Scotland on my mind

Scotland on my mind

I love the UK as an entity, but in its separate parts as well. I cannot imagine having to decide on such an important question. I have many fond memories of Scotland, and I look forward to making more, whether my passport gets stamped in London or Edinburgh. Whatever the outcome, people of Scotland, I wish you the very best today. I am thinking of you and your land.

and favorite mug

Miscellany: In Like a Lion

March has arrived in a dismally chilly fashion here on the North Shore. But if the weather isn’t particularly encouraging, the calendar is. Just the word “March” has me optimistic. Spring, if only in name, is nigh! My imagination is sparking, and new things are on my mind.

Little Bear wants a concrete.

Many of them were rolled into yesterday. One of M’s birthday wishes was a day in Boston to eat and shop. Specifically, he wanted his favorite burrito. Before that, we finally tried Shake Shack. Honestly, this had me more excited than the dinner plans. I was excited for a burger and really excited for a concrete. It did not disappoint, especially as we actually managed to snag a table at lunchtime on a Saturday. Having a baby in tow probably helped. Unfortunately, now I just want to visit the Covent Garden location.

After lunch, we went to Wegmans, my first time. Going to stores like this and Whole Foods always makes me a little sad. The selection is a dream, but it’s too far away and far too expensive. We spent a stunning amount of money. They had green tea ice cream, Aspall, cha soba, Fentimans, and an expansive tea bar, where I got an ounce of gorgeous sakura sencha. I guess I am still in green tea mode.

and favorite mug

Best of all my Wegmans purchases, however, was a doughnut. For some reason, I have been very specifically craving a double chocolate doughnut. Not the overly-sweet, glazed-and-frosted Dunks version. I wanted smooth chocolate cake with a rich, almost ganache-like frosting, and Wegmans delivered. I held myself to two, but I could have brought home a dozen. And then probably never craved them again.

So anyway. After Wegmans, we went back to the city and had burritos. M was ecstatic and thoroughly satisfied. I finally tried horchata, and it was wonderful.

In other news, I miss rain. Rain that is accompanied by the scent of dirt and a slight warmth in the air. It might be just chilly enough to require liners in your wellies, but only just. I want rain that isn’t going to turn to ice.

My fountain pen cartridge ran dry the other day, and now I’m faced with the delightful dilemma of which color to refill it with. In deference to the imminent season, I’m thinking grey or green. Cloudy skies and little sprouts.

I’m also thinking of green gem jewelry. I’ve had my eye on this ring for a really long time. For grey, I want something iolite. Before settling on my sapphire wedding band, I tried a version with iolite. I think I’d rather have that color in this necklace, though.

I switched my Gmail theme at work, and, on a whim, I picked the Tea House theme. I am now quite preoccupied with watching the tea house’s resident fox go about his day. He tends his bonsai, practices calligraphy, and cooks on hibachi. I even (by finagling with location settings) caught the kyonshī in the garden. I find the theme incredibly charming and even calming.

Finally, on a more prosaic note, I added my Steam and PSN info to the social tab in the menu bar. I’ve been playing more games lately and thought it would be interesting to see what my friends are playing. Add me if you like.

Hang in there, all. Spring will show her face soon…

The Dangerous Season

flame tree against blue sky

I had a moment the other day. It probably started with Facebook, as these things often do. I see a friend’s status trumpeting some amazing thing they’re doing in some amazing place. Or not! Sometimes it’s enough just to know that they’re living and working and running errands in some other place, some place I could only get to if several of my circumstances changed.

Anyway, whatever the spur, I felt a sudden, very pure moment of wishing I was alone. Not even just wishing I wasn’t a parent, but wishing I wasn’t married. It was a first, and it passed as quickly as it arrived, but it did leave an impression.

No matter how far removed I am from school, autumn, for me, remains a season of beginnings. I feel a deep, almost primal impulse to buy new things, start new projects, and even embark on Major Life Changes. Oddly enough, now that I have the dual ties of marriage and family, the big changes are even more tempting. Since those things are locked down, it makes the uncertainties I feel in other areas more acute. When the leaves start turning and sweaters are required, I start getting restless. I wonder what could be different.

