to baby bear, at age two

June 2nd, 2016

Baby Bear,

I’ve been thinking about this letter for a while, but haven’t quite found time to type it up.

(In fact, I don’t really have time right now.  I’m not even sitting at a computer as I write this, I’m thumb-typing on my iPhone while you watch Saturday morning cartoons.  You just looked over at me and said, “no phone, mama,” which is BS because you’re sitting there on your iPad!  But I digress.  If this letter gets thumb-typed into my phone, I guess that’s how it gets written.)

It’s been two years and a few weeks since you joined our family. It feels like yesterday and another lifetime at the same time.  Year two was, plain and simple, amazing. Year one was a roller coaster, but year two was like we suddenly hit the new normal. Everything was different than it was before you arrived, but it took that second year for me to fully realize how wonderful that new, different life was.

First, if any new moms are reading this right now, I have to say one thing: Year two is just so much better than year one. Literally, night and day.  Motherhood is so hard at the beginning, but it gets so much better. Those sleepless nights, the exhaustion and frustration in the beginning, it lets up. Suddenly you look down and that tiny, screaming baby has turned into a human being who wants to wear the black shoes and have Mac and Cheese for dinner and eat it with a fork, please. It’s crazy. Every once in a while, I go through old photos and videos from a year ago, and they almost feel like a different lifetime.

This year has also felt more balanced than year one. At the beginning, parenting is so reactive. It has to be. Baby crying? Try everything.  Try every single thing you can think of until it stops. Of course it’s exhausting.

But now? You can talk! Parents make a big deal out of milestones like smiling and sitting up and walking, but communication blows them all away. You can finally tell me what’s going on in your head!  It’s nothing short of life-changing.

Instead of focusing on figuring out what you need, we can actually talk to each other. You have opinions!  You’re excited about the people and animals you meet, you have favorite toys and foods and games. You’re this cool, fun little person who I’m excited to learn more about every day.  I can’t wait to get to know you even better.

Things are so wonderful right now.  So wonderful that it’s almost bittersweet to write this letter.  It feels so final.  It feels like the end of something instead of the middle, which is where we actually are.  It’s hard to think about today without wanting everything to stand still, right now, and never change again.

But this year, I got a lot better at learning how to change.  It sounds like such a simple thing, but it’s not.  Everything else becomes easy when you can let things change. We had some big ones this year. Relaxing into them — letting them happen without trying to stop them or make them different — is the single thing that worked.

Change is inevitable. The only thing you can’t change in this world is the fact that everything changes.  Your baby days are already gone.  One day, I looked down, and you were suddenly a kid.  Your second year is already past us.  This moment, you sitting next to me on a Saturday morning, is over too.  It never stops.  We’re just along for the ride together.  And I’m so grateful to be riding next to you.

Last year, I ended my letter with “I love you so much.”  Of course, I loved you so much then.  But now?  Those words feel almost incomplete. 

It’s not that I love you.  You are love, to me now.

We are so lucky, you and me.  To share this life, to love each other, to do our best for the world around us.

The word grateful doesn’t even begin to capture it.  

All my love,

Your Mom

Photography: Michael Wesley

Bear 2nd Bday (Full Jpeg)-55

→ CommentsTags: life




back to basics: burrata pasta

March 31st, 2016

Burrata-Pasta-2

When I started this site almost a decade ago (some of you may remember!), it wasn’t to write about clothes or makeup.  Or motherhood.  Or my career, or politics, or my thoughts, or about life in general.  I started this blog with a very specific purpose: to keep track of the recipes I made as I was learning to cook. 

After about two years of posting nothing but recipes on this website, I took a detour.  I read an article about how bloggers were revolutionizing the fashion industry by posting real-life outfits that they were actually wearing, instead of magazine spreads with professional models and stylists and photographers.  And I decided to add fashion to this blog, and the rest is history.  (Sort of.  Eight years later, I’m not sure that’s exactly what happened with fashion blogging, but that’s a topic for another day.)

But you know what I’ve heard, time and again, from readers of this site?  They loved the recipes. 

So, hey, guess what?  I decided to listen!

With a two-year-old and a full time job, I don’t have a lot of time to cook these days.  You probably won’t see me rendering duck fat any time soon. (For years, that post about duck fat was the most popular post on this blog, FYI.  Duck fat.  Ponder that for a moment.)

But I still love cooking.  Sure, there’s something wonderful about a lazy night eating takeout on the couch, but give me a quiet weekend, and you’ll still find me scoping out the farmers market, making a giant mess in our kitchen, and emerging with something delicious.  So when a few of you guys wrote to me in January and mentioned recipes, I thought, hey, while I take a few months to figure out where this blogging thing is headed… maybe getting back to basics for a while would be a good start.

