But I Could See for Miles, Miles, Miles
But+I+Could+See+for+Miles%2C+Miles%2C+Miles+%7C+Freckled+Italian

Six years and approximately two and a half lives ago, Rob and I lived alone, together in Minneapolis.

I was so young but felt really incredibly grown up—I had just quit my full-time job and joined Rob in Minnesota, hoping to blog full-time and kind of doing it, but also picking up temp jobs wherever I could. I felt like I was finally writing for a living, even though a lot of the work I did was answering phones at a receptionist desk and entering numbers into spreadsheets for random offices in the greater Twin Cities area.

We had a small but cozy apartment in Bloomington, just down the road from Mall of America but close enough that we were in Minneapolis or St. Paul almost every Friday for a happy hour, spread out on a breezy patio or snuggled up to a dimly-lit high top by the bar, depending on the time of year and the weather.

We had no dog, no daughter, and not very much money; but we had each other and we were planning our wedding and working and sleeping in on the weekends whenever we wanted to. I cooked a lot and took pictures of everything and wrote every day. I bundled up as winter approached and ran, missing my girlfriends that I used to run with back home in Virginia. At that time, Virginia still felt like home—it was the only home I had ever had. I grew up and went to school and graduated and started working in Roanoke, Farmville, Charlottesville, then Roanoke again.

And then winter came to Minneapolis and it snowed all the time and I made hot tea or chocolate in the kitchen almost every night and drank way too much coffee every morning. We got used to driving in the snow and went snowshoeing exactly one time and ventured out onto frozen lakes, feeling as small as ever with the thick ice below our boots and all around us. We slurped spicy Pad Thai noodles and steamy pho while the snow fell down silently outside.

Knowing you’re only going to be somewhere for a short time is a special kind of gift, especially for people like us who have moved quite a bit over the years. We put down very shallow roots and never got too attached to our routine in Minnesota. But at the same time we loved it so much—the food, the coffee and beer, the people, even the intense winter weather. Living in the midwest was never our longterm plan so we went all in on experiencing the area—from music festivals in Wisconsin to a show in Chicago, Juicy Lucys and poutine and art museums and brunch spots and writing dates at a favorite coffee shop with my friend Daci.

My mom and brother came to visit a few times and we showed them around our favorite spots, and I always missed them too much before I even dropped them off at the airport. I’d say goodbye, all bundled up as I climbed back into the car, Bon Iver playing on the radio as I drove back home or maybe stopped for a coffee somewhere in the city.

Summer came around again and we started planning our move. Rob was a contractor and we decided to take a position in Charlotte, North Carolina. It was close to “home” and so many friends and lots of family. California was never on our radar, which is so weird to look back on now since we’ve lived in the Bay Area now longer than Minneapolis and Charlotte combined.

We never really knew what our life was going to look like, or where we were going to settle down for good. But we could imagine it.

We unpacked our things in Charlotte and missed Minnesota—we went back to visit, planning to be there at least once a year to see friends and visit our favorite spots. And we did go back, but before we knew it four years had passed and we were living on the west coast with a toddler and a dog, having to drive three hours to Tahoe to see snow, and in the meantime wearing boots and a hat on 55 degree afternoons.

So last weekend we went to Minneapolis. My mom met us there (we’ve always hypothetically planned to do this, but it really is a great halfway point between the coasts) and we rented a Northeast apartment on Airbnb and made a giant list of things we needed to eat before we left. And it felt…familiar. Comfortable. Nostalgic. But not like we were home again, the way it did the first time we visited after moving away.

On Friday we spent the afternoon at my friend Daci’s house, and as we sat on the floor watching our kids play together, she laughed and said “what did we used to do before this?” People always told me I wouldn’t be able to remember my life before kids, and while that’s not entirely true, it is kind of true—at least right now, in this phase of toddlerhood and amended itineraries because the Uptown Minneapolis bar we used to go to for happy hour doesn’t have high chairs.

My mom’s flight was earlier than ours on Sunday, so like the old days we got into the car and headed to the airport, just the two of us; full from a long weekend of too much food, sad to be saying goodbye again so soon. Snow flurries swirled across the dashboard and Bon Iver played on the radio and after I pulled her bag out from the trunk and gave her one more hug until Christmas, I drove away as usual, not to our empty Bloomington apartment this time but to the Airbnb where Rob and Sophie were waiting, warm and sleepy in their pajamas on the couch under a blanket. I stopped for two more cappuccinos and a muffin, feeling endlessly grateful but also homesick in that deep and confusing way—melancholy for a place that maybe doesn’t even exist anymore. We have had so many homes that sometimes I don’t know which one it is that I miss the most. Usually it’s a combination of all of them, and this time it included our current one—the big kitchen with a greenhouse window, my new gym that I slip away to at 6 AM three times a week, the Pure Barre studio where I teach and have made such wonderful friends, Sophie’s weekly play and music class.

A few hours later we were landing in California and after getting into our own car, driving to pick up the dog on the way to our house and get back into the swing of our weekly routine, I looked out the window at the bay and thought, “it’s really good to be home.”

We still don’t really know what our life is going to look like, or where we are going to settle down for good. I miss Minneapolis in a way that is different from the way I miss Charlotte and parts of Virginia. And one day maybe I’ll miss California as well, as we settle into a forever home somewhere else. It’s hard to tell.

But I could see for miles, miles, miles.

