One of my favorite things about good recipes is the way that certain foods and smells can evoke powerful feelings and memories, inviting feelings of home and family, preserving a link between homes and hearths and generations of bakers. No food more perfectly conveys this relationship between food and emotion than homemade bread.
My grandma's rolls will always prompt memories of Thanksgiving, and Banana Bread makes me think of my mother. Nothing welcomes in the change of seasons from summer to autumn like Pumpkin Bread straight out of the oven, and Sourdough will always remind me of my dad.
And yet, even though I enjoy baking (and eating) homemade bread, it wasn't until this last week that I finally found the courage to attempt Sourdough. The very idea of creating a sourdough starter was simply intimidating. It ferments on the counter and you feed it periodically? And what if I put in all the time and effort and it doesn't pay off in the end?
But it turns out, like most baking, you just have to follow the instructions. The starter was not as intimidating as I thought it would be (and for minimal effort, I am felt pretty pleased with myself :), and the only tricks to making the bread were finding the right recipe and planning ahead.
It's the prettiest dough I've ever handled--with possibly the greatest pay-off--and the labor of love involved in preparing it will undoubtedly add to the sentiment my family will associate with its distinct flavor.
RESOURCES, TIPS, AND TAKEAWAYS
I just finished reading Inheritance: A Memoir of Genealogy, Paternity, and Love by Dani Shapiro, a powerful story well told and artfully woven into the history of genealogy, DNA testing, and early fertility medicine, and the whole time I was reading it, I kept thinking of my own recent discoveries about my family history.
My Nana was adopted as an infant, and knew very little about where she came from. She passed away several years ago, but her story always felt like it was part of my own, and I wanted to know more. We had a last name, a place of birth, a story of two sisters both giving up their daughters for adoption. It didn't seem like a lot to go off of on its own, but then we added DNA testing.
A friend of mine was able to help me interpret the results we had on Ancestry.com, leading right to my Nana's biological mother, Margaret. I will always remember coming across a picture of Florence, Margaret's sister, and seeing a family resemblance so strong that I was moved to tears. It really was like discovering a missing piece of myself.
Not long after we made those initial discoveries, my aunt forwarded me a message she had received on Ancestry from my Nana's biological cousin.
"I see that you have a match with Margaret, my father's sister. I know the basic story about [your mom] and her adoption. Would love to connect with you for stories and pictures..."
We started corresponding through email and over the phone, and she sent me pictures and shared stories that I had to remind myself belonged in part to me as well.
"We all carry inside us, people who came before us." -Liam Callanan
There are still a lot of missing pieces to the puzzle. Nana's biological father remains a mystery as well as the motives that led to her adoption. I recently sent a letter to a woman who we suspect to be Nana's half-sister, and I am excited to see what will come of that as well. But it is still incredible how much more we know now than we did just a few short months ago.
I can't necessarily explain why it matters so much to me that I can look into the eyes of these people who came before me and learn more about my origins. I haven't felt any sense of change in my identity, and I'll never know the full story or be able to meet my ancestors in person, but it's still a part of who I am. And they are faces and stories that belong to my family and my history.
Since I've started reaching out to potential literary agents seeking representation for Adele, I've added the following line to my book summary: "This is the story of Adele Astaire, a forgotten heroine whose life rivals those of Grace Kelly and Meghan Markle." All three women left successful careers as actresses to marry titled foreigners, all three women left everything behind and started a new life, choosing family, position, and love over fame and success. So why is it that Adele isn't remembered or romanticized like Grace and Meghan have been?
At the time of her wedding to Charles Cavendish, Adele was at the height of her career. Newspapers in the U.S. and U.K. lamented her early retirement, and the news made headlines in both countries.
"Miss Adele Astaire to Wed Peer’s Son"- New York Times, 23 October 1931
"It Will by Lady Cavendish Soon for Fred’s Sis"- New York Review, 24 October
"Dancer’s Romance with Duke’s Son"- Sunday Mail, Glasgow, 25 October
According to Hannah Obee, the Chatsworth House curator, "It was so unusual at that time for an actress to marry into the English aristocracy. The fact that she's having this fairy tale romance with an English Lord just completely captivates everybody." -Secrets of Chatsworth
And Charlie and Adele even had to deal with the same type of media circus we see today surrounding a royal or celebrity wedding, with reporters swarming the ship when Adele arrived in England for the wedding, following her from Plymouth to London by taxi and by train.
