like sands through the hourglass

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I am officially mother to a fourteen-year old. While the age thirteen sounds whimsy and sixteen, scary, I’m not sure what to say about fourteen. I barely remember myself at that age.

I turned fourteen in 1983. Like my son, I was in 8th grade. Unlike my son, I had a perm, bad feathered bangs and wore bright purple eye makeup. I’d never been kissed. Return of the Jedi came out that year, but I only know that because I googled 1983 cultural occurrences. Apparently my mom was paying a buck-thirty-five for a gallon of milk and a dime less for gas.

But back to Jack. I asked this sprouting teenager over breakfast what responsibility he’d like to be granted in honor of his 14th year.

“The right to do everything I want,” he said, foam of a homemade latte on his lip.

“Doing everything is overrated,” I replied. “Really, what do you wish you had the freedom to do?”

We talked about his taking the metro alone or going to the movies with friends. Maybe a solo metro ride to the movies with friends. Otherwise, I was at a loss for suggestions, and Jack didn’t have any ideas either. Moms of fourteen-year olds, I’m open to your thoughts. Essentially, I want to give him space to grow, but within the bounds of what’s safe. A doable challenge that will make him feel good about himself. And then I want to help him build on the added responsibility rather than force him to drink from the firehose of adulthood. I don’t have many more years left to shape this soon-to-be young adult. I want to get it right.

I’m not one to miss the years gone by, but tonight we will look at his baby book, sing happy birthday and celebrate the funny, thoughtful, witty, guy he’s growing to be.


on 45

There’s nothing like Facebook to remind you it’s your birthday.

Who am I kidding? I never forget this day, nor do I let anyone else forget either. I blame my eagerness on being born in December and a lifetime of receiving Christmas cards (back when people used to do that sort of thing) that read “P.S. Happy Birthday.”

At a certain age, people dread turning older, but really, what’s the alternative? Gray hair I can handle, I mean, fix until it’s no longer graceful to do so. Fine lines add character (right?) and while my metabolism has slowed a little (okay, a lot) my energy levels haven’t. So I can’t look at food without gaining weight? I’m older, but stronger and hopefully wiser.

I started today off with a vinyasa flow class taught by one of my favorite teachers. It’s a warm day for December in the Mid Atlantic, and the sky is blue and clear. My friend Jane said I should ask for what I want today because who can say no on such a beautiful day. With that thought in mind, I’m going to make a few agent queries. The boys will be home from school soon, and we’ll eat celebratory ice cream sundaes before dinner because why not? I’ll cap off tonight with another yoga class from my other favorite teacher. After class, a nightcap with dear friends.

I plan to be up early tomorrow to embrace another day, another chance to do the things that bring me joy and surround myself with those I love.

Who needs presents?

43 by 43: moment of reckoning

In August, I set some goals. 43 to be exact. A few were big. A number were small. Many fell in the middle.

I did pretty well. I didn’t score 100%, but I came in over 75%. I was never a C student, but I will take it in this case.

Where did I do well? I mostly achieved all five of my big goals. I published My Night with George Clooney. I have unofficially soft launched Cloakroom Style. I roasted a duck. I took a trip to celebrate my birthday. And early next year, I’m taking the boys to NYC. (I’m getting credit for future plans since I only gave myself a four-month window to complete these goals.)

I also have been awesome at picking up the dry cleaning on time. I did all the medical check ups that had lagged. Thanks to Weekend Warriors, I was a home improvement goddess.

Where could I have done better? Well, I didn’t meet any of my three financial goals (stick to a budget, contribute to college accounts, re-fi house). I also failed to go on five dates, though I did go on one and I asked someone to go on one, so I’m giving myself credit for that. I didn’t post to the blog every three days as I aspired, but I did try to write more regularly.

I’m growing my hair long. I wear red lipstick at least once a week. I don’t talk to the boys in a mean voice (as often) when frustrated. Over winter break, we have a schedule to watch some of my favorite (non-R) movies, and I plan to make them breakfast in bed.

The list was random. The list was long. It’s not done, as some items require continued diligence, but it was an exercise worth taking. And now I can begin plotting out what I want to achieve next year. Aside from sticking to a budget, contributing to college accounts, refinancing the house and going on some dates, that is.

duck duck ribs

MinnyIt was on the 43 by 43 list, and we got it in under the gun.

Tonight, on Birthday Eve, Nancy and I cooked duck.

Two, to be exact. (Minny, before she was sauced, is pictured here.)

I know there were many who wanted to be at the duck table, and don’t worry, you will be invited in the future. But it was only appropriate that for the first time I prepare duck, I do it with my most constant and trusty cooking partner.

For some reason, we thought two ducks were necessary. Perhaps it was that our table hosted three adults and seven children. Perhaps it was fear that not enough meat would come off just one carcass. Nancy’s boyfriend even brought ribs for the kids, in case they didn’t want duck. Let’s just say, he’s got a lot of leftover pork and Christmas Eve dinner will feature a duck ragu.

