Saturday, November 22, 2014

Life on the inside

Parker is now six weeks old. It's funny how the days and weeks are simultaneously long and short. So much happens (like, her brain growing five centimeters so far and little fat rolls slowly forming on her jambes), and yet we do nothing but eat, read and take walks.

This is what a typical day at home looks like.
And evening.
And every moment in between.
It's nothing. And everything.

Monday, November 10, 2014

The comfort of pie & a great French giveaway

When I first met Ann Mah in Paris, there was an immediate kinship. She had previously lived in New York and was a wonderful writer of mostly food and travel pieces—a girl after my own heart. Plus, she was understatedly cool, modest, and a great conversationalist. Over the past few years, that admiration of Ann evolved into a friendship with many parallels in our lives: we both returned to New York, published books, and are now mothers.

Ann had a beautiful baby girl, Lucy, a little over a year ago. As I approached my due date, she was full of helpful suggestions and down to earth advice (which, if you’re a mom, you know is not as common as you might think or hope). And when she actually offered to cook a chicken pot pie with parsley biscuits for us the week after Parker was born, I was all too happy and grateful to accept.

So, you think that shows Ann’s thoughtful, generous nature? Now take into consideration that she made the offer—and the beautiful pot pie—in the midst of her paperback release of her New York Times-acclaimed book, Mastering the Art of French Eating.

I thought it only appropriate to spread the generosity, and yumminess, in two ways: by sharing Ann's recipe and offering a copy of her fantastic book.

First, the recipe...

Chicken pot pie with parsley biscuits

Serves four

For the chicken stew:
2 tablespoons butter
3 tablespoons olive oil, divided
2/3 cup flour
1/4 cup cream sherry (optional)
5 cups chicken broth
1 onion, peeled and chopped
1 lb white button mushrooms, diced
1 lb asparagus, ends snapped off, and cut into 1-inch segments
3/4 cup frozen peas
1/2 teaspoon dried thyme
4 cups roast chicken, diced
Salt and pepper

Parsley yogurt biscuits:
1 1/2 cups flour
1 teaspoon sugar
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 cup chopped parsley
2 oz cold butter, cut into 1/2-inch cubes
3/4 cup buttermilk, or yogurt (NOT Greek-style, or strained)

Preheat the oven to 425ºF.

In a large pot, heat the butter and 2 tablespoons olive oil over medium-low heat. Add the flour and cook over low heat for 2-3 minutes, stirring constantly. Add the sherry (if using) and allow the alcohol to evaporate. Add the chicken broth and simmer, stirring often, until the sauce is thick.

Meanwhile, warm the remaining 1 tablespoon of olive oil in a sauté pan. Add the onion and sauté until fragrant. Add the mushrooms, asparagus, peas, and dried thyme. Season with salt and pepper. Sauté until the vegetables are tender, about 10 minutes.

Stir the vegetables into the sauce, along with the chicken. Taste and adjust seasonings. 

Place the stew in a 9″ x 13″ ceramic baking dish.

Make the biscuits. Stir together the flour, sugar, baking powder, salt, and parsley. Blend in the butter with your fingertips until the mixture resembles breadcrumbs. Add the yogurt and stir with a fork until the dough comes together—it will be sticky, with bits of flour on the side of the bowl. I like to knead the dough a couple of times in the bowl to bring everything together.

Turn the dough onto a lightly floured surface. Using gentle, floured fingertips, pat the dough into an 8-inch x 10-inch rectangle, about 1-inch thick. Cut the dough into 2 to 3-inch squares (or use the rim of a 2-inch juice glass). 

Arrange the biscuits on top of the stew. 

Bake for 15-20 minutes until the biscuits are golden and the stew is bubbly around the sides.

Now, that you're appropriately hungry, get ready for a delicious giveaway...

What's your favorite memory associated with French food? 

Answer in the comment box below by November 20 for a chance to receive a copy of Ann's wonderful Mastering the Art of French Eating!

Thursday, November 6, 2014

Lucky number 42

I’ve always known I’m lucky. And I knew 42 was going to be a good year. The first hours of my birthday confirmed both.

I woke up to the sweet embrace of my husband and the 4-week-old grunts of my sweet daughter. Then I got to hop in the shower before mothering duties beckoned.

When I came out to the living room, it was like Christmas morning. Andrew had gotten pretzel croissants (and chocolate chip cookies for later!) from City Bakery and warmed them up in the oven. That alone made my day.

But then there were gifts. Cards (yep, Parker got me a birthday card, too). More love and weepy moments.

It’s been my middle-aged, modern version of this:

Sunday, November 2, 2014

Kindred spirits

It’s been interesting watching Milo watch Parker these past few weeks. He’s curious yet aloof; aware and needy, but giving us and her a wide berth. I’m not sure if he’s displeased to be bounced from his throne, or is looking out for the new family member.

