Fresh baked soft pretzels on a cooling rack

Snow Day Soft Pretzels

We’re buckled down here in New England, and the radar shows that most of the East coast is doing the same. I’m happy to have our snug and cozy family time back after two whole grueling days of being back to ye olde work-and-school routine. Whew. Time for a break!

bird feeders piled high with snow

Birdfeeder Snowmeters

As long as the power stays on, I’m definitely up for a baking project, and these pretzels are pretty great when you actually want something that will occupy the kids for a while. Instant gratification they’re not—I actually didn’t even mention them until the dough had risen and was ready to shape. But they’re worth it. “So much better than the ones at the mall,” says Soph. Most definitely.

We made these a lot when I was a kid, and I remember spending tons of time trying to make letters, dinosaurs, even fortune pretzels. When you’re shaping, keep in mind that they need to hold up through the poaching process, and that they’ll rise and expand quite a bit more as they bake. But they won’t need to be beautiful to be delicious.

Soft Pretzels

Adapted from Smitten Kitchen

Makes 16 full-sized or 32 miniature pretzels

2 c warm water (100 to 110 F)
1 T + 2 tsp sugar
1 packet active dry yeast (2 1/4 tsp)
5 to 6 cups all-purpose flour
1 T salt (kosher or table salt here)
2 tsp olive or canola oil
1/4 to 1/3 c baking soda
1 large egg
Coarse salt or pretzel salt (I used Baleine coarse sea salt because I already had it hanging around)

Mix the dough:

Combine warm water, 1 T of the sugar, and yeast in the bowl of a stand mixer (or a large mixing bowl if you’re doing this by hand, which is not hard, since there’s not a lot of kneading involved). Let stand 5 to 10 minutes. Add 1 cup flour and combine thoroughly.  Add the regular salt and 4 more cups of flour, and mix until combined plus another minute or two. Add 1/2 cup flour and do that again. Is it still very sticky? You might need the last 1/2 cup of flour. If it’s winter and your house is dry as a bone, I doubt you’ll need it (we didn’t). Give it one more whack, a/k/a knead it about 10 times on the counter. Scrape out your mixing bowl, then add oil and spread to coat the inside. Put your dough back in, cover with plastic wrap or a towel, and put it in a warm spot for an hour.

Shape the dough:

Punch down your lovely dough and divide it into 16 equal pieces. I love a bench scraper for this job. Put the pieces under plastic so they don’t dry out while you’re shaping. Now you can let the kids have at it.IMG_7979

Roll each piece out to about 16-18 inches long on a lightly-floured board or counter. Now you can braid it, shape it traditionally (make a loop, cross the loop over twice, pull the ends down the center of the circle and you’ll wind up with a loop on each side and your nice little twist in the center), or go to town with your imagination. Place the shaped pretzels on a parchment-covered baking sheet.

Right about now, you want to preheat your oven to 450.

Poach your pretzels:

This is what makes them taste like pretzels! But this part is definitely an adult’s job. Bring 1 1/2 inches of water to boil in a wide, shallow pot. (I used my biggest saute pan.) Make sure you have at least an inch of pot above the water level. When your water is boiling rapidly, add the baking soda and remaining 2 tsp. sugar—things will foam up! Put the water at a simmer and add 3 or 4 pretzels. You may have to turn up the heat again to keep the water at a simmer, especially if your pot is good and wide. I use a fish turner to move the pretzels into and out of the water, since they need delicate treatment and good straining. Poach for 1 minute, then flip over in the water and poach 40 seconds to a minute longer. Drip dry them slightly as you move them back to the baking sheet, and repeat with your next batches.

Glaze and salt:

Beat the egg with 1 T water, then brush the pretzels with the glaze. Sprinkle with coarse salt. If you like sweet pretzels, switch out the salt for cinnamon sugar here.


at 450 for 12 to 15 minutes, until they are golden to deep brown, depending on how crispy you like your pretzels. Cool 5 minutes on a rack. These are best eaten the day they are made, which is not a problem over here!

Half-eaten soft pretzel on a blue plate with a schmear of mustard


Ordinary Extraordinary

A couple of years ago I found myself driving baby Stella to Boston Children’s Hospital at 3 in the morning in pouring January rain, gripping the steering wheel super tight as other cars passed me on the Mass Pike, and I remember thinking, wait—what the hell are these other people doing on the Mass Pike at 3 a.m.?