But here’s a wrinkle in writing about recipes.

I don’t always use them. 

In fact, unless I’m baking, most of the time, I don’t use recipes. 

I’ve been experimenting in the kitchen for long enough that following a set of ingredients or directions sounds kind of… boring?  I guess that’s it.  The problem is, when you don’t use a recipe while you’re making a dish, it’s really hard to post a step-by-step recipe online after the dish is done. 

(This is not to say, “oh, I’m such a great cook that I don’t use recipes.”  In fact, it’s more often the opposite.  Not using recipes is often a total disaster.  I once made an entire stock pot of butternut squash soup, and at the last minute decided to pour a beer into it.  It was completely disgusting, and I had to throw out the entire thing.  That’s not a lone example; I could tell a dozen stories with the same ending.  But if I’m telling the truth about how I cook, the fact is, I mostly prefer to do things my way, disasters included, than to follow directions.)

For now, I’m going to experiment with a new way to write these up.  I’m going to tell you, as best I can, what I did to create a dish.  But I’m going to do it as a narrative, not as a set of ingredients and a list of directions. 

So here we go. 

This recipe starts with some pasta.  Right about now, you might be wondering, “What type of pasta is that?”  The answer is: I have no idea.  No clue whatsoever.  It’s a type that I saw at the grocery store and I bought it.  A quick Google Image search suggests that it might be called gomiti, but truthfully, I’ve never heard of that type of pasta before and that might just be a word that someone made up.  Can you use other types of pasta in this recipe?  Again, not a clue.  Probably.  I don’t see how it would make much of a difference.  Live wild and free, people. 

Where were we?  Oh right, pasta.  Boil the water for your pasta.  Add some salt, because that’s a thing that the Food Network told me to do at one point, supposedly it makes the pasta more flavorful.  In a separate pan, simmer the garlic in the olive oil.  Add tomatoes (break them up with your fingers or chop them), dried basil, dried oregano, dried parsley, burrata (again, chopped), parmesan, and spinach. 

Oh, what’s that?  You have some more questions?

How much basil should I use?  I wish I could tell you.  I just shook some into the bowl until I decided there was enough.  Great method!  Super easy to replicate!  Not.  Maybe a teaspoon?  I’m just making that up.  It could be more or less.  The other spices are easier: a large pinch. 

Why did you use burrata instead of mozzarella?  Because burrata is pretty much my favorite food on earth and I use it in everything and if you haven’t tried it yet, your life is literally incomplete.  Please do so right now. 

What’s burrata?  Shoot.  You got me.  I don’t know.  In starting to type this, I was pretty sure that it was a type of mozzarella, but Google tells me that I’m wrong.  It’s a separate type of cheese made from mozzarella.  Basically, it looks like a ball of mozzarella, but when you slice into it, it’s this creamy, liquid-y goop that just might be the best thing you’ve ever tasted. 

Back to the recipe(-ish).  Simmer all the ingredients for about twenty minutes.  Cook the pasta for the number of minutes it says on the box.  Drain the pasta, mix everything together, sprinkle some additional parmesan on the top, and serve!

That’s pretty much it!  It’s really yummy.  Basically, just throw the ingredients into a bowl and it’ll probably turn out fine.  I’m not sure there’s much you could do to screw it up.  (Don’t dump a beer in it.  Take it from me, that’s always a mistake.) Rough instructions below.  Go give it a try!

Burrata-Pasta

→ CommentsTags: food · main dishes




making it look easy?  i hope not.

March 14th, 2016

Bear-Mom-Final-1

Hi guys!  I’m currently in the process of redesigning this website, so I thought I’d revisit a few older posts that I’m really proud of.  If you didn’t catch these the first time, please check them out!  More updates soon.  xo

Sometimes when I post a particularly sweet photo, video, or blog post about our son, I get a comment back: “You make it look easy.”

Undoubtedly, this comment comes from a good place.  It’s someone telling me that I’m doing ok at this whole mothering thing (hopefully, I am), that life seems pretty good (it is) and that the baby and I are clearly happy (we are). 

But, oh my gosh.  The last thing I would want to do ever is make it look easy.

Social media and blogging are such wonderful additions to our culture; they let people connect across huge distances and cultural divides.  They make cooped-up new moms feel like they’re part of a community, they help us share knowledge and advice, and they enrich our lives in so many ways.

