New Habits

_MG_2887I have never had a skincare routine.  I guess I’ve always been lucky that I didn’t need one.  But aging is no joke, and for a while now I’ve noticed the signs of aging when I look closely at my face.  So when I was in NYC a few weeks back, I decided to seek out a bit of help in this area.  I looked up independently owned beauty stores that specialized in eco-friendly products and stumbled upon Space NK, a UK-based apothecary with an outpost in SoHo.  These kind of places always scare me, to be honest.  The women are all flawlessly made up, dressed in sleek black and the products are lined up precisely on spotless floating shelves, and just peeking in the window makes me feel unworthy of such a highbrow shopping experience.  But I forced myself to go in, and I was amazed by the level of service.  The women were so friendly, and quite frankly, I think they took pity on me after hearing my “beauty routine” (which consists of washing my face with whatever is in the shower!).  No seriously- if low-maintenance is at the bottom, I’m below that…somewhere in the realm of straight up lazy!  I told them I was ready to commit to a skin care routine but that I wanted products that were free of all the toxic junk.  They suggested the Goldfaden MD line of products, and proceeded to give me a mini-facial using the products.  When they turned me around to see myself in the mirror after scrubbing and moisturizing my skin, I swear I looked ten years younger.  SOLD!  I bought the moisturizer, eye cream and sunscreen, and was given generous test samples of the oil and scrub.  I also expressed my wish to look pulled-together when I’m dressing up; for business meetings or date night.  I haven’t purchased make-up since my wedding (almost 8 years ago) so I guess it was time for an update :)  The women at the shop were so patient as I squirmed around in the chair- I’m not a fan of make-up, it always feels so heavy on my face.  I told them I wanted a 2-minute routine and wouldn’t you know…they delivered.  Laura Mercier tinted moisturizer to even out my skin tone (miracle product!) and cake liner to line the top of my eyelids (never knew that…always thought you lined the bottom!).  It’s been two weeks now and I have faithfully been following my new routine.  My skin is definitely responding, and when I take the time to do my little make-up routine I feel so pulled together.  As mothers we so often put our own needs last- the kids get the organic, expensive bubble bath, and we use whatever old bar soap we find laying around the bathroom!  It feels pretty amazing to splurge on myself and invest in preserving my skin…and I’m curious…does everyone out there have a skincare routine (was I the last one to the party here)?  Are there products you swear by?  Have you found any miracle products that help with the signs of aging?  If you are a mother with young kids how do you find the time to pull yourself together in the morning (I’m still figuring this out)?

Spring Cleaning in the Kitchen

_MG_2868We’ve been doing some spring cleaning around here, though there has been very little in the way of spring weather in New England.  Allow me to get personal for a moment: my dear husband has always been a phenomenal athlete; a top ranked Canadian junior squash player, All American collegiate athlete, and Brown Athlete of the Year his freshman year.  He’s tall and lanky and he’s never had to worry about his weight.  He’s always joked that even if he puts on a few pounds, he’s just one good squash match away from his ideal weight.  And for most of his life, this has been true.  But while I was pregnant with Vik, he put on some “sympathy weight” and around the same time celebrated his 40th birthday.  Just like that his metabolism, which has always been set to high speed, took on a more leisurely pace and the pounds started adding up.  It has been two years now, and finally he decided that it was time to get serious. Because he’s an athlete I think he was more resistant to the idea that he needed a health “makeover.”  When you’ve always been in great shape, it can be hard to come to terms with the fact that your body isn’t what it used to be.  Of course he probably got sick of my nagging as well.  With his family history of heart problems, I was ON HIM to get himself in shape.

