Monday, November 30, 2009

home sweet home

We have just returned from our Thanksgiving trip home to Ohio, a whirlwind of travel through the state seeing Brian's family, my family, a few friends, and even some snow.

We also saw the inside of our favorite Athens restaurant, Casa Nueva. This is a place we actually plan our lives around, so that we can maximize the number of meals we get to have there. This time we fit in two - a dinner and a brunch. I'd consider that a success.

We took two cars home, so that we could bring back some items from my dad's house, including my mom's sewing machine. I am so excited to have it. According to my aunt, it belonged to my grandmother. I remember using it as a kid - first when I was in 4-H, and my group, "The Stupendous Stitchers", prepared some sewing projects for display at the fair. Later I used the sewing machine to make those loose, patchwork-sided jeans that everyone was wearing in college. My mom used it mostly for craft projects - cutting up a thin, old linen bedspread to make little rectangular sachets of dried herbs and flowers. It's a cabinet sewing machine - hard to come-by these days - and I'm really looking forward to using it.

Driving home through miles and miles of rain today, I let my mind wander. I thought about all the Christmas gifts I need to make, knitting imaginary rows in my mind, conjuring up the combinations of yarn I want to use for various projects. I thought about my blog - how it's evolved and what it really means, where its going, how to keep it true and honest and growing both in depth and in readership. I thought about a conversation I had with a good friend - a wise, beautiful, strong woman who is also a writer and creative spirit. We talked about finding a place where we can be free to express ourselves in stark and brutal honesty - how hard that is, how much courage it takes, how impossible it can be. I thought about how, as far as I know, there is no yarn shop - at least to speak of - in Athens. I thought about how much I sometimes want to move back to Ohio, how guilty I feel about the miles I put between Dora and her grandparents and other extended family, how much easier, at least in some ways, it would be to just give in and move back. I imagined that I could probably open a really awesome yarn shop in Athens, like Purl's or Yarn Paradise, and do really well. I could sit in my shop all day and knit, surrounded by a million colors and textures, happily enjoying a relatively competition-free existence which I would never have in Asheville.

After a longer-than-usual trip, we pulled into the turn lane on Patton Avenue to make the left onto Druid and head up the hill to our house. The grayness had followed us all the way to Asheville, with wet streets below and ominous dark clouds above. As we waited at the light, our little house a few yards away, the sun broke through the clouds. For a few intense minutes, the bright fall sun glowed orange against the glistening pavement and yellow ginkgo leaves on the corner by our house. It seemed like the sun was only shining in one place in the world, right over our little house in our little Asheville. Here I was, wondering again if we're doing the right thing living so many miles from home, and suddenly our overpriced little bungalow was bathed in sunshine.

Was it a sign from God, or just a meteorological coincidence? I guess I'll never know. It was enough, though, to quell my doubts a little longer, to remind me of why we came here in the first place, to make me think of this as home-sweet-home once again. My little girl is sound asleep in her bed, the dogs and cats are napping while the furnace hums away, the porch light is on waiting for Brian to get home from teaching. Home-sweet-home indeed.

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

courage in the kitchen

Yesterday morning I accidentally made oatmeal just the way my grandmother, my father's mother, who we called "Mamie", made it. We were packing for our trip to Ohio, trying to get Dora to behave, talking about what we needed to do, and the oatmeal was boiling on the stove. The water had almost completely boiled away, leaving only partially cooked oats in the pan. For a moment I thought about just throwing it away, but then I thought about Julia Child and decided to try to salvage the oats. I added more water, cooked them for another 5 minutes, and they came out just like Mamie's oats - one single, gelatinous mass that stays independent of milk. It may sound unpleasant, but I have always loved my oatmeal like that and have never been able to replicate it.

As a child I was always very fascinated by my grandmother, who seemed so independent and worldly. My grandfather, who we all called Fod although his real name was Karl, died when I was just six months old. There is one photograph of him holding me as a baby, but my only memories of him come from stories told to me by my family. Fod was very revered by everyone, and the whole family, including my mother, made it a point to tell a lot of stories about Fod, painting a real image of him for me that I still cherish.