And then I popped out of my narrow world for just a moment, where I’d been feeling put-upon by the fact that I was required to stick my baby in a carseat in the middle of the night in order to get her the scheduled surgery she needed. And I saw all the other cars. And I remembered that as hard as things were for me, that wasn’t extraordinary. That was ordinary. Life asks so much of us, all of us, so much of the time. And I sat there, hunched behind my steering wheel, in awe at the quiet strength silently underlying this sweep of cars on the slick, wet road, underlying the love of every parent, every person.

I’m not supposed to be writing this right now. I’m supposed to be doing something else. But if I always did what I was supposed to do, I would never pop my head up and see the other cars, the other faces, connect with them. Joy makes us pull our heads up from our screens and look at the sky, look each other full in the face for a moment. And it’s okay that we have to spend a lot of time with our faces in our screens, and working our way through checklists and performance reviews, and washing the dishes and folding the laundry (again). It’s okay that life asks this perpetual labor of us—so long as when joy calls us, we listen. (Gawd I’ve been watching too much Call the Midwife, haven’t I?)

A lot is asked of us, and we live in a brutally demanding moment. There’s no end to the need to resist, to mobilize, to work for justice. There are days I’m surprised to look up and see that my Facebook feed hasn’t left physical welts on my body. We’re shelled by a near-daily cascade of horrors. We’re worried for ourselves and our friends and neighbors. I sometimes feel like I’m running around with a paper towel that’s already soaked up everything it can hold, but I’m still mopping with all I’ve got. (I wrote about that for too, if you need a moment of validation!)

For a long time after Trump was elected, this blog felt like a rather shallow enterprise to me. There’s so much to be done. I guess I forgot to look at the title of my own site. Yep. Still gotta eat. We gotta keep strong, people, gotta feed the resistance. So here’s something to feed your bodies. Bring it to a table where you can look into the faces of loved ones—or strangers—and feed one another with your eyes, your hopes, your plans.



Slow-Cooked Hoisin Chicken with Slaw

Adapted from a pork recipe at The Kitchn

For the chicken:

3 lbs boneless skinless chicken thighs

1/2 c bottled hoisin sauce

1/4 c soy sauce

3-4 coin-size slices of fresh ginger (you’ll fish it out at the end)

2 T chopped garlic

Mix all this in your slow cooker and set it to low for 6 hours, or high for 4 hours. If you have a long work day (all hands raised!) this will be fine on the “keep warm” setting for another 3 hours past cook time. Whew. It falls apart into shreds which you can either serve over rice, scoop up with flatbread, or just plop it on the plate.

For the slaw:

1/2 to 3/4 head green cabbage, finely shredded

1 bunch scallions, sliced

1 bunch cilantro, chopped

1 cup peanuts (I like salted here), chopped

1/2 c peanut or canola oil (anything neutral here)

1/4 c rice vinegar

2 T toasted sesame oil

2 T soy sauce

1 T sugar

I like to combine the first 3 ingredients ahead of time and throw them in the fridge. You can use bagged slaw here, but the fineness of the cabbage shreds does kind of make the whole thing more light and delicate. If you’ve got a mandoline and a moment, go for that. I try to maybe make the dressing ahead and set it in the fridge too. Then I can just chop the peanuts and toss everything together when it’s dinner time. Last time I forgot the peanuts and the children were not happy! They like lots of peanuts.

For a hearty variation on this slaw, use red cabbage, more sesame oil, and black sesame seeds instead of peanuts.


What a different world it is since I last wrote to you.

A world without Kev, who died almost a year ago now, and whose voice, mock-scolding or laughing with me, I still hear constantly, thank god. A world, starting today, without John Ashbery, a founding father if ever there was one.


I carried this book in my backpack for more than a year. I have read it more times than any other single volume of poetry.

A world whose simmering dangers have bubbled up into more prominent awareness in a President Tr*mp era. (Fingers still crossed this is the shortest possible “era.”)

So buffeted are we by memories, elegies, news cycles, abandoned self-improvement regimes, that sometimes I’m actually stunned at constancy.IMG_7505

The ocean. Properties of drippy sandcastle design. My patient, unwavering husband. Turning butter and eggs and sugar and flour into muffins.

Last week I got to swoon for constancy a bit, sitting on a favorite beach, my only industry the meditation of castle building—and wrecking, and building atop the ruins—and the occasional fetching of a wind-snatched sunhat. Somehow it seems to have built a reserve of steadiness, and I’m ready to head back into the flow.

