On 36

With Zoe Yesterday, I turned 36. Closer now to 40 than 30, I once again must square my notions about what an age means with how I actually feel, having arrived there.

When I was in elementary school, the fifth graders were awe-inspiring. They were such big kids, they were all so smart, and the girls were beautiful. I mean, they had all their front teeth; they were practically women. Once I became a fifth grader, though, I didn’t feel like the person I’d seen when I gazed up at her from the lower grades. I was uncoordinated, I hated my hair, I never felt like my clothes looked like everyone else’s, and my teeth, while present, were far from perfect. As a sixth grader, eighth graders became my new fifth graders. As a freshman, it was the seniors I idolized. Each time, when I finally ascended to the peak I’d admired, I found that it wasn’t what I thought it would be; I wasn’t what I thought I’d be. Either I hadn’t seen those who went before me clearly, or I simply didn’t measure up. As a young person, I wasn’t sure which was true.

Once I made my way through my twenties (not having had my life “all figured out” by 25 was another buzz kill), the disconnect between my preconceived notions of age and my real-life experiences continued, but it began to turn on its head. I suppose, in my mind, I’d always categorized age into two columns: <30=young and active, achieving >30=old and stagnant, arrived. Each time I hit one of those sub-30 milestones and didn’t feel completely thrilled with who and where I was, I saw myself as underachieving. I wasn’t everything that I could or should be, or I wasn’t getting there in time. (In time for what, I’m not really sure.)

Since turning 30, I’m still at odds with the expectations I’d had for each age-related milestone. Now, though, this no longer disappoints me. You see, I thought that yesterday, when I turned 36, I’d feel old. Somehow, I’d gotten to thinking that one’s twenties were the decade for living– the one we’d all been allotted to make money, travel, achieve, and live fully before 30 arrived—that watershed age at which we’d be shackled to home, children, and the small circle and quiet routines associated with them. Once I hit thirty, I reasoned, I’d better have lots of good living to look back on, because things would be pretty boring from that point on.  It’s not that way, though.

Here I am, really looking at 40 for the first time without having to squint, and to my great surprise—I like what I see. When I look back on my twenties, the parts I remember most fondly are those parts that helped my thirties become what they are: finding my true vocation in teaching, meeting the man who would become my husband and the father of my children, and every little snapshot in time that makes up those particular albums. I don’t long for any of the other stuff or mourn its status as past—even the good bits. Mostly, as I near 40, I’ve realized that the best part of life is—or should be—the living one is doing right now.

If a person looks around her world and sees only what is wrong with it, it’s not a problem of age, it’s a problem of perception. Whether using the long or short lens, if looking around at the world yields only pictures of what’s wrong (the jerk politician ruining our state, the unfulfilling job, the crappy service at restaurants, the wood trim you hate but can’t afford to paint, the toddler who just can’t seem to get on the potty training bandwagon, the bum shoulder that doesn’t allow you to swim), then life has truly become old. It’s easy for a person to settle into a life with which she’s constantly dissatisfied. Nothing is right, everyone disappoints, everything is going to hell, and everyone needs to know about it. That just not the view I choose to take. If I were to take that view, then by 40 I’d feel every bit as old and curmudgeonly as I always thought I would in my twenties.

Roses, Diet Coke, and Bundt Cakes. At 36, the stuff of my life is more than some, less than others, but the substance of it? The meat? That I’ve got in spades. I have a husband who knows that little things make a birthday great. I have a son who asks me to lie with him in bed after I read him bedtime stories and scolds me when I doze because he wants to talk. I have three parents—three—who all took time out to call me on my birthday, telling me they love me and that they’re proud of me. I have a baby girl for whom I’m the whole world and whose smile makes sure I know it.

Are there some things I wish were different in my world? Sure, but most are either very small or very far from me and mine. I’ve decided that unless I’m willing to put some sweat equity into changing the few things with which I’m unhappy—to do something more than idly criticize or pass along an ill-conceived, cynical tweet—it’s really best to just to refocus the lens on what’s right rather than what’s wrong. Add a filter. Screen out anything that obscures my view of the good stuff.

I understand that there are new and different problems that mount with each consecutive year. I don’t have the burden of declining health and an aging body that I likely will someday, but I really do believe that no matter what or how many the successes and disappointments in one’s life, how satisfied a person is with the life she’s living is less about what is present or missing and more about that on which she chooses to dwell.

