I was lying in bed the other morning, scrolling through Facebook, reading the news, as the heat of the electric blanket seeped through my long white nightgown and warmed up my frozen feet.
I posted something funny online, and The Chef wrote a message underneath. “I know where you are,” she said. “You’re lying in bed in your long white nightie.” Well of course I am, I responded. Where else would I be on a freezing February day at eleven O’clock in the morning?
For a long time I felt guilty about my winter hibernation, but as I hurtle towards midlife (I’m not actually hurtling towards it, I’m firmly in it but I shall continue to pretend for as long as I can), I am finally managing to accept that when it is cold, and gloomy, and snow is on the ground, the most comforting place to be is in bed.
Every now and then I will read an article about the importance of good sleep habits. The number one rule is to keep all technology out of the bedroom. Turn your bedroom into a retreat – no phones, no ipads, no television. The blue light from the television and the white light from our screens apparently causes havoc with our sleep patterns.
Do not read in bed, they say. Never eat in bed. Use your bed for one thing, and one thing alone: sleep (maybe two, I will grant you, but that’s another column entirely).
I think about this from time to time, as I study what has gathered on my bed on those days when I choose to stay in it during the winter months. There is invariably one plate and one bowl, precariously stacked on the side table, waiting to be knocked over by an eager cat in search of crumbs.
There are stacks of books piled on same side table, plus on the floor, plus a few on the bed. There are often magazines. There is always an iphone, with an ipad too, just to add some variety. There are headphones for listening to podcasts. There is usually a cat or three, sometimes five, on the bed. There is a notebook, and an assortment of pens. There is sometimes a child, but rarely more than two. On a very rare day, there will be a laptop for writing, but my writing tends to happen in my office rather than in bed.
Friends will send messages inviting me out, and I will make up excuses, generally involving work. Those who know me very well know that my only excuse is that I am in my nightie, in bed, and it is so warm, and cozy, there is nowhere else I would rather be.
When the sun starts shining again I shall be up and about, cooking, writing, running around. But until then, I’m turning the electric blanket on and climbing back in.
(First published in The Lady magazine)
I wrote this a year ago today, on our anniversary. I am posting it again today, because it so perfectly describes our marriage, and I haven’t found better words than these.
Eleven years ago, just after my first marriage ended, I picked up the phone and answered an ad for a tiny little rental cottage by the beach in Westport. The phone was answered by the man who was to become my landlord, neighbor, and three years later, my husband.
The stars were aligned that day. The stars have been aligned ever since. It is our wedding anniversary today, and I have learned immeasurable lessons over the last eleven years.
I have learned that marriage, like life, is something of a rollercoaster; if you’re lucky, the highs and the lows will be exhilarating and fun; when they’re not, the key to success is knowing it will pass. It always does.
I have learned that generosity and kindness are the single biggest gifts you can give your partner, the single greatest traits that will ensure your marriage grows deep roots to sustain you over time.
I have learned that it isn’t always easy to be kind, when you’re tired, and grumpy, and busy herding kids and cats, but that the mindful act of stopping what you are doing and paying attention to your partner, may be the greatest act of kindness there is.
My beloved, beloved husband is the best human being I know. He is wise, and warm, and clever, and funny, and goofy, and sexy, and handsome, and sweet, and selfless, and distracted, and brilliant, and thoughtful, and kind.
He has brought so much laughter, fun, comfort, friendship and peace to my life. He has been the only one to ever really know me, and to show me that even when I’m grumpy, or sad, or angry, or shouty, he still loves me; he has taught me that I am loveable, which has been an enormous gift.
We have been together eleven years, and it is our eighth – bronze – wedding anniversary today. Last year was copper – he bought me flowers and a copper watering can because together we have learned the very best lesson of all: The grass is greener where you water it.
Happy Anniversary to my Beloved.
When I first started writing novels, I managed to write at home. It was at the very beginning of the internet, and distractions were few and far between. No-one really knew what to do with the internet, and I managed to while away the days in my tiny home office, writing my books.
