Happy New Year


For most of my 41 years, I was someone who was chronically early and organized.  I got tasks done before they were due.  I would show up at least 15 minutes early for an appointment, date, or event.  Suitcases were packed days before departing on a trip.  The table was set the night before a dinner party.  You get the idea…I was on top of my sh!t.

But since our Tater Tot arrived in July, all that went out the window.  The basic functions of our household still manage to get done…just not always in the timeliest manner.  I like to think of it as adopting a fashionably late attitude towards life.

So in that vein, I would like to wish you a fashionably late Happy New Year.  I am eager to see what 2013 brings as the year unfolds.

PS, Libby I hope that you will see the humor in this picture.  Your dad and I made sure you were safe at all times…but boy did we have fun with this one.

Closer To The Heart

I was brought up with the expectation that when I received a gift, the proper thing to do was send a thank you card.  As a young child, I would sit at the dining room table and, in my loopy juvenile cursive, thank my aunts, uncles, grandparents, and great grandparents for their thoughtfulness in remembering my birthday, or sending a present down for Christmas.  Those thank you notes were uncomplicated….thank you for “Where The Sidewalk Ends”.  Books are my favorite thing. xoxoxo

As I’ve gotten older, the things for which I say thank you have gotten more complicated.  And there isn’t always a direct mailing address for my note.  Because sometimes it isn’t an individual who has given me a gift as much as it is the Universe allowing me an experience that will stay with me for a lifetime.  Like the opportunity to see my dad before he passed away.  Or the opportunity to get to know my grandmother as a person and not just as my guardian.  And biggest by far would be for the opportunity to open my heart completely to a precious little girl.

Last time I was in this space, I was asking the Universe to give me that chance.  I was asking it to eliminate the obstacles that The Mistah and I faced in our attempt to adopt.  I know I was not alone in my petition.  Our family, our friends, our entire village crossed fingers and said prayers.

While we waited, I did my best to let go of the fear and anxiety of what might happen.  Instead, I focused on Libby.  I held her, fed her, watched as she discovered something new every day and tried to think about how the world looked through her eyes.

And in what is likely the best gift I will ever receive, our prayers were answered.  The obstacle that had been so daunting was simply gone.  There’s no guidance from Emily Post about how to say thank you for something like that.  So I have to find my own way…by announcing the news to family and friends that our family is growing, by joyfully loving this person who has forever changed our lives, and by saying thank you to everyone who has encouraged us along this journey.

It only feels right to actually write a thank you note, even if I have no way of mailing it, so here goes.

Dear Universe,

Thank you for the trust and confidence you have shown in us.  Becoming Libby’s parents is a tremendous gift that we will cherish for a lifetime.  As I watch her grow and develop each and every day, I want for her to have a world of endless possibilities.  I delight in seeing the joy in her whole body when she smiles and I take comfort in feeling her fall asleep with her head buried in my chest.  The last seven weeks have been unlike anything I’ve ever known but I wouldn’t trade it for the world.  xoxoxo

Universe, I Hope You Are Listening

It seems by now I should know that The Universe really does listen.  And that sometimes when it sends Opportunity knocking on my door, it doesn’t always look the way I expect it to.

I didn’t intend to talk about Opportunity and how it showed up three weeks ago.  But this space, and this community, has been my confessional  where I have spoken openly about many of my struggles, including our hopes of adopting and our frustration with the process.  This also seems to be the place where The Universe listens to what is in my heart…once I find the courage to put it into words.  So here I am.  Universe, I hope you are listening.

Three weeks ago I decided that maybe I needed to let go of some things in order to make room in my life for new opportunities.  I said that I felt as though a change was coming, but that I did not know what form it might take.

Two days after I made the decision to put BAH on hold, The Universe came along and let me know that I needed to let go of more.  The volunteer position that I had held for the last two and a half years was not being renewed.  This hurt.  It hurt a lot because I believed strongly in the work I was doing and the connections I was forging with the young women with whom I worked.  And it was just taken away from me.  On one hand, I could see that maybe this was something that had to happen in order for a new Opportunity to present itself.  But on the other hand, it still felt shitty.

Two days after that, we got a call.  We got THE call.  From our new adoption agency.  After our Homestudy was approved in the spring, The Mistah and I came to the conclusion that the agency we had been working with was not the right organization for us.  We asked around and got contact information for other agencies and found one that was a better fit.