We had to remain true to Julia Child and therefore make her Canard a l’Orange. That recipe calls for a duck in the oven, so for the second duck, we sought a recipe that could be rendered on the stove top. From Jacques Pepin, we found skillet roasted duck with parsnips and shallots.

Our eyes were bigger than our stomachs. But it was the best Birthday Eve dinner ever.

No good meal is complete without phenomenal wine pairings. We started with the Iron Horse Golden Gate Cuvee. And because kitchen prep was taking longer than we anticipated, we then went to the Iron Horse Wedding Cuvee. But for dinner, Nancy brought two bottles of Chateauneuf du Pape, the perfect duck companion. The wine did not disappoint.

I’m so full I can barely move. But I’m already running through ways to improve upon what we did tonight. For starters, focusing on just one duck. And preparing that duck medium rare. (Tonight, both ducks, though flavorful, were unfortunately more on the medium to medium well side.) I’d love to try duck confit. Duck cracklings are my new favorite crispy snack.

Let’s just say, this was not the last time duck will appear at my table. I just might not make so much of it next time.


happy birthday colin

You can do fractions and have a photographic memory. You see the beauty and purpose in everything. (“Don’t throw that away! I want to keep it!”) You have always been a good cuddler and still like to sit in my lap. You constantly whistle.

I can never make you a promise I don’t intend to keep because you will remember, even if it’s months (or years) later. You notice when I get my hair cut and as for your own hair, it goes from the perfect length to too long practically overnight. You need a band-aid on every booboo, even if there’s no blood. And you love to lounge in a hot bath with bath salts (when I have them).

You’re always trying to keep up with your big brother, even when you don’t realize you are surpassing him. You chose today’s cupcake flavor based on the preference of one of your best friends because he doesn’t like your favorite (vanilla) and you didn’t want him to be cupcake-less. (I, of course, am making both flavors now.)

You are shy but incredibly loud. You are both clumsy and meticulous. You won’t change your socks if I don’t remind you, but you never ever forget to wash your hands after using the bathroom (and rat on your brother when he doesn’t wash). Two minutes after a bath, you have your own little cloud of dust swirling around you like Pigpen, but you set out your clothes the night before a big day.

You love candy that is colored blue and flavored like no fruit that exists in nature. But you also devour a bowl of strawberries in the blink of an eye, love edamame, and take your popcorn with truffle salt and fresh ground pepper. You like oysters on the half shell because they taste like the ocean.

You are more than I can describe, yet easy to read. You are my baby.

And today, you are eight.

birthday suit

In pursuit of a birthday dress

My birthday has been fortuitously timed for the last several years. On the day that marked 40-minus-one, my dad happened to be in town. And since his birthday is the day after mine, it was never a question that we would go out to dinner for a joint celebration. Beforehand, my friends all met up with us for happy hour so he got to meet my people prior to going to dinner.

On the birthday known affectionately as the big one, I happened to be at the UN Climate Change Conference in Copenhagen. There I turned 40 under the lights and icicles of Tivoli Gardens surrounded by scores of climate-beaten friends. It was 20 degrees. It sleeted. We drank glugg. It snowed. We drank more glugg. We danced to bad 80s music at an Irish bar late-night. There might have been tequilla shots.

It was perfect.

Last year I was feeling a little less festive, but rallied nonetheless for happy hour and dinner. After all, who wouldn’t go out when their birthday falls on a Friday night?

Which brings us to 39 + 3. This year, one week from today as a matter of fact, my birthday falls on a Saturday.

In the continued spirit of serendipitous timing, my friends Tim and Sarah are having a black tie optional party that night. (I don’t know who actually opts for the “optional” given those parameters). So if my last official birthday in my “early” 40s weren’t reason enough, I they provide the perfect excuse to don sequins.

Of course, I am a horrible procrastinator so here it is one week away and I don’t yet have a dress. But here are a few I have my eye on.

Some quick thoughts:

I love the champagne color in theory, but I’m not sure whether it will camouflage with my skin tone too much. The sheath dress in the middle of her two sequined sisters I actually own in a slightly more stony shade, NWT, the victim of last year’s failure to make my office Christmas party due to a horrible stomach flu. I should wear this dress, as technically it is new. But one only turns 42 once. (Well, until next year and the year after that, as I plan to hit the age pause button for awhile.) There is so much fiscal responsibility in Washington right now though that I feel it is my duty to break the miserly mold that is de rigueur.

The plum dress is my perfect shade, but I am afraid it could be a little matronly looking. A definite must-try-before-buy. The blue sequined dress with dolman sleeves is gorgeous, but is the shape right for me? I love the cut out detail on the arms to show off my hard work in the gym, but the body of the dress will either work spectacularly or fail miserably.

The silver is hands down my e-window shopping favorite. I love the combination of long sleeves and a short skirt. But I have to make sure my new Twitter BFF DCCeline isn’t planning on this one for an event we will both be at later in the month, when I intend to get a second wear out of the birthday dress. Black Champagne will be my NYE, and sequins are mandatory.

And last year’s Christmas party dress? Well, I am eager awaiting birthday lunch with my friend Chris. He never fails to take me to the best suburban Virginia has to offer.

Black tie definitely optional.