True Love

Last Sunday, my fifteen year old son Will hugged me goodbye and took off for an evening bike ride as I cleaned up the last of our Easter dishes.  I don’t know what made me look at the clock when he left, but I remember being pleased that the sun was still shining so late in the day.  Minutes then turned into hours, and as the sun dipped below the horizon line my panic level rose.  He had, at that point, been gone for over two and a half hours, had left without a helmet or identification, and his phone was going straight to voice mail.  My mind flew from believing he would walk in the door at any minute to sickening thoughts of him lying unconscious in the dark (or worse) .  And just as my husband unearthed his bike from the garage to search for him, he came home.

The sobs that erupted from my chest startled both of us.  I hugged him tighter and longer than I had in ages, and, for a moment, I think he truly understood the depths of parental love.  He surprised me as well.  I expected him to laugh at my outpouring of emotion, but instead he reassured me that he would never scare me like that again.  If only he could keep that promise.

He has grown from little boy to full-fledged teen in the blink of an eye.  I can’t believe it’s been almost a decade since I ran behind him holding onto the seat of his two-wheeler!  Letting go of that bike and watching him speed away was the first time I recall thinking I wouldn’t be able to shield him from danger forever.  But I am so proud of the fine young man he has become, and have confidence in the choices he will make to keep himself out of harm’s way.

Below is the eloquent letter John Steinbeck wrote to his teenage son, Thom, after learning he had fallen in love.  While away at boarding school, Thom wrote to his father and step-mother seeking advice regarding his feelings for a girl named Susan.  Steinbeck’s response brims with thoughtfulness, wisdom, and honesty, as well as respect and love for his son.  The words have always stuck with me (that beautiful last line!), but they returned in a meaningful way this week while thinking about how I will maintain a strong, steadying presence in Will’s life as he transitions into adulthood.  I can’t hold onto his bike seat forever.

New York
November 10, 1958

Dear Thom:

We had your letter this morning. I will answer it from my point of view and of course Elaine will from hers.

First — if you are in love — that’s a good thing — that’s about the best thing that can happen to anyone. Don’t let anyone make it small or light to you.

Second — There are several kinds of love. One is a selfish, mean, grasping, egotistical thing which uses love for self-importance. This is the ugly and crippling kind. The other is an outpouring of everything good in you — of kindness and consideration and respect — not only the social respect of manners but the greater respect which is recognition of another person as unique and valuable. The first kind can make you sick and small and weak but the second can release in you strength, and courage and goodness and even wisdom you didn’t know you had.

You say this is not puppy love. If you feel so deeply — of course it isn’t puppy love.

But I don’t think you were asking me what you feel. You know better than anyone. What you wanted me to help you with is what to do about it — and that I can tell you.

Glory in it for one thing and be very glad and grateful for it.

The object of love is the best and most beautiful. Try to live up to it.

If you love someone — there is no possible harm in saying so — only you must remember that some people are very shy and sometimes the saying must take that shyness into consideration.

Girls have a way of knowing or feeling what you feel, but they usually like to hear it also.

It sometimes happens that what you feel is not returned for one reason or another — but that does not make your feeling less valuable and good.

Lastly, I know your feeling because I have it and I’m glad you have it.

We will be glad to meet Susan. She will be very welcome. But Elaine will make all such arrangements because that is her province and she will be very glad to. She knows about love too and maybe she can give you more help than I can.

And don’t worry about losing. If it is right, it happens — The main thing is not to hurry. Nothing good gets away.