Surfing that wobbly balance of news consumption and activism to make myself some way useful and mostly skirt political despair. (Lately I like this podcast.) Putting up tomatoes.Buying new shoes for the girls and then what feels like a week later buying more new shoes for the girls because their toes are now busting through. Okay, September. Bring it.

Whole Grain Blueberry Muffins

These are amazingly soft and light without any white flour whatsoever, a magic trick achieved with the combination of finely ground oats and yogurt. The recipe struck me as a curiosity for that reason when I saw it in Real Simple. And then I had to make it just a little bit less healthy. With a sugared lid, since that’s how we roll. They’re still pretty tame in the butter and sugar category; you could honestly tell yourself you had oatmeal and yogurt for breakfast . . .


Oh my god I forgot the sugared tops this time. Shit.

1 1/4 cups whole wheat pastry flour
1 cup old-fashioned rolled oats
1/4 cup pecans or slivered almonds, toasted
1/4 cup golden flaxseed meal (Bob’s Red Mill is a good brand, at your natural foods store, or substitute more nuts if you’re brave)
1 tsp baking powder
1 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp kosher salt

Heat the oven to 375. Add all the above ingredients to a food processor and pulse until finely ground. (Make sure your oats and nuts are ground well.)

In a separate large bowl, whisk together:

4 tablespoons melted butter
1/2 cup white or light-brown sugar
1 cup plain yogurt (whole or lowfat)
1/4 cup milk
1 large egg
1 tsp vanilla

Add dry ingredients to your wet ones and stir until just combined. Gently fold in:

2 cups blueberries, frozen or fresh

Scoop into paper-lined muffin trays (these are sticky—if you don’t like paper liners, you could get away with parchment here, but not with cooking spray alone). My favorite tool for this is an ice cream scoop with the sweeper feature that kicks the dough out when you depress it. You can spray your scoop with cooking spray and that’s even easier.

Sprinkle the tops of your muffins-to-be with:

2 tablespoons sugar

Bake at 375 for 22 to 25 minutes, until a toothpick comes out clean. Cool in muffin tins at least 15 minutes. Fear not the first day of school.


In this week of shattering earthquakes, what has shocked me the most have been the shrugs and eyerolls. Statements like this:

“It’s over and Trump won. Get over it and move on.”
“Why is everybody freaking out? It’s just an election.”
What I’ve found when I probe a little deeper is a profound ignorance of the fear that people of color, immigrants, Muslims, LGBTQ, and other vulnerable people are feeling. That’s the same ignorance that lets people complain about Black Lives Matter protesters blocking the highway. Get out of the way so I can drive my car. Don’t make me feel unsafe.
But honey – they are in the middle of the highway because they feel unsafe. They’re being targeting by law enforcement. Their families and friends are dying for no legitimate reason. This country has a history of civil disobedience used to draw attention to civil rights violations. What they’re doing is not only proper but in the annals of democracy, it is a hallowed act. Get out of your car and join them.
I went to a school council meeting Wednesday afternoon at my daughter’s elementary school. I asked our unflappable, determined principal about how the day had gone. “It was a really tough day,” she said. “Lots of kiddos in my office. Lots of kids worried that their families are about to be deported. Lots of black kids afraid they’re going to be killed by the police. They’re terrified. And we had to break up a game of Trump Tag at recess.” She sighed.
It’s a lack of empathy creating a gulf between rural white America and these poor kids. But there’s also a gulf to be bridged in my understanding of the fear that’s motivating Trump voters. Because they are motivated by fear, too. They don’t think they’re being hateful. They’re afraid. Isolation creates fear. Empathy, connection—these are still our best tools.
On Wednesday morning, with tears streaming down my face, I told my kids that love is more powerful than hate. That our belief in love is unwavering. That “the arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends toward justice.” But we must also remember that it is more powerful than fear. As a white middle-class person, I might think it’s hard for me to bridge the gap between threatened minorities and white people who perceive a threat as well, but it’s much easier for me than for many. And so I must reach out, and listen, and stretch.
There are people who need our help and support, people who feel unsafe (and ARE unsafe), and the work doesn’t stop. Our belief that love is stronger than hate—that doesn’t stop. The search to find compassion for those whose motivations and decisions we disagree with —that continues more earnestly than ever. What we need to do is not retreat, but engage. Reach out. Connect.
This week I interviewed several college students for the summer creative writing program where I work. Let me tell you—they are incredible. They talked about the joy of connecting to others through writing, of making sense of life through storytelling, of the joy and magic of feeling for the first time no longer alone. They want to pay all of that forward and make it possible for others. They make the way by walking. Each one of them has already done amazing things—worked 30 hours a week while going to school full-time, for instance, or self-published three novels, or organized a Day of Tolerance with diversity training at their high school, or started a creative writing group at a tiny town library. Things I was never engaged enough to do at their age. They know we need each other and that we are stronger together, and they are reaching out. They WANT to be the glue.
That’s what my kids want too, clinging to my legs this week, imploring me with their eyes. Let’s glue ourselves to each other. On Wednesday I crouched by the little one’s preschool cubby, called the big kid over, and told them to remember: “When they go low, we go high.” We won’t say nasty things about anyone, even Donald Trump. We don’t need to. We will invalidate his positions with our love and compassion.We will stand up for people who are being bullied, people poked by the permission he gives to bigots and misguided people everywhere. We will be the helpers.
How to help is less clear, and more individual to each person. For me, I am working hard to find compassion and engagement with differing points of view. I am interested in bridging the gap. I want to pursue facilitator training and learn more techniques for engaging in civil discourse without triggering immediate defensiveness and disengagement. I also know that for many years I have ceded the space of Christianity to the warped version that would have us consider Trump a “pro-life” candidate. Though I most vehemently disagree with that interpretation of Jesus’ teachings, I have quietly walked away from the church rather than engage. But that space is too important, and too powerful, to give up on.
Social media is a place where deep conversations don’t always happen; yeah, we hear that a lot. But I’m not so sure it can’t be used that way. I’ve found lots of inspiration and information there, and I want to end this post with some of them, and some advice for engaging online which I’m going to follow much more closely than I have before:
  • Always, always, always fact-check news, quotes, and statistics before sharing them online. No matter how “right” it sounds to you. Whenever you can, share a story from the most unimpeachable source out there. For example, if you see a story from (a left-leaning site), and you can find the same story on NPR, share the link from NPR. (And try not to share from the Huffington Post, because they don’t pay their writers, but that’s another side of beef.)
  • Think about responding to an inflammatory post via private message rather than as a comment. Always ask questions and, if you can, offer facts. Be calm and avoid sarcasm. Start by offering a point of agreement or empathy. Using statements like “I was surprised to find out that . . . ” and “In my experience” implicates your own thought process, rather than accusatory “You” statements.
  • Don’t disengage with people who disagree with you. Rather, try to enlarge your connection with them and make the bridge stronger. Keep engaging as respectfully as you can. If you’re trolled, say so and step away. (This pertains to my personal situation more than it does to people with a larger public persona, who find themselves trolled repeatedly and stalked online. A whole other ball of wax that also needs fixing.)

Some links:

The Black Lives Matter platform.

Reasons for Liberals to Hope; the best piece of political strategy I’ve read this week.

This got me thinking: An opinion piece offering a different view of rural America.

A friend this week cancelled her HBO Go subscription and put that money into a monthly gift for Planned Parenthood. I don’t have much extra money, but I’m considering where I can shift. Here are some organizations to follow online, amplify their reach, and where you can, give them your money:

Also consider paying for a subscription to news organizations who are impartial and trustworthy; paying for good journalism allows it to sustain its essential function in our democracy.

We still belong to each other. And we are stronger together.





Nowhere is Somewhere

We just passed the 2000 mile mark on our summer road trip, having tearfully hugged our hosts in Ames, Iowa this morning (their pets also warranted long goodbyes from the girls) and pulling away, waving our arms out the windows, slick with rain showers. It stinks to have soul mates scattered around the country where you can’t see them as regularly as you’d like, but it’s beautiful to get to see them at last and well I guess I’ll celebrate the privilege just this minute before lamenting the loss. 

For a few days at least we merged laundry loads and dish duty, doling out popsicles, walking the dog, finding appropriate firefly containers. We took walks and stayed up too late, encouraged by one another’s presence to wend through thorny topics. Grief, career changes, the fog of midlife, parenthood all tumbled over one another. All lightened for being shared. 