My grandmother traveled a lot, went to the symphony, and maintained her independence even very late in her life. She was always dressed impeccably, wearing a sweater or suit coat, skirt, pantyhose, and high heels even at home. She wore spectator pumps. She had a dressing table in her bedroom holding all of her makeup, perfume, and hairpins. The dressing table was white with gold trim, the chair at the table had a gold cushion. To a tomboy from southeastern Ohio, that dressing table seemed like something from Hollywood. She was the first person I ever knew who had a dishwasher - a giant old box that she pulled out from the wall and connected to her sink with a hose that seemed to wash the dishes by shaking them vigorously.

Although I loved her oatmeal, I was not always a huge fan of Mamie's cooking. For every holiday meal she made tomato aspic, which seemed to me like the condensed, jelly-like chunks of tomato soup on the lid of a tomato soup can. One of her famous meals later in life was hamloaf, which we joked was "the dreaded hamwort" from the Kliban cartoons, a favorite in my family. Still, I would lie awake in my bedroom at Mamie's house in the early morning, listening for any sound of her in the kitchen. As soon as I heard her puttering around, chatting with her cats, I would walk into the kitchen in my pajamas to talk to her and watch her make breakfast. Maybe it was because of her inquisitive, talkative granddaughter that Mamie always overcooked her oatmeal, making it into that perfect, chewy glob that I loved.

My dad and Mary Kay got me a 3-disc set of episodes of Julia Child's "The French Chef" for my birthday. I don't know all that much about Julia Child, except what I've read in my very dog-eared copy of "Mastering the Art of French Cooking", and a few things I've read from other media as a result of the recent movie about her. I haven't seen the movie yet, although many people have told me to see it. I vaguely remember seeing her shows as a kid, probably with my mom, but that's about the extent of my memory of her.

The other night I watched the first episode in the set, "The Potato Show". This was perfect for me, with Thanksgiving this week and a seriously large collection of potatoes waiting in my kitchen. The show is black and white and appears to have little in the way of editing. Things happen that would be edited out of today's cooking shows - Julia exclaims that all the burners are making her sweaty, and she wipes her entire face, neck, and chest with a paper towel. At one point, she is making a mashed potato pancake. She tries to flip it, saying it just takes courage and conviction to do so. She jerks the pan swiftly, and the mashed potato cake comes apart in the air, half of it landing on the stove. Oh well, she says, no one's in the kitchen to see it - just put it together and no one will know. Add a little cheese, a little more butter, finish it in the oven and it will be fine. In a modern cooking show, they would have edited that out - but it was probably the best lesson in the show. Even when what you make seems to be a failure, if you've got the courage and conviction to keep going, it might just turn out delicious. Later in the show, she makes a grated potato pancake and proclaims that this time, "by gum", she will flip it. She does so with even more determination, and it flips over perfectly. See, she says, you've just got to do that with conviction and it works just fine.

I always viewed my grandmother as a courageous woman, traveling the world in her thirty years as a widow when it might have felt safer or easier to stay home. She taught me that you always dress up for a holiday, that music and art are almost as important as a good glass of sherry, that fireworks are an absolute requirement at the 4th of July, even if they're illegal. She taught me that you can usually get away with speeding if you don't outpace the tractor-trailers, who use radar detectors. Perhaps she also taught me how to make oatmeal, letting a bit of distraction and disorder in the kitchen lead to results I've always wanted, but never had the courage to discover until now.

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Potato, Carrot, and Leek Soup for a rainy Sunday afternoon

It's a rainy Sunday afternoon, and Dora and I are home without a car. We sold my car on Friday - which was a little bittersweet for me - and until we get the replacement, we're sharing Brian's car. He had to work this morning, so, we're home. We have things to do this afternoon once Brian gets home - but all morning and now, while Dora pretends to take a nap although I hear her scurrying around in her bedroom - we have been home, which has been just lovely.

This morning it was cold - but not yet rainy - so we took the dogs for a walk and collected leaves. I have an overly ambitious plan to make all of my Christmas gifts this year, and I need the leaves for something I thought of while lying in bed this morning. We found perfect examples of Oak, Maple, Ginko, and Bamboo leaves and carried them home. We smelled the lavender that continues to grow and even bloom in spite of the cold weather. We petted the kitty next door, who Dora says she loves. We baked brownies. We made potato-leek soup. We colored and traced around the leaves, placing them between sheets of paper in old books to press and dry them.

I got to pretend, if only for a few hours, what it would be like to stay home with Dora every day, getting inspired by nature and filling the house with delicious smells. What a luxury that would be, although the sound of Dora refusing her nap - stomping around and probably undoing the cleaning of her room that I did yesterday - is a good reminder of how hard it would be, too.

