Archive for the ‘musings’ Category

If you’ve read my newsletter, you’ve heard me talk about Jenny Rosenstrach, she of Dinner: A Love Story fame and creator of my beloved granola recipe. (Her Three Things newsletter helped save my sanity during the first two years of the pandemic.) She’s wise, witty and practical, three things (heh) I admire in a cook and a human being. And her seven-minute egg trick is saving my life these days.

Jenny’s been saying for years that an egg makes it dinner: to wit, that topping many things with a seven-minute egg (i.e., hard-boiled with a jammy center) turns them from a side dish into protein-enough-to-satisfy. After several months of experimenting, I am here to report that it is true, and also to say: I’ve been rather delighting in the odd little variations of said eggs.

Once or twice a week, I fill a pot halfway with water, bring it to a boil and lower in two eggs with a slotted spoon. (I’ve learned that dropping them in, however gently, causes at least one hairline crack, which makes for odd ruffly trails of egg in the water – though they’re still edible.)

Jenny insists that seven minutes – not a second more or less – is the perfect time, but I usually set my timer for 6:50, to account for a few seconds on either end. She recommends an ice bath, which I’ve learned is important (to help them set afterward; they peel much more easily after two or three minutes in cold water). I crack the eggs, peel the shells into the compost bin and plop the eggs on top of a bowl of quinoa and veggies (usually spinach, but I like bell peppers for this, too).

I’m amazed, over and over, by two things: how reliably delicious this is, and the minute variations depending on when I take the eggs out, how long I leave them in the ice bath, maybe even the ambient temperature that day. Sometimes they’re jammy, sometimes runny, sometimes properly hard-boiled. It’s like a tiny science experiment in my kitchen, and it is – thank goodness – a new reliable dinner staple.

What else would you top with an egg to make it dinner? And have you tried Jenny’s 7-minute trick?


Read Full Post »

We’re a week into May, and I’ve been racing through good books. Here’s what I have been reading:

Begin Again, Emma Lord
Andie Rose is an A+ planner – but when she transfers to the competitive state school where her parents met, her plans to ace her college experience fall apart. Instead, she finds friendships with her roommate and her stats tutor; shifts at the off-campus bagel place; a slot on the school’s pirate radio station, founded by her mom; and a will-they-won’t-they connection with her RA, Milo. I love Lord’s sweet, witty YA novels and this one was so much fun.

The Wedding Dress Sewing Circle, Jennifer Ryan
I flew through this charming WWII novel about a group of women in Kent banding together to mend and lend wedding dresses to each other amid fabric rationing. Fashion designer Cressida, shy vicar’s daughter Grace, aristocratic Violet and their friends were wonderful characters. Serious Home Fires feel-good vibes.

Pages & Co.: The Bookwanderers, Anna James
Tilly Pages loves spending time in her grandparents’ London bookshop. When Anne Shirley and Alice (of Wonderland) turn up in the shop, and Tilly discovers she can wander into books, her grandparents – and a secret sect of librarians – have a lot of explaining to do. A cute, bookish middle-grade story; I wanted to love it more than I did, but it was fun. Found at All She Wrote Books.

Write for Life: Creative Tools for Every Writer, Julia Cameron
I’ve loved Cameron’s work since I received The Sound of Paper as a college graduation gift. This is a six-week practical guide to getting in a writing rhythm, using her classic tools (Morning Pages, walks, Artist Dates). Helpful and engaging, though not much new info if you’re already a Cameron reader.

Love from A to Z, S. K. Ali
Zayneb has HAD it with her racist teacher targeting Muslims – but when she speaks out, she gets suspended. She heads to Doha to visit an aunt, where she meets Adam – Chinese-Canadian, also Muslim and recently diagnosed with MS. This lovely YA novel alternates between their perspectives, and deals with both difficult topics and the sweet headiness of first love. Thoughtful and fun. Found at the Bryn Mawr Bookstore in Cambridge.