Then technology took off, and I had children, and suddenly the home office was a place filled with distractions. I would sit down to write a chapter, but mistakenly spend the next six hours playing computer solitaire. Or I would be checking email every two paragraphs. Or hunting down the perfect pair of shoes, which sometimes took all week.
I decided I needed a routine, that it was important to break the solitude of working from home. I needed to be around people, to leave my house with a computer and “go to work”. For a few years I wrote at the local library, but the library is no longer a quiet place, so I kept searching.
Next I found a writer’s room that was quaint and cozy, and after a couple of years there I was offered a tiny windowless office in the basement of our local theater. It was perfect, but now that they have staffed up, I am on the hunt again for another office.
I have spent the last few weeks looking at large spaces, and small. All of them either need vast amounts of work, or are dingy and depressing. Two days ago I finally found a small room that is perfect. It is light, bright and airy. I can fit two, or possibly three desks in there, a lamp, a chair, and a shelf of books. I can fit two, or possibly three fellow writers to break up the solitude. It will not fit children, dogs, cats, chickens, fish, bearded dragons, or rabbits.
I have taken the office for a year, with two friends now joining me. I have a feeling that soon we may need a bigger space, because there is a definite need for a creative co-working space in my town. So many of us are attempting to work from home, none of us anticipating the loneliness which comes with that. I can’t think of anything lovelier than creating a place for us creative types to go.
I will be starting my next book just as soon as my flat pack furniture for the new office arrives. And just as soon as I can figure out how to put it all together. Which means I may have a few more week’s grace after all.
(First published in The Lady magazine in the UK)
Ever since my children were born, I have been cutting their hair. I am very bad at cutting hair and almost every time has been a disaster. Despite this, I am convinced that I can cut hair, even though hope has yet to triumph over experience. When the children were very small, they didn’t notice how uneven their hair was; that sometimes there were a couple of bald patches. Now that they are teenagers, they won’t let me touch their hair.
Twin A long ago decided that he likes his hair on the longer side. For the past few months he has been looking increasingly like George Harrison, circa 1974. I realized, just before he went away recently, that we had barely any time for a hair cut, and the hair needed cutting before the trip.
Twin A and I met my gay husband for lunch. “What are you doing the rest of the day?” he asked, as we were leaving, and I told him we were off to the barber, which was not something I wanted to do, because it was cold, and raining, and I wanted to cozy up at home.
“Want me to cut it?” He asked. “Do you have scissors and a comb? We can do it in your kitchen.”
My gay husband is not only one of the most handsome men I know, he is also, unequivocally, the most stylish. He is always beautifully-dressed, with great hair. The only fashion disaster I have ever witnessed was when he made the mistake of dyeing his grey hair back to its natural blond, but it grew out quickly, and none of us have discussed it since. This was the best offer I had had in ages.
We headed home, and Twin A perched on the kitchen stool as my gay husband started cutting his hair. I frowned. It didn’t look like he knew what he was doing. In fact, I would go as far as saying it looked much like me cutting Twin A’s hair. Which isn’t good. I decided not to say anything. My gay husband had been so confident, surely I was the one at fault; surely it would get better.
Halfway through the haircut, when one sideburn had been shorn off completely, a centimeter or so above the ear, I spoke up.
“Have you ever cut hair before?” I asked.
“No,” he said happily. “But I think I’ve done a pretty good job. Apart from this bit. And this bit.”
Twin A says that’s it. Not only am I not allowed to cut his hair, nor are my friends, nor indeed anyone, unless it is in a professional hair salon. Frankly, I no longer blame him, but as I have been saying to all my kids for the past seventeen years, the good thing about hair is that it always grows back.
(First published in The Lady magazine)
The piles are threatening to take over my house. I do not think of myself as a hoarder, and I very much like living in a space that is clean and tidy, but I don’t seem to have any control over the piles of papers that accumulate in every room of the house.
Nobody would ever think it, looking at pictures of my perfect kitchen counters on Instagram. They have no idea that seconds before I shot the picture, I slid everything on the counter three feet to the left.
Stan the rabbit is not happy with his confinement. He has been living very happily on the porch these last few months, coming into the kitchen throughout the day to play with us, and the cats, tearing off into his porch when there is too much activity.
