read * hear * say * see * eat {3}


Image credit: The New Yorker


  • Are you listening to Dear Sugar yet? Steve Almond and Cheryl Strayed’s smooth voices are hypnotic. I love it. Check out the fourth episode, which includes their insightful views on cheating in relationships. I have a different take on the subject, but I always appreciate their emotional intelligence.
  • Another favorite podcast I didn’t list in Mamalode is the TED Radio Hour. Guy Raz has a talent for distilling out the most salient points from TED talks and molding them into a shiny new tale. If you want a place to start, give a listen to the episode about what we fear. I loved the story of the folk singer, which made me wish I could begin every time I speak aloud with a joke about what an awful speaker I am. I somehow don’t think it would work the same way, though.
  • I’m finding writing inspiration from odd places. This week’s was in two archival interviews with musicians, Billy Joel via Here’s the Thing and Jack White via All Songs Considered. Whatever you think of their music, these men are certainly creative, and I ate up their fascinating views on writing. The older I get, the more I appreciate a good song lyric, and the more I see the process of making art, whether it be photography, paint, or words on a page, as similar in many ways (in that vein, I’m looking forward to getting my copy of The War of Art from the library).


  • No official word yet on how my LTYM audition went, but the unofficial version is that I was ushered out of the room about 0.2 seconds after I finished, soooo… here’s to trying new things! The show producers were lovely and kind to me as a new, not-so-good-reader-aloud-of-essays. Hope I get to take another whack at it soon. I want to get better!


  • A portrait of four sisters over forty years. Beautiful.
  • About the Frozen characters, “I’d kill ’em if I could.” Yep, that sounds about right.
  • The best thing about #SNL40 was it got me realizing I need to watch all the digital shorts again. For some reason NBC makes it super difficult to navigate their site yet keeps anyone else from posting them, so the best I can do is find a full list on Wikipedia and then search NBC using the name of the one I want to see. Lame, I know.


Let me know what you’re making, eating, seeing, reading, and listening to this week. I love this sharing cycle.

dig deep

Hey y’all, did you hear we got some snow recently?

dig deep - heirloom mothering
This is even before the extra two feet that put us over the fence line.

If we were in the upper midwest right now, I probably wouldn’t be talking about the snow. When we lived in Madison, we got tons of snow as a rule, so we learned quickly to shut up and shovel, and we joined up with the continuous outdoor events. In fact, in the northern parts of Minnesota and Wisconsin, you can burn off the cabin fever with huge outdoor festivals at the end of February.

Around here, people have learned to deal with snow, but I wouldn’t exactly say they’re excited about it. Cranky pants is more like it. I’m not exactly excited about it either, but I’m looking at it as much as I can like a fun life experiment. I hope the kids will remember this winter where they’re able to play inside a snow tunnel their daddy dug out for them in the back yard. I for one will not soon forget the cocktails and cooking projects and cabin fever. One of the positives of the snow is that it forces you to exist in the present moment–and to drum up compassion for others, who you know are as miserable as you are–which is a state of mind I find challenging to live in at other times.

dig deep - heirloom mothering

This morning I stepped outside to 33 degrees and felt like stripping my coat off. There is a day every winter when the sun angle feels just right that your brain decides it is going to be okay. For me, that day was Friday, and for Nate, it’s today. Apparently the birds agree. All of a sudden our crows and bluejays are being joined by sweet sounds of (not quite yet spring) cardinals. I am soaking up the sun from where it comes into my bedroom window, and this feeling of warmth is slowly healing my winter doldrums. It is only after the bird song penetrates the silence that I realize how truly quiet it was, and I am practically in tears of joy at the sound. How I wish the sun would hurry and melt the snow, but I know we still have weeks to come of these giant unforgiving mounds. I hate these mounds of snow as if they had personalities and actually decided to come mess up my life. I realize it makes no sense, and yet, there you have it.

