…there are projects all over the place. As someone who loves to make stuff, it's safe to say this is my favorite time of year in that regard. I can easily overwhelm myself with too new many ideas on top of the traditional things we do each year. It becomes a season for many, many lists. But I do really enjoy it, and there's no other way I'd like it to be.


Our advent calendar made it up again with tiny treats, toys and little notes for different activities.



Gingerbread houses were made. Each year the skill and patience get just a little bit more…refined.


Cards have been mailed.


I am looking forward to not one, but two holiday piano recitals this weekend. 

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The cookie gift process has begun. Baking books have been pored over, recipes that didn't make the cut last year have been revisited, something that looks really good can be easily replaced with something that looks even tastier. The choices are endless. Everything just looks too good.


The wreath is hanging,


The tree has been lit, 


And I think we're all ready for some more hot chocolate. 














The last four or five years around Thanksgiving we've adopted a turkey from the Farm Sanctuary, an organization close to my heart that aims to rescue farm animals from the often deplorable conditions in factory farms. Each year the boys and I would go to the Sanctuary's website, pick out a turkey we thought was the cutest and a little time later we'd get a little adoption certificate. It's sweet and it's been a great way to teach my kids some animal compassion.

While on the website, looking for our adoptee Turkey, picutres would appear about Farm Sanctuary's annual "Thanksgiving for the Turkeys" event at their New York shelter, and the boys and I would always lament how we wish we could go if only they had a shelter here in LA. 

Turns out they heard us! (wink.) Two years ago, I believe, they opened a location only 45 minutes north of LA, and when the time came this year we jumped at the chance to go break bread with the birds. 

Not only did the boys get a chance to feed the turkeys some cranberries and sweet potatoes, they also hung out with the rest of the animals lucky enough to live there–the pigs, the goats, the chickens, the cows, the horses. We learned their names and how they came to be there. We touched their bellies and rubbed their heads. 

Whether my children go on to be vegetarian or not, knowing where their food comes from and learning that there are ethical ways to handle and eat animals is what I hope they always hold onto. Even if a turkey becomes part of their Thanksgiving tradition at some point in their lives, they will know to get it from a place that treats it well. 

On the eve of Thanksgiving 2013, there is so much to be thankful for: our families, our friends, our health, our comforts, and of course our food in whatever form it may take. 

Happy Thanksgiving!


Like the rest of the world it seems, I often watch how much wheat I eat. That means I don’t often eat bread, which is too bad because when it’s hot and fresh, it’s a favorite thing. But our trip back east last month, part of which was visiting Matt’s family, got me rethinking that a little. Specifically Aunt Emily’s bread. Emily’s bread was homemade, the kind of bread that’s been made a thousand times and that there’s no recipe for. It’s simply passed down from her mother and absorbed through some sort of familial osmosis. Sitting at her kitchen table, enjoying our lovely conversation, sharing that delicious bread–it represented everything special about home and family–nourishing, comforting, healthful, and full of care. It amazes me that something so simple as bread can do that.

Once I got home, I set out to find a recipe that could possibly mimic Emily’s, one that I could work and rework over time to try and get that perfect balance of tenderness, heartiness and depth. It’s ain’t easy.

I decided to use an equal mix of sprouted wheat flour (which makes the wheat more digestible and less prone to irritate) and bread flour.


Next, I heated buttermilk and water to 110-degrees and added it to the yeast and sugar. Then it sat for a few minutes until it looked like the yeast was activated (above). It’s not the prettiest thing.

After adding the milk/yeast mixture to the flours, it all gets mixed together with a wooden spoon and then onto the stand mixer fitted with a dough hook for a 10-15-minute kneading session. Of course this could also be done by hand. Once the kneading is done, the dough should be pliable but have structure, it shouldn’t be too hard or too soft.

