At Home

As we come up on the one-year anniversary of being at home during this pandemic I have a lot to reflect on. These past twelve months we have chosen to not dine at restaurants, travel, go to the grocery store regularly, participate in camp, in-person school, after school activities, social outings or even pods.

This meant that, like many others, my “me time” at the nail salon, hair salon, and gym went away. It meant no longer attending or hosting birthday parties or holidays. It has meant essentially being parents, teachers AND friends to our children. So our days are very very long. But we are incredibly fortunate we have maintained our full-time jobs and have the ability to work from home.

With every challenge and pushback along the way, there also presented a new opportunity. This year has meant learning to love and honor myself differently, to enjoy my quiet time. And for the four of us to downsize those celebrations and enjoy each others company. It’s given us all a laser focus on how to simplify and enjoy what we do have. My husband I have a ritual now of drinking too much during happy hour by our fireplace and decompressing from the day. We also all happen to like each other so I guess we were willing to push that boundary as far as we could.

Being home also meant recognizing when our fourth grader’s mental health was struggling with virtual learning and withdrawing him from public school and switching to homeschool. This has enabled him to drive his own curiosity and excel at academics. And I have a much greater appreciation for teachers and curriculum planning! These last two months we did hire an-home tutor to ensure our second grader catches up to his reading and math grade level, which is of course a sign of privilege that we can afford to do this. We’ve had a few play dates with a wonderful family who are in the same boat as we are but unfortunately live over an hour away, so visits are scarce but our boys enjoy the ease of their online gaming and we have thankfully maintained their friendship.

I say all this not as a point of pride or even contention, but as a reflection on just how much has truly changed for all of us this past year and how we have adapted. It still surprises me.

But today I feel sad. My biggest lesson has been acknowledging that not every day is great. The sunshine is out, the snow is melting, my house is clean and my fridge is full. I’m not wanting for anything. And yet there is sadness. For my children growing up without seeing family for a year. For the things that are out of my control. And for the things that are in my control, wondering whether I’m doing it right, or enough, and also not wanting to be vulnerable enough to hear people’s criticism – of which there is PLENTY.

Let’s let this pandemic anniversary be a recognition of all we’ve learned, gained, and how we’ve changed forever. How we can come together while being apart. Many have suffered greatly this year from the pandemic, natural disasters, domestic violence, lack of education and work. This year ahead will be a year of healing for many. So for today, I focus on gratitude. And I will enjoy my day at home.

Golden Tomato Pasta

Heirloom tomatoes come in an array of colors and flavor profiles, and while they are often typecast as a summer cold salad ingredient, they also cook down into a wonderful homemade marinara that bursts with rich juicy flavors. The pale yellow and striped bright orange heirlooms in particular have a low-acid, mildly sweet flavor with a soft meaty texture and when pureed with tiny sweet orange cherry tomatoes along with the humble sweet onion you get this golden rich and creamy tomato sauce that is totally addictive. If you are growing your own heirloom tomato garden in the summer this is a perfect recipe to show off your beautiful bounty. Fortunately even here in the Midwest you can get your hands on a multitude of tomato varieties even in the winter. Interlace your gold tomato sauce with spicy red pepper flakes and fresh cherry tomatoes and basil leaves for an elegant yet simple pasta dish.

Ingredients:

  • 2 lb golden heirloom tomatoes, diced into large wedges
  • 1 pint orange cherry tomatoes, whole
  • 1 pint red cherry tomatoes, halved
  • 1 sweet yellow onion, slivered
  • 5 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 1 pinch chili flakes
  • 2 fresh basil leaves
  • 3/4 lb spaghetti
  • Salt and pepper to taste

Preheat a large sauce pan over medium heat and sauté the onion with olive oil until translucent. Add the minced garlic then mix in your heirloom tomato variety and your orange cherry tomatoes. Bring to a gentle simmer and cover with a lid for 15 minutes, stirring occasionally. Do not be tempted to add liquid as these tomatoes will collapse and release sweet concentrated tomato juice for an incredible sauce. Meanwhile, cook your pasta according to directions. When tomatoes are cooked down, use a hand blender to puree into a hot soup or ladle into a blender to process. Toss your pasts to coat with sauce then garnish with your fresh basil, red pepper flakes and cherry tomatoes.