I choose to dwell on the good, and there is a great amount of good on which to dwell. IMG_3182

“Attention, animals: shhhhhh, please.” – Henry

While on the cape, we spent one of our first evenings taking in the sights (oh, so many sights) at the Barnstable County Fair.  All of Cape Cod is in Barnstable County, and the fair itself attracts locals and visitors alike.  While there, we were treated to all the usually fair fare: fried dough, candy apples, cotton candy and other delicacies prepared on carts, carnival rides on the midway, and–our favorite–the 4-H animal shows.  My mom and I agreed that we remembered this fair being bigger in our memory; even so, it was just the right size for Henry, and he was elated to be there.DSC_0533 DSC_0534

The first order of business was checking out all the animals.  Henry loves animals, and sings Old MacDonald like a champ.  He was over the moon to see the rabbits– lops, dwarves, and big Rex rabbits– he was fascinated by them all.


After the rabbit show came the poultry.  We moved from cage to cage, holding Henry up so he could see each hen clearly.  They puttered peacefully around their cages, waiting patiently, I suppose, to return home to their owners and a more free-range way of life.


Did you notice a change in Henry’s expression?  A sudden glimmer of concern, perhaps? It’s not that he has a thing for fur over feathers (though I would totally understand if he did).  It’s that while we were enjoying the chickens, something happened.  Something that shook our two-and-a-half-year-Old MacDonald to his core.  A rooster crowed.

It seems that all of the humanoid animal impersonations in the world cannot adequately prepare a suburban subdivision kid for the horror of actual animals actually talking to each other.  He could barely even stomach the sweet little chick that this 4-H-er offered him to pat.


“He’s from the suburbs,” I explained weakly.  The 4-H boy just sniffed and shook his head.

Henry spent the rest of our trip around the barns (cattle, goats, sheep, and the rest) doing his best impersonation of a terrified koala, clinging to any adult who could protect him from the horror of a mooing cow.




As much as Mark and I loved being wrapped in his tiny arms, I was a little devastated.  I love all animals, fear none of them, and was growing more and more concerned that Henry’s impending first pony ride wasn’t going to be the joyful prelude to eventual pony ownership that I’d envisioned.


Please. Don’t. Neigh.

As it turned out, no one neighed.  After a few times around the hot walker on a small pony mare (who barely had enough energy to move, never mind chat), things loosened up a bit.  I tried to sell that pony ride as hard as I could.


We even got a sort-of smile.


You know what, though? To Henry, animals who talk<animals who aren’t inclined to talk<animals who can’t ever talk.  Case in point:


Happy Monday.



What we’re eating this week (a Pinterest project)

Chicken Enchiladas

I’m trying to do a better job of planning our meals each week.  We’ve historically had a tough time deciding what to eat until late in the evening when we’re starving and invariably make choices both expensive and unhealthy.  This week, I’ve decided to plan our meal for the week using a combination of found internet recipes (from Pinterest and other sources) and family favorites.  

Generally, Wednesday and Sunday nights will alternate between leftovers and take-out, leaving the other five nights of the week for cooking.  It’s worth noting that while I love to cook, I’m by no means an expert.  I like preparing meals that are varied, tasty, and, above all, simple.  There’s not much you won’t see in our rotation; ours is an omnivorous house, sometimes healthy, and sometimes indulgent.  I’ll try to let readers know what we think of each meal here on the blog and will post our weekly menus to a single Pinterest board, HERE.  You can also visit all my Pinterest boards by clicking the button in the blog’s sidebar.

Follow along for the food, both flops and faves!


(T) Slow cooker chicken lo mein

(Th) Balsamic roast beef sandwiches

(F) Chicken enchiladas and green salad

(Sa) Chicken and chorizo paella

A trip to Super H Mart!

I ran into a common problem today while preparing to make a new recipe: weird ingredients.  I suppose they’re not really “weird,” but Shaoxing wine isn’t exactly the Canola Oil of cooking, right?  The recipe I’m planning is a common Chinese dish, but common Chinese ingredients (oyster sauce, anyone?) are remarkably uncommon in American supermarkets.  Having lived in a neighborhood of Chicago that included a strip of Argyle Street known as Little Saigon, I knew that Vietnamese and other Asian grocers were around, but I wondered if my move to the burbs was going to hamper my rice wine quest.

Thankfully, our town is both large and surprisingly ethnically diverse, so I didn’t have to wander Yelp very long before I found Super H Mart– and every Korean, Chinese, Japanese ingredient an amateur home cook could possibly need–just five miles from our house.

photo 3

Super H Mart is, in many ways, a regular grocery store: fresh (good-looking) produce, meat and seafood counters, bakery– it just happens to include middle aisles chock-a-block full of all the Asian staples a person could never find at her local mainline supermarket.  Even if one is lucky enough to find, say, Soba noodles at the Jewel, Super H Mart offers a dozen choices while Jewel stocks only one.

