friends and oysters.


I recently read this post about ladies' nights and how precious those moments can be. Moving around a lot has been both a blessing and a curse in my life. A blessing for obvious reasons--the ability to call a new locale "home", meeting new people and discovering your new favorite whatever. Yet, there are also the difficulties that come with changing scenery--the inability to become close to whoever you meet, feeling lost and at times, lonely. Throw in the challenge of being a mom who doesn't really enjoy mom groups* and it's another hurdle completely.

Maybe it's because I had some great girlfriends in Florida who also happened to have children around the same time as me that I placed an expectation here that it would be fairly easy to meet people like them. I felt (and sometimes still feel) pressure to meet other mothers but after reexamining why I felt this way, I decided to do away with the prerequisite must-have-kids. Who cares if I'm in the mom minority in a group of girls? I guess I always just felt that other moms would be more relatable and then I reminded myself that just because I'm a mother doesn't mean I lost my identity as the person I was before having a child. I still enjoy my independence and going out. I still believe in the power of a great circle of friends and how those friends turn into family. And I definitely don't want to limit myself because of a self-imposed restriction. 

Then some rare gems appeared and before I knew it, we're sipping on fabulous cocktails, having oysters and exchanging stories and anecdotes about each other during a recently discovered "oyster happy hour" at one of the best restaurants in town which also happens to be less than ten minutes away from where I live. It doesn't matter if you're single, married or divorced. It doesn't matter if you're a mom, if you're not a mom, or if you never want to be a mom. The point is, none of that stuff is what defines friendships. It's about being surrounded by people who let me be my complete self around them. Those moments are what feel so familiar, even though sometimes, it could be just the beginning.

[*I don't hate mom groups; I just haven't found one that I really enjoyed being a part of since moving out of Florida. And that's ok! For those who have found their circles, good on you! They're just not for me.]


 
 

scout + wolf pop-up recipe: sweet summer eggplant parmesan



To say that I like Italian cooking would be a gross understatement. To say that I love Italian cooking...now, we're getting somewhere. Being married to a half-Italian man is both awesome (the food! the passion! the family!) and incredibly intimidating (the food! the passion! the family!). Having met him (along with at least thirty of his relatives) for the first time at his family's annual traditional "Italian Night" feast, I had a feeling that I'd fall in love with him and all he came with, secret recipes and all. 

Although I love to cook and experiment with ingredients that are otherwise foreign to me and my kitchen origins, I had my work cut out for me. I had meatballs to live up to, lasagna to perfect, and sauce to master. The truth is, though, admittedly, it's very hard for me to adhere to a recipe word for word. I can be exacting, but when it comes to food, I believe in trial by fire (quite literally). Needless to say, my "versions" of family recipes are always just slightly ...different. ;-)


I decided to make eggplant parmesan the other day. It was a Monday and while it doesn't always work out this way, I have been trying to make "Meatless Mondays" a thing in our household. Why not? It can't hurt to cut out meat (at least) once a week. I started looking through my cookbooks and scouring Pinterest boards. It's the middle of August and we are in prime tomato season. Forget canned tomatoes! I wanted a sauce recipe using fresh ones! And then I found it: Marcella Hazan's tomato sauce.


A little bit about Hazan: from what I've gathered, she's basically the Julia Child of Italian cooking. She wrote a book called The Essentials of Classic Italian Cooking that is just as ubiquitous as Child's Mastering the Art of French Cooking. Interestingly, despite having no kitchen background, she made it a mission of hers to learn how to cook for her new husband shortly after they married. In her years, she taught cooking classes from their small New York apartment kitchen and eventually wrote books. The rest, as they say, is history.

So what makes this sauce so special? It has four ingredients. FOUR. Tomatoes, one onion, butter (you guys, butter), and salt. That's it. Huh? Where's the garlic? Where's the basil? Where's the whatever-else-you-want-to-put-in-your-sauce to make it sauce? I had to take everything I had ever learned or read about making sauce and shove it in a drawer, to be opened at a later date. I was determined to try Hazan's sauce but just as I mentioned earlier, I couldn't help but divert from the original recipe. Instead of using canned tomatoes, I opted for the beautiful fresh yellow and red ones I had sitting on the counter just waiting for their opportunity to shine.


I blanched them, peeled them and got to work. If you could've smelled my house! This sauce is ridiculous, a startling burst of sweet and savory that just lingers on your palate long enough for you to keep "tasting" directly from the pot.


Assembling eggplant parmesan is easy, albeit a little time consuming. While eggplant lends itself to being a great summer vegetable, it does have that unique bitter bite to it. A useful tip I learned over the years to minimize it is to salt it after it's been sliced and to let it sit in a colander for about 30 minutes. Afterwards, I pat them dry and dunk them in an egg wash before dredging them in a mixture of panko, freshly grated parmesan, dried oregano, basil, salt and pepper. Instead of frying the eggplant, I bake it in an oven at 400°F for 20-25 minutes on each side, or until your eggplant slices turn into beautiful golden disks. Then, layer and bake. Serve with a little bit of pasta, a light salad and a nice glass of red.