_MG_2858Over the past month, we’ve cut out refined sugar and gluten (mostly- we’re not super strict, but we’re probably about 95% gf) from our diet.  We’ve also recommitted to eating at home for the majority of our meals.  While I was busy writing two cookbooks over the past two years, ironically, our family meals suffered because I would spend all day testing recipes, and have little energy left to make dinner.  We were eating at home, but things were getting pretty boring.  When my husband wasn’t excited by my offerings, he would go out foraging, usually turning to high calorie comfort foods (Indian, Thai, pizza, etc.).  It was time to make things exciting once again in the kitchen.  In addition to our diet changes, my husband also started working out with his personal trainer again, and has been playing squash on a regular basis.  He has already lost 15 pounds and looks phenomenal- his goal weight is only 5 pounds away now, but more importantly, he is leaner, fitter and feeling better.  This past year was a tough one for our family with the whole job transition and my husband’s travel schedule, and frankly, things have been full-on since Vik was born.  Parenting two wildly active boys, 21 months apart in age, is no joke.  We are often both tired and running on empty by the end of the day, but since refocusing our eating habits we’ve been feeling so much more energetic.  We’ve always been healthy eaters, but I think we just needed to hit the reset button.  For inspiration, I picked up two new cookbooks while I was in NYC, and I am totally smitten.

_MG_2862My New Roots by Sarah Britton is a gorgeous book focused on seasonal, plant-based recipes.  The pictures are mouthwatering, and the recipes feel incredibly fresh and original.  I was immediately pulled in by the Carrot Rhubarb Muffins, which I thought would make the perfect after-nap snack for the boys.  The batter came together with ease, and the result is one of the most delicious, interesting muffins I have come across in my baking career.  The walnuts and shredded carrots add a nice heft and crunch, while the applesauce sweetens to deal.  The rhubarb becomes soft and warm, like sweet jewels studded throughout the batter.  My boys went nuts for these- they perfectly satisfy a sweet tooth craving, though they contain no refined sugar (the sweetness comes from maple syrup and coconut sugar).  I have my eye on so many of the other recipes, including Raw Key Lime Coconut Tarts, Tempeh Mushroom Breakfast Bowl, Dark Chocolate Cherry Overnight Oats, Thai-Style Coconut Soup with Zucchini Noodles.  Well, those and pretty much every other recipe in the book!

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_MG_2898Sprouted Kitchen is one of my favorite food blogs, and Sara’s first book, The Sprouted Kitchen, is in constant rotation in my own kitchen.  I love the idea behind her second book, The Sprouted Kitchen Bowl and Spoon.  This book echoes the way I love to eat- bowls full of grains, protein, and produce topped with a sauce that brings it all together.  Sara’s husband, Hugh, is responsible for the gorgeous pictures, which are so simple and full of life.  They never feel over styled, which is what I love about them.  They make the food feel very approachable.  I’ve bookmarked the following two recipes to try first, but there are many more on my to-cook list: Tahini Kale Slaw and Roasted Tamari Portobello Bowl, and Smoky Tortilla Soup.

_MG_2871I love that we are heading into spring feeling healthy and balanced.  Spring produce is only going to help our efforts.  If you are looking to do a bit of spring cleaning in your own kitchen, I would highly recommend these two titles.

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New York City

_MG_2775My husband surprised me last week with a quick trip to New York City.  He had some business to attend to in the city, and decided to grab a hotel room and line up a sitter so that we could enjoy a little getaway.  We have a doozy of a month coming up and I’ll be single parenting for much of it, so it was nice to get a little time away before we dive into the chaos of April.  We took a train into the city on Thursday afternoon, and since my husband had to work for most of Friday, I was left to my own devices, which of course made me incredibly happy.  I must have clocked about six miles, walking from Midtown to SoHo, weaving here and there as things caught my eye.

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_MG_2769I drank some great coffee, walked The High Line and browsed through Chelsea Market, saw the first spring tulips at the Greenmarket at Union Square, had an incredible late breakfast at The Butcher’s Daughter, did a bit of damage at Purl Soho, and ended the day with a treat from Momofuku Milk Bar.  I ended up back at the hotel around 5 with several blisters, but rallied to go to dinner with my husband.  The next morning we slept in and enjoyed breakfast at our hotel, which offered sweeping views of Central Park.  It was quite a treat to have a leisurely breakfast that didn’t involved chasing kids or cleaning up spilled orange juice.  It’s the little things really…  We did a bit of Easter basket shopping for the boys and strolled around the city, enjoying lunch at my favorite place, ABC Kitchen.  We caught the train back, arriving home around bed time.  I love a little time away, but I always miss the boys fiercely, so it was nice to get home in time for some bedtime cuddles, and a family-centered Easter Sunday.  And besides (I must be getting old) there’s nothing like being back in my own bed!

