Archives for category: Life Story

a section from our burgeoning bookshelves—this one is closest to the couch—that I like to admire and think of all the good times we had together.

Walk to the library to pick up two books, take home six. Feel silly at the checkout, but you finish four of them, including Joan Didion. Wish you would have listened to everyone and read her three years ago. Set aside last two for a comforting re-read of Lolita.

Go to Haymarket and find the ugliest, biggest lemons for sale: 7 for $1, but you don’t get to pick them out. Watch skeptically as he selects them (you’re thinking of your cake), so skeptically that—or perhaps because you look so pregnant—you watch as he throws 2 extra in the bag. 9 for $1! Walk around the rest of the market feeling like the luckiest.

Use all the lemons to bake lemon cake. Make tomato sauce. Think about how those two culinary feats—cake from scratch, sauce—are referenced as the most homemaking tasks of all recipes. It’s because of the time; the crazy extra effort that might not even register on your tongue. But you made them because they sounded good. And they are good. Forget to take your prenatal vitamins and just eat lemon cake for a day.

Sit in the breeze of your new air conditioner. This ugly enormous machine that juts in passerby’s faces outside of your window without their permission, that you don’t quite understand the environmental impact of but understand it’s frowned upon, is the first purchase that makes you feel truly adult. It feels guilty indulgent, like taking a rose bath in the middle of the desert with water squirted from carried bottles.

Go out for Italian. Hunting for spicy: order the homemade fusilli with Fra Diavolo sauce. Eat all the fried peppers in the calamari. Talk cheerfully of how this is your last date free-of-other-human-responsibilities, avoiding the weighty (43 lbs; 8 days) fact that you both wish the baby had come yesterday. Be grateful the physical ripeness of being overdue makes this transition, freedom to responsibility, easy and obvious.

Dear readers! Before the baby gets here and trashes the place, I would love to show a few photos of where she’ll stay.

The nursery wall, as we call it.

The rocker was my modernist-loving grandmother’s, and the crib (former laundry basket) is a makeover story done by Joe (he posted a few before photos). I love the mobile, it was the first nursery item we were given, and for most of the winter it hung in our living room as a promise that we would someday have a place for it. We’re planning to hook up an ipod to the radio with white noise tracks so it can double as a sound machine, along with playing NPR for me.

If you follow me on Instagram, you may have seen when I posted a photo of Joe finding the globe in the trash near our apartment. It works perfectly as a soft ocean-and-continent-glow nightlight. It’s a still mystery why it was in the trash as no deadly spider babies have yet emerged from it.

In our apartment storage is an enormous challenge, so we definitely needed a new place to put her clothes. We bought the two pieces of furniture at an antique warehouse in southern MA. Joe repainted the cabinet when we were in Maine, and the knobs on the changing table are from Anthropologie. Those orange bins will be all cloth diapers, since I finally found someone in Boston who does diaper deliveries.

This Kurt Vonnegut quote (from A Man Without a Country) is a good one for us. We’re always noticing after the fact how nice something was, and never quite settling down in the moment. We used this sign and the “crib” in the market last year, so it feels like we brought a little bit of our past adventures along with us.

We changed up the artwork in the rest of the bedroom as well, and I love this old schoolhouse map for its pinks, oranges and blues. It’s so cheerful (and historically educational, since most of the facts are wrong now).

Looking over at this wall, for me, is like sitting before a grotto of flickering candles. The fact that we finally appear to be physically ready to welcome her, and she will have place to fall asleep, and a place to put her clothes, is incredibly soothing. Possibly the most soothing thought I have ever encountered. I try to fall asleep facing that wall.

Tomorrow on E&D we’ll have a very special guest: my 17-year-old brother Wilson!

There he is. He has a band, Rosemary iii, and if you’re in Grand Rapids, they have a wonderful show coming up.

Like my four other brothers, he looks just like me. Or I look like him. Whatever, the point is that in my hometown people recognize us by our dark hair, squinty eyes, skeptical smiles, and narrow chins. “Hey, are you a Cusack?” is a pretty typical question from a stranger.

Somewhat demonstrative photo (we’re missing my older brother here):

As I mention here about every six weeks (ahem, asking you guys for tips) I’m always looking for ways to find new exciting music. My brothers are definitely my secret source of most of the good stuff. And Wilson, in particular, seems to have figured out how to tap the great musical vein of the internet. So he’ll be here, talking about that, for your Saturday morning delight. Thanks Wilson!

Happy Monday! Happy May!

Over the weekend Joe and I went out to Nantucket for the Daffodil Festival, a yearly festival that celebrates the flowerly beginnings of spring on the island.

It was cloudy the whole day, so I played around with Instagram filters for my photos with the result that they each look like they were taken in a different era. Oops.