Stateless, Elizabeth Wein
England, 1937: Stella North is determined to prove herself in an international race against 11 other young pilots from across Europe, to promote peace. But one contestant disappears, and Stella suspects sabotage. She works with a few other pilots to figure out who was responsible, and why. I love Wein’s fast-paced historical YA novels; this one has great flight details, fascinating characters, and a growing sense of unease as Europe heads toward war.

My Contrary Mary, Brodi Ashton, Cynthia Hand & Jodi Meadows
This sequel-of-sorts to My Lady Jane (which I loved) picks up with Mary, Queen of Scots, at the French court. She’s supposed to marry Prince Francis, but she’s ambivalent – meanwhile, Francis’ mother and Mary’s uncles are both scheming to gain power, and Mary’s mother is in faraway Scotland. With the help of her ladies-in-waiting (all of whom, like Mary, can change into animals) and Nostradamus’ daughter Ari, Mary learns to navigate both politics and love. I raced through this one on a flight; so much fun.

Off the Map, Trish Doller
Carla Black has always preferred traveling to putting down roots; she spent summers road-tripping with her father, Biggie, after her mom left. But when she goes to Ireland for her best friend’s wedding, she meets a man (the groom’s brother) who might make her want to stay. I like Doller’s smart modern-day romances; this one was pretty steamy for me. But I liked Carla and the honest way she was forced to deal with her issues.

Most links (not affiliate links) are to my local faves Trident and Brookline Booksmith. Shop indie!

What are you reading?

Read Full Post »

purple crocuses leaves

They follow right on the heels of the snowdrops: those cheery little faces, spreading through flowerbeds in bright stripes of purple and gold and white, lifting their faces to the morning sun.

Like the snowdrops, I read about them in The Secret Garden; learned to look for them in Oxford; and truly fell in love with them during my years at Harvard. There was (is) a house with a purple door right across the street from my beloved Darwin’s, and the first crocuses always bloom there, in a triangular bed at the end of the driveway. They bloom all over that part of Cambridge, of course, but that yard is where I go every spring, checking to see if the green sprouts are poking up yet, through the grit and mulch and winter leaf litter.

Sometimes they bud when it’s still snowing out; some years they wait a little longer to emerge. But always, always, they arrive eventually, heralding the end of winter’s gray cold and biting winds. They are the first shot of true color to emerge after the snow, and that jolt of purple and gold goes straight to my heart, every year.

Read Full Post »

Hello, friends. It’s (suddenly) May, and the world is in bloom – the apple blossoms, lilacs and my beloved tulips are splashing out with color these days. I’m feeling the need for a new writing series, so this month I’ll be sharing with you reflections on – what else? – the flowers I love.

I’ve always been a flower fiend, though as a little girl, I didn’t see a lot of the flowers I regularly see here in New England. We had a daylily bed out back (until our rabbit, Barney, ate them all), and I regularly saw dandelions and other wildflowers, but the vegetation in West Texas is wildly (ha) different from where I live now.

My mother has red yucca and oleander in her yard, these days, and I remember puffball begonia plants and potted geraniums in front of our house in Dallas. But the flowers I read about in storybooks mostly remained just that. West Texas is too dry for lilacs and hydrangeas, crocuses and magnolias, and the only zinnias and gladioli I knew were the ones in my Neno’s garden in Ohio.

One of the beautiful, consistent gifts of living in Boston is watching the cycle of flowers as the seasons change. Again: we have seasons in West Texas, but they’re drastically different (and much dustier, mostly) than the ones here in New England. The earliest spring flowers, especially, are dear to me not only for themselves, but as signals that the winter is finally over. The green shoots signal warmer air, longer days, the emergence of people and activities from winter hibernation. And the first ones out – sometimes poking up through literal snow – are, fittingly, the snowdrops.