We had high hopes of him being a house bunny, before we realized that house bunnies eat everything. Three of the lamps in the living room do not work as Stan has chewed through the cords, and we have thrown away four iPhone chargers for the same reason. Although he is semi-litter-trained, it turns out rabbits mark their territories, much like cats, and so, after dry-cleaning the sofa cushions twice, Stan is now banished from all but the kitchen.
I have just finished writing my nineteenth novel. For years people have asked me how it feels when I finish a novel, and I haven’t known how to answer them. In the old days, it felt wonderful, knowing I had achieved something so big. A great weight would be off my shoulders, freeing me up to enjoy life for a little while without a cloud of guilt following me around if I hadn’t written that day.
Then I moved to a different publisher, and found myself working with a very talented editor, who didn’t like the kinds of books I wrote. She wanted more suspense, more drama, more plot. I stopped trusting that I could write books by myself, and would deliver first drafts that I knew needed work, knowing that she would require me to rewrite huge chunks of each book. Finishing a book meant the beginning of a grueling round of edits, sometimes up to five, always with large rewrites.
When I was a teenager, I distinctly remember spending hours on the phone. At some point I was lucky enough to have a phone in my bedroom, and I would sit on the floor, leaning back against the bed, twirling the cord around and around my fingers as my best friend Harriet and I talked for hours and hours about everything under the sun.
Later, as a single woman living in London, Saturday and Sunday mornings were spent lounging on a sofa drinking endless cups of coffee and smoking endless cigarettes, as I worked my way through my phone book, calling everyone I could think of to catch up, or make plans for the weekend.
I went to my friend’s house for tea last week, and as soon as I walked in her kitchen it was clear we both had a case of the blues.
“No,” she said. “We’re not going to go down the road of self-pity. Tell me something good.”
And so I told her about The Rower, who has been gone all summer, and who, after bringing home the bronze for the US in the World Rowing Championships (just in case I hadn’t mentioned it three thousand times already), is now home. The Rower hasn’t really spoken to me for about two years. I get the occasional grunts, and requests for food and money, but a miracle has occurred since he has been home.
Beloved and I have great friends who are very involved with the American Ballet Theater, and every year they invite us to join them for the gala, and occasionally for a performance throughout the year.
A few weeks ago we were invited to join them for Romeo and Juliet, with the prima ballerina, Alessandra Ferri, coming out of retirement for the occasion. It was spectacularly beautiful, and afterwards, as we joined the throngs of people moving slowly out of Lincoln Centre, I overheard a distinctly English accent saying he was going to get the train to Westport. I turned to see a rather handsome, elegant man, with swept-back grey hair, in a very smart suit. He looked very interesting, this debonair man from my town, and I was intrigued.
Hours spent having massages: 1
Hours spent having room service: 7
Hours spent enjoying meeting my readers: 46
Hours spent writing: 0
Every summer I leave the comforts of home, and set off on the road for book tour. It’s always a hard time to leave – my house is never more beautiful than in summer, and best of all, at least three of the children, sometimes four, are off doing some kind of camp-like thing, leaving my husband and I to lounge around our swimming pool by ourselves, and have naked hot tubs at night. I shall say no more about that.
Ronni Sunshine left London for Hollywood in the sixties to become a beautiful, charismatic star of the silver screen. But at home, she was a narcissistic, disinterested mother who alienated her three daughters. Still, when Ronni discovers she has a serious illness, she calls her now-adult girls home to fulfill her final wishes.
Nell, Meredith, and Lizzy are all going through crises of their own. But as their mother’s illness draws them together to confront old jealousies and secret fears, they discover that blood might be thicker than water after all.
And now I am delighted to reveal this beautiful cover. I am so excited to share it with you and can’t wait to hear what you think!
I am just back from a trip which was supposed to be with my husband, except it turned out it was on a weekend during which he had planned to visit eldest daughter at University, and so I decided to bring one of my best friends, aka my gay husband, instead.
I was ever so slightly nervous, because it has been years since I have travelled with anyone other than my husband. If I get moody, or tired, or overwhelmed and a bit tearful and shouty, he forgives me because he loves me. My gay husband loves me too, but in a different way, and I had a vague sense of anxiety that I might somehow facilitate a huge row, for which I would apologize, and he would forgive me, but things would never be the same again.