Almost two weeks on the road now, away from the pressures of daily routines, and we’ve spent lots of time in the wide open green Midwestern landscape, wading in rivers and riding carousels and picnicking (oh the picnicking!). Lots of time for reflection, it seems, but when I go inward it’s just an echo chamber. Nothing in there. No pressing desire to rub words together or fathom the universe or even draw up plans for a bigger garden. Just nothing. Am I  finding wide open spaces because I have nothing to say, or do I just need a break from saying and doing and listing and thinking? The nothing that is–that’s the gift I’m getting on this trip, though I chafe against it. Standing around holding my white elephant of quiet. 

I feel a little like the tadpoles we caught in Squaw creek–between one thing and another, becoming, but with no idea what to expect from eventual frogginess. 

If you’re going to be wide open, I can heartily recommend bouncing around the Midwest into the arms of family and friends who know you to the core, whose love bears all kinds of shape shifting and reinvention. It’s been wonderful so far, and we’ve got two more stops to go. Flyover country, people call it, but we’re not flying. We’re present for every mile. Maybe all this openness is to remind me that there is no nowhere. Everywhere is somewhere, especially when there’s love there. 

Chicken and Egg

“You’ve gotta stop reading those mommy blogs. That’ll go a long way towards making you feel better.”

Kev and I were walking on the bike path, and although he’s the one with terminal cancer, I was the one complaining how rotten I felt. I wasn’t writing enough, achieving enough, making enough money. And worst of all, I’d gained weight. The horror! Kev wasn’t totally off-base in invoking “mommy blogs” as manufacturers of discontent. The culture of keeping up with the Joneses is ever more elevated by the cult of Pinterest-perfection, poisonous clickbait, and curating our “Fakebook” lives. He was telling me I cared too much what other people thought. And he was right.

The culture of “mommy blogging” (tho let’s acknowledge how poor that term is) does give us a few things that are truly valuable, one of which is that the space of caregiving is seen and the voices of caregivers are heard. At a birthday party last weekend, a grandmother who is raising her preschool-aged granddaughter had me bristling when she said she “couldn’t understand” parents who “say bad things about their children” on Facebook. What things, I wanted to know. You know, like posting pictures of terrible messes they’d made, or saying how frustrated you were with them. They were going to grow up and see all that negative stuff about themselves, she said. “We need to think about the children,” she said. And sure, she’s part right too.

But we’re always thinking about the children.

We need a place where we can vent, kvetch, engage in a collective eyeroll, and also take down the notion that if your life’s a mess, you’re doing it wrong. Facebook has been a place for us to do that. We don’t live in the Bronx of Grace Paley’s day, where the kids could roam the streets, grab a snack from anyone’s kitchen, and a mother needing a cup of tea from a compassionate neighbor could find one down the hall. I’m living far from my parents and sisters, and my college and graduate school pals are dispersed around the country. The demands of two-income families mean I don’t even see my marvelous  tribe of local mothers very often. Hence Facebook. I can’t yet cede that space to some future need for my offspring. I need that space. I need the benefit of the doubt, the acknowledgement of imperfection and messiness and difficulty of parenting and thinking and art-making and living. Being seen is a great gift we can give to each other. So I’ll cross my fingers and hope later that delete really means delete.

The dog pulled me along the path ahead of Kev, chasing a chipmunk. I wanted to explain my restlessness, my urgency to make changes in my life. “I just want to feel like I’m making progress,” I whined to Kev.

“Progress toward what? How can you make progress if you don’t know what you’re trying to move towards?” he countered.

I thought then about the needs I was bouncing between: self-acceptance and self-improvement. We want to feel better and we want to be better. But which comes first, the chicken or the egg?

Some Personal Truths:

  1. I have accomplished some things.
  2. The things I’ve accomplished have been tremendously collaborative and not the sort of things that give a person much of a public profile.
  3. Not that I want that anyway. I think.
  4. I am eating a cookie right now.
  5. I believe in making the unseen work of caregiving seen and appreciated, in having collaborative work acknowledged and celebrated.
  6. This would be a largely self-serving glorification, since most of what I do seems to fall into that space.
  7. I haven’t reached my potential.
  8. Yet.

I didn’t always thirst for change. We had a hard couple of years when J was in cancer treatment, Stella was a sleepless newborn, and J had a scary period of unemployment. Last night on our date night J reminded me of a particular weekend four years ago:  Kev collapsed onstage at their rock show. J resuscitated Kev, stayed much of the night with him at the ER, then got up at 6 the next morning, took his last chemotherapy dose (hopefully his last ever, knock wood), and worked an all-day event for his job. I was stunned even by the retelling of these feats of stamina. “I think I’ve compartmentalized a lot of that,” I said to J. He nodded. People contort themselves into all kinds of positions for their many roles, and for many kinds of love.

