Friday, September 7, 2012

I've Moved!

My friends, it is with great pleasure that I announce my change of location! The marvelous Desi has built a website for me that Figs and Feathers is now linked to. Do visit me there, and when you're on the blog there's a handy red RSS feed button so you'll never miss a post. See you over there!

Monday, August 20, 2012


A couple of mornings ago, Luciana woke up at 6:15. I woke up at 6:06 and upon checking the clock, immediately panicked. My daughter has slept past 6am exactly 3 times in the past 6 months, so 6:15 seemed like justifiable cause for alarm.

Then I remembered: oh yes. Me and worry. We're old friends and even though I've tried to break off our relationship, W has a habit of paying unexpected and intense visits at times I didn't realize I'd left the door open. Should the little miss choose to sleep in again someday, dear God, please help me to lie there and enjoy it.

So Luciana is one. Coming up on 13 months actually. I'm pretty sure my lag in posting has been because I'm convinced there's a perfect and profound thing I want to say about her being this age. About us both completing a huge year. But here's something else I know about mothering: there isn't the time to try to be perfect anymore. And the deepest insights I have about her and myself happen unplanned: right before I fall asleep. During a quiet moment in the car. While watching her on the playground. My life isn't set up anymore to dedicate long stretches to crafting words about observations, and I've been longing just to get something down.

My babe is one.

Some things that are going on: she's walking. Pretty much....Her record is 15 steps, over the weekend she went from usually taking 3 or 4 to usually taking 6 or 8. She lifts her arms over her head and I want to hand her a tiny umbrella and play circus music. It is so so sweet.

I still nurse her 4x a day, and I have no idea when that will change. Neither one of us seems in a rush.

The monologues before naps and bed are....I have no word. The most glorious sounds I hear all day. She loves her crib and loves her world in there. If you remember me agonizing about moving her in there you know how major this is for me. She asks to get in when she's tired: we'll be snuggling in the big chair and suddenly she'll sit up and point. I'll ask if she's ready to go see Lambie (our creative name for her lovey which is.....a lamb) and she'll wave her arms and legs--her signature I am Excited that You Understand Me move--and I'll take her over and place her inside. She says Bye Bye to me and begins to coo to Lambie. I leave and spend the next 15 minutes or so listening to her. She sings--I swear the other day it was a tune I sing to her---she makes loud sounds over and over. She rolls around and looks at books and all the time is chattering away to her friends that live in the crib--her cow and her dolls and her rabbit-- that clearly understand everything she says. I honestly marvel every day at the range and the pitch and the openness with which she just lets it all out. I've taken to putting my iphone outside the door and making voice memos of her. I'm going to listen to them before my next audition.

She eats what she eats and it seems, from a chat we had in our mommy-and-me group, that most kids her age like only a few things. Since she shoves palmfuls of pasta (usually whole-grain at least) in her mouth I've taken to tossing the "nuh nuh" with hempseeds, flax and quinoa along with the cheese and/or yogurt. She likes them as much as the parmesan and butter ones and I sleep easier knowing she's getting food groups other than dairy and carb.

At her party (which was bigger than any I've had for myself I think ever) she had one bite of cake and was off to play.

She has friends that she knows and loves, one of her besties being her cousin Dash.

I'm starting to let her pick her clothes out--offering her a couple choices and she gets to decide.

And me.....

A year into being a mom.

Delia sent me this article from the Huffington Post and my whole body exhaled when I read it because the writer says so perfectly the 2 sides that go on being a mom. The bliss, the love that is so crazy and so big, and the incredible challenge that it is--to be a mom, a wife, an artist, a person living in a tech world of emails and tweets and Pinterest. HOW does anybody have time to do pinterest????

I mean it when I say I love being a mom more than anything I have ever felt, been, done.