RECIPE FROM GOOD TASTE. Order now.
One of my most favorite people in the world is my sister-in-law, Fishy. I was already living in the States when she became my sister-in-law, which is unfortunate on two levels. First, I don’t get to see her nearly as often as I would like, and second, I don’t get to experience her cooking.
My parents are always going over there for dinner and reporting back about delicious roast chickens and fantastic lamb. She is the expert at delicious, traditional, effortless comfort food and one of her best dishes, according to my mother, is her lemon and almond tart.
There really is nothing better than lemon and almond tart, particularly this one that is so densely citrusy, thanks to the puréed lemon. The almond extract and thick, moist texture makes it almost taste like marzipan, and the entire tart is heavenly.
Butter for baking dish
1 1/3 cups almond flour
1 teaspoon almond extract
8 tablespoons sugar
4 large eggs, separated
1 lemon, boiled in water for 20 minutes, seeds removed, then puréed to mash
Pinch of salt
1⁄2 cup confectioners’ sugar
1⁄2 cup toasted slivered almonds
Preheat oven to 375 degrees.
Butter a 9″ tart pan and line with waxed paper.
In a food processor, combine almond flour and 6 tablespoons sugar.
Separately combine egg yolks, 2 tablespoons sugar, lemon purée and salt, and beat until smooth and pale. Add almond mixture and combine.
Beat egg whites to soft peaks, add confectioners’ sugar, and combine. Beat 1 large spoonful of egg whites into almond mixture, then fold rest of almond mixture into egg whites.
Transfer to tart pan and bake for 35 minutes.
Dust with confectioners’ sugar sprinkled through a sieve and cover top with toasted slivered almonds before serving.
Hours spent driving children here, there and everywhere: 2
Hours spent worrying about where the children are: 0
Hours spent berating teachers for giving children bad grades: 0
Hour spent writing: 17
I have spent the last few days trying to come up with the term for the anti-helicopter parent. I haven’t yet thought of anything clever enough, but I keep thinking what essentially abandons their offspring, leaving them to fend for themselves. I have thought about trees, about acorns sprouting into oak trees once they have fallen. Perhaps I am an Oak Tree parent, producing acorns then allowing them to fall away and grow independently into the oak trees they are destined to become.
RECIPE FROM GOOD TASTE. Order now.
2 chickens, jointed into 8 pieces, seasoned
Zest of 4 oranges
2/3 cup fresh orange juice
1⁄4 cup honey
3 tablespoons soy sauce
2 tablespoons toasted sesame oil
1 tablespoon minced fresh ginger
2 teaspoons finely minced garlic
1⁄4 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
Salt and pepper
2 large red bell peppers
2 medium onions
3 tablespoons olive oil
2 cloves garlic
1 cup short-grain brown rice
11⁄2 cups chicken stock
3⁄4 cup dry white wine
1 teaspoon tomato paste
1⁄2 large orange, cut into 1⁄2″ wedges, peel on
4 scallions (white bulbs and 3″ green), thinly sliced on diagonal for garnish
Rinse and dry chicken pieces and combine orange zest and juice, honey, soy sauce, sesame oil, ginger, garlic and red pepper flakes into a bowl for marinade. Stir well, coat chicken pieces and refrigerate at least 1 hour, or preferably overnight.
When ready to cook, season the chicken pieces with salt and pepper. Next, slice the red peppers in half and remove the seeds and pith, then slice each half into 6 strips. Likewise, peel the onion and slice into strips of approximately the same size.
Heat 2 tablespoons of olive oil in the casserole and, when it is fairly hot, add the chicken pieces—2 or 3 at a time—and brown them to a nutty golden color on both sides. As they brown, move them to a plate lined with paper towels, using a slotted spoon. Next add remaining oil to the casserole, with the heat slightly higher than medium. As soon as the oil is hot, add the onion and peppers and allow them to brown a little at the edges, moving them around from time to time, for about 5 minutes.