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Greek Chicken Bowls
Greek Chicken Bowls | Freckled Italian

This is one of my current favorite recipes—I’ve been making it at least once a week lately and I love it because it’s great for meal prep, which is a thing I really never got into until recently. Rice, marinated chicken, a little tomato salad, and some homemade tzatziki can all be made ahead of time and put together when you’re ready to serve and eat. You could use regular white rice but I like to add lemon when it’s cooking to give it a little something extra.

Greek Chicken Bowls | Freckled Italian
Greek Chicken Bowls | Freckled Italian

Ingredients:

  • About 1 pound of chicken breast

  • 1/4 cup olive oil

  • 1 tablespoon dried oregano

  • The juice of 1 lemon, divided

  • 1/2 cup cherry tomatoes, quartered or diced

  • 1/4 cup red onion, diced

  • Half of a large cucumber, peeled and diced

  • 1-2 cups of uncooked rice

  • 1/2 cup of Greek yogurt

  • 1-2 tablespoons of chopped fresh mint and/or dill

  • The other half of the cucumber, grated

  • 1 clove of garlic, crushed and minced, divided

  • A drizzle of olive oil

  • Salt and pepper, to taste

Instructions:

  1. Mix together olive oil, dried oregano, half of the garlic clove, and half of the lemon juice. Season with salt and pepper and add chicken. Marinate for at least 30 minutes at room temperature, or longer in the refrigerator.

  2. While chicken marinates, make the tzatziki by combining yogurt, mint and/or dill, grated cucumber, and half of the garlic clove. Season with salt and pepper and add a drizzle of olive oil. Cover and refrigerate until ready to serve.

  3. Put together the tomato salad by combining tomato, diced cucumber, and red onion. Season with salt and pepper and set aside.

  4. Make rice according to package instructions—I like to make mine in the pressure cooker (1 cup rice to 1 cup water or broth for 2 minutes on high pressure, then natural release of pressure which takes 10-20 minutes depending on how much I’ve made). Add some salt and pepper, the other half of the lemon juice, and a drizzle of olive oil to the pot for extra flavor.

  5. Place a large pan over medium-high heat and allow to preheat. Add chicken to the pan and cook for 3-4 minutes on each side, or until browned and completely cooked through. Remove from heat and allow to rest for about 5 minutes before slicing or dicing meat into smaller pieces.

  6. To assemble and serve, spoon rice into bowls and top with chicken, tomato salad, and a generous dollop of tzatziki. You can add pita bread as well if you want!

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This Late August Afternoon
This Late August Afternoon | Freckled Italian

In my head I only just sat down and wrote a blog post last weekend, but here I am on a Sunday logging in to Squarespace for the first time in what turns out to be almost a month. What have I been up to since July? A lot, and also not much. The past few weeks have flown by.

I started teaching again at my barre studio—in January I was feeling overwhelmed and in March I officially got off the schedule. I wasn’t sure if it was forever or if I just needed a break, but I was sad to let go of something I had worked so hard for, something I had grown to love. But it taught me that it’s okay to rest when you’re tired, and it encouraged me to be more open with the people I work with and not just push through until you hit burnout. Now, five months later I’m back two mornings a week teaching four classes; finally leaning on our nanny for more than just errands.

I also finished another cookbook this summer. I wasn’t sure if I’d be able to write one any time soon but my publisher reached out to me about a project that ended up falling through. I figured it wasn’t meant to be and then a few weeks later they approached me with an even more exciting offer and I went for it. When I was in college, writing papers and dreaming about being a writer one day I never imagined that I’d actually become an author, or that my thing would become cookbooks, but I love it so much.

And I’ve started working out a CrossFit gym as well—it’s closer to my house than the barre studio and has class at 6AM and is costing us a small fortune so I make it there 4 days a week no matter what. It was a small shift, but one that I needed. It’s 100% for me and I leave before anyone wakes up and am back home, tomato-faced and sweaty, making myself a latte in time for Rob’s alarm to go off. Going to the gym and being around all of the equipment feels oddly nostalgic to me—it reminds me of being back in Roanoke the summer after grad school when Rob was moving to DC and I hadn’t gotten a job yet. I worked out with my mom every morning until I started at a small software company where I worked until Rob moved to Minneapolis and I followed him six months later.

I still spend a lot of time feeling like I don’t do enough—or, worse, feeling guilty for needing some time here and there for myself. I don’t know why I do that. I’ve wanted to be a stay-at-home mom for longer than I can remember, but there’s this part of me that sometimes feels like it’s not “enough.” Over the past few months I’ve given myself a lot of grace to just focus on my family—it’s such a gift to have this time together and I often forget that. And yet there are still days where I try to do it all--to write and share and develop recipes and market my cookbooks and keep the house clean and engage Sophie 100% of the time she's awake and walk the dog and keep in touch with my friends and get groceries and memorize new choreo for my classes and call my mom and cook healthy meals.

There are times I feel left behind in some ways. While people excel in their careers, blow up on Instagram, travel the world. But when I walk into the room and Sophie yells “MAMA!” with so much excitement, when she brings me a book from across the room and plops herself into my lap with all the confidence in the world, when we sit down for dinner and sing every song she knows on repeat, when we take Ender on a walk on a weekday morning and I get to watch her look around and point at every bird and tree along the way, I know that this is exactly what I had been working toward for all those years—a flexible, but sometimes unorganized life full of love.

...someday she’ll long
for this late August afternoon

when she could have held
each instant
like a jewel
in the palm of her still smooth hand.
— Sonya Sones
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