I've made gifts by hand for years, but have always supplemented them with other things that are store-bought. This year might be the same, but I've got a big list of ideas and materials, so hopefully most of the gifts will be handmade, even if also last-minute. I'm hoping this approach affords us a few more weekend afternoons at home, me working on crafts while Dora "works", too, drawing, stacking her blocks, playing with her toy kitchen set while I cook. I'm hoping that, by making a lot of things by hand, I can teach Dora that the act of creating the gift is more valuable than the cost of the materials, and giving something handmade can be more meaningful than choosing something made a world away with no real connection to the giver or recipient. And I'm hoping that we can fill the house with good smells, soup simmering and cookies baking, while we work away at our craft. That time at home, with my girl beside me and maybe even my husband around now and then, will be the gift I'm giving myself this year.

Potato, Carrot, and Leek Soup for a rainy Sunday afternoon
adapted from Mollie Katzen's Enchanted Broccoli Forest

4 - 5 medium potatoes, scrubbed and diced
3 leeks, well rinsed, white and light green parts thinly sliced
3 large carrots, scrubbed, halved, and thinly sliced
5 cloves garlic, peeled and left whole
freshly ground black pepper
chopped fresh rosemary

Put the vegetables in a large soup pot and add enough water to just cover the vegetables. Season with salt. Bring to a boil, then reduce to a gentle simmer, cover, and cook for about 30 minutes, until potatoes and carrots are tender. Using an immersion blender, puree the soup in the pot until smooth. Season with pepper and more salt, if needed. Serve sprinkled with chopped fresh rosemary. Keeps well in the fridge for several days and, when paired with a salad and bread, makes a great prelude to an evening of crafting. Enjoy!

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

beneath the stars

Last night I got to see Regina Spektor perform in Asheville. I just got introduced to her music over the summer, when I heard her interviewed on NPR and subsequently bought her latest CD. The concert was fabulous - my friend Destiny scored some free tickets for us, and I passed one of them on to my friend Mandy. We all had a great time and now I'm an even bigger fan, so much so that I bought another one of her CDs today, primarily because of one of the last songs she played last night that I just had to have. Spektor has an interesting, beautifully strong voice, quirky, intellectual lyrics, and she plays the piano (among other things). Since marrying a piano player 5 years ago, I tend to be drawn to musicians who include piano in their work.

The song that really reached out and grabbed me, that I just had to listen to again today, was played near the end of the show - the first in her encore set. The lights were low, and only an array of tiny white star-like lights illuminated the stage. She played a sweet love song, Samson, and I found myself moved in that why that only music can do, thinking about my own love and all that our relationship has grown into. I think its really a song about a relationship that has ended, but It was a beautiful moment nonetheless, the highlight of the evening for me.

When a friend of mine got married a few years ago, I wrote in her wedding card, "congratulations! Now the real work - and the real fun - begins." In hindsight, it was a pretty pretentious thing to say. I was only a "veteran" of about a year or so of marriage, and I really didn't know how much work marriage was going to be. But, aside from the fact that I was probably not experienced enough to write that, it turns out to be true. Other than parenting, marriage is definitely the hardest, most worthwhile thing I've ever done.

When I wrote that note to my friend, I believed that, once you got through that first really hard year, marriage was all uphill. Brian and I had had an incredibly difficult first year of marriage, complete with both of us wondering why we'd gotten married in the first place. But, right around our first anniversary, things leveled out, and we found a rhythm in our relationship that clicked.

Since then I've learned that marriage is more cyclical than linear, with ups and downs that will challenge even the strongest of foundations. I can think back over the past five years and point to moments of incredible love and joy. I remember Brian saying to me when I was pregnant, "what could be more beautiful than the woman I love pregnant with my baby". It was probably one of the sweetest moments of our relationship. Months later, gazing together at a newborn Isadora, all of us bathed in the glow of our new family, it felt like our love had reached a new height - a new pinnacle neither of us had known existed.

The funny thing is, as wonderful as it has been having Dora, it has also been one of the biggest challenges we've faced. Before we had a baby, I really thought we would be different from all those other couples, that our relationship wouldn't be negatively impacted in any way by bringing a third person into it. After almost two and a half years, I can see now that, even though in some ways becoming parents brought our marriage to its knees, it has also brought us closer together. We've been forced to focus our relationship on a greater purpose, so the highlight of our week is no longer a great meal out, but an evening at home together, laughing at our inquisitive and brilliant little girl, both of us still shocked to discover that together we could create something so perfect.