The festival is about old cars getting spruced up with yellow, parading across the island and finishing in an everyone-is-invited picnic. You don’t have to pay to participate and no one is selling anything. You just show up, hopefully wearing a little yellow and having packed a delicious lunch. and a nice blanket to nap on. and maybe some champagne to share with your neighbors.

I loved this little car logo. I would no doubt care more about cars if they all had logos like this.

Each year we get a little better at packing our picnic. This year we had quinoa tabbouleth, midwestern pasta salad (with pepperoni slices and mozzarella chunks), breaded chicken, cheesy mashed potatoes, olive bread with cheddar cheese, and almond cake.  I’m posting the almond cake recipe later this week because it is so wonderful to have in your life.

Finally, my favorite detail from the weekend:

seeing this blanket that our friend Dave (in the photo above, right) handknit over the winter.

Isn’t it beautiful?

ps: My photos from last year’s (sunny!) Daffodil Festival.

Sorry guys. I’ve been missing this place.

I went home for a baby shower. Joe and I made a little mix cd to give as a tiny thank you to all the amazing women who gave us gifts, many of them obviously handcrafted with love. It was supposed to be Springy, and Agreeable, so that even my grandmothers would like it. You can listen to it too, right here. (the mix I lined-up to play right after our mix is really good too–French and sexy.)

Want a close-up of that little painting Joe made for the cd cover? I know I do:

My only selfish request for the shower brunch was that there be cinnamon rolls. My mom makes the recipe that was copied off of Cinnabon, as in the all rights reserved Cinnabon, the one you hope is in the airport so you can sneak off and get a small box of chewy frosted dough.

Is there anything quite like seeing a dozen adults queue up to buy themselves cinnamon rolls?

a sample gift:

What else?

I made this easy quinoa tabbouleh and thought about how healthy and worthy I was, eating quinoa and even pronouncing it properly under my breath. (instead of “keen-wa,” there used to be days when I said “qui-noAH.” Whatever. The point is, it has a lot of amino acids.)

I watched the first episode of “Dresscue Me.” You can download it, free, from iTunes. Joe was almost too stressed out by the estrogen-energy to watch; which I say as a warning before you get the whole family in front of the television.

I read a bunch of great books. The last three on that list were particularly fun to read. If you need a little great writing in your life, a little reminder of how immediately enticing a story can be, get The Imperfectionists from the library. I almost read it twice, just to make it last longer.

Don’t forget about this almond pastry Easter recipe I wrote about last year.

Just because I wasn’t around here doesn’t mean I wasn’t reading your lovely blog posts, and funny tweets, missing your thoughtful company, and clicking your delightful links. I was.

Happy Saturday! It’s been rain-city around here lately so we’ve reverted to our college days and started working from Starbucks. But it’s supposed to be nice today!

I’ve also been trying to update my scrapbook and get the assemblage of saved bits down to a manageable size (see photo, with eerie shadow-stick-figure, that’s me).

After pancakes, I’m hoping Joe and I make it to MIT’s European Film Festival. It pays to live near universities with lots of event funding floating around. It also costs to live near them, now that you mention it.

I watched this funny Pregnant Woman are Smug video, and grimaced because it’s inevitably me, to some extent. (Isn’t smug just the perfect word for some things?) Someone in the comments points out that engaged women are also awfully smug, which I think is fair spot on and made me feel better. Also, people who were just proven right by Alex Trebek. Maybe we should all privately write down the most smug people we know and then show each other our answers.

Joe says this color app is what all the cool design kids are talking about. Anyone using it?


California spent most of the weekend cloudy. My sister and I rented bikes on Santa Monica beach and biked under the sun while we had the chance (but I’m still wearing two sweaters).

We ate at Son of a Gun. It’s so popular that people start lining up before they open. The funny thing was, the crowd waiting was comprised solely of super cute & hip girls. I guess they are the ones who bother to try new places.

We ate at the communal table and split all the small plates, and just kept ordering, which made for such a fun date. The very very best thing was this dessert:

all of the menu options were phrased with just the elements: “Flourless chocolate cake, banana, peanut, coconut ice cream”* so you never had any idea what the food would look like when it came out. Sometimes it was tiny, sometimes it was enormous, like this chicken sandwich:

“Fried chicken sandwich, spicy B&B pickle slaw, rooster aioli” *

We shopped at Shareen Vintage. Because no boys are allowed, there are no dressing rooms and you just change in the middle of the warehouse. At first it’s weird but soon it starts to feel like everyone is getting dressed for a party together. I bought a dress that will fit through the third trimester and reminds me of Marc Jacobs. Good vintage is amazing to be around.

They now have clips of the show up, watch them, but I’ll warn you: some of them are a little drama.

I took this photo at the farmer’s market for you:

yes they have a farmer’s market, but no tomatoes, just like us.