Dinner done.

Sweet Summer Eggplant Parmesan
serves 4

1 large eggplant, thinly sliced to 1/4" thickness
2 eggs
1 tbsp water
1 cup panko/breadcrumbs
1 cup fresh parmesan cheese, grated
3/4 cup mozzarella, shredded
1 ball of fresh mozzarella, sliced into six rounds
1 tsp dried oregano
fresh basil and parsley, chopped
salt and pepper to taste

The Sauce (adapted from Marcella Hazan)
2 lbs fresh tomatoes, blanched and peeled
5 tbsp butter
1 onion, halved
salt

Preheat oven to 375°F.

Slice the eggplant and liberally salt while setting aside in a colander for 30 minutes.

While the eggplant is doing its thing, coarsely chop your blanched and peeled tomatoes. Throw in a pot with the butter (almost an entire stick, folks!) and onion. Bring to a boil and then turn it down to a lower simmer for about 45 minutes or so. Keep stirring to break up larger tomato chunks and add salt to taste. Set aside when done.

Make an egg wash of eggs and water in a shallow bowl. In another shallow bowl, add panko / breadcrumbs, and parmesan along with oregano, salt and pepper. Start your assembly line of dunking eggplant in egg wash and dredging in breadcrumb mixture. 


Once all your eggplant slices are coated, bake in oven for 20-25 minutes, flip them over, and bake for another 20-25 minutes or until golden. Set aside and raise oven temperature to 400°F.


Finally, build your meal! Spoon a layer of sauce at the bottom of a baking dish. Add eggplant slices and sprinkle shredded mozzarella on top. Keep layering: sauce, eggplant, cheese. Repeat until ingredients are used up. Top your eggplant parmesan with slices of fresh mozzarella and any of the remaining breadcrumb mixture.


Bake in the oven for 25 minutes or until your top layer is browned and bubbling. Top with fresh basil and parsley. Let stand for five minutes before digging in.


 
 

introducing: scout + wolf


Coming down and getting back into our new normal after the wedding has been really wonderful. It's easy to get lost in all of the planning, putting things on hold and what not, but now that the dust is finally settling, there's something I'd like to share with you.




Last night, Jesse and I went out on a date. Date nights are some of my favorite because it gives us a chance to unwind, enjoy each other's company and really pick each other's brains about goals. And then, sometimes you have date nights that involve self-evolution and life-changing talks. And sometimes, these talks involve creativity. And passion. And lighting a fire under one's (read: my) ass. Because this is something I've desired and yearned for for years and years. Because lovers, friends, frenemies, family, framilies and everyone in between can become a community who shares something at the table. Because at least 75% of my Instagram photos are of meals. Because the kitchen has always felt like my safe place. Because rare and unusual ingredients get me giddy. Because my Le Creuset french oven is my most prized kitchen possession after a great knife set.

Because...because...because. I can give you a million other "because" reasons. But my most important "because" is simple: Because food. (Duh.)



I'm starting a food blog (eeeeep!) called Scout + Wolf. It is currently under construction so before I actually launch it, I want all of you to be a part of a  pop-up food series on T Spoon of Sunshine dedicated solely to cooking, creating, eating and enjoying. I'll be sure to add recipes that I find inspiring and also include my own. I'd really love your suggestions and feedback! Think of it as a soft-opening and all of you are invited. ;-)

Now that that's all out in the open, what would you like the first recipe to be? I'd love to know.

(P.S. In the meantime, start following Scout + Wolf on Instagram!)

 
 

one.


It's amazing to think that exactly one month ago, I found myself alone for a few precious seconds before walking down the aisle to the man who stole a huge part of my heart. In that fleeting instance in the bridal suite of the venue where we wed, my knees buckled, my breath had to be paced and I realized that I don't think I had ever, in my life, felt more present than right then and there. 

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Having asked those who had had weddings before how they felt during the big day, I got several responses:  "It was a blur," or "I looked like I was having a lot of fun in the pictures, " or "It goes by so fast." I didn't want it to be a blur, or that it just looked like I was having fun. I wanted to remember and savor every single moment of it and I most certainly wanted to actually have fun. I wanted to keep that day in slow-mo because that magic comes around so rarely in life.




Then everything happened.




The wedding party started to file in. A enthusiastically called for him over a sea of people and her voice was so ecstatic and genuine it carried over to the room I was in and made me well up with tears. And my cue came when Andrew Bird's "Unfolding Fans" started to play. It was time to commit to the rest of my life with the love of my life.



I made it to him and we held each other's hands. We were nervous and giddy, maybe a little scared but mostly excited. We whispered calming words to each other and smiled and laughed. It was everything I was supposed to be feeling and more.




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The day was dreamy, ethereal, bright and honest. There was so much color! Seeing our family and closest friends touched us to the core. A girlfriend of mine told us that the reason she loves weddings so much is because she's there to witness and support a union between two people who love each other, that she is part of a select group of people who are also a community of love for the couple, and that her job is to remind us of who we are and why we fell in love with each other in times that may be stormy down the road. Isn't that beautiful? As a guest, I never thought of weddings that way until she mentioned it and it's certainly something that holds weight.


