Back to School Vibes
Family dinners, cooking more than I thought, and September energy
It’s the first Tuesday in September, a day that will be forever etched in my memory as the first day of school. The first year after I graduated college, September was unexpectedly hard. I half expected to be fetched from my desk at my job in Guatemala, handed a backpack (or tote bag), schedule, and syllabus and taken to a lecture hall. I’ve gotten used to not being in school, but this year is another transition. It’s the first school year since 2018 where I’m not teaching (we used to start a little later in the month but preparation would be well underway). Part of me wishes to have an excuse to ask a bunch of sweet kids how their summer was and part of me is very relieved that I’m not going back (I wrote more about that decision here). The fall will be full of travel (I’m heading to London in a few weeks), ebook publication and a few other exciting projects! I think I’ll always get that back to school twinge though (I am a virgo) and I’m sending the best energy to all the caregivers, students, and teachers out there! You’ve got this!
Now, let’s dive in.
Thursday’s newsletter will be about hostess gifts, which are very much on my mind as I prep for some travel!
Something to cook:
Michelle and Manny gifted me some goodies from Brightland for my birthday and so far I am obsessed with the vinegar, which adds the perfect zip to a salad, avocado toast, or sauce if you don’t have an open bottle of wine to deglaze with. The packaging is beautiful as well (it would make a great hostess gift).
Julia and I made a big pan of fried rice for our Bachelorette viewing. When we were roommates, this recipe was a go-to (we would buy cooked rice from the Chinese restaurant down the block) and it still holds up. With fried rice, I like to be generous with toppings: chili crisp, kewpie mayo, furikake, etc.
Erica and I cooked up a fantastic dinner party with Emma, Shelly, and their partners as a pilot for a new private events series (reply to this email if you’re in NYC and want more info). We made pasta sauce with delicious September heirloom tomatoes, an arugula burrata salad that was so simple and luxurious, and tahini swirl brownies (so good).
Lizzi was in town for a wedding and we got to have so many great meals together including Shabbat dinner at my parents house. My mom made a challah and they made hummus, a three pea farro salad, grilled halloumi and vegetables with a basil dressing, and ice cream sandwiches for dessert.
I had a pint of cherry tomatoes that needed to be used so I made a variation of my cherry tomato pasta, this time adding a can of white beans to round things out. I didn’t have onion and I subbed vinegar for wine, but it turned out very well (and was quick, the ultimate win). Also, before writing this, I was feeling like I didn’t cook much at all last week and that is simply false (brains can be annoying sometimes).
Something to order:
Kira moved to New York and she made her first journey to Williamsburg to grab dinner! We went to Birds of a Feather for Sichuan food and it was so good. We split the chili eggplant (very good and spicy), scallion pancakes, dumplings, and dan dan noodles and then walked around and got gelato. I love a summer night with a friend.
Hillary and I had covid at the same time and very early on, we put a post covid dinner on the calendar. It really helped to have something to look forward to while stuck inside. We went to Huertas in the East Village for tapas and Spanish wine. The food was great and perfect for sharing—get the grllled mussels, which come with radish and baguette and potato chips and butter and aioli, the tomato salad, and the patatas bravas.
I took a summer Friday and went to Governor’s Island with Lizzi! We packed a picnic of San Panino sandwiches and hit up all my favorite spots (the hammocks are my favorite spots). It was a beautiful day to wander the island and once we got back to Manhattan, we stopped for oysters at Mermaid Inn (side note: there was a huge line by 4:38 and it opens at 4:30) before heading to Queens.
Alicia and I grabbed a drink at Yours Sincerely in Bushwick (they have some good housemade sodas as well). I used to go there all the time and it was fun to be back.
Yesterday, Dale and I wanted to be near water so we picked up tacos from Taqueria Al Pastor (they have a location in Bushwick as well) and headed to Brooklyn Bridge Park. The tacos were really good (I love a good mushroom taco) and the people watching in a busy park is unmatched and the views are stunning.
To wrap up the long weekend and Lizzi’s visit, we had a family dinner at Lighthouse. It was my parents’ first time there and Dale, Lizzi, and I were excited to share our favorite dishes. We ordered so many things and loved the burrata, oysters, the elote bowl, the fries, the mussels, and the branzino for the non vegetarians.
Something to read:
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My friend Tira is MCing this very fun sounding Summer of Riesling Prom. The wine and company will be excellent!
Food waste is a big contributor to climate change and there’s hope (and lots of ways to reduce it)
Gen Z is reading a ton of romance thanks to booktok (though their reading list could use way more diversity)
The Hot Girl Meal of Summer Has Left Me Hangry. Oysters are not meant to be a meal on their own! They are not filling and that is part of the fun! But they are high in B vitamins which is good.
Now, let’s talk about being 29! You all shared such good advice and I am so grateful for it.
Chrissy’s newsletter is incredible: I turned 29 almost exactly 11 years ago, and at the time I had just moved to North Carolina to go back to school for an MFA in creative writing. I remember thinking I was so old to be "starting over" which is pretty ridiculous looking back - especially since I've "started over" about three more times since then. Overall, it was a great year - I made incredible friends, invested in my art, and set myself on the path I'm still enjoying today. I hope your 29th year is just as fun and fruitful!
Rachel’s solo birthday trip sounds incredible: I feel like at 29 my shit was finally coming together. I had been at my job for a year and was making plans for projects with year or two long timelines, which made me feel really secure. My social circle was really solid. I knew a lot more about what I wanted in life, and was able to take steps to achieve those things. And I spent my 29th year saving up for a big solo vacation that I took for my 30th birthday - a GREAT move imo.
Kelly had a pretty transformative 29th: I absolutely loved my 29th! Kind of a random year, but I had just left my boyfriend of 5 years. I really started to figure out who I was/am, what I like, what I don't. I was never a morning person- I love the mornings. I hated being cold (which works great in nyc) and now I'm an absolute snow bunny. I really slowed down and started finding joy in damn near everything. I also very gently, very slowly started to meditate on what I wanted my 30s and my life in general to look like. (then the pandemic laughed in my face, BUT. 30s are still pretty awesome). I'd say don't put too many expectations on yourself. At times, I felt both the pressure of my impending 30s, and like I should "live up" the last year of my 20s. It's important to take a breath and take the pressure off yourself. You're doing great. This life is incredible, especially in this gorgeous city we're lucky to live in.
Hillary summed it up perfectly: Long story short, don't let the pressure of 30 scare you out of enjoying this year. Being 29 is a great time to reflect on how far you've come and continue building the life you want.
This week, I’m curious what your school lunch situation used to be. Or if you have kids, what do you pack them? My K-8 school didn’t have a cafeteria so my mom packed so many lunches (thank you mom). I’ll share some responses next week!
Have a good week (this Tuesday definitely feels like a Monday but we will be okay).