And there are ways I so wish I could do "better" all the time. I know Luciana feels things without me saying them or consciously expressing them. I worry (yes, that friend again) that she'll pick up my habit of rushing through things--of being frenetic when I feel late or behind; that she'll be a grazer like I am rather than enjoying beautiful complete meals; that she senses when my fuse is short and will blame it on herself. I know she knows when I tune out--she looks away. What does she think of my phone which I try not to use but I definitely do?

Here's what I know 12 1/2 months in: I can't control what she feels and thinks any more than I can control what another adult feels or thinks. And if I was a Perfect Mom she would never see feelings and stress and might feel weird when she had them. So instead of trying not to have those things happen, I'm working on how to I behave when I'm stressed, sad, angry and I'm with her. I know that when I take care of myself by meditating, even for 3 minutes in the morning, I ride the day with so much more grace. And still I stubbornly refuse to do it sometimes, believing I have to check email like a rat pressing a lever. But these days when I feel myself about to blow, I tell her we're taking a Breathing Break. Rather than blowing a fuse, I blow my lips like a horse and she does the same, and we do that til we both start giggling. Or I tell her I'm going into my room for a minute to let some feelings out. I try to get ready to leave way before I or we have to walk out the door so I'm not freaking out looking for my keys. Things like that.

There are a lot of prayers on the fly.

I've stopped making to-do lists at the end of the day and am instead reading or journaling or hanging with Sky on the couch. Speaking of my exquisite husband--we are Bringing Sexy Back. It ain't always easy, but we're up for the challenge:). It used to be that my spiritual life and self-care was for me. Then it was for me and my marriage.  Now it's for me, for my marriage and for Luciana. I can't be the mother I want to be to her and the partner I want to be to Sky if I don't take tiny steps to keep my own heart open and surrendered. Happy mama equals happy baby equals happy family. If I have time to check email, I have time to spend 5 minutes taking care of myself. For most of this first year, I didn't need it like I'm starting to need it, maybe because I am re-meeting areas of my life that I've let lie dormant for many months. I can't give away what I don't have, so as we all head into our second year together, my promise to all of is I'm bringing some of my practices back. I've been at it for about a week, and it makes a difference when I go to clean the floor for the fourth time that day.

So yes, there's the feeling of passing the year mark and the game changing. It's more complicated, but it's better than ever. We are so lucky. Our life is so beautiful. Looking back on photos of her at one, three, five days old, what I want to say to my family is I love you. I love you. I love you so deeply, so endlessly, for forever. It goes too fast to stress about dishes and bills. We did it! One turn around the sun. May we be blessed with many many more. 

Now I get asked at least 3 times a week When is Number 2? Not yet, my friends. I will let you know.

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

(Baby) Nay, I Say

I'm going to tell you all about the birthday. 
When I finish picking up wrapping paper and sit still long enough to take it all in.

This, however, is something I've been intending to post about for a month! I love that by being a mama I make friends I wouldn't know otherwise. It's through our babies that I met my gorgeous friend Delia, who works with Baby Nay. If we play word association with Baby Nay's clothes, I get


The last one, perhaps, because Luciana looks like one in this romper of theirs.

Then there's the dress. If you go on the Nay site, this one is actually in the Piccola Danza line--maybe just a tad fancier than Baby Nay, which a baby girl has to be sometimes. I would have put LC in this for her birthday, but we were playing outside in water and dirt. Not gonna happen.

Let it be known there are ruffly white bloomers under the dress, which get as much attention as the dress itself. I didn't catch it in Canouan, but if you zoomed in on the neckline of this dress, you'd see little pearls. I can't get enough of how the dress billows around my babe when a wind blows.

I hadn't heard of Baby Nay before Delia, but now I've seen them everywhere. If you need further proof of their deliciousness, start here, then head to the site and start swooning.

photo from Nay et al

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

A Year Ago

A year ago tonight I went into labor. Luciana turns one on Sunday. Every day as I hold her I marvel that this can be so. I get teary a lot because my baby is not, in fact, a tiny baby anymore. She is actually incredibly tall and incredibly stable, and her body is so sure of itself as it moves through space. Her mind is up to things I couldn't fathom being witness to in those early days of her life. I get teary because that's what moms do, I guess, not because I would have her slow the pace of her glorious life for me.