In honor of today’s reprieve, I’ll share our newly perfected cocktail, the bloody mary. It’s good for a day you’re dreaming of warmer times.

a mean bloody mary
serves 2

Blend together:
1 c. tomato water + 3 tsp. tomato paste (or substitute 1 c. tomato juice)
1/2 tsp. worcestershire sauce
1/2 tsp. soy sauce
1/2 tsp. black pepper
1/2 tsp. hot sauce (Cholula is our go-to)
1/2 tsp. prepared horseradish
1/4 tsp. tamarind sauce (can omit; I used it on a whim after it came with take-out Indian food) 1/4 tsp. fish sauce
dash cayenne pepper, or to taste
1/2 c. vodka, chilled

Serve with:
lemon wedges
celery sticks
1 c. ice cubes
salt & pepper on the rim

read * hear * say * see * eat {2}

This is my bi-monthly list of stuff I found online that I like. I promise never to tell you I “curated” it. Please share in the comments whatever you found that you liked!


  • Toot toot! (that’s the sound of my horn) I wrote an essay about marriage for the Good Men Project. Will you check it out and maybe leave a comment? The only comments now are someone who pretty much thinks I’m a dick, and my wine-enthused reply.
  • Meghan Daum’s The Unspeakable: and Other Subjects of Discussion is so blazing in its honesty that I have to put it down and read something lighter in between essays. Acerbic, poignant, raw: those words might not make it sound pleasant, but it somehow manages to be.
  • A new column in The Rumpus about love started off with a bang. “…everyone I know feels like they’re walking on unsteady ground. Falling in love with someone, building a life, working toward something we may or may not achieve. Shelley_03We are always throwing ourselves into the unknown, hoping that things will work out, that we’ll be happy, that our story will make sense in the end.”
  • Ann Patchett’s new book is getting great reviews, but I am starting with one of her earlier publications, Truth & Beauty: A Friendship. It’s fantastic so far.
  • I can’t exactly explain my fetish with 1850’s lit, but every now and then I like to pick up a book from that era and flip through. Maybe I just like to see if I can figure it out. This week at the library I grabbed Oliver Wendell Holmes’ The Autocrat at the Breakfast Table, a collection of essays from The Atlantic, which I think he helped start (?). I skip through the sluggish parts and find that no matter where I open the book, a passage catches my eye, especially this description of rowing on the Charles River: “When I have established a pair of well-pronounced feathering-calluses on my thumbs, when I am in training so that I can do my fifteen miles at a stretch without coming to grief in any way, when I can perform my mile in eight minutes or a little less, then I feel as if I had old Time’s head in chancery, and could give it to him at my leisure.” If that doesn’t make you want to get out on the water, then I just don’t know what.


  • If you have been listening to Fresh Air a while, I think you will agree with me that Terry Gross is so totally gaga for Bradley Cooper. Do you remember that scene in You’ve Got Mail when Meg Ryan watches Greg Kinnear fawn over his interviewer? It’s just like that! Smitten, I tell you. Maybe it’s because he’s from Philly? The dude is super smooth, I’ll give him that much, calling her “Terry” at every opportunity. (Her interview with Ann Patchett is also a must listen)
  • Alec Baldwin interviewed Sarah Jessica Parker. It’s the interview I wanted ten years ago, and just like after S&TC, I was sad when it was over.
  • Just in time for Valentine’s Day (which a friend of our family once famously called ‘VD’), check out the episode of Death, Sex, & Money where Anna compiles all the footage about love. I’ve also listened to each of those interviews in their full length; they are all great.




  • Our snow menu features heavily in Pioneer Woman comfort recipes like mac & cheese and cinnamon rolls (but whoa baby, back off on how much sugar you sprinkle on the dough if, like us, you don’t have a monster sweet tooth).
  • I’ve perfected my cocoa recipe over the past four years. I added it below. I tend to like it better than mixes, which often add yucky powdered milk for some reason. Keep in mind, everything in moderation. 😉

the perfect hot cocoa
serves 8

1/3 c. unsweetened cocoa powder
3/4 c. white sugar
pinch of salt
1/3 c. boiling water
3 1/2 c. whole milk
big splash of vanilla extract
1/2 c. heavy cream, whipped until stiff with a bit of sugar and vanilla
whiskey as desired


  1. Combine cocoa, sugar, and salt in a large saucepan. Whisk in boiling water and bring mixture to a boil, while stirring constantly. Simmer 2 minutes, then stir in milk and heat until hot but not boiling.
  2. Remove from heat, add vanilla and whiskey at will, pour into mugs, and top with whipped cream. Note: I make this recipe for the four of us to have twice and put away the extra in a mason jar in the fridge. The chocolate will settle at the bottom but mixes back in once heated again.

being here

being here - heirloom mothering
You’ve got mail.

