19 February 2006

Snow Day

This weekend I've been held captive in my house by old man winter. It's about time he showed up. The weather has been snowy and icy, too cold and slippery to go out much. Jeremy is out in California where it's warm, so I've resorted to re-organizing our dressers and bedroom closet, and doing a little baking to keep myself occupied today.

Here's the recipe for some excellent Banana Muffins I just made.

(makes 12)

2 cups whole wheat pastry flour
2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp freshly grated nutmeg
1/2 tsp salt
1 stick unsalted butter, softened
1/2 cup Splenda for baking (sugar mix)
2 large eggs
4 overripe bananas (mashed)
1/4 cup lowfat sour cream or plain yogurt
1 tsp pure vanilla extract
1 cup chopped walnuts (optional)
1/3 cup shredded coconut

1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Line muffin tin with 12 paper liners and spray top of tin with nonstick spray.
2. Stir the flour, baking powder, baking soda, nutmeg and salt together in medium bowl.
3. In a separate large bowl, beat butter & sugar together with electric mixer on high until light and creamy. Beat in the eggs, bananas, sour cream/yogurt, and vanilla, and stir to mix well.
4. Add flour mixture into the butter-sugar mixture and stir just until flour is moist and no longer visible. Do not over-mix. Gently stir in walnuts if desired.
5. Scoop batter with an ice-cream scoop into muffin tins just below the tops of liners. Sprinkle the tops of muffins with a bit of coconut before baking.
6. Bake muffins on center rack for 25 minutes, until the tops spring back when pressed lightly and a toothpick inserted in center coomes out clean. Let muffins rest for 5 minutes before turning them out. Serve immediately or cool on wire rack.

the end.

17 February 2006

things which lately i am liking...

(this is really more of a record for myself)

1. cranberry juice with a splash of water
2. snow
3. project runway
4. jeremy's new songs
5. cinnamon dolce lattes
6. kai perfume
7. my husband's socks
8. pears with cheese and wheat thins
9. domino magazine
10. white sheets
11. taking photographs
12. "musha boom" by feist
13. things with birds on them
14. chocolate
15. chopping fresh ginger
16. earplugs (necessary at night)
17. grapefruit candles
18. imogen heap
19. other people's babies
20. my camel-colored sweater


Why is it that even when you own a movie on DVD and have seen it a thousand times, when it comes on television suddenly, there’s an insatiable urge to watch it simply because it’s on TV? Or maybe I'm the only one who experiences that.

Under the Tuscan Sun is on ABC Family tonight…and it's appropriate because Jeremy and I just this afternoon confirmed our travel plans to Europe. Perhaps that is my real excuse for being sucked into Diane Lane’s romantic tour of Italy once again. She has wide-set eyes like me.

(I just realized that Sandra Oh who plays the pregnant friend Patty, AND her girlfriend in the movie--whose name I don't know--both play doctors on Grey's Anatomy now. I always think that's interesting when that happens. Makes you wonder if one of them got the job on the show and then said, "By the way, I've got this friend who I was in a movie with once who would be perfect for that part." That has to be how it happens.)

So, I can’t believe we’re actually going to be in Italy in a matter of months, strolling through Tuscany, snapping photos at sunflower fields. I can hardly wait to take Jeremy through Rome. He will love the history—the architecture—Piazza Navona with all its cafés and street musicians and abundant charm.

We’ll spend a few days in Paris first…then cross over to Switzerland for a night or two…and finish up most of the trip in Italy. The plan is to begin in Venice because gondolas and Italy seem synonymous in my mind. Then, onto Cinque Terre for a few days on the beach and hiking around the towns. Next, to Florence, and then Siena where my sister lived for awhile, before we head to Rome. And I guess it’s cliché (or maybe just American) to visit places you’ve seen in movies, but I wouldn’t mind a quick stop through Cortona too. Jeremy is most excited about…well…all of it really. But he keeps mentioning Tuscany with great enthusiasm in his voice. It will all be new to him though.

Most of it will be new to me too, with the exception of Florence and Rome, the latter being my favorite. Never have I consumed so much water as when I was in Rome. For three days alone there, I sat and drank liter upon liter of Pellegrino, scribbled out postcards, read Bridget Jones' Diary on a park bench outside Villa Borghese, and chatted in Spanish with a waiter named Joe who drove a moped. On the day I walked to Vatican City from Piazza Navona, my feet were so tired and blistered I had tears in my eyes. I drank at least a half-gallon of water at lunch that day. It was August. The Pope did not come outside to greet me, or even wave at me from a window.

I remember the night my sister and I arrived in Florence. We were meandering near Ponte Vecchio (old bridge) and someone was playing Italian music on a violin. I looked up and the sky was the color of ink. It was so bluish-black and beautiful that I couldn’t take my eyes off of it. There was a breeze that seemed like it could only belong in Italy. Laura and I talked about what a shame it was that, at least for that moment, we were there with each other instead of a boy, because it was truly the most romantic setting you could think of.