We're having a party for her on Sunday, and I have a feeling that I'll cry during the Happy Birthday, and probably again that night after we put her to bed and I can take a minute to be still.

A year ago I wrote this in my journal:

I feel like my emotional vocabulary is so limited right now. --I don't know how to describe what it is.--I feel, as I walk, like I'm only half-connected to the ground, like I can only half-focus on what's in front of me. There's the presence and the knowledge with every blink, every dish I pick up, every time I sit down to get quiet or rest, that the baby is coming soon. My body is about to do something it's never done before. It knows what to do. It knows what to do, and the baby, my baby, the soul that's chosen now, and chosen me and Sky, knows what to do.

If we didn't know each other a year ago, you can read the story of how Luciana came into the world here. I didn't know what this year would be, and I certainly didn't know what my labor would be. She was born after 4 days and a wild ride worthy of Mr. Toad.  Nothing, absolutely nothing, could have prepared me for the love I feel for this girl and the gift that motherhood is. More on all of that after Sunday.

Thursday, July 12, 2012


We were here last week. 5 square miles in the Caribbean Ocean and, including us, there were 8 people on the resort. 

We had

Time as a family

Time as a couple (oops no couple pics)

Time individually with Luciana

Time alone

It was such a happy week--we haven't had that much time together the 3 of us since Luciana was born and Sky was home for 10 days. Sky and I haven't had dinner together for a week straight since the same time. We'd spend all day on the beach, come back to our enormous villa for naps (for which I joined Luciana and which if you know me is completely out of character. I loved every second of mosquito-netting-draped cool-white-sheeted sleep), and after Luciana went to bed we'd hire a babysitter to come watch TV while we rode to dinner in our golf cart. I started reading a novel that's longer and more complicated than Hunger Games. I forgot my phone in LA and didn't long onto email except twice for 5 minutes. 

We're home and Sky's back to working 60-hour weeks and Luciana and I are on the park circuit, but we're all still feeding on last week--feeling really close and despite baby jet lag and some 4am wakings, rested and refreshed. I have spent a lot of time in my life wanting things different: wanting a different career, a different body, a different income, a different house, different talents, WHATEVER. And I've spent a lot of time counting: calories, dollars, credits on actors' resumes that I've been jealous of, minutes I sit in traffic. I didn't want anything different last week, and in thinking about this year with Luciana--and I had a lot of time to think-- I don't want anything different than it's been or how it is. She's coming up on a year this month, and part of me feels that I can't keep playing the card of I Have a New Baby so Therefore I Don't Have to Have My Life Figured Out. However, I don't have it figured out, so for today the card stays in the deck. I don't know why, but sitting under the full moon by our, um, private pool (thanks, upgrades), I made a wish that I stop counting. It's always a sign that I'm scared of something, and I got to remember last week that there is nothing to be scared of. Life is, and always has been, exactly how it's supposed to be.

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Birthday Cake

I've been stalling on this one because this recipe is just so dang long to write out! But we're leaving town in less than a week and I can't put this off til we get back. That would be wrong.

I BAKED recently. It's not something that happens all that often around here because I'm busy making baby food and cleaning up Lake Luciana, ie the dining area floor, after every meal. That takes time, people. But Sky's mom had a birthday not too long ago and she came up to LA to celebrate at our house and I thought the least I could do was make the lady a birthday cake! It was so satisfying to make a birthday cake. It totally justified the cake stand and dome I impulse-bought a month or so ago from Bountiful during their 50% off sale (which seems to still be going on and I do suggest a trip). It was delicious, pretty, and I have a tub of buttercream frosting in the freezer so my work is half done for next time.