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Gretel

_MG_2609I figured it was about time to try my hand at testing a pattern.  It feels like a Ravelry rite of passage.  So when I saw this adorable sweater, accompanied with a call for test knitters, I jumped at the chance to give it a whirl.  I found that I liked being given a deadline.  It kept me focused and excited to see this knit take shape.  The resulting sweater is the cutest darn thing I have ever knit.  The bobble pattern gives the sweater a vintage feel, like something your great grandma might have knit for your grandma.  You know, old school in the very best way.  Since I have no little girl of my own (boo hoo!), I continue to knit a rather embarrassing amount for my friend Sarah’s daughter.  Most people would probably ask me to back away slowly from my needles…but Sarah understands that all the cutest knits are for little girls and that I just can’t help myself!  Vijay wanted to know who this sweater was for, and when I told him Emily, he said, “Mom, I guess I would wear a sweater you made if it had something really, really cool on it.”  It was like he was humoring me.  Can you imagine?  Four years old and he’s already humoring his poor old mother.

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Naturally Dyed Easter Eggs

_MG_2626I kept putting off dying Easter eggs because I really wanted to photograph them surrounded by spring blossoms.  When it started snowing this weekend I realized that my blossom wishes would not be coming true anytime soon, and so we got down to it.  I love using natural dyes, but it does take time and patience.  The kids weren’t so into the whole process, to be honest.  Mainly it involves boiling ingredients and allowing the eggs to sit in the dye overnight.  So if you are into instant gratification, like my kids, this might not be so exciting!  Our eggs turned out a bit more molted in color than in years past, but I still think they are beautiful in an earthy way.

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I used the following ingredients to achieve these colors:

Tumeric (yellow and orange)

Red Cabbage (blue)

Red Onion Skins (brown)

Beet (pink)

Grape Juice (dark blue)

Combine ingredient with water in a saucepan, submerge the eggs, and then bring the water to a boil over high heat.  Once the water is boiling, remove the pan from the heat and allow the mixture to cool.  Strain the mixture, composting the solids, and straining the dye into small glasses.  Add one egg to each glass, place the glasses in the fridge and allow them to soak overnight. In the morning, remove the eggs from the dye and allow them to dry.  The key is to remove the eggs gentle from the dye and allow them to dry completely before you handle them.  The dye will rub off if you handle the eggs before their dry.

Play around with both brown and white eggs for varied results.  Also, try adding 1 tablespoon of white vinegar to some of the glasses and the colors will be richer.  I just play around and each year the results seem to be a bit different.  These eggs are completely safe to eat, and we never notice any odd flavors due to the dyes or vinegar!

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Pitch Perfect News

2015-03-25_0001It has been a rather exciting week.  I received several emails from Pitch Perfect graduates sharing their successes.  One of my students landed a piece in an upcoming issue of Food and Wine.  I’m thinking he could teach me a thing or two…I mean, that’s huge!  Another student sent along her first published article, which appeared in the March issue of The Simple Things.  It is a beautifully written article, and I couldn’t be prouder.  Finally, I had a nice chat over the weekend with one of my students who had her book proposal accepted by a major publishing house.  She was thrilled, but had so many questions as she began to navigate the world of advances and contracts.  I felt honored to act as a sounding board.  Those are just a few of the many Pitch Perfect success stories (below are a few more of the magazines that Pitch Perfect students have written for in the past months), and I couldn’t be more excited for my students as they continue on their publishing journeys.  I’d like to think it has a bit to do with my teaching, but in all honesty, I had such a smart, driven and enthusiastic class that I’m pretty sure I could have just sat back and watched them all succeed on their own.  But of course it is always helpful to have the proper tools in your publishing tool belt.  And that is what the class is all about.  I’m gearing up to teach the online course again this May and there is still time to sign up.  There’s nothing like seeing your name in print…trust me, it is such a thrill… and if it’s something you have ever dreamed about, I do hope you’ll consider joining me.