Throughout this entire process we have known that our lives could change instantly.  And it did.  Our agency was working with a birth mother who had just delivered. The birth mother had consented to an adoption plan but there were complications with consent from the birth father.  Without consent, a child cannot legally be adopted.

It was as though the decisions of that week culminated in Opportunity opening the door ever so slightly to see exactly how much we wanted to welcome it in.  Would we take a chance on a risky placement or would we wait for a sure thing?

The Mistah and I talked about this well into the wee hours of the morning and decided that we were willing to take the risk.

We were advised to think about the situation as though we are providing foster care until we know how the legal situation is going to play out. In our heads, that’s what we’re doing. But in our hearts….well, in our hearts we are her parents.  We shower her with hugs and kisses. We do our best to let her know that she is loved even though she has no idea what that means.  And it frightens me to think there is a real chance that we will not have the opportunity to provide her with a loving home and allow her to become the fullest expression of herself.

We’re trying not to make this about us.  To keep it about what is in the best interest of the baby.  But we have agreed that we are in this for the long haul, even if that means pursuing parental rights directly in the courts.  So Universe, I am here to tell you that what is in my heart is that I want to be this child’s mother.  I want to take this leap.  I want this responsibility.  I want this Opportunity.

Breaking Up Is Hard To Do

“It’s not you.  It’s me.”  How many times have you heard that one?  Have many times have you found those words tumbling from your own mouth?  Often, we use that line in an attempt to gently extricate ourselves from a situation.  We verbally try and reassure others that the reason the relationship is ending is solely on our shoulders.  Which is usually a big bunch of hooey.  Usually, it’s both you and me, at least to some degree.  But it’s easier to shut a relationship down with a mea culpa and a (hopefully) graceful exit.

I’ve been considering a graceful exit from Bon Appetit Hon.  I had hoped that putting the blog on autopilot with my draft posts would magically get my head, and heart, back in this space.  But here I sit with all those “freebies” used up and I’m no more ready, or able, to dip my toes back in the water that I was a few months ago.  So clearly, that didn’t quite work out as planned.

I’m not sure what “it” is that is missing; I was never good at solving for “x” in equations, except in the most basic of problems.  And the ins and outs of life are anything but basic.

It’s not so much that I feel as though I’m being pulled away from BAH as much as it is that I’m not being pulled to it.  Five years is a long time to find new things to say to engage with readers, develop friendships, and reveal enough about myself to keep things interesting without veering into “clearly this lady is nuts” territory.  And between Exit 51 and BAH, it’s been almost five years to the day.

It would be overly simplistic to say that the events of the last year are responsible for this shift in my attention.  But it would be a lie to say that they had no impact at all.  Yes, there’s been some (ok, a lot) of reflection and introspection.  But just as none of that has told me it is time to put the brakes on this online journey, it also hasn’t told me to hit the gas and get moving.

If I look at the situation through the lens of my astrological sign, it makes perfect sense.  I’m a Cancer.  The crab.  Oh lord, am I ever The Crab.  I tend to come at things not exactly head-on, but from the sides.  I carry around an armored shell studded with barbs and accessorized with mighty pincers ready to clamp down.  And when I have outgrown my shell, I slough it off.  But I need to find the protection of a rock or a hiding place because once that shell comes off, I am vulnerable.  After my new shell hardens and I am safely ensconced in armor once again, I’m back on my way skittering around.

It’s the strangest thing to say but I feel as though change is afoot and I need to get myself someplace protected in order to leave this old shell behind.  I have said it a million times…Change is scary.  So part of me is still trying to hold on with both pincers while the rest of the shell wants to pull away.  Eventually, I will shed this carapace and leave it on the sandy bottom…a mere reminder, an outline, of what was.

So what does all of this mean?  Is BAH the old shell?  Is it the rock under which I will seek protection?  I have no idea.  It could be either one.  Or it could be something entirely different, something completely off my radar at the moment.  For the time being, I’m going to let this space just be.  It’s the one thing in the grasp of my pincers that I just can’t release just yet.  Maybe once this old shell is discarded I will find my way back to this spot.  Or maybe the tide will take me someplace different to grow into new my new shell.

Wherever the tide takes you, and me, I hope that our paths cross again.

Flashback Friday – This Summer I…

The following post originally appeared on BAH on 10 September 2009.