Now that Little Bear is in our lives, almost every day brings a discussion of potential change, from the mundane (we should rearrange some kitchen cabinets) to the monumental (is the seriously high cost of daycare worth it when measured against my relatively low salary?). What this ambiguity means for a person like me, who lives more in the future, is that I am pretty constantly questioning. Sometimes I ponder my career, and I dream daily of living in the UK, but mostly I just look at tasks.

I have always loved an ambitious to-do list, even if I don’t accomplish much of it. Nowadays, that list is incredibly long, complicatedly hierarchical, and mostly mental. Just walking around the apartment triggers list-making. My mind applies an augmented reality-like layer of labels to almost everything at home: move that furniture, wrangle those cables, plant the crocuses, read that library book before it’s due, put away the laundry, buy more diapers in a few days. And running quietly in the corner of this imaginary interface is a little ticker of the very meager free time I have in which to accomplish any of these things.

So when I say that I had a moment the other day, I don’t mean that I wished to be without my matrimonial and familial bonds and all the benefits they bring. I just longed, for a moment, for that time when, instead of mulling over everything from overhauling my closet to upending my career, the only thing I had on my mind as the weather turned crisp was buying new colored pencils and tennis shoes.

Sigh.

Being an adult, amirite?

Miscellany: Into Autumn

The season has decidedly changed, and my mind has shifted with it. Here are the new things I’m mulling.

The costs of daycare, both financial and familial. I love working, and I need it intellectually. But in what form? Maybe there are more options than I think. It is really difficult to leave Little Bear every day, partly because I spent so much of the last twelve weeks with him, and partly because I have a sort of fundamental issue with daycare. This stems from my own mother staying at home, but it’s surely almost impossible to look at a little baby and be okay with them spending more waking hours with strangers than with their own family. So I want some time apart for working, and I hate being apart. It’s complicated.

Fall foods are my favorites, and certain flavors embody that love. I’ll take honey any time, but combined with pumpkin, it’s perfect right now.

We’ve been catching up on The Legend of Korra, and I am enjoying it. I have minor beefs with both this series and its predecessor, but overall, it is such good entertainment. I like that the creators put serious thought into a kids’ show. I’m not hugely fond of the overly-similar-to-Book-1 political storyline they have going in Book 2, but I am looking forward to the spirit world thread.

Scandinavian things. Though I’m really only one-quarter Swedish, that ancestry has loomed large in my family’s collective psyche. Mostly that meant decorating with a few tomten at Christmas and enjoying rice pudding and attending family reunions with lots of blue-eyed, blond relatives. Increasingly for me, particularly as I explore genealogy, it means traditional foods, design, and way of living. This year, that means making lussekatter for the second time. And possibly (gasp!) attempting a trip to IKEA with the young lad. And happily hanging my beloved straw ornaments on the Christmas tree…

In keeping with my yearning for all things Nordic, I’m also feeling winter already. It seems I can never really enjoy a season. As soon as it starts, I start longing for the next one. This year, I want winter especially because these are a possibility.

This necklace from Madewell. I just can’t quite justify the cost. Come on, sale…

We’ve had a few gorgeously crisp, foggy autumn days lately, at least in the morning. Now it’s in the mid-70s, but I am still stuck on cool and rainy. Since our honeymoon, that weather evokes the memory of our visit to Holyroodhouse in Edinburgh. We traipsed the length of the Royal Mile despite some gloomy skies, and it was great. We had lunch in the cafe there, and I especially remember drinking a Fentimans dandelion and burdock soda. After that, I tried Fentimans whenever I came across it. Now I really want to track some down here.