I first read about snowdrops in The Secret Garden, when Ben Weatherstaff teaches Mary about the plants she’ll see emerging in the Yorkshire spring. I didn’t know what they looked like, though I assumed they’d be white. I didn’t quite understand that some flowers could sprout, even bloom, when it was still cold out. (In my hometown, where the temperature swings can be wild, and spring arrives in mid-March, it doesn’t quite work like that.)

I don’t think I saw snowdrops with my own eyes until my first spring in Oxford, as a college student. There, as here, you can find them in flowerbeds and gardens, often the first reliable sign of green after the winter rains. I was amazed to see them blooming before spring had truly started, in University Parks and in front gardens behind low stone walls. They were a delightful surprise that first year, and every year I have lived in Boston, they have proved a reliable harbinger.

When I worked in Cambridge, I learned to watch for signs of spring: the crocuses in the yard of the house across the street from Darwin’s; the bulbs in front of the yellow house on Hilliard Street; the daffodils along the Charles River, and later the lilacs in front of Longfellow House. I learned, too, to watch for snowdrops there: even in the bitterest winters, they start popping up all over Cambridge in February and early March. They’re often struggling up through mulch and snow and leaf litter, but they are determined. Touched by weak early-spring sunshine, they break through and ring their tiny bells to herald winter’s end.

More flower reflections and photos to come.

Read Full Post »

Small Kindnesses

I’ve been thinking about the way, when you walk
down a crowded aisle, people pull in their legs
to let you by. Or how strangers still say “bless you”
when someone sneezes, a leftover
from the Bubonic plague. “Don’t die,” we are saying.
And sometimes, when you spill lemons
from your grocery bag, someone else will help you
pick them up. Mostly, we don’t want to harm each other.
We want to be handed our cup of coffee hot,
and to say thank you to the person handing it. To smile
at them and for them to smile back. For the waitress
to call us honey when she sets down the bowl of clam chowder,
and for the driver in the red pick-up truck to let us pass.
We have so little of each other, now. So far
from tribe and fire. Only these brief moments of exchange.
What if they are the true dwelling of the holy, these
fleeting temples we make together when we say, “Here,
have my seat,” “Go ahead—you first,” “I like your hat.”

I came across this poem in the anthology How to Love the World last year, and still think of it often. I found out recently that Laméris collaborated with a number of young people on a poem celebrating more everyday kindnesses (NYTimes gift link). The whole thing is worth reading, but one line made me catch my breath: “what kindness can do to help this ruined world.”

Happy Friday, friends. May you seek, give and receive kindness where you need it today.

April is National Poetry Month, and I’ve been sharing poetry on Fridays here, as I do each year.

Read Full Post »

darwins mug heart table striped journal

A few weeks ago, I met my guy for lunch in Cambridge on a rainy Tuesday. We had sandwiches at a place we both love, grooving to nineties music, and then I walked down the street to a coffee shop to work for a while. Later, I dropped in at Albertine Press, where I’ve taken a few craft workshops, and went to a yoga class at the studio near my house, where the instructor – sweet Kristina – greeted me by name.

As we move through these spring days, I keep thinking about this time three years ago: the fear and isolation, the masks on the T and at the grocery store, the almost total lack of in-person gatherings (except on warmer days, when we could take walks outside). One of the (many) things I missed during that time was my “third places”: the spaces separate from work and home where I spent time and formed relationships. At that time, those places included Darwin’s (above); the beautiful main branch of the Boston Public Library; Brattle Square Florist; and that same yoga studio, among others.

These days, my third places are the same and different: still the yoga studio; Toasted Flats, where I pick up a pita wrap for lunch every week or two; the East Boston library branch, where I am known by name; and that sweet Cambridge florist, where Stephen always has a smile for me. ZUMIX, where I work, functions as a third place for our students, where they can come and be themselves and make music, and get a little rowdy if they so choose.

I’m thankful today for those third places, and for the people – including my colleagues and friends – who work so hard to make them beautiful and accessible. It’s a true delight to welcome and be welcomed, and I’m grateful every time I walk in.