When things finally stabilized after all that turmoil, we were so thankful to still be clinging to the life raft that there wasn’t a chance in hell we would rock it.  When change came to me a year ago in the form of job loss, I was terrified at first. But as I moved forward into it (this time, it must be said, with a financial safety net–let’s not pretend that doesn’t make a huge difference), I found joy both in picking up old threads and in launching myself into learning new things. Change was enlivening. But it’s life, now, isn’t it? Fits and starts. Weather.

As Kev and I were talking and walking along the path I saw a large robin’s egg shell and picked it up. It was an amazingly well-preserved, uncracked piece, a smooth, blue, beautiful thing. I thought of the girls immediately and wanted to share it with them. I put it gently into my jacket pocket. Later I forgot, and shoved my phone in there, smashing it to bits. Nothing to show.


Poetry in the Margins

For long stretches, I let the poetry-making, art-eating parts of myself lie fairly dormant. While this particular piece of my life is essential to who I am, I haven’t been disciplined enough or selfish enough or strong enough (depending on how you view these things) for its centrality to hold when waves of other responsibilities sweep around me. There are times I have neglected that identity so completely that I shy away from calling myself a poet at all. I nearly gave myself whiplash from nodding my assent so vigorously when I read Kim Brooks’ amazing recent essay about the challenges of being a mother and a maker. If you care about being a good parent and making art, the struggle is real, and it’s always tipping out of balance one way or another. Then again, it’s not a museum piece, is it? It’s a life!

But oh, joyously, one miraculous day in April I find myself eating pulled pork at Kathranne’s house in Iowa, meeting poets and curators and artists and musicians and talking shop with all of them, gabbing about collaborative art-making and Joseph Beuys and Eileen Myles and Negative Capability, laying hands on the incredible traveling boxes made for Correspondence Publishing, pondering the difficulties of memoir with a new friend who used to be a tiger trainer (now raising three boys with equal aplomb, no small feat), tapping out poetry ideas on my phone in the guest bed, too wired to sleep. And oh, yes! That part of me is still there, the one who has something to say about all that, and wants to hear what you have to say about all of it too. I get to feel like a poet again. And its sticking to my ribs this springtime, not fading.

Another gift of travel is realizing how flexible life is really, more than you remembered — how blinkered our routines become. Just seeing how someone else does it somewhere else, that opens up a huge pool of relief in which to swim back into yourself and let all the “shoulds” float away. How is the real question, how to structure things so there’s time and headspace for doing that which brings you joy. Whatever way you invent to make a life, with people-loving and art-making and social-justice longing and maybe without going bankrupt, you can make something beautiful, a life that’s free in surprising ways, and yours. I do believe that, and this spring, I believe it more than usual. The hard part (and it really does turn out to be a hard part sometimes) is that it’s not going to look like anyone else’s.

Even in recipes I like flexibility, so here’s the one from that evening in Iowa, which you can bend to your will and taste.

BarbeCue pulled pork

IMG_5675My favorite thing to start with here is a 3.5 pound boneless pork butt (yes, let’s get the tittering out of the way), but if that’s a bit pricey, I go with a 5 pound piece of pork shoulder, sometimes called picnic shoulder. With the shoulder piece you’re going to wind up with about 3 pounds of meat and have to trim off a great deal of fat (I was curious how much, so last time I weighed it — 11 ounces of fat and about 1 pound of bone). If you’re me, by the end of all that trimming you might wish you’d sprung for the pork butt. But I leave that up to you. If you’ve got a really big dutch oven you can double this, but as written it already feeds a crowd, and fits in a crock pot if that’s your tool of choice.

I find cooking things for long stretches tends to dull the flavors a bit, and they need a refreshing pick-me-up at the end. This layering gives the depth of flavor you want too — an echo of sorts. I use bottled barbecue sauce for this step (I like Stubb’s or the Trader Joe’s sweet and smoky Kansas City kind), but if you really want to make your own, this recipe looks about right to me.

