with noise. After two weeks of white noise playing endlessly in the apartment I felt like I was living in the world's most anticlimactic horror movie. With much experimentation we realized Ben falls asleep to Paul Simon. Not just falls asleep - he stays asleep. This was well and good until Paul Simon was playing so often that the mere beginning of "Me and Julio Down by the Schoolyard" made me want to cheerily sashay myself right out of the bedroom window. We had to break up with Paul.

We're now firmly planted in playing "thunderstorm" or "rain on a tin roof" sounds through Alexa. (It's really a brave new world when real rain outside your window isn't loud enough to satisfy the fourth trimester needs of a baby.) How long can two adults handle being fake rained on during clear, sunny, June days? Unclear.  

6. Every baby movie ever wasn't lying. Boys pee straight up. No more explanation or description of the situation necessary. 

7. Hold your breath when taking the diaper bag out of the Ubbi pail. Seriously, it's not worth it to breathe. 

 Two days of diapers. two. 

Two days of diapers. two. 

More to come soon but for now I'm going to go smell my baby's head. 

 bags under eyes brought to you by sleep deprivation and pure bliss. 

bags under eyes brought to you by sleep deprivation and pure bliss. 

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