And while Adele's mother in-law sought to keep the wedding an intimate family affair (not even telling the household staff when it would take place until the night before), there were still journalists stationed outside Chatsworth on the day of the wedding, hoping to get a shot of the bride and groom for Adele's loyal fans.
Though a small ceremony, the private chapel at Chatsworth was decorated lavishly. Just listen to this description from The Astaires: Fred & Adele by Kathleen Riley:
"The small seventeenth-century chapel, with its ceiling painted by Louis Laguerre, was decorated with daffodils and acacia; two myrtle trees stood in the sanctuary; the marble altar was flanked by scarlet camellias and vase of arum lilies. Adele wore a gown designed by Mainbocher, beige satin with touches of orange at the waist, a set of blue fox furs and a beige beret, a sapphire and diamond brooch...and a diamond bracelet from Charlie. She carried a bunch of orange carnations grown in the gardens at Chatsworth."
And yet Adele's wedding day, her romance with Charles Cavendish, and even her success on broadway have all but faded away. While I don't think the decision she made was any less significant than those of Grace of Monaco and Meghan, Duchess of Sussex, a couple of factors have added to Adele's relative obscurity.
First of all, Adele didn't marry a prince. Charlie was the second son of the Duke of Devonshire, and consequently Adele won't be found on any of the lists comparing Meghan Markel to other so-called American Princesses.
But perhaps more importantly, consider the difference in the scope and reach of the media compared to just 25 years later when Grace Kelly married Prince Rainier III of Monaco. No film even exists showing Adele on the stage, whereas Grace Kelly was immortalized in her films (and even had her public wedding service recorded by MGM). And although Adele was a much sought after Broadway star, outside of the theater and the newspapers in America and England, her fame was nowhere near that of Oscar-winning Grace Kelly or Suits star, Meghan Markle.
So I suppose not everyone would group these three women together, but I think Adele deserves a place beside them. I don't wish to compare the dresses they wore or the status of the men they married. In fact, I should clarify that Before Ginger Rogers is not even really a romance. Romance does play a part of course, because Adele truly did love Charlie, but my book is the story of how a modern, successful woman could choose to give it all up for something she thought was more important. That's what drew me in. There is fulfillment and pride and joy in the path that Adele and Grace and so many others choose for themselves (with or without the castle and links to royalty), and I think that these stories need to be told more often.
Click on images for links to original sources.
We didn't do the best job letting people know we had another little one on the way, so here is (more than) everything you need to know about our little girl, due October 24, 2019!
Is this another IVF Baby?
We did a FET (Frozen Embryo Transfer) this time around. When we did IVF in 2017 to get Annie, we were able to freeze six additional embryos, so I didn't need to do a retrieval all over again. Which is good and bad. Since my body didn't ovulate, that meant I had to take hormone treatments to mimic what my ovaries would have been doing throughout the first trimester (until the placenta can take over producing the hormones).
Has this pregnancy been similar to my first?
First of all, I'm surprised at how little I remember from Annie's pregnancy! I definitely remember getting these hormone induced migraines both times, but I seem to have blocked out a lot of the discomfort. The main difference was in the first trimester. I felt a lot more nauseous while I was taking hormones than when my body was producing them naturally. This pregnancy is also going by a lot faster since Annie helps to split my focus.
Did I expect that we were going to have another girl?
I went back and forth for a while, but right now it just feels like we're a girl family. I am so excited that Annie will have a sister, and I get so much enjoyment out of saying, "the girls"!!! And Matt? He loves being a father to daughters. They're lucky to have him as their dad!
What names are we considering?
If she had been a boy, we were pretty sure we were going to name her Benjamin. Girl names are trickier for us! I don't think I want her name to end in a "y" sound, and we prefer traditional names. There are a lot that we like (i.e. Emma and Kate), but no definite front runners yet.
Am I considering doing a natural labor?
Consider? Yes. But I'm already so uncomfortable, my resolve often wavers. My friends who have fearlessly brought their babies into the world without epidurals recommended I read Natural Hospital Birth by Cynthia Gabriel, and Ina May's Guide to Childbirth. Both have been excellent resources to help me prepare for the second time around.
Does Annie seem to know what's going on?
Not at all. But I think she's going to make a wonderful big sister.