Nearly two years have gone by since I wrote on my old blog about not fitting in up in Beantown. Looking back on those words, I can happily report some things have changed, like this: “They way they chat with each other, their sociability, everything is slightly altered. I often feel as though I’m missing some kind of non-verbal cue during conversations with strangers. Interesting but exhausting too.”

being here - heirloom mothering
Digging a snow cave with Daddy

After living here four years, I am fluent in Mass-speak. I don’t quite think like a local but I at least get them, and I can even dish out the ‘tude on occasion. I can’t adequately express how comforting that can be. An intriguing side effect of this knowledge is that I now relate to my grandfather, who’s from up here, on another level. When I was visiting them in Florida last week, I made soup for my grandparents. Carrying the jars out to the garage freezer with me, he says, “What am I supposed to do with all this soup?” and without skipping a beat, I snap back, “Eat it,” in a way I never would have before. He laughed! Who knew?

being here - heirloom mothering
The forecast is snow. Forevah.

My tolerance for snow is remarkable, if I do say so myself, which is good because it appears we are getting MORE this weekend, Lawdy be. When the first big snow dump came two weeks ago, I took the kids sledding by myself, something I couldn’t have imagined doing three years ago. Back then I remember watching a dad at the top of the hill let his tiny kids go down on their own and thinking, I will never do that. But now I do it too, and I find myself cracking jokes with the other parents, laughing as we “bowl for teens” who are so busy chatting at the bottom that they can’t seem to be bothered to look up.

being here - heirloom mothering

On the other hand, I will never adjust to some aspects of life here, like this: “People are pugnacious in an almost laughable way—picture Mark Wahlberg talking to animals, and you get it. Sometimes I LOL at how it seems like they are all looking to have their next fight.”

I could have written that today, y’all. Here’s a story I am always telling. I encounter one stop sign five days a week; it’s at a busy intersection where I need to take a left and usually have to wait a bit. I’d say roughly a third of the time I get honked at, and I mean cars can be whizzing by in both directions, or traffic can be at a dead stop, but someone will still lay on the horn. It is all I can do, Reader, not to jump out of my car and say, “WHAT?!” Of course I won’t, but…

Back when Nate and I graduated college, we left behind the close-mindedness, zealotry, and stubborn clinging to the past that we thought were prevalent in the antiquated south. Together we fled for the progressive great beyond of anywhere but there. I missed my family but not my roots. I didn’t identify myself as a southerner, and I longed to find out whether I belonged somewhere else.

When I left town, a central conflict of my life melted away; the mortification I felt about southerners’ attitudes about race and class gradually lifted to reveal the warm and loving embrace of no-nonsense Midwestern ideals. Over the next decade, we moved to Washington, DC, to England and back, and on to Massachusetts. Rather than formulating a new identity, I discovered that by leaving the south, I became more southerner than ever. I hadn’t fit in down south, but I didn’t exactly blend in with the north either.

These days, while I’m not exactly the Prodigal Daughter, I can see myself returning home again. I surprise even myself by loving southern charms I had once forsaken: humility, patience, charity, preservation of history (& food!), and frugality. And somehow, even with the roughly 4 feet of packed snow out my back window, I can see myself staying here too. Maybe to get along anywhere, all I need to do is persevere with humor and (awkward) grace. What I’ve learned in this experience of attempted transfiguration is that I shouldn’t to try to make them love me. If I accept even the troubled parts of myself, I’ll love wherever I live.

being here: an unlikely love story - heirloom mothering