I did not know Jeremy yet, and in that moment I could never have fathomed that I would find someone as amazing as him. I know that God is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine... but sometimes the reality still blows me away.

I remember sitting on the Spanish Steps one afternoon and thinking it would be nice to be in love. So it's amazing to realize that just a few short years later, I’ll be back on those steps with my sweet husband, and my sister will be at home in Los Angeles rocking her new baby Jake to sleep. Two sisters alone together in Florence that summer, we never would have guessed it all. Funny, it’s just like Frances says in the film (which ended a minute ago)…unthinkably good things can happen. And then she says: "It's such a surprise."

[Postscript: If any fellow European travelers have suggestions on places we must visit, or restaurants and hotels to try, please feel free to chime in with your ideas. Grazie!]

14 February 2006


Before, I always approached days like today with grand expectation. Flowers, and dinner by candlelight (with reservations booked well in advance) and romantic notes and hearts and candy and poetry and cupids and love and fluffiness and everything red and pink and gushy. That is what Valentine’s Day is all about and it only comes along once a year so it’s important to get it right. Right?

I am sure I’m not the only woman out there who has thought this way. And maybe it’s because romance is so important to most of us and there are only certain times of the year when it’s almost guaranteed, so it’s easy to attach a lot of anticipation to what the day will be.

On my first Valentine’s Day with Jeremy (when we were dating,) I thought about the fact that Valentine’s Day is for guys too (at least I convinced myself that’s what I was thinking) and decided that I would create my idea of the perfect date for us. I made a gourmet dinner and decorated my house with hearts all over the place. I bought brushes and a canvas for us to paint something together (which we still have, in the basement) and prepared a fancy dessert. The evening was going well…until right after dinner when Jeremy got a discouraging work-related phone call that preoccupied him for the rest of the night. I cried because the perfect evening I’d imagined had gone haywire.

Now…it’s three years later, and I’ve pretty much let my expectations go. Not because Jeremy isn’t romantic, but because on a few occasions where I put too much pressure on him (by way of relentless hinting) to create an amazing day, he was so worried about messing things up that he didn’t enjoy the day at all. And I realized something. Duh. It’s not all about me. A perfectly planned day with someone I love is far from perfect if he can’t enjoy it too.

This year, I didn’t have any ideas in my mind of what Valentine’s Day should be, except that I wanted to spend it with my husband. I wanted to serve him and just let him be himself. We started the day with eggs and toast at the table, and exchanged cards and bars of French chocolate (we unknowingly bought each other the exact same kind). I gave Jeremy a tin of his favorite tea, and then we cleaned up the kitchen together. The morning was easy and void of pressure, but still different than our usual mornings of coffee and cereal in front of our laptops. About an hour later while I was folding laundry, the doorbell rang and a box arrived with a dozen lovely tulips… a great surprise. Roses are beautiful, but I honestly prefer something more unique, and this just confirmed that Jeremy understands that about me…which is really the best part of any gift in my opinion--feeling that you’re known.

In the afternoon, we roamed around town together, grabbing a quick lunch and doing a few errands. Everywhere we went there were hearts and flowers and stuffed animals being bought in a crunch. Suddenly, all of it seemed forced, and I felt sympathy for all those guys in the checkout lines with bears in their arms and looks of frantic concern upon their faces.

At 5:00, we got dressed for dinner and went to one of our favorite restaurants in town. We got a table right away, but even if we hadn’t, I know I would have enjoyed the wait. On the way home, we drove around our neighborhood just admiring all the pretty houses and imagining what they were like inside. And then we watched Harold and Maude in our pajamas.

It was such a good day, and it confirmed my new philosophy about romance. This Valentine’s Day, I let go of my inflexible expectations and didn’t try to force every moment into some ridiculous heart-shaped box where it couldn’t breathe. And I realized that sometimes the most perfect days are the ones that happen when I’m not trying so hard to perfect them.

13 February 2006

while watching the Olympics...

Okay, I don't understand why the luge is hard.

You're going down a slide. Where is the skill in this?

These were the kids whose parents wanted them to be great at something but they couldn't swim or ice skate very well, so then one day while watching them zip down the slide at McDonald's Playland, an idea was born.

Uh-oh, a woman just fell off of her little sled. She looks kind of hurt and she's holding her wrist, but I'd say it's really a cover for embarrassment---she's in the Olympics for goodness sake...she can't even make it down a slide!