*Great food photos from KevinEats. I was too eager to eat everything as soon as they put it down.

I’ll be in LA from now through the weekend, visiting Joanie, seeing Shareen Vintage for the first time, eating at Son of a Gun (“smoked roe, maple cream, pumpernickel” sounds delicious!), snacking on as many food truck offerings as possible, and seeing friends.

Knowing me, the only photo I will take will be something like an off center shot of somewhat unique, though in hindsight not so great, doorway. But if anything good comes out, I promise to share.

in the meantime, some longer things I’m reading:

just why do we all want posters about Japan’s tragedy?

interview with CrewCuts design director, about her Moming-style (I like their questions, and their web design)

Lovely photo from ledansla.

Joe made me this postcard for Valentine’s Day. Later on, he noted that she is either emanating color out into the desert world, or being attacked by a storm cloud of rainbows. Ultrasonic images have that mysterious way about them. What is she thinking? you wonder.

If I have to bend over and pick things up, I start panting, ohhing, and ahhing, like taking out the trash might be the last effort I donate to the day.

My mom told me that in her first pregnancy she started eating foods from her childhood. It might have just been those “crazy woman cravings” that society is obsessed with attributing to pregnant women, or she suggested, she was struggling with the transition of being responsible for someone and wanted to revert back to being a kid again. I can’t really think of another reason why kraft macaroni and cheese will be the food I end up associating with this pregnancy.

I have been struck by the strange fact that though every woman must map the tricky route of how she will balance her baby and her hopes for her engagement with the outside world, it is difficult for us to talk to each other about it. We each have our own notions of what the other must assume, and speak hesitatingly only for ourselves. For what has been a dynamic issue for the past forty years, it has not resolved in any useful way.

Desperately needing cheats to eat vegetables every day, I  jumped on the green smoothie train. It has saved me, and probably a few red blood cells too. Banana, frozen wild blueberries, bunches of raw spinach, almond milk, blend. You don’t really taste anything beside the banana and the milk, and there is none of that flat-tongue-leaf-spinchyness texture that I lately despise. Saved.

The hormones have begun to occasionally swing away from blissful mother o’ peace to those of a cranky perturbed five year old. Not only are things wrong, things are cryably wrong. You experience things in pregnancy that make you relate to an infant—the desperate, overwhelming desire to eat right now; the frustration of not knowing or understanding where emotions well up from and deciding to just express them anyway; the fulfilling occupation of simply gazing off into space.

My trusty shirts are, one by one, waving a hand of fond farewell and retiring to the corners of my drawers, hoping I will not ask them to experience that again. I just went through all the clothes I own, and was surprised to meet a few new candidates for favorite shirt.  At least for the next week.

She kicks when I do yoga, when Joe plays the guitar, when I eat peanut butter, and when I think it might be a nice time for a little peace and quiet, she practices her routine for a kicking brigade dance show. These are just the kicks I habitually note, the others are faintly scribbled on an EKG reading somewhere in my brain that I recall when I have a moment of panic, thinking she’s been silent for days.

My younger sister Joanie is the manager at an enormous vintage store tucked into a warehouse in Los Angeles called Shareen Vintage. I love to call her up and hear about how crazy her day was, but none of her stories will really make sense until the reality show they’ve been filming about the place premiers in April. I can’t wait, if only to see all the beautiful dresses.

It’s going to be called “Dresscue me” and will be on Planet Green (I guess Planet Green is being secretive because I can’t link to them about it. Here’s a NY Times article about Shareen & the show). Until then, I loved this video done by Keith Paugh, commissioned by Launderette.

As you’ll see, Shareen is a fashion philosopher who has a vision for her customers (girls only!), which is why I think the show will be genuinely unique to watch. (You see Joanie a few times in the video, she has long brown hair and is wearing a strapless blue floral dress. Can’t wait to see more of you on the screen, Joan!)  You can also visit Shareen Vintage on Facebook, where previous customers literally gush their love for her clothes.

Are you looking to contact Joanie Cusack directly? You can do that right here

Greetings loyal readers!

There are two new page additions to the E&D site. A very simple addition, entitled Books!, is where I will be listing my reading this year. So far it has been a great year of books, and I have already gotten around to reading a few that I’ve been meaning to read for years. Since I don’t usually finish books I don’t enjoy, you can pretty much guarantee that I am recommending anything on the list.

The second is my humble guide to registering for your wedding. I know many of you don’t need this anymore. But I needed it when I was getting married, and it wasn’t out there. So I’ve put together a list of kitchen essentials for that preciously short time when people are begging you to tell them how they can spend money on you. You can see the guide right here, or my blog’s page about it here. Savvy chefs! Tell me if you disagree with my choices, or can’t believe something is not on there.


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