It sits for 2 hours to rise. When you check on it, it should be doubled in size, like this:

Next it gets transferred to a loaf pan where it needs to rise another 2 hours. After that second rise, it can be baked…

And enjoyed.

Bread is a tricky thing. You can have a recipe, follow it to the letter, and it still may not come out just right. It’s a food that requires patience and persistence, and offers an opportunity to make it your own. I wouldn’t dare say that my bread comes anything close to Emily’s. But for a novice, and if you’ve never baked bread before, this is a good place to start. My kids love it, especially toasted. And it makes me feel better about indulging especially if it’s made from scratch and with care. It makes me look forward to the day when baking it will become second nature, something not to fret or fuss about, but just do. Maybe someday I will be sitting around my own kitchen table eating it and will inspire someone to make that extra effort to share something special. Thank you Emily.

Buttermilk Oatmeal Bread

{adapted from Buttered Side Up}

1/2 cup water

1 cup buttermilk

1 tbsp. instant yeast

1/4 cup sugar, maple syrup or honey

1/4 cup unsalted butter, melted and cooled

2 cups sprouted wheat (or all-purpose) flour

2 cups bread flour

1/2 cup whole rolled oats

2 tsp. sea salt

In a small saucepan, gently heat the water and buttermilk to 110 degees F (43 degrees C). Place the yeast and 1/4 teaspoon of the sugar in a small bowl; pour the heated buttermilk mixture into the bowl and let proof for 5 minutes.
In a large bowl, combine the flours, oats, remaining sugar and salt. Add the yeast mixture, remaining buttermilk mixture and butter and mix with a wooden spoon to combine.
Turn dough out onto a floured surface and knead until smooth and elastic, about 10-15 minutes. Add flour as necessary. Return to mixing bowl and let rise until doubled, about 1-2 hours, depending on how warm your house is.
Form risen dough into loaves, buns or whatever shape you wish. Place in greased pans (if making a loaf use a 9×5-inch pan) and let rise until nearly doubled, about 1-2 more hours.
During the last 15 minutes of rising, preheat your oven to 375-degrees. Bake risen bread until nicely browned and load sounds hollow when rapped on the bottom, about 20 minutes. Remove from pan and allow to cool completely on a wire rack before slicing.


















My 40th birthday celebration continues. This chapter features an 8-day trip to Italy. Without our children. Yes I said it. My mother, intrepid soul that she is, assumed the role of caretaker to three boys so I could remember what it was like to wake up in the morning and only have myself to think about, and nothing on the agenda but enjoying the day. 

And as selfish as that may have felt in the beginning, once I was surrounded by the gorgeousness and sumptuousness of Italy, all of that melted away, and I relished in not only what surrounded me, but also in such quality time spent with my love. It had been a very, very, very long time for us.

We vstarted in Matera in the south, home to one of the world's oldest civilizations–settled during Paleolithic era. A town seemingly carved into the landscape with winding stone staircases, ancient dwellings, tiny trattorias and lots of cats. 

Next was the resplendent Amalfi coast where we stayed in a hotel that was a design dream. And though the scenery there was indeed breathtaking, we couldn't help but feel overrun by tourists as we walked down the crammed road to the ocean in Positano. I can only imagine how crowded it must be in the height of the summer. 

It was this very feeling of needing to escape the cruise crowd that we chose to embark to Florence instead of Capri, our next intended stop. And while Florence was by no means less crowded, the city felt so romantic and enchanting, that you barely noticed. And the food. The food! I'm not one for taking photos of my meals when I eat out, but I found myself whipping out my phone to shoot one insane plate after another. Pasta pomodoro, truffled ricotta, succulent vegetables and olives, hazelnut gelato. It would have been a group of photos to remember, if only I hadn't lost my phone in a taxi the last day of our trip. Sigh. 

Once we were back home, I realized how much I had missed my children and how good it felt to wrap my arms around their little bodies. But what a treat that trip was. Full of beauty and romance, wine, pasta and history. Just what we had come for. 