Love,

Fa

*from Steinbeck: A Life in Letters

Necessary Luxuries

 

DSC_0062 Happy Monday to you!  Though I’m sad to say goodbye to this weekend filled with family, friends and gorgeous weather, the bouquet I put together for our Easter celebration will make me seriously happy all week long.  Fresh flowers are on my list of necessary luxuries, along with: Friday night sushi, traditional Sunday dinners at home, the exquisite custom letterpress stationery my friend Amy created for me, runs by the lake, coffee dates with friends, and a handful of embarrassingly expensive hair and skin care products.  Do you have any little luxuries you hate to live without?   DSC_0066 DSC_0071photo 3

This Weekend: Best of the Fest Children’s Film Series and The Antiques & Garden Fair

 

Last weekend I had the pleasure of attending the first installment of Best of the Fest Children’s Film Series, produced by Chicago’s Facets Multi-Media and presented at Gorton Community Center in Lake Forest.  Milos Stehlik (pictured above), founder of Facets, travels the world to find films for children that engage, entertain, and empower.  Last Sunday’s short films carried themes of persistence, music, love, acceptance, courage, and the environment that were told mainly from children’s perspectives but loved by viewers of all ages.   The familiar sounds of children’s chatter, wiggling seats, and rustling popcorn bags came only in the moments between short films.  During the showings, kids in attendance were completely engrossed in the films, letting out bursts of infectious giggles and sometimes shouting enthusiastic proclamations of plot discovery.   This Sunday, April 13th, Facets returns to Gorton at 4pm to present three book-based short films, including the Oscar winning “The Gruffalo.”  Seating is limited but tickets are still available on Gorton’s website (link here).  Tickets are also available on Gorton’s site for the last installment on April 27th.

Also this weekend is one of my favorite Chicago Botanic Garden events, the Antiques and Garden Fair.  Friday through Sunday from 10am to 5pm each day, gorgeous floral displays surround 120 booths filled with treasures from around the world.  Year after year I walk out with a lighter wallet and a heavier trunk (remember this goody from last year?)!  Tickets available on the Chicago Botanic Garden’s site (here).

Happy Early Weekend! xo

The Aesthete and the Dilettante Featured in Forest & Bluff

I was absolutely delighted that the aesthete and the dilettante was featured in the April issue of Forest & Bluff Magazine!  A huge thank you to Ann Marie Scheidler, the editorial director of Forest & Bluff, for writing such a kind and thoughtful article.  It’s an honor to be on the pages of a magazine I truly love!  To read the article, click here.

above photo by Jim Prisching from Forest & Bluff article

Throwback Thursday: The Chicago Botanic Garden In Spring

DSC_0151

Today I popped into my favorite flower shop in Lake Bluff, Twigs, for a dose of color therapy on this rainy, 38 degree day.  I picked up some flowering cherry branches for my mantel, which reminded me of the pictures I took at The Chicago Botanic Garden last April.  I can’t wait for everything to bloom again!

DSC_0145DSC_0148 DSC_0146all photos via the aesthete and the dilettante

Spring Style: Steal This Look

Spring Style: Steal This Look
Is anyone else desperate for color?  Stepping into spring with colorful statement loafers and wear-with-everything blue basics will be an instant mood lifter.  Topped with a neutral leather or military inspired jacket and a patterned scarf, you’ll have the perfect ensemble to combat April’s mercurial nature.  For a more polished look, pair solid dark denim with a crisp oxford and your favorite gold accessories.  Either way, your shoes will be the star!

Ray-ban aviators
revolveclothing.com

Olivia Palermo’s loafers shown in above photo (via pinterest) are by Pretty Loafers and are currently unavailable, though you can leave your e-mail address on the site for notification of future availability.  They have many great options in stock!

Breakfast Bite: Maple Chia Cherry Granola

DSC_0519You don’t have to spend a fortune on those little bags of artisanal granola you find at the market – it’s incredibly easy to make at home and customize to your liking!  When I was in Telluride last month, the hotel baked a fresh batch of chia seed-speckled granola every morning that was impossible to resist.  I came home determined to (a) make my own version, and (b) buy a home there.  I think my husband is relieved I’m focusing on the granola.DSC_0351DSC_0371DSC_0449Maple Chia Cherry Granola

makes approximately 9 cups

  • 4 cups old-fashioned rolled oats (not instant)
  • 1 1/2 cups unsweetened coconut flakes
  • 1/2 cup chia seeds
  • 1 cup almonds*
  • 1 cup shelled pistachios*
  • 1 cup pecan halves*
  • 1 cup maple syrup
  • 1/2 cup + 2 tablespoons canola or safflower oil
  • 1 tablespoon cinnamon
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons almond extract
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 2 teaspoons fleur de sel or kosher salt, divided
  • 1 1/2 cups dried cherries**

Preheat oven to 325 degrees.