By no means do I think we're out of the woods. I know things will continue to be up and down. There will still be bills to pay and messes to clean up, and we'll have another baby someday and throw everything out of whack again. But how lovely it was last night to have a beautiful evening out with my girlfriends, happily revisiting my carefree, pre-baby, pre-marriage days. Lovelier still was the experience of sitting in a dark auditorium between two great friends, moved by a piece of music that reminded me not only of my carefree, single days, but of the sweet love waiting for me at home beneath the stars, imperfect and messy but mine.

Monday, November 16, 2009

keeping up

I'm not sure what is happening, but Dora seems to have become a little girl overnight. All of a sudden she seems so grown up - wearing pigtails and carrying a purse, speaking in full sentences and making gestures like an adult. It's all I can do to keep up with her. Actually, I can't keep up with her - or my life in general - at all right now. I'm a full-time working wife and mother, trying to maintain some semblance of creativity and trying to pursue my own dreams, so it's no wonder I feel busy. Sometimes all this busy-ness just ends up making me feel woefully inadequate, like the jack of all trades who can't do anything very well.

If my life weren't so busy, perhaps I could be keeping up with this blog a little bit better. I would like to be posting something every other day, or so, and I have enough things to talk about and enough pictures taken to do just that. I just can't find the time, which is incredibly frustrating and sad to me. I would have enjoyed writing about last Wednesday, for example, when a couple of my good friends and I took advantage of the rare holiday when our offices are closed but our day care centers are open. We went out to lunch and then went to a matinee showing of Coco Before Chanel, featuring my absolute favorite actress Audrey Tautou - the lovely ingenue from Amelie. It was a beautiful movie, perfect for a rainy day, and just a great reminder of how important female friendship is.

I would have liked to write an entire blog entry about Thursday as well. On Thursday I had the opportunity to go see the David Dhoop band premiere at the Town Pump in Black Mountain. It's always fun to see local music, but when the local music includes your husband and several close friends, it's even better. And it's even better when, standing in the crowd with your friends, you get to watch people you love do something they love, realize something they have hoped for in a new way. It's not very often that one is brought to tears while completely sober, in a bar - but it does happen now and then, listening to your friend's husband lay it all out on the line with honesty and love, all set to some incredible music.

I would have enjoyed writing about Saturday night, when we went to dinner with our baby turned little girl. We went to Wasabi, our favorite sushi restaurant in Asheville, the first place we ever took Dora, when she was just two weeks old. The staff there has always been so incredibly sweet to us - fawning over Dora as a sleeping newborn, smiling kindly as she became a messy toddler, and obliging her now as an inquisitive and "helpful" little girl. Our waitress fashioned special "child's" chopsticks bound together with a rubber band, brought Dora extra treats, and let her help clean off the table. It appears that we may have rounded a bend in our ability to go out to dinner with Dora. The last two times at Wasabi, she has been a perfect angel - munching on edamame and rice, trying a sushi roll, and drinking water from a tiny sake cup. We both found ourselves pleasantly surprised at how enjoyable it was having dinner out with Dora, a feeling I think we both feared we would never have.

I know I'm fortunate to have a job, and to be so blessed with the prosperity that we enjoy that also means we are incredibly busy. I know that every day that I go to work is one step towards paying off our debts, sending our girl to college, hopefully doing some good for the world here and there. I know I should be happy to be using my education and my brain and my skills as I do, but right now I just wish I could slow things down. I wish I could stay home for a few days and catch up - even on the mundane things like laundry and cleaning. I wish I could be with Dora just a little more, so that when she suddenly starts carrying a purse and wearing pigtails I don't find myself wondering how she became a little girl instead of a baby. I think its a blessing for all of us that Brian gets to watch Dora every morning, but I'm jealous. I want to be the one who gets to pick out her clothes and pack her lunch. I want to be the one who takes her to Kindermusik every week.

