Monday, July 27, 2015

Rotating In

When you are a kid, the whole concept of taking turns and sharing is pretty challenging to grasp.

Image from

Then, when you get older, sharing becomes almost normal. Think group projects in college, or carpooling to work.

When you have kids, divvying things up is less optional and more a matter of preserving your sanity and achieving critical mass in the face of overwhelming odds.  And then, when the kids get older or even disappear, shared arrangements between friends become a coveted luxury.

I hit the jackpot with my carpool moms, and I've hit another home run with my weekly game night group.  Hostessing duties move from one home to another, giving us a chance to cook fancy or light as the mood strikes us, to try new things or old favorites, and crack open a bottle or two while we're at it. I've collected awesome recipes from my cohorts, like roasted chicken, summer pasta salad with roasted baby tomatoes, or a light and easy Caesar dressing for any weeknight. Mostly the dinners are low key, although I do go a little bit nuts with the birthday desserts for the group.  Most notably this onethis onethis one and this one. 

And now, this one.

Salted Caramel Brownie - ready to bake | Cheesy Pennies

Super simple supper with a crazy celebration dessert.  Both recipes are going right into regular rotation*.

Fresh Heirloom Tomato Tart | Cheesy Pennies

Friday, July 24, 2015

Traveling for Work

I have a job. I love the people I work with and the products we make.  Not to mention the dress code of t-shirts and jeans when we don't have customer meetings.  Even more incredibly, the office is a three minute walk from my house*.

Some days, though, work does take me a little farther away from home.

Shop Window - Shibuya District - Tokyo | Cheesy Pennies
Dumplings in the making - Tokyo Food Hall |Cheesy Pennies
View from the train - Tokyo | Cheesy Pennies
Making Omelets - Taipei night market | Cheesy Pennies
Camo bunny - Taipei night market | Cheesy Pennies
Steak and scallions on a stick, Taipei night market | Cheesy Pennies
Late night games - night market Taipei | Cheesy Pennies
Shrimp dumpling from Cantonese feast, Taipei | Cheesy Pennies
View from car window, Shenzhen China | Cheesy Pennies
Stoop sitters, Shenzhen China | Cheesy Pennies
Container ship, Hong Kong harbor | Cheesy Pennies
Escalator love, Hong Kong | Cheesy Pennies
Hong Kong skyline | Cheesy Pennies

It's a really, really good job.

I haven't yet figured out how to duplicate the astonishing cheese and custard filled cake from the night market in Taipei, or the perfectly fried chicken with hot chiles from Hong Kong.

Custard and cheese pancakes Taipei night market | Cheesy Pennies
Shanghai style fried chicken with chiles | Cheesy Pennies

But the killer sweet-spicy skillet cornbread with maple butter I had in Eden Prairie, Minnesota?

Skillet Cornbread with Maple Butter | Cheesy Pennies

I could google that one.

Skillet Cornbread | Cheesy Pennies

Thursday, July 2, 2015

Extraction Pains

"They've got to come out."

Vanilla Ice Cream | Cheesy Pennies

"Putting it off will only make things worse."

Scoop of Vanilla Ice Cream | Cheesy Pennies

"It's not healthy in the long run to keep them."

Vanilla Shake in the Making | Cheesy Pennies

"They desperately need space."

Vanilla Shake in the Making II | Cheesy Pennies

"It's time."

Vanilla Shake in the Making III | Cheesy Pennies

The dentist was talking about my son's wisdom teeth.

I was thinking about leaving my daughter on a curb at JFK airport with bulging duffle bag and a ticket to Africa.

Off to Tanzania | Cheesy Pennies

He got ice packs and meds for his extraction pain.

Wisdom Teeth Recovery | Cheesy Pennies

I got to come home* and make milkshakes for both of us.

Classic Vanilla Milkshake | Cheesy Pennies

His recovery is going great, especially now that the freezer is fully stocked with ice cream**.

I'm still poking at the hole that was left behind***.

Saturday, June 6, 2015

Do you know the muffin man?

Apparently, he lives on Drury Lane.
Too far, far away* for you?

Lemon-glazed Blackberry Sour Cream Muffins | Cheesy Pennies

Make your own muffin, man.

Thursday, May 28, 2015

Honey, I burned the sugar*

...and baked it into cookies.

Lavender Burnt Sugar Sable Cookies | Cheesy Pennies

Burn, baby, burn!

Burnt Sugar for Sable Cookies | Cheesy Pennies
Lavender Burnt Sugar Sable Cookies | Cheesy Pennies
Lavender Burnt Sugar Sable Cookies | Cheesy Pennies

Burn that motha' down!