3 to 4 pounds of pork butt or shoulder (see note above)
2 T brown sugar
1 T paprika
1 T smoked paprika
2 T chili powder
6 cloves garlic, minced
2 T olive oil
3 tsp salt
1 tsp black pepper
1 tsp cumin
1/2 tsp cayenne — optional for extra heat
1/2 to 1 cup barbecue sauce

Cut pork into 2 or 3-inch cubes and place in your dutch oven or crock pot. Mix all remaining ingredients (except barbecue sauce) in a small bowl and rub it all over the pork. Your hands are really the best tool for this. (If you’re going to be out all day, you can do this part the night before and stash it in your fridge til morning.) Set your crock pot to low or your oven to 200 and cook for 8 hours. Your pork should shred easily with two forks, and the melted fat will make a happy orange juice in your pot. The amount of this will vary greatly depending on how much fat was in your particular hunk of meat. You can drain most of this fat if you are concerned about it, or stir it all in to your shredded meat. I drain all but about 3 tablespoons — that seems to be enough to make things tasty but not heart-stopping.  Stir in 1/2 cup of barbecue sauce and taste. Does it need more? You can probably just about eyeball it.

Makes about 24 sliders for a party or 8 main dish servings. Freezes gorgeously.

Pretend Spring

I dunno, guys. It’s pretty weird out there. Even Eileen Myles, my personal heroine of wedding/welding toughness, vulnerability and smarts, thinks it’s the end of the world. The latest Republican debate might give transcriptionists a seizure, or maybe anyone trying to follow it. We’re all lobbing election-related memes past each other on Facebook. That’s where I follow Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America, which lets me know almost daily about a kid the age of mine who has killed or been killed senselessly by an unsecured firearm. Plenty of people are talking about America like it’s jumped the shark. The constant stream of reports about police brutality and debt-driven incarceration mount to a din; my outrage and despair seem only numbed and paralyzed by the frequency. The number of migrants fleeing into southeastern Europe has tripled in the past 2 months, though it hasn’t been cracking the headlines. I’ve had to supplant my afternoon public radio news habit with loud music I can belt along to. There’s only so much one can take.


If only we all had such good attitudes about crashing.

It feels strange to walk outside and find crocuses thinking about being themselves, chart the diversifying birds daring their way up to the feeder, check the sap buckets, smell thawing earth. How can this be the same world? But it is this world I lean on to rescue me from the solipsism and anthropocentrism of our media diets. We belong to both of these fragile worlds. And each offers glimmers of beauty each day, beauty that is bound up with the struggle, not separate from it.

Read Something Beautiful

The absurd position of mothers in the only industrialized nation without mandated maternity leave is something that felt invisible to me when I became a mother only 7 short years ago. People are talking about it now, loudly, and that gives me hope:

Amy Westervelt wrote this great piece about how Having it All Kinda Sucks

Melinda Gates is talking about unpaid labor and how it affects women AND men in the global economy.

Lidia Yuknavitch writes lyrically and movingly about life’s complications, how “all the beginnings have endings in them.”

Make Something Amazing

If you have even one maple tree in your backyard, you can distill some fortifying sweetness. Practical magic like this is so worth attempting in even the smallest quantities—it always, always lifts me out of headline-induced nausea and back to a state of wonder.

Check back soon for a tutorial on making your own homemade small-batch syrup!



Syrup spokesmodel and fairy princess

The Longest Shortest Month

I’m not from here. It always comes up in February, when I’m mystified by the hardy native New Englanders who are skating on the pond (isn’t that dangerous?!) and throwing themselves down the sides of mountains (ditto?!) all giddy and rosy-cheeked, while I am cursing the impossible curbside piles of filthy snow that send me face-planting into parking meters when I am just trying to put quarters into them. I’m from Ohio, so I did grow up with real winters, but we’re in another category ovah heah.


This springtime farmshare haul seems like a pipe dream.

Ah, February, home of some of the most disgusting, outright unfriendly weather the year has to offer! Those of us who don’t get to flee to the tropics during school vacation week get to juggle playdates with cabin-fevered kiddos and nurse our conspiracy theories about February vacation week being some sort of winnowing plot to make the non-natives lose their already-sweaty grip on the cliff-edge of sanity. Or maybe it’s a conspiracy to sell lots of wine—a fellow parent made the convincing argument this week that we should be allowed to hook up to an IV drip of Rioja until at least March 1.

IMG_5009All of which is to say that it’s totally bonkers that it’s Lent right now. PSA: it’s February. Don’t Give Up Anything. You need it all. And also to say, on the Pollyanna side of things, that soon the sugar shacks will open, their steamy barns overflowing with pancakes and flannel shirts, and the bulb show will open, redolent with hyacinths and weirdly sexy tulips. Not yet, but soon. Until then, I bring you: bacon, butter, and cheese.