  1. Place oats, coconut flakes, chia seeds, and 1 1/2 teaspoons salt in a large bowl.  Roughly chop almonds, pistachios, and pecan halves and add to the bowl.  Stir to combine.
  2. In a small bowl, whisk together the maple syrup, oil, cinnamon, almond extract, and vanilla extract.  Pour over the oat mixture and stir until thoroughly combined.
  3. Spread mixture evenly on a large, parchment lined baking sheet.  Bake for 40-45 minutes until mixture is light golden, stirring every 10 minutes during baking time.
  4. Remove granola from oven and sprinkle with remaining 1/2 teaspoon fleur de sel or kosher salt.  Allow to cool.
  5. Stir gently, allowing some chunks to remain.  Add the dried cherries and stir to combine.

*Feel free to substitute with any variety of  nuts.  It’s a great way to use up those odds and ends in your freezer or pantry!

**I add the cherries at the end because I find them to be too tough if they are baked.  This also allows me to set aside a little granola before they are added for the non-dried-fruit-granola fans in the house.DSC_0493

Crispy Kale and Quinoa with Roasted Broccolini and Red Peppers

DSC_0112A few months ago I decided to integrate Meatless Mondays into our weekly menu plan in the name of health and diversity.  The problem is, I have relied heavily on pasta which is not the healthiest option nor is it diverse.  This week I branched out and made veggies the star.  I love that it comes together in less than half an hour and that it’s delicious served at any temperature, making it perfect for packed lunches and picnics.  (And if you aren’t going meatless, this dish is an excellent accompaniment to teriyaki salmon or chicken.) DSC_0035Quinoa is a complete protein which makes it a great meat replacement, and it’s packed with fiber that will keep you full.  Red bell peppers add a dose of sweetness to the dish, balancing out the kale which becomes crispy, smoky and slightly charred under the broiler.  Broccolini, the other main component, is one of my favorite vegetables.  It’s available in most grocery stores but if you can’t find it, regular broccoli works well too. DSC_0081Crispy Kale and Quinoa with Roasted Broccolini and Red Peppers

serves 4 as a main course

  • 1 cup uncooked quinoa
  • 4 cloves garlic, 2 minced and 2 sliced thin
  • 2 lemons, one zested and juiced, one cut in half and reserved
  • 1/4 cup olive oil + more for drizzling
  • kosher salt
  • freshly ground pepper
  • pinch red pepper flakes
  • 1/2 teaspoon Eden Shake Sesame and Sea Vegetable Seasoning (available in the Asian section of your grocery store.  You can sub other sea seasonings and mix with black and/or white sesame seeds or use plain sesame seeds if you can’t find it) + more for sprinkling 
  • 2 bunches broccolini (about 1 pound), each stalk sliced in half lengthwise or two heads broccoli, broken into very small florets
  • 2 bunches kale of any variety (about 12 oz), large ribs removed and leaves torn into two inch pieces
  • 2 red bell peppers, sliced thin
  • toasted sesame oil
  1. Place quinoa in a fine mesh sieve and rinse well.  (Don’t skip this step or your quinoa will taste soapy and bitter).  Cook according to package instructions.
  2. While quinoa is cooking, whisk together the 2 minced garlic cloves, lemon zest, lemon juice, 1/4 cup olive oil, 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt, 1/4 teaspoon pepper, 1/2 teaspoon Eden Shake, and a pinch of red pepper flakes.
  3. When quinoa is done cooking, stir the mixture from step 2 into the still warm quinoa and set aside.
  4. Preheat broiler to high. Spread the broccolini, red bell peppers, kale and the 2 sliced garlic cloves between two baking sheets.  Drizzle with olive oil (about 2 tablespoons per sheet) and season with salt and pepper.  Toss to coat.
  5. Broil each sheet for 4 to 5 minutes, stirring well half way through.  If both trays do not fit on top rack, rotate trays from top to bottom half way through.
  6. Remove from oven and squeeze reserved lemon halves over the roasted veggies.
  7. Divide quinoa mixture and roasted veggies between four plates.  Drizzle each lightly with toasted sesame oil and sprinkle on a bit more Eden Shake and red pepper flakes.
  8. If making ahead, drizzle the veggies lightly with toasted sesame oil (a little bit goes a long way) when they come out of the oven and toss to coat.