After that add the garlic and toss around for a minute or 2 until the garlic is pale golden, then stir in the rice and, when the grains have a good coating of oil, add the stock, wine and tomato paste. As soon as everything has reached a simmer, turn the heat down to a gentle simmer. Add a little more seasoning, then place the chicken gently on top of everything (it’s important to keep the rice down in the liquid). Finally, scatter the wedges of orange in among them.
Cover with a tight-fitting lid and cook over the gentlest possible heat for 50 minutes to 1 hour, or until the rice is cooked, but still retains a little bite. Alternatively, cook in a preheated oven at 350 degrees for 1 hour.
Garnish with scallions.
It has been the summer of over-indulgence, and although I am perfectly happy floating around in diaphanous flowing tents and kaftans, Autumn is coming which means my jeans are eyeing me nervously from their position in the corner of my closet. I am pretending I don’t see them, as I pull on yet another elastic-waisted skirt, and slip my feet into flip flops.
But there is a definite chill in the air, which means I must make some changes. All those terrible things I do not eat because they are damaging and destructive to my various auto-immune diseases, not to mention puffing me up like a balloon? You know, those things like sugar, and bread, and pasta, and more sugar (that I have been eating all summer)? I am going to stop eating them now.
RECIPE FROM GOOD TASTE. Order now.
This soup was a happy mistake. It came from one of those nights where I didn’t seem to have anything in the fridge other than a head of cauliflower that was well on its way to becoming inedible, a packet of pancetta and some stale parmesan.
I do always tend to have onions, garlic, carrots and cauliflower, and always stock in the pantry. When all else fails, I can always pull something together with the aforementioned and anything else I can find.
This was that night, and the truffle oil added the most delicious twist. For a whole winter, we ended up eating this almost every night.
2 ounces chopped pancetta 1 cup chopped onion
3 cloves garlic, chopped
3⁄4 cup chopped celery
1 head cauliflower
31⁄2 cups chicken broth
1″ cube parmigiano,
or any other strong cheese (reserve some cheese to sprinkle over the top to serve)
1⁄2 cup half-and-half
White or black truffle oil for drizzling
Sauté pancetta until brown. Add onion, garlic and celery and cook until vegetables are soft—a little over 5 minutes. Add cauliflower, broth and cheese. Bring to boil and simmer, covered, for around 20 minutes.
Purée soup with a handheld blender, then add half-and-half. When ready to serve, ladle into bowls, drizzle with truffle oil and sprinkle cheese on top.
I made this with gorgonzola recently and it was amazing.
A lush and gorgeous guide to all things food and entertaining from Jane Green, New York Times bestselling author of Jemima J, The Beach House, and Falling.
Jane Green’s life has always revolved around her kitchen…
… from inviting over friends for an impromptu brunch; to wowing guests with delicious new recipes; to making sure her ever-on-the-move family makes time to sit down together. For Jane, food is enjoyable because of the people surrounding it and the pleasures of hosting and nourishing those she cares about, body and soul.
Now, Jane opens wide the doors of her stunning home to share tips on entertaining, ideas for making any gathering a cozy yet classy affair, and some of her favorite dishes, ranging from tempting hors d’oeuvres like Sweet Corn and Chili Soup,to mouthwatering one-pot mains like Slow-Braised Onion Chicken, to sinfully satisfying desserts like Warm Chocolate and Banana Cake.
This book is Jane’s perfect recipe for making a wonderful life complete with friends, loving family, and moments filled with good food, good times, and, of course, Good Taste.
Release date: October 4, 2016
The rower has been training in Portland, Oregon for the entire summer. Before he left, I made him swear to phone his mother three times a week, and answer my texts. Not daily, I said, when I noticed the anxiety in his eyes, but mostly.
I had to be clear about my expectations because last summer he went off to rowing camp for six weeks, and I heard from him once.
This year, the high-performance rowing camp led to his selection for the US junior national rowing team, which made me just about the proudest mother there ever was. I’d love to tell him how proud I am, but I can’t get hold of him. He has now been gone for more than two months.
Jane Green's fifteenth novel, Tempting Fate, is soon to be released; she is the author of fourteen previous New York Times Bestselling novels.Full Bio