One thing for sure: their body language and daily routines are strikingly similar. 

Saturday, October 25, 2014

Out into the sunshine

We’ve taken Parker to the pediatrician several times but, remarkably, hadn’t just taken her out for a walk yet. Today, a bright, sunny autumn day, was just the day. If only to put her in this cute little coat (thank you, Ben & Merrill!).

Then we took our little bear out in the ’hood. The farmers market was in full swing.

The sidewalk along the park was full of life.

And while fall comes late to the city, certain trees are radiant with color.

But by then, the bear was hibernating. Time to go home and eat again.

Monday, October 20, 2014

A surreal existence

Amazing how quickly a week can pass. Especially given that life has become an hourly preoccupation: watching the clock to abide by Parker’s feeding schedule. Catching a 30, 60 or 90 minute nap when possible. And otherwise, just pretty much… watching her.

There are a lot of things I never knew about newborns. Like, 'cluster feeding' - those first few days when they want to feed hourly and are utterly insatiable and you start hallucinating at 4am because you’re on some weird spin cycle of nursing, again and again and again without any sleep.

That their 'daytime' is the middle of the night so everything is copacetic while the world is awake, and you’re all alone – and awake! sometimes hallucinating! – while the rest of the world sleeps.

I’ve been cycling between two sets of pajamas, I drink tea to stimulate milk production, I haven't touched makeup or hair products, and have been outside a total of probably 90 minutes in 10 days. It’s very surreal, indeed. 

That said, it, and she, is lovely. 
Parker has an awesome disposition and is sweet and adorable, with her little facial expressions and chicken legs. And as surreal as it all is, I’m loving it, exactly for what it is: this really bizarre, once-in-a-lifetime (in my case) phase where up is down and you're forgiven for losing touch with reality because there's nothing else you can do but tend to the needs of seven pounds of helplessness. Nothing is expected of you except being where you are, loving and caring for her.

This is life.

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Introducing mademoiselle…

Parker Ann. She made it! She’s perfect! Our baby girl is in the world!

Andrew and I made the trip to the hospital last Wednesday morning, a bright beautiful day in New York City, and by mid-afternoon we were parents to this perfect little nugget.

Of course she didn’t come out looking that calm and cute. The whole experience was messy and surreal. But amazing.

From hearing her first cries…

… to holding her in the recovery room…

… to acclimating to my mending body and her new needs throughout three long days and nights at the hospital.

We finally brought her home over the weekend, showing her Fifth Ave, the FDR and the Brooklyn Bridge—where Mommy and Daddy got engaged!—along the way. She was a trooper.

She definitely has some lungs on her, and she’s fiercely strong. Her little fists and mouth are powerful. And so damn cute. Even Milo agrees.

The journey continues: a powerful cocktail of love, delight, uncertainty, anxiety, relief, anticipation, and just sheer joy—all heightened by sleep deprivation and being absolutely clueless about what to expect and do. Thank god for other new moms who have shared their valuable insights and experiences, friends who give their love and support so freely, family who is happy to help and sharing our joy. A huge thank you.

After nearly a week, we’ve decided she’s a keeper.

Tuesday, October 7, 2014

Seven Letters from Paris

There are love stories, and then there are Love Stories.

I think my own histoire d’amour is pretty fabulous as I can’t imagine my life having unfolded in a purer, more perfect way for me, in order to finally meet Andrew. But sometimes you hear about (or read) a love story that is true Hollywood fodder. Like Samantha Vérant’s.

In 1989, Samantha and her best friend took off for a European adventure. While in Paris, they met two charming Frenchmen and spent a day and a half with them. Samantha was smitten with the one named Jean-Luc. He was more than smitten with her, and he wanted her to stay longer in Paris. But other destinations beckoned to the girls and, even after Jean-Luc wrote her seven beautiful love letters upon her return to the states, Samantha did nothing. She tucked the letters away and moved on with life.

Jean-Luc and Samantha in Paris 1989.

Fast forward 20 years. Samantha’s life in her words was “falling apart.” She was jobless, getting divorced, sinking greater into debt and moving back home. She hit bottom but, after reminiscing with her same best friend, dug out those old letters from Jean-Luc. She Googled him. Then emailed him. And guess what? Now she’s happily married to him.

It truly is the stuff that dreams—and Hollywood blockbusters—are made of. But as Samantha tells it in her new memoir, Seven Letters from Paris, it’s also real, both messy and sublime. She unabashedly recounts the passion, fear, thrills, uncertainty, to say nothing of French bureaucracy she endured in order to wind up with Jean-Luc in the South of France.

Learn more about Samantha's story, watch the book trailer and, above all, believe that happily ever after is possible.