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Lately

benchI’ve been single parenting for the past ten days.  To say I’m a little burnt out would be an understatement.  My husband arrived home Wednesday evening after the kids had already gone to bed.  They were ecstatic when they woke up to discover that their dad was home.  I slept in a bit and then came downstairs to get Vijay ready for school, and upon seeing me coming downstairs, he said to me rather casually, “I wish you weren’t home, mama.”  My heart broke.

I know what he meant- in his 4 year old way he was trying to tell me that he wanted to be with his dad all day.  He wanted to be in “dad zone” where there are no rules, and meals don’t include vegetables, and the day is made up of “special treats.”  But after ten days of nothing but home cooking, snuggling under blankets to read books, epic cookie baking, trips to gymnastics, the library and the children’s museum, and countless hours playing trains in the playroom, I felt like I deserved more.  This is the hard thing about motherhood- it is often thankless.  Do I know that my kids adore me?  Yes, of course.  I have two very affectionate, sweet boys who are usually wonderful about showering me with love, but they are also toddlers, and they often don’t know how to properly voice their feelings and frustrations.  Many times, their frustrations get aimed at good ole’ mom.

I am hoping to reboot this weekend, perhaps visit the farmer’s market and take a Bikrim yoga class or two.  My husband has a babysitter lined up for tonight so I’m looking forward to date night.  I’m also finishing up my latest home project, which you can see taking shape above.  Since the boys are now sharing a room, I’m turning Vik’s old room into an office for my husband (mainly to get his damn computer off the kitchen table, which drives me crazy).  I was so pumped to find that beautiful, six-foot bench for sale on craigslist for $100.  What a steal!  The rest of the room came together with things we had laying around the house including pillows and rugs from our travels abroad.  I’m planning on sneaking in a few hours to watch Fixer Upper, my new obsession, and work on my latest knitting project.  As much as I love my boys, I need a break.  And perhaps they feel the same.  A weekend spent in the “dad zone” might just be the very thing we all need to reboot and refresh.  See you on the flip side!

Our Tools, Ourselves Feature

c_chitnis_knit_01I am so honored to be featured over on Fringe Association this week as part of Karen’s Our Tools, Ourselves series.  Her blog is one of my absolute favorite so it feels like quite the knitter-ly stamp of approval.  I’m sharing details about my knitting and sewing, including the tools that I use, how I organize my crafting materials and my deepest, darkest knitting secret!

Storage shelves

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wiksten tank and project bag(all photos, except of my studio shelves, were taken by the exceptionally talented Forrest Elliott)

Brothers

brothersTwo weeks ago we moved Vik’s crib into Vijay’s room.  The boys have been asking to share a room for the past few months, and with everyone having established solid sleep habits, we decided to give it a shot.  It has been one of the sweetest things I have witnessed as a mother.  Once I tuck them both in, I often stand outside their door for a few minutes and listen to their conversations, which mostly revolve around potty humor.  It usually takes at least two or three warnings before they finally settle in and fall asleep- first they have to chat, then they toss things from the bed to the crib, occasionally we hear the patter of little feet as Vijay sneaks out of bed to grab more books or retrieve a pillow he tossed at Vik.  When they hear us coming up the stairs to tell them to quiet down, they dive under their covers and hide, giggling non-stop.

The truth is that these boys have a special relationship.  It’s as close-knit as I’ve seen between siblings, and I think that is due to two things: being so close in age and always being together.  It’s also due to their personalities; Vijay loves being a big brother and has never, not even once, displayed signs of jealousy towards Vik.  He seemed to understand as soon as Vik was born that his job was to be an older brother, and take care of him.  He takes that job seriously.  Vijay started school this past fall, and only attends two mornings a week.  So other than that, the boys are always, always together and have been since the moment Vik was born.  I’m not great at organizing playdates or meeting up with other moms- we kind of make our days up as we go.  We are always out and about, at the children’s museum, library or gymnastics, but it’s always the three of us, which means the boys have become their own best friends.  Things will be changing soon enough as Vijay’s school days ramp up next year, and Vik starts preschool.  My emotions are running high these days as it feels like we are nearing the end of an era.  I’ve been at home with the boys for over four years now and that might be changing in the near future as well.  Things are shifting- it is all good- but I’m holding on to this time we have together, appreciative of every moment, even the frustrating and tiring moments.

