Taking a break from my regular Moments series, I wanted to share some of this week’s culinary happenings at our house. I tried a new recipe for Chicken Marsala on my parents this past weekend while holding down the fort. It took just under an hour total of which only twenty minutes of involved active cooking. Of course there were plenty of leftovers for the week and so I paired that with a potato gratin … just to switch things up. Gratin is a pretty luxurious dish and for that reason, I have never made it before. It turned out as amazing as I imagined it to be and took all of ten minutes to assemble.
I couldn’t have planned this post better if I tried; Throwback thursday or #tbt has become quite popular and while I occasionally post a picture… I’ll post a post. My family emigrated to the United States of America on this day back in 1994. I was 11 and twenty years have elapsed since then. I think it is time for an introspection, a look back to remember where I am, where I came from, what has happened and who has been there along the way. I wrote a brief summary of The Move a while ago; It was the conclusion of a Traveling Back in Timeseries.
No man is an island and I cannot claim credit for where I am without acknowledging the people who have been there along the way. I’ll start with my aunt—my mother’s sister—and her husband who had to petition (the US government) for us to emigrate and agree to become our guarantors taking on complete financial responsibility for us upon our arrival. Those were the conditions the government set before granting us entrance visas. Thankfully, my parents were able to get on their feet within three months. Still, I look at my aunt’s decision now with admiration and a new perspective. Would I ever agree to do this for my sister? Yes. Without a doubt, without a second thought, without hesitation or discussion. And now that I have two little girls, I would hope they grow up in such a way that if ever in need, each would make the same decision to help the other. And so my aunt’s decision to help her sister has had a major impact on my life and how it has turned out.
My education is yet another place where my choices had a significant impact on my life; I didn’t sail through my college courses; I studied for hours every day of the week. There were several times when I didn’t think I could make it all the way. Maybe because I didn’t always feel that, as a woman, I belonged in engineering or maybe because it didn’t always come easily. Either way, there was a mentor at an internship that morphed into my long-term employer who supported and encouraged me. My gratitude to this individual is immense because I am not sure I’d have stuck with my major or my job. After seeing the impact of mentoring firsthand, I made a commitment to mentor younger engineers. It is an incredibly gratifying experience.
Last, but not least, I have had the encouragement and support of a great partner who was a friend at first, then a boyfriend, then a fiancee, a husband and now a father. The magic that Evan weaves is simple—he makes me want to be better, to grow and learn from my experiences.
Twenty years ago, I couldn’t have dreamed of a better outcome than this:
So thank you to those who have been there along the way.
Some firsts are very special. They form warm memories that we look back on as adults. Sophia had ice cream from the ice cream truck—a great first. And she shared it with her Baba and Deda.
Sophia woke up from her nap a little girl on a mission. She was determined to head to a local park and have some ice cream from a truck she saw the last time she was there. Since she didn’t ask for the impossible, we were glad to oblige and spent a lovely late afternoon at a local park and playground.
Distance does indeed make the heart grow fonder—even the littlest of hearts. This weekend marked the first one since Eliza’s birth that Evan was away from our home overnight. He had a great reason to be away too—his future brother-in-law’s bachelor weekend. As difficult as it was for Evan to get away, we felt it was important to support his sister and represent her family.
He drove eight hours to get there (Saratoga Springs) and drove back two days later.
Meanwhile, I held the fort down here with the help of my mother-in-law and my parents. I couldn’t have managed the girls on my own yet and feel very fortunate to have had the support that enabled Evan to get away for a guys’ weekend.
When he finally arrived here yesterday, he rushed past me and a feasting Eliza to play with Sophia and she was just so thrilled to see him again. She wanted to share all her weekend activities with her Papa and play just with him. I loved witnessing their reunion and how warm it was.
The picture is not my finest photography but the content is what really matters: Sophia in her chef’s hat cooking at her play kitchen with petite mittens.
I wish I could tell you that there was plenty of cooking going on this weekend, but there wasn’t. In fact, the only cooking that went on was an easy chocolate cake and some dandelion greens. We did this on purpose because we needed a weekend where we could just relax. Right before our every meal Evan or I pulled something out of the fridge and just heated it up. Don’t get me wrong… there wasn’t any takeout this weekend; everything was done ahead of time. We cooked on Friday and admit that I was dog-tired for it, too. But that’s fine because it afforded us a blissful weekend. Among the three things prepared on Friday was a take on a dessert I grew up with as a child — a sort of a bar with a shortbread crust and a nutty filling. The dessert I grew up with is called sochinskoe and it had a walnut filling, but mine has a sweet pecan filling punctuated with tangy, fresh apricots. It is stone fruit season after all and I think there are few things better than perfectly ripe stonefruits. I also made this chicken with cardamom rice and barberries. It was just delicious and I still have leftovers. This recipe is becoming an easy staple at our house. So … what do I consider to be a blissful weekend? One where I got a chance to relax, to unwind and even make a trip to the mall. These are a busy few months for us because we have quite a few family events coming up including the wedding of Evan’s sister. I feel like we have to rest up ahead of time.