inspired by a recipe from Sarah Copeland’s cookbook Feast: Generous Vegetarian Meals for Any Eater and Every Appetite, discovered on the Sunday Suppers site

wardrobe workhorse: one skirt four ways

one skirt four ways
Who would’ve thought a little white skirt could be so versatile?  This cameleon goes from spring to fall, weekend day to dinner party, in the blink of an eye.  I’d wear it now with tall boots, a bomber jacket and a cable knit sweater!

Rag Bone short sleeve crew neck t
rag-bone.com

Torn by Ronny Kobo skirt
intermixonline.com

BLT Chicken Salad with Basil and Grilled Avocado

DSC_0001 This recipe is for my sister Kath, who said the world could use a new chicken salad recipe – specifically one with crunch that does not involve celery.   It’s a spin on all of those BLTs we ate growing up, and will hopefully remind you of summer during this seemingly endless deep freeze.  Crisp-cooked bacon will add that crunch you’re looking for!DSC_0010BLT Chicken Salad with Basil and Grilled Avocado

serves 6

  • 5 cups cooked, shredded chicken*
  • 3/4 cup mayonnaise
  • zest of a lemon
  • 3-4 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice
  • 1/3 cup packed basil leaves, finely chopped
  • 2 large cloves garlic, one finely minced, one peeled and halved lengthwise
  • 1 1/4 teaspoons kosher salt (less if table salt)
  • 1 teaspoon freshly ground pepper
  • 2 avocados (ripe but firm), halved lengthwise, pitted and peeled
  • 3 small tomatoes, cut into thick slices
  • 9 slices crisp-cooked bacon
  • 6 ciabatta rolls, split
  • Bibb or Romaine lettuce
  1. In a large bowl, whisk together mayo, lemon zest, 3 tablespoons of lemon juice, basil, the minced garlic clove, kosher salt and pepper.  If mixture seems too thick, whisk in one more tablespoon lemon juice.  Add the cooked, shredded chicken and stir until thoroughly combined.  Taste for seasoning.
  2. Brush cut side of ciabatta halves, avocado halves, and tomato slices with olive oil.  Heat a grill pan to medium-high.  Place avocado halves flat side down on grill pan and leave undisturbed for a minute or two.  Flip and do the same on other side.  Remove from pan and cut into thick slices.
  3. Add tomato slices to grill pan and cook for a minute on each side or until tomatoes soften and begin to char.  Remove from pan.**
  4. Add ciabatta halves cut side down and grill until warm and lightly toasted.  Remove from pan and rub still-warm rolls on the cut side with garlic clove halves.
  5. If serving immediately, assemble sandwiches with the chicken salad, avocado, bacon (1 and 1/2 slices per sandwich) and tomatoes, adding lettuce if desired.  If making ahead, crumble the bacon slices, cut avocado and tomato slices into chunks, and stir into chicken salad.

*Roast chicken is in regular rotation at our home, and I often roast two at once.  There is plenty of room in the pan so why not?  This way I can serve one for dinner and shred the second for enchiladas, salads, barbecued chicken sandwiches, or a quick dinner of quesadillas.  Store-bought rotisserie chickens are a time saving alternative.

**Grilling or roasting winter tomatoes concentrates and sweetens their flavor, making them taste much more like summer tomatoes.  It is a worthwhile step!DSC_0005