But they also make us competitive with each other.  They make us compare our real-life experience with a snapshot of someone else’s — a beautiful, happy snapshot, but one that lacks context and background.  Trust me: For every cute date-night outfit, there’s also a day when I don’t have time to even brush my hair.  For every sweet baby smile, there’s a night when he wakes up every two hours in tears.  Those moments are part of reality for any new mom, whether we choose to share them or not. 

Bear-Final-2

I don’t mean to say that there’s anything wrong with posting those beautiful moments — there isn’t, and I treasure all the sweet little smiles I’ve captured on camera in these last few months. 

But phrases like “making it look easy” make it seem like there’s something wrong with you if it’s not easy.  If it’s not easy, that it’s your fault.  That it could be “easy” if you would just do things differently. 

But here’s the thing: life isn’t rewarding or rich because it’s easy.  Life is incredible because of those tiny little moments, every day, when we appreciate something joyful or meaningful in our daily experiences.  Sure, there are great, easy days.  And there are also so many great moments in the not-easy days. 

If you’re expecting it to be easy — just because someone else might make it look easy — you’re always going to be unsatisfied. 

And I wanted to write this, because I worry sometimes that I contribute to it.  I worry that when I write about topics like breastfeeding, postpartum weight loss, or even how I’ve chosen to pursue my career, that others will feel badly because they’re struggling with those same issues.  To write about these topics suggests, in some small way, that you have figured them out.  But these are day-to-day struggles, and I don’t think anyone has fully figured them out.

All our lives are different.  And it’s important to remember that.  Each mom out there — each person out there, parent or not — has their own ups and downs that are unique to their family.  And I know that some of my toughest moments — the 2 a.m. wake-ups and the mornings that I frantically proofread a brief while our son naps in the next room — are the memories that I’ll look back on, years later, when he’s all grown up, and smile. 

So who really wants ‘easy’ anyways?

→ CommentsTags: baby · life




democracy is a gift, not a guarantee.

March 1st, 2016

Photo Jan 09, 7 01 00 PM

I’ll make you a promise at the beginning of this post: I’m not going to try to convince you of anything.  I’m not going to argue.  I’m not going to persuade.  But I am going to say some things that I believe.  You can listen if you want.

If you’re an American, you’re probably well aware that there’s an election coming up.

How could you not be?  Our media has turned into a 24/7 cacophony of political commentary.  It makes us all agitated and desperate, certain that the sky is about to fall if some other position gains any ground.  It’s exhausting.  And I think it’s kind of… wrong. 

I believe so much in our country.  So much that I’m not going to tell you who to vote for.  That’s not the point.  That’s not what makes our system great.  If you take my word for it, if you vote for a candidate because I tell you to, or because your parents told you to, or because the media or the leaders of a political party tell you to, something has already gone wrong.

An election is kind of like a jury.  For those of us who practice law, juries can be daunting.  You spend months or years putting together all the facts about a case, and at the end, you turn the decision over to twelve random people picked off the street, and they decide who wins and loses.  That’s our legal system, in a nutshell.  It places a tremendous amount of faith in the average person to get to the heart of things and make the right decision.  And most of the time, they do.  It’s amazing.

Elections are the same way.  There’s so much rhetoric and posturing and theatre that goes into them, but at the end of the day, the ultimate decision belongs to every single person in our country.  Our elections are decided by the tiny, individual decisions of 300 million people, each one of us contributing in our own small way.

When I think about our country, I’m almost overwhelmed with pride.  I’ve devoted my career to the law, which is the foundation of our whole system.  I’m so proud of that.  When I’m hung up on some day-to-day frustration with an aspect of my job, I remind myself of how fortunate I am to be doing what I do.  How fortunate we are to set our own laws through a democratic process, even an imperfect one.  What a privilege that is, and how much it matters.

Two hundred years ago (which is not really very long, when you think about it), in the wake of the American Revolution, we created an entire political system out of a few basic principles.  We based that system on two things: fundamental individual rights and checks and balances to prevent the abuse of power.  That’s pretty much it.  Every single American who is reading this has lived their life with the freedom created by that system. 

That freedom was an incredible gift.  And it wasn’t a gift that someone gave us.  It was a gift that we — as citizens — gave ourselves.  We agreed to come together to form our own government.

No, it wasn’t perfect.  But in just a few generations, it’s made incredible progress.  And it keeps getting better and better.  Want to know why?  It’s because we didn’t create a static system.  We created a flexible political system that would keep evolving along with us.  That was the miracle.  It wasn’t that we did something right, one time, two hundred years ago, and then sat back and watched it all play out.  Check the right box, and then enjoy a perfect life forever, thankyouverymuch.  That’s impossible.  That’s a dream world.  That’s not what we did. 