The boy’s room is a work in progress- it’s very simple, just Vijay’s bed, Vik’s crib, a small shared dresser, and a bookshelf.  I’d love to get bunk beds once they are big enough- I know they’d have a blast with that.  But for now…it is perfect.

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P.S. For those of you in other parts of the country flaunting pictures of blooming trees and bright sunny skies, I’m going to need you to cut that out.  Here’s a little snapshot of what we’re enjoying here on the East Coast.  I know….life isn’t fair, but do you have to rub it in?  :)  We had another epic snowstorm last week, though this weekend the sun peeked through and started melting the snow.  Though we’ve got a long way to go until spring.

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Pitch Perfect

I just handed in the manuscript for my THIRD book.  Now there is sentence I never dreamed I would be writing when I began my freelance career seven years ago.  It is another cookbook and this time I was responsible creating, testing and photographing all of the recipes, as well as all the writing.  Whew!  It is going to be a beauty, and I can’t wait to tell you all about it.  But first, we’ll soon be talking about Little Bites (the cover is now on the sidebar of the blog for your viewing pleasure!) which releases in July.  I feel comfortable calling myself a writer now.  Not a day goes by that I don’t write in some capacity, whether it is working on a book, article or blog post.

What makes you a writer is the act of writing.  It doesn’t matter if you never see a word published.  If you write, you are a writer.  If writing is something you must do, you are a writer.  But just in case you are a writer that does indeed want to see their work published, I have the class for you.  I’m teaching Pitch Perfect again this year.  The class was a wonderful success last year and my students have gone on to see their work published in a variety of magazines.  Two of my students landed themselves columns in regional publications.  I mean….!  Wow.

Pitch Perfect is all about learning to craft a winning query letter.  Editors, agents and publishers get thousands of emails every week from wonderful, creative people whose work does NOT get chosen.  I’d love to teach you how to make your pitch stand out from the crowd.  And this skill isn’t limited to writers seeking publication.  Knowing how to write the perfect query letter is a skill you will be grateful to have simply when trying to land a job interview.

The class runs for the month of May– four weeks jam packed with information.  There will be interviews with magazine editors, freelance writers, authors and book editors (including my editor at Roost, and Melanie Falick, who is responsible for bringing into being some of the most beloved craft books in existence!).  It’s going to be incredible, and I’d love to have you join me.

Visit Squam to register.

Week by Week we’ll be covering the following topics:

Week One: Introduction to Magazine Writing

Week Two: Diving into the Query Letter

Week Three: Editing and Refining Query Letters

Week Four: Editor Etiquette, Books, Agents and more

Finally, I’d love to share some of the feedback I received from my first class of students:

“Before the course began, I had a dream, a journal and a folder full of ideas, but no clue as to how to implement any of it. Pitch Perfect gave me the tools to turn my dream into a reality! For those contemplating being a part of spring’s Pitch Perfect, wherever your writing dreams fall, I can guarantee you will gain so much from this course.  In years to come I will look back upon my experience with Christine and my fellow classmates as being the catalyst for turning my dream into reality.” – Xan Holyoak

“With the confidence and knowledge I gained from Pitch Perfect, I pitched to Minnesota Parent Magazine, my ideas were well received and several feature articles were published. Since that additional contact I have continued to write for this publication and I recently was offered a position to write a column!” – Megan Devine 

“What a fantastic experience! I can’t believe how quickly these 4 weeks rolled by. I feel like I’ve finally taken solid steps towards a “real” writing career. Thank you Christine! You are a natural at teaching. If you offer future courses, I’m in!” – Indiana Lori

“Christine, I appreciated how well organized this workshop was. Your message and ideas were so focused, and clearly communicated. You are an encouraging teacher, and inspiring mentor.” – Anita

“The information in this class was fantastic, while the assignments forced me to do the homework of looking up submission guidelines and writing an actual query letter (which I submitted!). I feel EQUIPPED as a result of this class. Thank you, Christine! You are a brilliant teacher. I would jump at the chance to take another class with you.” – Jennifer