I'm still dreaming about our New England adventure. For the day of my actual birthday, If Cape Cod is the sturdy, attractive, wide-ranging, capable lady, then Martha's Vineyard is her precious, beautiful, more ethereal sister. Despite how popular it is, especially in the summer months, it has managed to retain its languid, seaside, nautical wildness. 





It was the perfect place for us to unwind a bit, explore, smell the salt air, learn about lighthouses, examine some very old, rusted-out fishing boats,







And watch how the light transforms the landscape at sunset, and revel in the quiet.

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There was the obligatory visit to the Black Dog restaurant (which will probably be left off the list next time, although it is a great spot to sit), and a very cute tea party thrown for us by Betty, a very sweet lady we met on a walk when she enticed the boys to come see her collection of horsehoe crabs she had caught on the beach that morning. 





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It was a gentle, deeply fulfilling way to usher in the next decade.


Nico turned 7 on Tuesday. And for him it was not a minute too soon. Being 6 just was too baby-ish. 7 is when you are officially a “real boy” as he calls it. I have to admit, he may be right. Nico has always been a little wise for his years, but lately he seems to have blossomed even more into a child who is so bright, so even, such a joy to raise.


Nico takes care of his stuff and gets his stuff done. I rarely have to ask him more than once that it’s time to get out of the shower, to get dressed in the morning, to put his shoes on for school. Often he is the first one ready and waiting for the rest of us.

He is also quite the love bug, showering us all with dozens of kisses at a time and hugs that seem to use his entire body. Sometimes I’ll be in the kitchen cooking, and I’ll see him peak around the corner and with that squinty-eyed smile I know so well, he’ll say, “Mama you are the best, best, best Mama in the entire Universe” and then blow me a kiss. Showing love is his forte.


So how do we celebrate such a special boy? First give him his favorite dinner which consists of mac and cheese from scratch and a salad. Simple but delicious.


Next, a cake or pie that changes with each birthday. This year he requested a S’more Pie from this cookbook.


Good Lord was it delicious.


He also wanted to treat his best buddies to rides and ice cream sundaes at the Santa Monica Pier. How special for me to see his friends shower him with the same love and attention he often gives to others. There were lots of wind-blown laughs and squeals as they ran from ride to ride. It was a very good day.


Happy Birthday Nico, to the best, best, best, best! 7-year-old boy in the entire Universe. I Love you.

Nico’s Mac & Cheese

3 Tbsp. unsalted butter

3 Tbsp. all-purpose flour

3 cups of whole milk

1/2 tsp. sea salt

1 pound elbow macaroni (or penne)

4 cups shredded sharp white cheddar cheese

1/2 cup bread crumbs

Preheat oven to 350-degrees.

First make a bechamel sauce. Melt the butter in a medium sauce pan, then whisk in the flour, adjusting the heat to medium.The consistency should resemble something like wet sand. Next, add the milk in a steady stream, whisking as you pour. Keeping the heat on medium, whisk occasionally until the sauce thickens and coats the back of a spoon. Do not allow sauce to boil. Once the sauce has thickened to the right consistency, add salt, pepper and a pinch of fresh nutmeg. Last, add 3 cups of the shredded cheese, one cup at a time, whisking until incorporated before adding the next cup. Taste the sauce. It should be seasoned well and not bland. If it is, add more salt or nutmeg.

Prepare your pasta in a pot of well-salted water. Boil for 2 minutes less than the package instructions. You don’t want the pasta to be over done as it will continue to cook as it bakes.

Drain the pasta, then pour into a buttered casserole pan. Pour in the cheese sauce and mix until the pasta is well coated. Top with the remaining cup of shredded cheese and sprinkle the bread crumbs on top. Place in the oven for about 20 minutes. Allow to cool for about 5 minutes before serving.