Instead, we created tools that could keep us moving toward what’s right, every day, in tiny increments.  That’s the miracle that I watch playing out around me, every single day.  That’s what makes me so proud of our country that I can barely breathe sometimes.  That we’re getting there.  That we keep going.  That we know better today than we did a hundred years ago, and we keep adapting.

That if we just keep pushing forward, we’re going to be ok.

I really believe that.

I argue about ideas all day long, but sometimes arguing for your ideas misses the point.  Democracy isn’t about getting one set of ideas pushed through, even if you think those ideas are totally, completely, 100% exactly right.  I’ve had political conversations with people of wildly different viewpoints, and I’ve always found that when both sides can argue with respect and information, there’s common ground.  We can usually figure out where we agree.  And that common ground is our democracy.

I originally meant for this post to tell you guys who I’m voting for.  I could tell you who, and I could give you my reasons why, but we all know that you shouldn’t take my word for it.  I’ll tell you this: The candidate I’m voting for is someone who I believe is a good person.  A true public servant who genuinely wants what’s best for the American people.  Someone who I believe can do this job, and do it well.  But if that person isn’t on the ballot in November, I’ll vote for someone else.

I don’t want to talk about any particular candidate. 

I want to talk about the choice itself.

Lots of states have primary elections today.  Others will have them over the next few months, and we’ll all have a general election in November.  Sometime between now and then, please register to vote.  You can do that online in thirty states (see the list here), or else by using this form.  If you need help, send me an email (use the Subject “Voter Registration” so it doesn’t get stuck in my spam folder).  The more of us who contribute our voices, the better our system works.  I trust that. 

Our democracy is a gift, not a guarantee.  The privilege to choose our leadership is an incredible one.  We were given it, and it’s up to us to ensure that our kids get it too.  There are a million ways that we have to work really hard to make sure that happens.  It takes a huge amount of personal responsibility, from each and every one of us. 

Sometimes it feels exhausting to have responsibility for the whole system fall squarely on your shoulders.  But that’s how the system works.  Through empowering millions of us to make our own decisions.  Through compromising to reach a middle ground.  Through respecting each other and listening to everyone’s opinions and perspectives. 

Through inching closer, day by day, to what’s right.  As best we can.  Until we finally get there, if we ever do. 

→ CommentsTags: life




a whispering return

January 21st, 2016

sugarlaws-4{Photo Credit: Rachel Sutherland}

About six weeks ago, I announced some big changes on Sugarlaws for 2016. And then a few weeks passed, and I looked down at my calendar and realized that the month of January is almost over (what??) and I haven’t written a word.

And on one hand, that’s sort of ok. I’ve had some time to sit with my decision and I’m feeling better than ever about it. I’ve received so many incredibly kind words from readers, other bloggers, and friends, and it sounds like you guys are willing to stick with me on this new adventure. Thank you. I may not say it often enough, but know that I’m thinking it, every single day.

But I also didn’t mean for this silence to be quite as long as it was. With every day that passed, it felt to me like it got louder and louder. And eventually, weeks later, I had to admit to myself that something unexpected had happened.

Announcing those big changes had a side effect… suddenly, I felt self-conscious about this site.

What would my next post be? If it’s not about fashion, then what? Law? Politics? Entertainment? Science? Whatever it was, I felt myself thinking, it needs to be great.

I’ve always been a bit of a perfectionist, and I felt that rise up in spades in the last month. The next post I wrote had to be that pitch-perfect, incisive, compelling, magical set of words that would sum up everything I want from this blog.

(And if I couldn’t do that, I might as well just not write anything, right?)

But in thirty-four years on this planet, I’ve realized that that little voice of perfectionism isn’t there to help. It never helps. It makes things harder, every single time.

I realized that so viscerally when I became a mother. It took me a while to realize that Bear didn’t care if I was perfect. He just wanted me to be his mom.

And, you know what? I don’t have to be so darn perfect here either. This post isn’t great. I can already tell! You probably can too. It’s about what’s going on in my mind right at this moment, which is a mix of some lofty ideals and some stress about my ability to accomplish them.

You know… life.

But when I started thinking about it, I realized that’s exactly what I wanted to write about. It doesn’t have to be perfect. I don’t have to solve modern physics or explain the First Amendment. I just have to be honest and open and here. If I can do that, I’m satisfied.

This post isn’t anything special. It’s a little more scattered and a little less eloquent than I hoped it would be when I started writing.

But it’s something.

And that’s the first step.

→ CommentsTags: life