When Sky told me his mom likes old-fashioned desserts, I decided on coconut cake. It's one of those things I've never made, always want to order, and rarely, if ever, eat. I have a copy of the New Best Recipe book by Cook's Illustrated and it's one of my go-tos for classic recipes. The recipes are really good, and there are explanations of how they arrived at them which is educational if you want to read. Also equipment and technique tips. I recommend. This one has coconut flavor in the cake, in the frosting, and then coconut is pressed all over it. YUM.

I'll say before I start that this cake is supposed to be 4 layers. Now, I am no professional baker, but I've done my share and I followed the recipe EXACTLY and have good pans and a great oven. My rounds didn't rise enough to make 4 layers remotely do-able. So mine was 2 layers, and totally delicious. I made the cake the night before and frosted the morning of the bday. Both the cake and the frosting use a lot of egg whites so this is a perfect excuse to make ice cream with the leftover yolks. I will also give the disclaimer that the cream of coconut used in both the cake and the frosting is anything but organic. I think there might be some, um, artificial things in it, and the cake is full of gluten and sugar. And it is f-ing delicious and a crowd pleaser. Not for my baby, however. Yet.

said cake stand and dome housing subject of post

Coconut Layer Cake
 from New Best Recipe

for the cake:

2 1/4 c cake flour, sifted, and extra for dusting pans
1 large egg plus 5 egg whites
3/4 c cream of coconut *
1/4 c water
1 t coconut extract
1 t vanilla extract
1 c sugar
1 T baking powder
3/4 t salt
12 T (1 1/2 sticks) unsalted butter, softened but still cool, cut into 12 pieces

2 c packed shredded sweetened coconut

for the buttercream:

4 large egg whites
1 c sugar
pinch salt
1 lb (4 sticks) unsalted butter, softened but still cool, each piece cut into 6 pieces
1/4 c cream of coconut
1 t coconut extract
1 t vanilla extract

To bake cake:

1. Adjust oven rack to lower middle position; preheat to 325. Grease and dust with flour 2 9-in cake pans.

2. Beat whole egg and egg whites to combine in large liquid measuring cup . Add cream of coconut, water, coconut and vanilla extracts; beat with fork til combined.

3. Mix flour, sugar, baking powder, and salt in bowl of mixer and beat on lowest speed to combine--30 sec or so. With mixer still running at lowest speed, add butter, 1 piece at a time, til mixture like coarse meal and there are no large butter pieces: 2-2 1/2 minutes

4. With mixer still running, add 1 cup egg mixture to flour and butter mixture. Increase speed to med-high and beat til light and fluffy--45 sec or so. Add remaining liquid in steady slow-ish speed. Stop mixer, scrape batter down sides of bowl, then beat at med-high speed to combine (batter will be thick).

5. Divide batter between pans and level with rubber spatula. Bake til cakes are deep golden brown, have pulled away from sides of pans, and toothpick inserted in center comes out clean, 30-40 minutes. (Rotate pans from front to back after 20 minutes). Do not turn off oven.

6. Cool cakes in pans on wire racks for 10 minutes, then loosen from sides with paring knife, invert onto racks and reinvert so tops face up. Cool to room temp.

7. To toast coconut: while cakes are cooling, spread shredded coconut on rimmed baking sheet, toast in oven til shreds are a mix of golden brown and white, 15-20 min, stirring a couple of times.

For the frosting:

1. Combine egg whites, sugar, and salt in mixing bowl; set bowl over a saucepan containing 1 1/2 in of barely simmering water. Whisk constantly til mixture is opaque and warm to the touch and registers 120 degrees on instant read thermometer (which I do not own and was fine without), about 2 minutes. Remove from heat.

2. Beat whites at high speed in mixer til barely warm (80-ish degrees if you have thermometer), glossy and sticky, about 7 minutes, Reduce speed to med-high and beat in butter, 1 piece at a time. Beat in cream of coconut and coconut and vanilla extracts. Stop mixer, scrape down sides of bowl, then beat again at med-high speed til well combined, about 1 minute.