What do I think I will need this time around that
I did make a baby registry, but it doesn't seem like we need anything! I would have liked to have had a bassinet for Annie, so I took care of that. And our infant car seat will need to be replaced, but other than that, I was really happy with the gear we had for Annie. Plus, the girls (!!!) will be almost exactly two years apart, so we should even be good on clothes.
I am going to do a Promptly Journal for this baby. And I no longer have reservations about buying Annie shoes, bows, or clothes, knowing that we'll get plenty of use out of them now!
This time around I'm just excited. I even feel like I know this new baby better because I know Annie. There is something special about your first, but I can tell already that there is something wonderful about your second. 22 weeks today! Couldn't be feeling more grateful.
It all started with Chatsworth. I met Adele while watching the BBC documentary Secrets of Chatsworth, so I knew the house itself would have to play some sort of role in the book. While most of the book takes places in New York City and London, Adele's time at Chatsworth is defining for her character and essential to the story.
If you're wondering why this house might look familiar though you don't recognize its name, it's likely because you've seen it portrayed as Pemberley in film adaptations of Pride and Prejudice or Death Comes to Pemberley. It is widely believed that Jane Austen used Chatsworth House as her inspiration for Darcy's iconic estate, and the house itself is mentioned in Pride and Prejudice as one of the estates Elizabeth and the Gardiners visit before their tour of Pemberley.
Having never been to Chatsworth myself, I reread the chapter where Lizzy first sees Pemberley and used it as inspiration for Adele's fist visit. I also relied heavily on Chatsworth: The House, a book written by the former Duchess of Devonshire, wife to the eleventh Duke of Devonshire. She details the history of the house, including maps and pictures, allowing me to create vivid descriptions that are true to time and place.
Naturally, I plan to visit someday, but after all of my research and writing, part of me does feel as if I've already been there with Adele. Hopefully that will come across in those pages of the story.
I didn't grow up watching a lot of Fred Astaire. In fact, I think my main exposure to him was his role as a claymation postman in the 1970s Christmas classic Santa Clause is Coming to Town. But, of course, I had heard of him. And there was no way I could come to know Adele without coming to know Freddy during the process.
HIS FAME. Even if you've never heard of Adele before, you've probably heard of Fred Astaire. Most people I talk to about my book are surprised to know that he had a sister and even more surprised to learn that she was ever considered the better dancer between the two of them. The reason Fred's legacy has prevailed is due largely in part to his career move from Broadway to Hollywood- because how many people today remember the stars of the stage from the 1920s? And to his credit, Fred Astaire is also remembered today because he really was one of the best. While Adele had a natural talent that propelled their early career, it was Fred's knack for choreography and his tireless work ethic that made them both famous and made him the iconic figure that he is.
HIS FASHION. Most people think of Fred Astaire and immediately imagine him in a top hat and tails. He and Cary Grant were called "the best dressed actor[s] in American movies," and I even found him prominently featured in a men's fashion article when I was doing research on men's clothing for the book! But one of the most interesting things I learned about Fred Astaire was that he not only didn't enjoy top hats and tails, but he also didn't consider himself to be fashionable at all!
"At the risk of disillusionment, I must admit that I don't like top hats, white ties and tails. I am always arriving at dinner parties not wearing a dinner jacket when I should, or vice versa...
The carefree, the best-dressed, the debonair Astaire! What a myth! My hats are too small, my coats are too short, my walk is loose. I am full of faults. I have a sense of humor but it won't always work for me. I am always blowing my top over the wrong things. I tell you, I am a very annoying guy."
-Fred Astaire, Steps in Time, 1959
Picture from their first recital. That's Fred in the dress on the left :)
HIS PRIVACY. One of the most important things that I learned about Fred Astaire is that he never wanted his life portrayed in a film. According to one of his biographers he said, "However much they offer me—and offers come in all the time—I shall not sell." A clause in his will outlines the same thing, about which he added, "It is there because I have no particular desire to have my life misinterpreted, which it would be." With that in the back of my mind each time I wrote about his character, I did my best to stick to the facts from his own autobiography, using quotes he said in real life to shape his voice and dialogue, and trusting his perspective on events that take place in the book. There is very little interpretation of him on my part, and if I erred in my portrayal of him, it was in an attempt to show him as he wanted to be shown. So, I think you'll recognize him as you already known him. But ultimately, this book is about Adele Astaire, and, though though Freddy is a significant figure in the story, he plays a much smaller role.
Are you a fan of Fred Astaire?
What other questions do you have about his character in the book?