This year could quite possibly be the most fun I've ever had in celebrating a birthday. In fact I know it is. Since my 20s, I haven't wanted big birthday celebrations. A nice dinner, some handmade cards by my family was just perfect. But this year, for 40, I decided to make an exception. I decided I wanted to spend it with some of the people I love most in the world, but who I rarely get to see. People who at one point shared those big celebrations with me many years (almost decades!) ago in New York City, before there were spouses and children, mortgages and school tuition payments. 


I decided we would meet in Cape Cod. It was not too far from Brooklyn and Connecticut where these friends of mine still remain, but we could still get away from the everyday and enjoy the beach and each other.

To be able to see how far we've all come, and how cradled each of us are in our family and home lives, well it felt like a blessing. Adulthood hasn't treat us too badly after all.


Ify and Jen. These two ladies above, whom I've now known for more years than I can count, are the sisters I never had. They're the people for whom the word "friend" just doesn't do justice. They've seen me through many of my life's twists and turns, and have always kept our friendship close, no matter the miles between us. I love them so. 


Chris, is the brother I never had. A dear, dear friend to me. So funny, loyal, smart, and talented. We often marked time through whatever hip hop we were listening to at the time–beginning with ATCQ's Low End Theory, and continuing on, although he's much more with it than I am now. Not surprisingly, I also really like his lovely wife Kamala too. 

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Then there's my half-sister Lanka (right). I wish I could erase that silly "half" part, and not consider ourselves only our father's daughters. Fiercely intelligent, creative, accomplished and totally in love with her fiance Brooke, who is just as equally interesting and doing some great things with her life. Such a treat to bask in their glow.

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And Kiki. Sister of Ify (and honorary sister of Mazi.) Gorgeous, independent, world traveler. It amazes me that no matter how much time has passed from when we've last seen each other, it always feels like it was just yesterday. There's an ease in our friendship that just flows. At this stage in life, that counts for a lot. 


What a joy that our children made plenty of their own memories at the same time. 







When I'd imagine what it would feel like to "turn 40", of course all those negative connotations attached to this "milestone" crossed my mind: planted firmly into middle age, the days of youth relegated to the past, taking stock of accomplishments and disappointments. But who wants to dwell on that? There's always time for self-reflection, not just at major birthdays. I wanted to enjoy the fruits of those 40 previous years, with my wonderful husband and children yes, but also with those who have helped shape who this woman, at 40, has become. She's still an absolute work in progress, but I know they'll be there regardless. They've proven it time and time again. Thank you. 


See that thing on Jude's arm? It's not a long-sleeved shirt. It's a cast. Yes, a cast. A ridiculous cast. 18 month-olds should never have to need a cast. But they can…need a cast.

You would think think that by our third child we would have this parenting and safety stuff down. Every low cabinet door with dangerous chemicals lurking behind it should be latched shut. No toilet brushes left out. Any stairs need to be guarded by baby gates. That car seat has to be rear-facing until 24 months. And on and on. All of which we've somehow managed to do.

But the bumper pad that was in his crib? Hadn't really given it much thought since we put it in quite a while ago. A crib just seems more comfortable with one, and we waited to include it until there was no longer any risk of SIDS. And guess what, both Mateo and Nico had one and there had never been a problem with them until…

Sunday morning when there was a thud and a cry that sounded exactly like a little boy falling out of his crib. Did he fall on his head??? That's a long way to fall! What if he has a head injury??!! How did he climb out?? Those were the questions we asked ourselves as we drove to the ER. A certain F-word kept stabbing me in my head. Over and over. How did I let this happen?

A few hours later, out we walked with Jude cradled in my arms and his arm cradled in a splint. He had a tiny fracture that would heal quickly we were told, owing to the soft, pliable nature of a young child's bones. But it might as well have been my arm. I couldn't help but feel so bad. I warmed my hands and placed them gently on his injured wrist hoping I could impart some healing energy and in some way to say I was sorry. 