I was talking to two different friends today who both mentioned how hard it is to live in the moment. As a planner, I get paid to not live in the moment. Most of the things I work on won't happen for at least 5 years. Some of what I do involves looking ahead 25 or 30 years into the future. I find it really hard to live in the moment, and I think being as busy as we are makes it even harder. I might wish I was the one who gets to be home with Dora more, but wishing it does not make it so. I might never get to be that person. So instead I have to find a way to make the time we do have together really great, even if sometimes its just cuddling while we watch a Muppets episode together, even if it means eating dinner at 9 pm after Dora goes to bed. I know its not always going to be great, but if I can just strive for that, and have an evening or a Saturday now and then that feels really spectacular, then maybe I can feel a bit less like a woefully inadequate wife and mother. Maybe I can feel a bit less shocked at how quickly Dora is growing, and feel a bit less cheated when it seems to fly by. Maybe I can do a little bit better at keeping up.

Monday, November 9, 2009


On Sunday, my birthday, I made it to church for the first time in a long while. We were running late, of course, and I decided to take Dora with me into the service rather than sending her to the nursery as I usually do. We walked in during a hymn, and as I stood there holding Dora and her night-night, looking at the sun shining in through the stained glass, I felt that familiar intense sadness and longing for my family that I sometimes feel at church. The sermon that day was about paradoxes - about the way we all carry within us a duality that is sometimes difficult to admit. Even Jesus felt darkness and light, love and hate, joy and sorrow - and all of those feelings, as the pastor said, are true within us. There are times when church is just a place you go, and times when its a fun social activity, and times when it reaches out and grabs at your heart, reminding you why you are there. It doesn't have to be a formal religion to make this happen either - there are just moments that speak to you, grab your attention in such a way that you are glad - so glad - that you were there, and not sleeping in as you had wanted to that morning.

My birthday was quite wonderful, thanks in no small part to my husband. I have been traveling a lot lately - which is why I haven't posted much lately - and I told Brian that what I really wanted for my birthday was to bake a cake and make a nice meal for my friends. I just wanted to be in my house, filling it up with wonderful smells and loving people. I ran out to the grocery store early in the morning on my birthday, and when I returned Brian and Dora sang happy birthday to me, which was probably the highlight of my day. That afternoon, Brian came home with a bouquet of flowers. He worked tirelessly with me all weekend getting the house ready, and helped me put on a sweet little dinner for our friends.

All of our friends who came over brought me sweet, meaningful gifts - a handmade magnet, more flowers, a beautiful Bible with a thoughtful inscription, daffodil bulbs (my favorite flower) and a great drawing of our whole family by our little friend Isaac. Brian then gave me his gift - a beautiful handknit scarf and fingerless gloves made by my friend Mandy, which he had commissioned her to make for me. For dinner we had salad, roasted fall vegetables, bread, brie, and lemon-herb chicken. I really wanted the house to smell like my mom's house when I was a kid - the smell of a chicken roasting is an instant reminder of my childhood. For dessert I made a Texas Italian Cream Cake, with cream cheese and toasted coconut frosting.

It was absolutely delicious, primarily because of the great company we had for dinner. After everyone left, after Dora was in bed and the living room lights turned off, Brian and I were loading the dishwasher in the dark, quiet kitchen. I thanked him for helping me have such a wonderful day, and thanked him for all the work he did so we could have our little dinner party. I said, "I know it was a lot of work, but that's really what I wanted for my birthday, to have those people over here who are like our family now".

My words caught in my throat just a bit, and I thought again of my family, of my mom, and how much I miss them. Birthdays are like a family holiday for us - my brother and I have the same birthday, six years apart, and my dad's birthday is the following day. All through my childhood we would have one big party for all of us. I remember mom making or buying three different cakes some years. She would get those Pepperidge Farm 3-layer frozen cakes, and of course my brother and I wanted different flavors. We always recycled wrapping paper, and I believe there is still in existence a bit of the "Carrie" wrapping paper, my name in rainbow 70s-style letters against a white background. There were years when our birthdays fell on election day, and I always hated having to wait until after we drove out to the fire station to vote to open our gifts.

I always think about my family on my birthday, and think about my mom. I wonder what she felt like on her son's 6th birthday when she went into labor with her second baby. As I child I felt it was unfair that I had to share my special day with my brother, of all people, although now of course I love this little quirky fact about us. Now, as a mother myself, I wonder what it was like for my mom to have to fit all of that emotion into one day. I find it challenging enough to reflect on the meaning of each August 4th, recounting the events of Dora's exquisite birth. I cannot imagine how hard it would be to find the space for adequate reflection of two births in one day. People used to ask my mom if she planned this, to which she would always laugh and say "yes" in her most sarcastic tone, but I must admit the thought crossed my mind as we have contemplated a second baby - as if any of us have that much control.