Soy sauce?

Soy sauce overload.
Soy sauce overload.

How about a whole aisle, then another aisle of rice wine?  Don’t even get me started on the rice.  The store was clean (even if it does smell a bit of fish sauce) and well-stocked.  It’s easy to pick up the few non-Asian edibles while there, too; I refreshed my olive oil supply, and American super foods–Kraft macaroni and cheese, for instance–were very much in evidence, too.

I though momentarily about trying to fill the gaps in my recipes for the week with a trip to our local (and much-loved) Cost Plus World Market, but, even if they did carry everything I needed, I doubt I could have come away with huge bottle of olive oil and Shaoxing wine, some sesame oil, Tamari, and oyster sauce for under $20.

Super H Mart: restocking the Asian corner of my pantry since August 2014. (-:

Home Again

After over a week away, our little family is re-acclimating to our summer routine at home.  As email and Facebook posts keep reminding me, though, our “summer routine” is about to be swapped for another routine to which I’m not quite ready to return.  I’m sure I will be when the time comes, but for now, I prefer to savor the few remaining days we have left  instead of diving into what comes next.

We spent the past nine days on Cape Cod, with a little bit of time spent in my South Shore hometown and at the beautiful wedding of a cousin at my grandparents’ home in Rhode Island.  Henry was busy, took long naps, and went to bed late.  We saw lots, ate even more, and enjoyed the unexpected sunshine (the forecast looked less than promising when we arrived).

In the coming days, I’ll recap some of our favorite adventures (Duxbury Fire Department, Barnstable County Fair, trout hatchery, Mass Maritime Academy, Nantucket, Hyannis Harbor Duck Tours, and the wedding).  I’ll also roll out my latest effort to help our family plan grocery shopping and mealtime a little more effectively (you’ll be able to follow along with what we eat and cook, keeping me honest and well clear of Hamburger Helper).

Until then, here are a few of my favorite images from the past week or so.  There will be more to come!

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Yummy things…

Sometimes, we get lazy about our dinners around here.  Since my in-laws buy a share of a cow annually and keep us supplied with high-quality ground beef (ah-mazing), it tends to figure into a lot of our meals.  On Saturday night, we grilled burgers with a green salad on the side.  (Have you ever tried mixing a little dry salad dressing into your burger meat?  Delicious, and an interesting alternative to garlic salt, which we’ve used in the past.)  They were fantastic.

Often, though, the ample supply of ground beef lends itself to lazy, one-pot, Hamburger Helper-style meals, one after another after ANOTHER.  These are easy and fine, but, having grown up in a house with most dinner plates parceled out into little peace signs– a little meat, a little veg, a little starch, sometimes, it’s just not what I’m craving.  Unfortunately, when we’re not feeling ground beef, we tend to lazily order take-out.  This almost always has to do with a lack of prior planning on my part; we just don’t have the right staples on hand to cook up an alternative. Because we’re trying to pinch pennies in advance of our upcoming vacation (and because I’ve done a better job grocery shopping recently), we had a better option last night.

We decided to keep the beef in the freezer and cook up a little chicken in the crock pot.  We went with this Asian-inspired recipe, found on The Comfort of Cooking via Pinterest, for Honey Sesame Chicken.  In the interest of full disclosure, I quadrupled the amount of red pepper flakes it calls for, because really–1/4 teaspoon? What’s the point?  This recipe met our practical needs for the day (quick prep so we could enjoy the sunshine at the pool) and our taste buds’ needs for the evening meal (a different flavor than we usually cook up at home).

On the side, we prepared an equally simple DIY fried rice from Courtney’s blog, My Wifely Adventures.  We usually use frozen peas and frozen cubed carrots in this recipe but were caught without carrots last night.  We simply omitted them, and it tasted just as good.  I considered adding the frozen lima beans we found in the freezer (Are they really any different from Edamame?), but Mark gave that idea a serious side-eye.  The moral: use the veggies you have, and all will work out just fine.  I think Courtney’s advice of adding the cooked rice to your wok cold is probably worth listening to; it will keep the dish less sticky.  Steamed snow peas might have been a nice addition on the side.

There are more beautiful pictures of both recipes on their original blogs, but here is our end result (photo shot just moments before I devoured the entire bowl):

Hone ySeasme Chicken and Easy Fried Rice

Pinterest saves me again in the easy recipe department!  We went to bed happy and well fed after our daily dose of the Tour de France. We may or may not have eaten on the couch. Our house smells like sesame oil this morning which is absolutely delightful.

Happy eating!



A regular girl, her wonderful husband, a black dog, a baby boy, and a girl on the way.


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