Onto the next big thing! This life just gets more and more extraordinary.



 
 

the 11-day homestretch.



Somehow, I blinked and all this time managed to slip between the cracks. In what feels like a very short past six months, I dove right into planning a wedding and curating a marriage. Now, I find myself going through a checklist of final things that need to be taken care of over the next eleven days.

You guys. Eleven.

There's so much going on in my head and in my heart that there isn't one word to accurately summarize this emotion. What I do know is that I wouldn't trade it for anything in the world. The other night, I found myself in bed feeling really antsy. I was trying to get to bed but I was in that weird space of time just before falling asleep but struggling to fight a too-active mind. I was going back and forth with myself about all the wedding details: flowers, decor, food, drinks, etc. You know, all the stuff on the sidelines of parties but are incredibly critical to the way the party is actually executed. I thought about my Maids of Honor (yes, Maids because I couldn't pick just one). I thought about my dress. I thought about the weather--how hot will it be? How humid will it be? I thought about A's nap schedules and wishing and hoping she doesn't have a flower girl meltdown (toddlers!). I thought about my dad and how I wished he could be there, even if he was a total grouch. I thought about the cake and the pies we will have. And I thought about Jesse. In his suit. Standing at the end of the aisle looking handsome as all hell. Waiting for me. Me!

I told a girlfriend of mine that it feels like there's a balloon in my chest that keeps rising and falling, as if someone is trying to inflate it, but air keeps escaping it. It deflates, but more air is added until it feels tight and big, like it's about to burst. The pattern repeats itself--deflate, inflate, deflate, inflate. I look around me and see the life we're building, and also see the life we've already built. I look over at him and feel all the things: there he is, the man I'm going to spend the rest of my life with. We are passionate people with a lot of fight in us. And in our relatively short-ish relationship, we've been put through the ringer, yet somehow, there was a natural and organic progression of things. We went through an evolution and we are continuing to evolve. This is the man I'm creating a future with. Together, we are going to make this life the best we've ever known. I love what we have and the life we are headed towards.

I recently got some really great advice that I'm taking wholeheartedly from one of my best friends who said, "Try to remember these last few days in as much detail as possible. Try and remember what it was like before you actually got married. Because those feelings are never going to be there again and they are so sweet to remember." I agree. And I also believe the sweetest memories are yet to come.




 
 

an anniversary.


The month of March will forever hold a special place in my heart. My sweet A was born, it is the start of spring, and exactly one year ago today, A and I made Atlanta our new home. Isn't it crazy how fast that happened? In a year's time, so much has changed and continues to change, moving us along beautifully in the present and into such a bright future full of happiness and I'm eternally grateful to have a man in my life who is along for the ride. Today is our one year anniversary in this city among the trees. Spring is springing all around--the grass is getting greener, the flowers are starting to bloom, and the air feels fresher. There's always a feeling of newness that I embrace and now look forward to each year at this time. It's like a magical restart button that I get to press.

I just realized that my two previous posts were mirror opposites of each other--death and birth. Even more symbolic to me is that these topics are direct and personal and ones I have recently experienced. With death comes birth and it repeats--a constant circle that never stops, a pattern that's predictable and expected, and something that everyone will experience at some point in their lives. There are times when I can't help but accept that it was simply my dad's time to go. On our recent trip over there, I found out that his last words were, "I'm very very tired." And when we got there and saw him, he just appeared to be sleeping, resting peacefully with a slight smile. That's the best that I could have expected, you know? And again, at the very least, he and A got to "meet" each other, albeit not in the way I would have wanted, but a connection nonetheless.

This spring is throwing us right into the beginning of the next year of excitement and anticipation and I can't wait. So much again is happening so stay tuned. The best is yet to come!


 
 

two.



Dear An-chan,

You officially turned two years-old today. Two! I can't believe it. In your short time on earth, you've already accomplished so much: seven or eight at-home haircuts (I've lost track), crawling, standing, walking, running, the mastery of the temper tantrum, being demure, being a ham, singing songs, counting to ten (sometimes to eleven), dancing, and my most favorite thing yet--saying, "I love you so much more every day!" You've also traveled quite a bit by trains, planes, and automobiles. You've explored both the east and west coasts of the continental United States and you got to experience your first international trip to Japan just a few weeks ago. I will say, you're a pretty great travel companion (when you behave ;-)! How did I get so lucky to have a little girl like you?

Not only have you done so much on your own, you've also challenged me in more ways than I ever could have imagined. I've never been more frustrated with a single human being in my life, yet have never understood or known the kind of love I have for you before. You push me to my limits and just when I think I'm about to lose my sh*t, you turn it all around by saying or doing something that leaves me crying from laughter. There are times when we don't and won't see eye to eye. But I hope you always know that I love you and always will love you forever and ever.

Today was all about you. We celebrated everything about you with a picnic in the park complete with family, friends, cupcakes, presents and an impromptu "studio" photo shoot in our kitchen. I love love love you!

Happy birthday, An-chan!

Love,
Mama