I had a beautiful birthday, full of many reminders of why my life now is so blessed and so wonderful - my family, my friends, my pets, my home. But it was not without a few moments of absolute sadness, of wishing intently as I often do for just one more day with my mom, just one afternoon to watch her play in the sunshine with Dora, just one more birthday to share with my whole family as I used to. I have within me that paradox that my pastor spoke of - darkness and light, joy and sorrow. I look at my baby girl and my sweet husband and feel like my heart could explode with happiness, and in the same breath feel it break for what I have lost. That conflict is not always easy to bear, for me or for anyone else, but feeling that makes us human. That is a universal truth - that we have to experience both sides of the paradox - and that is not a bad thing, or a shortfall, or a tragedy of life - but a rich and beautiful part of it. I am thankful that I have the capacity to experience all of that - both the good and the bad. I believe it is a gift to have the responsibility to teach our children how to hold both sides of the paradox, to love that part of ourselves and one another. That is the truth within all of us, the truth that reaches out and grabs us, and reminds us why we are here.

Monday, November 2, 2009

oven poached fish with lemon and thyme

Is it just me, or does the time change make everything feel that much more complicated? Until driving home from work today, I had forgotten how much I hate that early darkness, that feeling that the only daylight hours are those spent at work. Dora has been resisting bedtime lately, and even before the time change, the evenings were getting dark earlier. I have had very little time lately to think about new recipes, let alone try them out while photographing their progress and the results. Now that it is fully dark by the time I get home from work, I'm not sure how I'll post a food blog mid-week - unless it's like this one, with photographs of other things and notes on a successful meal, with no images of the actual food in question. I guess I'm not ready to strip the word "food" from my blog subtitle yet, but I'm feeling a bit like a phony today, with leftover rotisserie chicken resting in the refrigerator.

I just returned from nearly a week in the coastal areas of Georgia and South Carolina, first in Savannah and then in Folly Beach. I love fresh seafood - won't pass up that chance to have some - so I had a lot of seafood on this trip. I had some mediocre seafood - overpriced, touristy food, teeny-tiny scallops and flavorless hushpuppies. I also had some truly delicious meals, including a delightful bowl of shrimp and grits at Vic's on the River in Savannah, pictured below. Perhaps it was because this was our first "vacation" meal following a long-separation from family and nearly a week of meetings and late-night projects, but this meal was absolutely heavenly.

We spent our weekend in Folly Beach sharing a house with the members of the wedding and party band that Brian plays keyboards with, Orange Krush. Saturday night, while the band was at their gig, I made dinner for the other wives and girlfriends who had come on the trip. It was great to have their help watching Dora while I made oven poached black grouper with lemon and thyme, garlic steamed green beans, and new potatoes with butter and parsley. I loved the opportunity to make a nice meal for other people again, even if the kitchen was poorly equipped. The ladies thoroughly enjoyed the meal so I thought it was worth sharing, even if I don't have any photographs of it.

Oven Poached Black Grouper with Lemon and Thyme (serves 4)

1 1/4 pounds skinless fresh fish fillets
several Tablespoons unsalted butter
dry white wine
3 - 4 fresh thyme sprigs, rinsed, patted dry, and leaves stripped off
4 - 6 lemon slices, seeds removed, plus half a lemon for squeezing

Preheat the oven to 375. Arrange the fish fillets in a single layer in a baking dish. Season with salt and pepper. Dot with slices of butter, sprinkle with thyme leaves, and distribute lemon slices evenly over fish. Squeeze lemon half over fish and add dry white wine to pan until fish is surrounded by about 1/4 in of liquid (amount needed varies depending on size of pan). Cover tightly with aluminum foil and bake until fish flakes easily with a fork, about 25 minutes depending on the thickness of the fish fillets. (Note: I made this recipe in an oven in a rental house that did not seem to hold the temperature on its thermostat. I had it set at 425 when I made this fish, but it felt much cooler than that. The oven temp and the baking time are dependent on the type of fish you use, thickness of the fillets, how many times you peek in, etc. Check the fish frequently and remove as soon as it is opaque and flakes easily.)

To serve, discard lemon slices and serve fish drizzled with a bit of the sauce from the pan. Serve with the remaining dry white wine and follow with an hour or so of friendly conversation around the dinner table. Hopefully the warmth of that circle of conversation and a shared meal will help you forget about the early nightfall.