Read Full Post »

from What to Eat, What to Drink, What to Leave for Poison


Only now, in spring, can the place be named: 
tulip poplar, daffodil, crab apple,   
dogwood, budding pink-green, white-green, yellow   
on my knowing.   All winter I was lost.   
Fall, I found myself here, with no texture   
my fingers know.   Then, worse, the white longing   
that downed us deep three months.   No flower heat.   
That was winter.   But now, in spring, the buds   
flock our trees.   Ten million exquisite buds,   
tiny and loud, flaring their petalled wings,   
bellowing from ashen branches vibrant   
keys, the chords of spring’s triumph: fisted heart,   
dogwood; grail, poplar; wine spray, crab apple.   
The song is drink, is color.   Come.   Now.   Taste.

I recently read Dungy’s wonderful memoir, Soil (coming in May), which explores her experience of tending and diversifying her Colorado garden. I’m less familiar with her poetry, but loved this one – you can read the full poem at the Poetry Foundation website.

April is National Poetry Month, and I am sharing poetry – with an emphasis on women – on Fridays this month, as I do every year. 

Read Full Post »

Most mornings, after journaling and breakfast, I pull on my running clothes and head out the door to spend a few miles pumping my legs and getting some fresh air. I don’t always have music playing at home, but I almost always listen to it on my morning runs. My “custom” Spotify mixes swing between the genres I love most: nineties country, mellow jazz, soulful singer-songwriters and Broadway show tunes. And I have to say, lately the mixes have been killing it.

My folk mixes are crammed full of my longtime faves, like the Indigo Girls and the Wailin’ Jennys, and newer-to-me discoveries like Birds of Chicago and Abigail Lapell. My Broadway mixes have been heavy on the & Juliet pop tunes since I saw it in NYC, but they also include doses of Hamilton, Amelie, Come From Away, The Fantasticks and other musicals I love. And you’ve heard me rhapsodize about my love for nineties country: Martina, Faith, Shania, Reba, Jo Dee, and (forever and always) George Strait.

It’s a pleasure when the mix turns up song after song I love, as my feet pound down the familiar paths of the parks or harborwalk or greenway. A good mix – especially one I don’t have to fiddle with – delights me every single time. (I’m convinced it helps me run faster, too.) Good music is so happy-making.

Read Full Post »

Early Spring

Harshness vanished. A sudden softness
has replaced the meadows’ wintry grey.
Little rivulets of water changed
their singing accents. Tendernesses,

hesitantly, reach toward the earth
from space, and country lanes are showing
these unexpected subtle risings
that find expression in the empty trees.

I saw this poem on Nicole’s Instagram back in March, and it seemed absolutely perfect for the “beautiful, capricious, reluctant” springs we often get here in New England.

April is National Poetry Month, and I am sharing poetry on Fridays this month, as I do every year. 

Read Full Post »

Easter, Picacho Peak

We sleep in the desert
on a land full of stories,
and all night the wind reads the news.
We’ve left our attachments –
expectations and a newspaper –
on the picnic table for the night,
surrendering our documented selves
and reported names to sleep.

All night the wind sifts our dreams,
reading the truth.
We sleep deeply but aware,
like stones skipping water,
and hear the news
doing somersaults over the land.
Finally, it blows into a cactus,
sacrificed on a crown of thorns.

The moon encrypts new names
into our dreams, and near dawn,
coyotes sing the real headlines
in yips of happiness.

We wake to a world without word,
only scent and beauty.
The Word is written
everywhere on the land.

I discovered this poem last fall in the wonderful anthology What Wildness Is This. As we approach both spring and Easter weekend, I thought it seemed fitting to share here.

April is National Poetry Month, and I am sharing poetry – with an emphasis on women – here on Fridays this month, as I do every year. 

Read Full Post »

Older Posts »