I've done a little luging myself and it was no sweat. Without a sled mind you, but the same basic principle. Over Christmas, Jeremy's mom took us to this ice sculpture exhibit in Orlando where we saw nativity scenes and gingerbread houses carved from ice. At the end of the tour was a room with three big ice slides (very similar to the ones on the Olympics but a little bit shorter in length.) We each took turns going down them wearing a big blue parka that served as a slick surface to increase our speed (same concept as the luging sleds). It was exhilarating for sure, but it certainly wasn't difficult. Seven year olds were doing it. And without helmets!

Maybe we should’ve gotten a gold medal too. Instead, there were cups of hot chocolate.

08 February 2006

a new blog...

...which is not to say that I am leaving this blog behind.

however, my old friends at grassrootsmusic.com have asked me to write a weekly post on their blog as well. that is a lot of blogging! but it's fun, too.

my other blog is posted every Thursday. this week's post is up a bit early if you care to take a peek.

the best medicine.

Today is a good day for coconut bread with pineapple butter.

We have friends staying with us this week, the Hellers from Arizona, and I always like to bake things when we have company. I have just met these new friends, though Jeremy has known them for awhile now, and it’s fun to find a couple that you click with. JJ is from California actually, and those are my people, so I instantly liked her. She has a laugh that’s nice to listen to. It seems genuinely happy.

In the morning, everyone leaves for work. Dave and JJ creep around the house filling cereal bowls and hunting for shoes, and then dash off before nine to the studio where they’re making a record. An hour later, Jeremy is gone too…he’s at a different studio, producing an album. So then it’s just me. I busy myself throughout the day with work, errands, laundry, and such.

In the evening, everyone comes home. We sit down at the old farm table in the dining room and eat dinner together like a family, talking about the politics of America, or marriage, or simple things like music. Afterward, we each find our own spaces, scattering around the house to tend to different things, but it still feels like the house is full…in a good way.

For us, it's been awhile since there has been so much laughter in the house. Normally, when I say something funny, it is only Jeremy who laughs and vice versa. Sometimes a little bit of laughter is just not enough.

But daily we count our blessings. Even in a difficult season, our faith is strong and our marriage is a resting place. Truthfully, I feel as if I’ve turned a corner lately. Life has sprung back.

Last weekend I took photos of Christie’s baby, Elliott, who is almost four months old. He has just begun to smile and baby-giggle. There is so much pure joy in a baby’s laugh. I think I shot over 200 frames of him with his wide and curious wonder. I imagine that my camera looked like a giant, blurry bug’s eye to him, but that didn’t keep him from laughing. And afterward, I felt like I owed him a thank-you.

02 February 2006


Aside from my husband, Ellis Paul is one of my favorite songwriters. He’s from Boston, well, Maine originally, and I have always thought Boston was a good place (the one time I visited), and always dreamed of going to Maine. I collected lighthouses for awhile, trying to create beacons of hope on my living room mantle. My favorite story growing up was the Robert McCloskey book, One Morning In Maine. The book was about a little girl and her older sister going out to dig for clams on the seashore one breezy morning, one morning in Maine. They, along with their gentle doe-eyed father, took a small-engined boat from their house to the beach, yelling up to the seagulls along the way. Then the little girl lost a tooth in the sand and was so worried that she would miss the tooth fairy with nothing to place beneath her pillow until her father reassured her. She had these most amazing parents who didn’t seem to get angry when she spilled her glass of milk at the breakfast table and let the dog lap it up. They didn’t grow impatient when she dropped her ice cream cone and threw a little fit. They just bought her another one. I was always dropping my ice cream and throwing fits.

One afternoon in a store, my sister was buying a silver ring with a dangling charm for her best friend’s birthday. I wanted a silver charm ring too; my mother said no. Sometimes, like many mothers I suppose, she’d say no without providing a good reason, and that was something my small-minded concept of injustice couldn’t quite reconcile. Perhaps she did give me a reason, but I chose not to hear it. Instead, I threw myself down on the floor of the jewelry store and refused to move. I kicked my feet and beat my fists, my face red as a beet. I flattened myself out into a stiff piece of cardboard until finally my mother, at her wit’s end, picked me up like a large baguette and carried me out to our Pinto. In the back seat, I continued my temper tantrum, pulling my mother’s hair and covering her eyes as she drove. I pushed my feet hard against the back of her driver’s seat. As she swerved and screamed and my sister swatted, I pressed my small fingers over my mother’s eyes, pulling back with all my might. I never got the silver charm ring. This was the first time my heart felt torn from my chest. Oh, the drama of youth...(and my poor mother!)

Ellis has had his heart torn too. He sang an album full of songs all about it, songs about hindsight and melting colors and flying hot air balloons. But my favorite song is the one he wrote called “Weightless.” It’s about a woman who owns a house where he sometimes stays while traveling around the country with his guitar. This old woman has a rare kind of faith that Ellis doesn’t understand but is somehow drawn to, and the song is about his contemplation of the beauty of her faith. He can pour so much meaning into simple words, weaving his heart into these musical poems, letting us see all his searching.