Monday, May 18, 2015

The long distance birthday

Today, my son is finishing up his first year of college.  He'll be going to one last class, saying goodbye to his roommate and friends for the summer, covering up holes in his wall with toothpaste, and stuffing a pile of dirty clothes into a duffel bag before turning in his keys and leaving campus behind.

He will do all of this on his own, just like he experienced all the rest of freshman year for himself. Thinking back*, I don't think I appreciated how much of a gift this independence was for me. How foundational having the space to misbehave and strive and goof off and win and fall down and lose sleep and connect and love and eat poorly and bond and learn and type and cheer and drink and run and get naked and question and write and be me would be.  It was, I think, one of the most important periods of my life.  My parents had no part in it. None.

That is as it should be.  But I kinda wish my mom was around now so I could tell her I get it. Long distance relationships are tough.  Long distance motherhood is brutal.

And then, just to make it that much worse, the first birthday away from home comes around.

Yep. Today is his 19th birthday. He's there. I'm here.

Deep breath. Text. Call. Bake.

Tomorrow, he'll be here.  Tomorrow, we'll have cake.

Bite of Butter Cake with Chocolate Fudge Frosting | Cheesy Pennies

Friday, May 15, 2015

Bark! Bark!

Right around the holidays, we started talking about it.

Dark Chocolate Bark with Mega Mix-Ins | Cheesy Pennies

Tentatively at first, because we were still so tender and upset, then more analytically and then, at last, giving ourselves permission to be hopeful, with a fair amount of actual giddiness.

I mean, who were we kidding, right?  We had been expertly trained by our big guy on how to be a dog family, and to let all that work go to waste would be almost criminal.  We couldn't do it.

We decided to get a puppy.

Not a replacement, because there can be no such thing, but someone furry and new and special in their own way.

I began my research.

ME: [Googling on my laptop] What breed is like a Bernese, but is not a Bernese

GOOGLE:  Here are images of Bernese Mountain Dogs and websites full of Bernese Mountain Dogs and breeders of Bernese Mountain Dogs and they all look just like your dog that you still miss so much you can barely stand it.

ME: [incoherent muffled sob]

I stayed away from Google after that. Eventually, I found a breed that sounded amazing.  Huge and hairy and friendly and smart.  There was a breeder just a few hours away who was due to have puppies on my husband's birthday.  I told her all about our loss and our family and she loved the whole thing. It was a sign. We were thrilled.

Dark Chocolate Bark with Mega Mix-Ins II | Cheesy Pennies

The puppies were born, and the photos began arriving. Nine adorable balls of fluff rolling around with their exhausted mom.  My daughter was besotted with them, and I was, too.  My husband, a bit concerned about just how huge and how hairy these things would grow up to be, consented to sending in our deposit.  With so many puppies, the breeder was glad to set one aside for us newcomers, even though other families had been waiting for years.  We signed up for puppy class and bought all the puppy things.  We began counting down the weeks until our little one could come home.

My son was appalled. We should be rescuing a dog, he said firmly.  There were all kinds of animals needing good homes. These purebred dogs didn't need us. There's a dog out there who does.

Yes, I agreed, distracted by a fluffy curly tail in my inbox.  But look how sweet they are, honey. These puppies need homes, too.

Would it be rambunctious Miss Red, or shy little Miss Yellow? Identified only by their adorable bow collars, we could only speculate, as the breeder would be matchmaking when we met.  Miss Orange was awfully winsome, too.

Pick up day was set, less than 10 days away.  After all these weeks, the sheer level of email cuteness and anticipation was staggering.

Then came the staggering email of cruelty.

To: Puppy-obsessed family I have been taunting for three months
From:  Nutjob Breeder from Hell
Subject:  No puppy for you*

I just now noticed that all of my puppies are perfect.  I asked my friends who are puppy experts, and they agree. Every single one of them is going to be a champion show dog. Since you are only going to be bringing the puppy home to love it like mad and make it part of your family, and not parade it around a ring on weekends to earn trophies, I have decided you are unsuitable.  If I had a flawed puppy, I would have given it to you.  But I don't. 

True story.

Mix-Ins in the making | Cheesy Pennies

So instead of Miss Red or Miss Orange or Miss Yellow, who are likely piling up accolades and blue ribbons at this very moment, we rescued Miss Juneau, the mutt.

Miss Juneau the Mutt | Cheesy Pennies

Turns out she is the perfect puppy for us.**

More photos of Juneau can be found daily on Instragram, #juneaudiaries.  

My son was right all along. Mutts rock.