My new Fitbit One, courtesy of M. I really wanted a tracker for my return to work. So far, I’m doing about half my goal each day, with no extra effort. Now I need to find ways to add more steps, like taking the baby son for a walk. And hey, at least I’m not parked on the couch for hours anymore. Though I suspect I’ll start to miss the “lazy” sweatpants days of maternity leave soon…

the finished pie

Home-from-the-Honeymoon Pot Pie

the finished pie

We spent a number of meals in the UK eating a variety of pies. From pasties to steak and ale, we just couldn’t get enough. When we returned late Saturday, all we could think about was more pie. So despite the impending hurricane, M ran to the store for pie-making materials. And on Sunday, I made pot pie.

For once, I opted not to even look at a recipe (full disclosure: except to find a consensus on best oven temperature). Our original Sunday dinner intention had been a whole roasted chicken, so I went for chicken and whatever vegetables M could scrounge from a grocery store swarming with anxious citizens. I happily set to chopping. By the end of the trip, I was missing home fiercely, and spending an hour putting together a pot pie soothed the ache.

Incidentally, this is even better warmed up the next day.

Home-from-the-Honeymoon Pot Pie

  • 2 parsnips, chopped
  • 3 carrots, chopped
  • 2 leeks, white and light green parts only, cleaned and sliced into thin half-moons
  • 1 small yellow onion, chopped
  • 4 large garlic cloves, peeled and thinly sliced
  • ¼ cup extra virgin olive oil, plus more for pans
  • 5 ounces brown baby bella mushrooms, chopped
  • 1 teaspoon dried thyme
  • 1 tablespoon mushroom stock concentrate (I used this one)
  • 1 pound chicken breasts, chopped
  • 3 tablespoons unsalted butter, plus more for pans and brushing on top
  • 3 tablespoons white rice flour
  • 1½ cups milk
  • 1 bay leaf
  • ½ cup chicken stock

Preheat the oven to 375°F.

Fill a saucepan half full of water and bring to a boil. Once boiling, add salt and the parsnips and carrots. Boil until tender, then drain and set aside. Wipe out the saucepan with a paper towel.

Heat some olive oil over medium heat in a nonstick skillet and add the chicken pieces. Salt and pepper, then cook until just done, stirring when necessary. Set aside.

Meanwhile, put the ¼ cup olive oil in an ovenproof ramekin. Add the garlic slices, stirring to coat. Place in the oven as it continues preheating. Heat some more olive oil or unsalted butter in a large skillet over medium-low heat. Add the leeks and onion and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Cook until softened, stirring occasionally. Add the mushrooms and stir. Remove the garlic from the oven, and carefully transfer the slices only to the onion-mushroom mixture. Add the cooked chicken pieces and thyme, stir, and leave over low heat while you make the sauce.

Gently heat the milk and bay leaf, either carefully in the microwave or in a small saucepan. In the saucepan used for the carrots and parsnips, melt the 3 tablespoons butter over medium-low heat. Once melted, add the 3 tablespoons white rice flour, whisking constantly. Cook until tan-colored, still whisking. Remove the bay leaf from the milk. Add the milk to the butter and flour mixture a bit at a time, whisking in each addition thoroughly. Aim for a Béchamel, erring on the side of thinner rather than thicker. Add salt and pepper.

Spoon the vegetable-chicken mixture into a 2-quart ovenproof casserole dish, making sure it’s evenly spread. Pour the béchamel sauce and chicken sauce over and stir if needed to make it even. Top with the pie crust, cut a few slits, and brush with a little melted butter. Bake for about forty minutes, until the crust is golden and the filling is bubbling. Let cool for 5-10 minutes before serving.

Notes on a Honeymoon

Scotland on my mind

The Finnish lapphund is a gorgeous dog.

Londoners are quite stylish.

Scotland remains spectacular.

I could eat pies, sweet or savory, for every meal.

Europe, where the history comes from.

Nobody does pomp and ceremony like the British.

When trains work well, they are possibly the best mode of transport ever invented.

The United Kingdom takes cider seriously, and it is fantastic.

I love British television.

Taking an actual vacation to a beautiful place with a person you love is a perfect use of time.

M and me after arrival at Paddington