To assemble cake: If your cakes got tall enough, split each cake into 2 layers (the book has an illustrated guide as to how to do this well). Otherwise, frost top of one layer, place next layer on top and frost whole cake with a thin layer. Put in fridge to set for 10 minutes, then add as much frosting as you want, spreading and leveling with butter knife (or frosting spatula which, again, I do not have). Sprinkle top of cake with toasted coconut, then press coconut into sides of cake with your hands, letting excess fall onto parchment paper or something. Decorate, light, mount, whatevs and cut and serve when you're ready! You will have lots of frosting left over if you only do 2 layers.

*Cream of coconut is found in the liquor section of the grocery store and it is highly processed artificial stuff. But it makes this cake awesome. If anyone wants to come over for pina coladas, I have a bunch left in the fridge.

Thursday, June 14, 2012

My Stanislavski

Here are a few pics from Taos--we had a gorgeous time, all 4 generations of us. Luciana is now obsessed with dogs (or "dah" as she says whenever we see one) thanks to Sam and Lucy, who she spent lots of floor time with.

The newness of what she does every day continues. Today was stacking the Stacking Cups inside each other. It's been all about Taking Things Out for the last month or more, and now we seem to be shifting to Putting Things In. Her spoon in a cup and now these colored cups inside one another. She'll work at it for over 5 minutes, succeed, immediately pull the cups apart, and spend 5 more minutes trying to do it again. I watched this awesome video on Janet Lansbury's site and I thought of it this morning while Luciana was taking herself on the Stacking Challenge. When she had done it, she didn't want me to applaud or give her a thumbs up, she just wanted to take her work apart and figure it out again. It makes me want to go do work for work's sake because the challenge is so fantastic, not because I'm going to get some reward or someone's approval after.

So of course she's my teacher in a million ways---we always hear that about kids and it's true true true. Before I became a mama, I imagined that being one would make me a better actor because I'd have lots of practice being present. True. And I'd be less attached because I had something more important to me in my life. True. But her communication is reminding me of something so essential to my acting work--and to communicating in life in general---that didn't occur to me. 

Luciana is really vocal and always has been. When she was a tinier baby I knew generally what she was saying: she was uncomfortable, she was happy, she wanted something. And as she gets older, naturally her sounds expand and because she can make more sounds she can get more specific.  Last week Sky remarked that when Luciana makes a sound I know exactly what she wants, down to the specifics of a particular object she wants or a particular way she wants to be held or somewhere she wants to go. It's kind of true. Not always, but often, what she's saying with her voice and body are crystal clear to me. I don't think this is because I'm some kind of mommy psychic. I do pay attention, that's my part, but I've got this theory that the reason I know what Luciana wants is because she knows what she wants, and she is so committed to communicating it that she doesn't need the English language.

So what she's reminding me about my work is that I have to know exactly what I want and how I feel about that if it's going to mean anything to people on stage with me and to the audience. I can't just arbitrarily decide to get mad for no reason--because I think it will be "exciting" to do or to watch. If what I'm doing doesn't ring true or deep for me, it's not going to ring true or deep for the audience, and then what's the point? We don't get sucked into stories because they're ok; we get sucked in because they resonate with us even if that resonance is outlandish humor-- the humor usually comes from someone wanting something really badly. Luciana, through all the things she says without saying them, is a living breathing crawling standing squawking example of clear intention expressed with whole voice and body. Even with no words I get what matters to her; she gets to me at that level below the words, and wonderful artists do the same.  I don't know the next time I'll be auditioning or performing but I hope when I do I don't get lazy, and I bring my pumpkin's wisdom with me. Meanwhile I'm inadvertently memorizing "I am A Bunny" and creating all the voices I can for Boris the Bear, Wesleigh the Elephant, Clare the Cow and their consorts.