He must have stepped on that bumper to have been able to lean over and fall out, so we banished it as soon as we got home. 

Jude seems to be just fine. It amazes me how quickly kids his age can adapt to things. For all he knows that cast will be there forever, so he just keeps on. He's figured out how to use only one hand to get up and sit down. He's learning how to balance with one side of his body suddenly heavier than the other. 

I know people automatically judge when they see him in a cast. I'll admit I've done the same when I've seen it in the past. "How could a parent let that kind of injury happen to such a young child?" I'm sure they're asking themselves, while giving me a sideways glance. There's not much I can do about that obviously, other than know that sh** just happens sometimes. 

Jude's a resilient boy. He has to be. Our home can be chaotic at times, and I can tell he really wants to keep up. Sometimes in that chaos he gets knocked down, but he always springs right back up. It's just his way. And probably always will be.

When he was born, I was under the impression that all of my mothering experience would just guide me though. But in some ways it just hasn't. Life is so much busier now. Not only by virtue of having two older kids and juggling both of their lives, but also my repsonsibilities and work just increase. Jude often has to join the flow and just roll with it. I'm told it makes for very well-adjusted adults. I can only hope.

But for now, I just want to take more pauses to make sure our littlest one is still cared for in the best way. That was always a priority, but this has made me really want to stop a moment. Take a breath. Know that I will most assuredly make more mistakes in the future, but also make peace with the ones just past. I hope Jude, that by the time you can read this, that cast will only be a distant memory. And I hope, for rme as well. Unless, of course, you do something crazy reckless when you're older. Well, just don't do that either. Okay?











It's been a strange summer here in Santa Monica. I say it's been the grayest that I can remember. Foggy, cloudy "June Gloom", as we call it, extended all through the summer and is still blanketing us in August. It's made for much fewer beach days than we'd like. Our garden has even taken a little hit this season with the lack of ripening sun. To find it, sometimes all it takes is a drive less than a mile inland, and there is summer as we know it to be. It's a bewildering thing.

This past weekend we went in search of some skin-warming weather. We drove up the windy canyon road off PCH to Malibu Creek State Park and watched as the thermometer in the car climbed from 69-degrees all the way to 89. Each of us scrambled for hats and sunscreen as we walked out into the sudden heat. With a slightly bewildered look, even Jude seemed to wonder just where we had landed. Sweat began to pop through on my skin almost instantly. 

So we set out with the intention of a mild hike. Hopefully one in the shade. And almost as soon as we started out, we found a perfect little spot for a cool swim. I have to say I was surprised how quickly Nico and Mateo stripped down to their underwear and jumped right in. I'm sure it wasn't the cleanest water, but it was moving, and we could see to the bottom. Couldn't be much different than any other fresh water lake anywhere else, I figured. Plus how could I say no to these boys who were so clearly thrilled not only with the opportunity to swim and cool off, but also to be able to explore some nature at the same time. It was a most perfect remedy to last until the skies part and we find ourselves back at the beach. 

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High above the summer smog of LA (or at least it seems to be), is the stone and garden behemoth that is the Getty Center. The tram ride up is a young boy's dream, of course. I love that for just a few short minutes, you feel as though you're leaving the city behind. Once off the tram, you're bathed in light from over 100,000 square feet of Italian travertine. The sight of it always me think how many men it took to quarry it and how many legions of ships it must have taken to get it all here. 

And while the art there can certainly be worth the trip, what is most captivating are the grounds. The grounds and the views. On a clear day (which this was not) you can see 20 miles in any direction, and be reminded yet again just how outstretched Los Angeles is. There are maple trees with leaves as big as dinner plates, sculptures of bougainvillea, sprawling lawns filled with nappers, cloud watchers, picnickers, and parents like me chasing after toddlers. There's even a half decent cafeteria for hungry folks.

During the summer it stays open until 9. A most perfect place to catch a sunset, I imagine.