Home, again.

So. Three nights away from home and many memories from Sunday, I am back. The past few days have been a blur of reunion and resting, mixed with the life of a one-month-old baby (sleep, cry, eat; sleep, cry, eat) and the activities of a two-year-old I love with all my heart. There was a lot of driving: 315 miles in the rain there, 150 or so miles in the rain between, 350 blessed miles of sunshine back. To be honest, there are very few things in this world that could make me want to drive such long distances, especially mostly on my own, especially in pouring rain, especially when I'm already exhausted. But here are two of them that, quite seriously, would be worth driving through the world's worst snowstorm or in hours of unending traffic. The first, the beautiful baby girl that looks just like her brother did when he was born and that bears her grandma's name, who makes noises and stretches her arms and rolls around while sleeping, as pictured here: The second, her brother, … [Read more...]

French Fries You Should Eat

Well, as promised, I'm still high on fall. I've been sipping hot apple ciders all week and cuddling in my blankets, the windows open, at night. Pretty soon, I'm hitting an apple orchard with two of my friends and co-workers, and I'm already dreaming of the apple cider doughnuts and pumpkins I will buy. How about you? Are you taking in the season where you are? Are your leaves turning colors? If you live anywhere like Chicagoland, you've probably been seeing a lot of gourds and squashes around. I think they're so pretty, with their autumnal color palette and reminder of harvest. It's enough to make me want a pumpkin patch of my own (along with an herb garden, green pepper plants, more tomatoes...). Here's what you can do with one of those pretty butternut squashes: If you like sweet potatoes and you like french fries, boy, pay attention. No, I'm not talking about sweet potato fries (though I love those). In fact, I'm suggesting squash fries. Butternut Squash Fries. The … [Read more...]

Cookies on the Way!

You can't spend much time with me at all without being offered a few cookies I just baked. This you know, either from experience or hearing it all the time. Truth is, I like giving people cookies more than almost any other food. And, armed with my birthday KitchenAid mixer, I've been baking cookies so much lately, you'd think I'd run out of places to send them. But with cookies, you can really only bake too many when you run out of people you know and, well, people you don't know. I've recently joined Operation Baking Gals, an organization that was started by Susan of DoughMESStic as a way of encouraging her cousin, who was away from his wife and new baby. It's now grown to something of a blogging phenomenon, with several groups of several bakers, all sending baked goods to soldiers who need to be reminded of home. The premise is simple: each month sees a few volunteer leaders who post about their chosen soldiers. Bakers sign up, and, during the same scheduled week, everyone … [Read more...]

And finally, it’s fall.

Autumn is the kind of season that needs to be savored. I feel like I should apologize to anyone who doesn't live somewhere with a pronounced seasonal change, who doesn't get to watch the greens turn to yellows and crimsons, doesn't feel the crisp October air. It's probably one my favorite things about the world. And every year, I think how much shorter fall has become, how quickly it's flown by. So every year after that, I try to make it last longer, try to enjoy every bit of it to the fullest. How do I do that? Partially, it's talking: telling everyone who will listen that fall is the most beautiful season and---Did you know when leaves turn colors, they're just shedding their outer layer and revealing what was underneath all along? (It's true!) Partially, it's slowing down: walking outside, breathing in the fresh air, opening the windows. And partially, maybe mostly, it's eating: pumpkin-flavored desserts, rich stews, hot apple cider. You can eat these things any time of year, of … [Read more...]

Ginger Cookies, Big & Soft Style

When I started this site almost two months ago, I made a couple rules for myself: 1) No posting on weekends, 2) Post at least two or three times a week and 3) Recipes, restaurant reviews and stories---that's it. Now, it seems we've settled into a rhythm, you and I, with my rules holding things in tact. I'm having fun. I hope you are, too. I have yet to break my weekends, and, for the most part, I've kept up my weekly schedule. Of course there was the cookbook review two days ago (bonus, I say!), but otherwise content is also as planned for. So here's the only problem, as I see it: without knowing it, I mean, without ever setting things this way in my mind and definitely not out loud to anyone, I seem to have added another rule: 4) Write about a weekly cookie. Have you seen this happening? It started innocently enough with the peach cookies that taste like little cobblers and then, obviously, I had to tell you about biscotti. But then things started happening so fast: the … [Read more...]

Go Casserole Crazy!

Well. That was something, wasn’t it? Thanks to a repaired line (which had been flooded and severed, the latter they think by a mouse), I’m now back, linked with the Internet world again and, short of any other rodents or rainstorms getting in my way, back on my regular posting schedule. And, since downpours followed by hot sunshine followed by rain followed by hot sunshine followed by no Internet followed by two trips shopping without buying anything are the kind of things to make a girl want some comfort, that’s what I’m bringing today. Comfort casseroles, in fact. I like casseroles. They go in one dish, which means less to clean up and less to carry to a dinner party or potluck (which they're perfect for!). They are warm and comforting, served piping hot out of the oven and filled with ooey-gooey cheese or a wonderful hash of rich flavors. And they are straight out of a 1940s photograph, my grandma in her classic vintage apron, standing over her white oven, preparing … [Read more...]

Sending Warm Thoughts, and This

Rainy Days

Seattle or London would be nice places to live, I’ve thought many rainy days, what with the foggy, wet weather most of the year, the green, green grass and trees. When we have rainy weather here in Chicago, and this year we have had it a lot, I am the type to tell you, over and over again, how much I love rain and dark skies and the way everything looks like it’s getting cleaned off. I’ll draw in deep breaths of the air, sighing about how fresh everything smells, how just like spring, or fall, depending on the time of year. And when we stand near a window, watching a mighty thunderstorm, the continual dripping of water like music on the roof, I’ll clap my hands together like a child, as happy as I ever was. This last weekend, Chicago received a record-setting rainfall. And the byproducts of this downpour, beyond my eager face against the window, were closed-off streets, cancelled plans, all kinds of flooding. I spent Saturday morning mopping up damage in the dining room, a bedroom, … [Read more...]