Time flies when you are having a great time and we’ve really been enjoying being rallied around by our families this summer. We can’t thank them enough for their visits, and visits, and visits, and visits. That being sad, I always feel a little sad on Sunday mornings knowing that they are heading home and to their own busy lives. We had the best weekend with Evan’s parents this past Saturday and Sunday and so when they headed home and the dust settled, we needed something comforting for dinner to make up for their absence. What better meal than home-made spaghetti carbonara? We’ve never made carbonara at home and I’ve never ordered it outside of Italy and even there, maybe once or twice. It is a true caloric splurge—one of those dishes you should eat very rarely if you’d like to maintain your current dress size. And so, we looked up a recipe, whipped out some pancetta and made this oh so luxurious dish. Just four ingredients—pancetta, pecorino, garlic and pasta.
As good as it was, topped with basil from our garden, it didn’t make up for my in-laws’ departure but it offered temporary solace as any comfort food can.
Motherhood is a gift. I’ve been fortunate enough to experience this amazing gift twice and have only recently realized that each experience is extremely gratifying, unique and different from the other. I’ve always heard that each child is different but I never understood that each child molds you as a mother. What follows in the rest of this post are my own thoughts on motherhood, on mothering and on life as a mother.
It is true that when you become a mother, you relinquish your previous position as the center of your own universe to your child. I never thought of myself as a selfish person but admit to having an incredibly difficult time relinquishing my previous life. Perhaps I wasn’t ready to become a mother or perhaps some people never are. I don’t like the unknown and I don’t like change. You can’t describe motherhood to anyone until they themselves experience it. The truth, the scary truth is that you have to take that plunge, to trust yourself, your partner, your family, and embrace the unknown. There is never a right time either, you’ll never have your fill of vacations, of glasses of wine and of sleeping in on the weekend.
But I’ve come to realize that I don’t want my fill of any of those things if that means that I don’t get to see toothless smiles, morning cuddles and hear little feet stomping across the hall into my room on a Saturday morning.
As I said earlier in the post, each child is different and each child molds you as a mother. Bringing Sophia into our lives I can only describe as a jarring shock to all my senses. Who was this little being who cried day in and day out? She did nothing by the book and I remember baby blues hitting me like a pile of rocks. Fast forward almost three years and Sophia still doesn’t do anything by the book; she doesn’t sleep the night, she gets very motion sick, and she is not the best eater. But she talks, plays, sings, draws and dances. She is a little adult wrapped in a beautiful petite package.
In contrast, bringing Eliza into our lives was a much easier experience. For one, I no longer had to give up anything… I’d given it up three years prior. I am not sure what Eliza is really like, not yet anyways, but I am certain that she will be different and so will I. I am more relaxed, more in control and happy with where I am at this point in my life.
Children are a great equalizer; They help break down your life into the very basics. Every child should be wanted, loved and cherished despite or perhaps because of the lessons you learn as a result of rearing them.
Why is the weather always great during the week and the weekend gets washed out with rain? Either way, even rain and thunderstorms couldn’t keep my in-laws away. They visited with us and really lent a lending hand. We were thrilled to have adult company and adult conversations and Sophia was thrilled beyond words to have their undivided attention. Don’t get me wrong, Eliza received plenty of attention as well, but she is not nearly as demanding for it.
these pictures courtesy of my in-laws
Sophia’s been a busy bee what with all that attention from Grammie and Pop. Saturday, they took her to our local park (Cabin John) and she got to ride a train through the park and climb to her heart’s content on all the playgrounds. Sunday, they headed to Bethesda’s Imagination Stage for a performance of Mouse on the Move.
While Sophia was busy exploring and enjoying her special time, Evan and I spent some time relaxing … with Eliza and in the kitchen. We managed to grill during a break in the rain and I baked a flour-less chocolate cake in honor of my father-in-law’s birthday.
Grilled shishito peppers (Evan’s impulse buy) to satisfy our wanderlust for Japan. The peppers were grilled over charcoal and finished off with Maldon salt. These were a welcome accompaniment to home-made Korean BBQ wrapped in shiso leaves from our own garden.
This picture needs no description… it was death by chocolate and so very easy to bake. You can find the recipe here. I used Scharffen Berger’s 55% cocoa solids chocolate. As good as the BBQ and cake were, it was still all about spending time together as a family knowing we are very fortunate to have such wonderful parents in our lives who make time for us.