Roasted Vegetables with Polenta and Poached Eggs. And Bacon.

Adapted from this recipe at The Kitchn, with amazing Crack Broccoli from Catherine Newman.

2 medium heads broccoli
1 lb cremini or baby bella mushrooms, halved
3.5 tablespoons olive oil
2 teaspoons kosher salt, divided
1/2 teaspoon sugar
1 cup polenta
2 cups water
1 cup milk
3 tablespoons butter
1 cup grated parmesan or romano cheese
8 eggs
1 lb sliced bacon

Cook bacon:
Heat oven to 375. Place a metal cooling rack atop a rimmed baking sheet and lay your strips of bacon out on the cooling rack. (Yes, really! This works better than a broiling pan.) Bake about 12 minutes, depending on how thick your bacon is and how crispy you like it. You don’t need to turn the bacon, really! Hands-free bacon. Set it aside to cool.

Roast vegetables:
Turn the oven up to 475 and place a rimmed baking sheet in to heat.

Cut broccoli: The stems are fabulous here, so I like to do it this way: Peel the broccoli stem with a vegetable peeler. Trim off the woody end. Cut the stem in half, and trim the top into long-stemmed florets. Cut the remaining stem into french-fry-sized pieces. In a large bowl, toss the broccoli with 3 tablespoons of the olive oil, 1 teaspoon salt, and 1/2 teaspoon sugar. (Don’t leave out the sugar, it really helps with caramelization.)

Slice mushrooms in halves or quarters so they’re about evenly sized, and toss them with another 2 teaspoons olive oil in a separate small bowl.

When the oven is up to temp, carefully pull out the hot baking sheet and dump the broccoli onto it. Use tongs to quickly spread them out, maximizing stem-to-pan contact where you can. Stick it back in the oven for 6 minutes. Toss the broccoli with tongs, then add the mushrooms and return to the oven for 3-4 more minutes.

Make polenta:
In a medium saucepan, bring 2 cups water to a boil with 1 teaspoon salt. Pour polenta into the simmering water, whisking all the while, add milk, and turn to low. Let the polenta slowly blubber and plop on the back burner with a lid half on it for about 15 minutes, whisking occasionally. Add 3 tablespoons of butter and the cheese. Stir until melted.

Make eggs:
Fry or poach eggs to your preferred doneness.

Scoop out some polenta and roasted vegetables on each plate. Add bacon. I like to plop my eggs on top of my polenta. Maybe let the kids have some juice, even if it means they’ll bounce off the walls like ping pong balls. Serves 4.

O What a Lovely Morning

At last we’ve got the coating of snow I’m used to here in New England, and it hasn’t yet turned all gray and impossible. In fact, fresh powder is magnifying today’s sun nearly to full sparkle mode. Even yesterday’s snow day was easy, since I already have Stella anyway on Mondays. The addition of Sophia meant they had each other to play with, and they happily traipsed upstairs and down, taking turns selling lollipops, mothering many dolls, teaching school, and being puppies. I could scarcely believe my good fortune. Minimal squabbling! We broke out the boo-boo buddy zero times! I mended a hole in a stuffed sheep’s armpit, drank coffee, folded laundry, mixed pizza dough, and roasted garlic. Later we baked cookies, read books, and had a singalong at the piano, like something out of Little Women. The whole time I’m thinking, What the hell? 

Getting a break from the constant uphill climb feels amazing, and scary, like the other shoe’s about to drop. But let’s not let the paranoiac win! Let’s just soak it up, bemused and wide-eyed and grateful. And let’s try to keep the ball rolling by starting tomorrow off with a good breakfast.

Pear and Almond Oatmeal

Serves 4 generously

2 cups rolled oats
4 cups water
1 large pinch salt
3 large ripe pears, peeled and diced
4 tablespoons sliced or slivered almonds
3 tablespoons maple syrup
2 tablespoons almond butter
1 tsp cinnamon sugar or cardamom sugar

Combine oats, water, and salt in a saucepan and bring to a boil. Simmer about five minutes, adding the pears in the last minute or two. Meanwhile, toast the almonds in a dry skillet, stirring frequently, until you can just start to smell them. Stir the syrup and almond butter into the oatmeal and divide among four bowls. Sprinkle cinnamon/cardamom sugar and toasted almonds atop each and serve.