Brugge Self Portrait

I don’t remember ever actually having to write an essay about what I did on my summer vacation.  Do teachers really give that as an assignment or have we collectively just made it up?  Regardless, it’s a good thing I never had to write about my summers.  Because for me, summer vacation from school did not equal going away.  Sure, there was one time that we took a day trip to Ocean City.  All I remember is leaving for the beach before the sun was even up and having to change out of  my sandy bathing suit in the back of the car at the end of the day.  There was also a stop at some restaurant along Rt. 50 for breakfast.  Silver Dollar pancakes, that I remember.

Even as an adult, I haven’t traveled much.  If I had the time, then I didn’t have the money.  When I had the money, I didn’t have the time.  Now, the Mistah and I have talked and talked about taking a trip, pretty much since we’ve been married.  Not like a long weekend away somewhere we could drive to but an honest to god, pack a big suitcase and get your passport stamped vacation.  It only took us five years for all the pieces to come together.

Since it could be quite a while before we ever get back to these places, we crammed as much as we could into the time we had.  I’ll try and condense nine day’s worth of adventure for you:

  • France is closed on Sunday.
  • I can’t find my way out of a (traffic) circle.
  • U2 let us bring 87,998 of our closest friends to see them at Wembley Stadium.
  • Croissants you get here ought to be ashamed of themselves.  They are nothing like croissants you get in France.
  • It’s totally worth the money to splurge on the Eurostar to get from England to mainland Europe.  Just don’t miss the train because you’re waiting for France to get back from lunch so you can return your rental car.
  • Eating at the mall food court in France is exactly like eating at a food court here.  Except that you can get a beer with your le burger and les fries at McDonald’s.
  • Airport security is really serious about not letting liquids larger than 1 ounce in your carryon.  They can also be reluctant to let you keep your fine Belgian chocolates.
  • Did I mention that France is closed on Sunday?
  • Omaha Beach in Normandy has stones that  “bleed”.
  • The $30 food voucher you get when the airline puts you up overnight isn’t enough to buy an order of pasta, a chicken Cesar salad, and two diet cokes at the Best Western.
  • If you set an alarm on your cell phone for 4:45 am so you can get back to the airport by 5:30, because you had to spend the night in Toronto, make sure you reset the clock on the phone so it’s not still running on London time.

If you happen to be visiting London, Bruges, or Normandy, I highly recommend:

Walking the grounds of the Royal Hospital Chelsea.

Ordering either the Chocolate Mousse or Iced Lemon Parfait at Bluebird.

Using the Wembley Park tube stop rather than the Wembley Central stop to get to Wembley Stadium.

The grilled asparagus at Zizzi in Paddington.

Making a reservation to enjoy the stuffed sole at Bistro De Eetkamer.

Visiting the Beer Wall.

Souvenirs from The Chocolate Line.

The view from the top of Mont Saint Michel and walking the sand flats at low tide.

Listening to the audio tour for The Bayeux Tapestry.

Crepes with butter and caramel sauce or french vanilla ice cream at Creperie Insolite.

Pia’s breakfast at Chateau de Lignerolles.

Roel’s full day tour of the D-Day Landing Beaches.

Looking up at the ceiling in the Chapel at the American Cemetery in Colleville.

So that’s what I did on my summer vacation, what about you?

Flashback Friday – Shorted

The following post originally appeared on BAH on 19 August 2009.

Used to be that when a recipe called for 8 ounces of pasta, I could just measure out half a box and be done. Not anymore. Have you noticed how with many of the things we buy, like pasta, ice cream, and coffee, you don’t get as much as you used to? But you’re still paying the same price.

The packages haven’t changed so much that you notice you’re being shorted. But look closely. That box of Barilla Penne that I picked up at the store? It’s 14 ounces instead of 16. And your cup of yogurt, is it still 8 ounces or have they sold you 6 ounces for the same price?

The Washington Post recently mentioned this trend. For me, it’s an annoyance, an inconvenience. If I’m making a dish that needs a cup of yogurt I have to choose between buying a second container and having more than I need or possibly throwing the recipe off because I don’t have enough. My kitchen is small. I don’t have the room to store cans and jars and boxes that I wouldn’t need to buy if it weren’t for this shrinkage.

Why are we being forced to make this decision? Blame it on the companies for wanting to make more money. Blame it on the grocery stores for trying to find higher profit margins. Blame it on consumers for not noticing the changes. We’re all to blame. But it still feels sneaky.

How do you feel about it? Are you ok with products being downsized while still paying the same price or would you prefer to pay a little more to get the old “standard” sizes?

Time Out

I’ve been struggling to decide what to do with this space.  Lately, I have not been enjoying the process of cooking, shooting, and writing and I always told myself that I would stop blogging when I no longer enjoyed doing it.

While I’m not ready to completely pull the plug on BAH, I definitely need a break.  A sabbatical. A time out.  So I’m going to take one.  I’m going to dig into my “drafts” folder and post the recipes that I’ve been sitting on for months. I need to warn you, it’s not going to be pretty.

There are no pretty food photos.  Some drafts may have bits and pieces of the story I had hoped to tell.  Most are just the recipe that I managed to type up in order to remind myself to talk about it, without a single bit of narrative.

I don’t know if purging this backlog will do the trick and get me out of my rut.  I hope it will but only time will tell.

Graeter’s Ice Cream

I don’t usually make a habit of talking about things here on BAH unless I have known and loved them.  I respectfully decline many “opportunities” to feature products or talk about brands because I don’t already have a personal relationship with them.  Recently I was approached to try a product.  The folks who contacted me don’t know me.  And they could have no idea that I am inherently weak and lacking in self control when faced ice cream.  But here they were asking if I would like to try a new brand of ice cream that is launching in the B’more Metro area.  It was that weakness that made me hit the Google to find out exactly what it was about this particular ice cream that makes it so special.  A few keystrokes and clicks later, after reading the story behind the product and about their small batch process, I said yes.  Actually, I think I said yes, please.

142 years is a long time for a family to be making ice cream.  But that’s exactly what the Graeter family of Cincinnati, Ohio have been doing. Rich, creamy ice cream.  With or without chunks of chocolate.  I don’t know how they manage to keep the chocolate chunks tender during the freezing process, but they do.  Must be a bit of family magic passed down from generation to generation.  I am picturing a special ceremony on the production floor where the title of ‘secrets of the ice cream keeper’ is passed to the next generation, and the final part of the ritual is learning how to prevent the chocolate chunks from turning in brittle shards of sadness.

And even though I don’t live in any of the cities where they operate ice cream shops, I can now get my Graeter’s on anytime I like.  In addition to their mail order operation…that’s right, I can get ice cream delivered to my door (you can too!)…I can now pick up a pint or two at my grocery store.

Of the flavors I was able to try – Vanilla Chocolate Chip, Mint Chocolate Chip, Black Raspberry Chocolate Chip, and Chocolate Chocolate Chip – Chocolate Chocolate Chip was my personal favorite.  The chocolate flavor is milky and rich but not overly sweet, and just a small scoop or two is enough to make me happy.  I shared the Vanilla with my coworkers and only got a small taste of that one.  But the fact that the pint was decimated in about twenty minutes leads me to believe that they liked it.  The Mistah is a sucker for Mint Chocolate Chip but I did manage to sneak a scoop or two from that container.  I enjoyed it but the mint flavor is a little subdued. While I was excited to dig in to the Black Raspberry Chocolate Chip, it wasn’t my favorite.  To me, the essence of the berry flavor gets completely lost.

Looking at the list of flavors that Graeter’s produces, I’ve got my eye on a few that I want to get to know better….I’m talking to you Caramel and Buckeye Blitz.  So the next time I’m dashing through The Fresh Market, I’m going to have to make a point of actually looking at the ice cream case.  It’s a spot that I try and avoid, or at least turn my head and avert my gaze as I go by.  But I’m willing to make an exception every once in a while.

Disclaimer:  I received a selection of ice cream from Graeter’s.  All opinions expressed are my own.

Flashback Friday – Bon Appetit Hon!

The following post originally appeared on BAH on 27 July 2009.

You know how people grow and develop and change over time?  I’ve discovered that blogs can do the same thing.

Bon Appetit Hon had its beginnings back in 2007 as Exit 51.  I set it up as a means to keep in contact with my husband while he was overseas.  But as time passed, more and more of Exit 51 became about food.  What I was making, what I was thinking of making, what worked, and what failed.  Not to mention all the food diversions that the Internet threw my way.

So in 2009, just as Exit 51 was about to enter the Terrible Two’s, I decided it was time to make a change.  Call it growing pains, or an identity crisis, or whatever you like.  But to me, the name Exit 51 just didn’t convey the idea that it’s about the food.  And Bon Appetit Hon was born.

Exit 51 still lives on here for now.   And there will be links back to it since part of moving forward is always remembering where you’ve been.  I hope you’ll follow along and see where this journey takes us.

Welcome to my kitchen in Smalltimore.  Pull up a chair, make yourself at home, and Bon Appetit Hon.