{a day in the life} The Merry Gourmet

Today’s “a day in the life” is Merry-Jennifer of The Merry Gourmet.  MJ’s blog is one of the first I followed when I started food blogging. I love the honesty of her writing and the obvious amount of time she puts into each post. I might skim a lot of food blogs, but The Merry Gourmet, I read. Every word. 

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Tell me about yourself and how you started food blogging.5631191014_d2ea2f2e40_z

I started writing a blog – a mommy blog, basically – in 2006 when I was on my 6-week maternity leave with second baby, my son Oliver. I was bored, I enjoyed reading blogs, and I thought it would be a great way to share information with our family and friends about my kids. For the first couple of years, I was happy with it. After a while, though, I found myself hating the idea of sharing another story about what my kids did that day. The posts that resonated with me were those that were about the meals we were eating and the foods I was cooking.

In February 2010, I set aside the mommy blog and started the merry gourmet, a food-focused blog. Of course, I still write about my children and their antics, but my focus is how food fits into our lives and I share recipes to go along with the essays.

Take me through your day.

6:00am Wake-up time. I’m the first one up, so the house is quiet and calm, at least for the next 40 minutes. While I dry my hair with one hand, I use the other hand to check email, Twitter, and Facebook notifications on my iPhone.

6:40am For the next 30 minutes, it’s a race to get the kids up and dressed and fed. While I get the kids dressed and their hair detangled, my husband makes their breakfast (usually cereal or a toasted bagel) and finishes packing the kids’ lunches. If I have time, I have a bowl of cereal. If not, my breakfast is a granola bar in the car later.

7:15am We’re out the door, and on our way to the school. Driving Madeline and Oliver to school is a highlight of my day. We listen to whatever music they like and the kids sing, or we talk about the day ahead.

8:00am to 6:00pm After dropping the kids off at school, I head to the hospital to work. I work full time as an oncologist, so my days are filled with treating patients with cancer. I make sure to take a break at lunch, even if only for 15 minutes, long enough to eat a sandwich and catch up on the day’s news or social media updates. In between patients, I catch up on emails. And on days when I’m not seeing patients, I spend my time teaching in the medical school, working on research projects, attending meetings, and writing. Two or three days per week, a babysitter picks up the kids for us. On the other days, my husband and I take turns, based on our respective work schedules.

6:30-8:00pm Somewhere between 6 and 7pm is the dinner hour. If we get home late, my husband and I let the kids eat early, and then we’ll eat after they go to bed at 8pm. Dinner is usually something quick and easy, like pasta, or on a good day, we will have put something in the slow cooker before leaving for work. On a not-so-good day, we’ll get takeout.

8:00-8:30pm Bedtime for the kids!

8:30-9:30 For an hour, I am free. Free! Sometimes I spend this hour watching television with my husband – usually, DVR’d episodes of Top Chef or CSI. Sometimes I finish (or start) a blog post that I’ve been working on. I use this time to catch up on Twitter happenings or to read my mom’s Facebook updates or her latest blog post.

9:30 My goal is to be in bed, reading. I aim for 30 minutes of reading – always fiction, and definitely nothing related to cancer or medicine – but often I fall asleep before I hit that mark. My current book is the fourth of the Games of Thrones series.

What is the most important part of your day? Why?

My mornings and evenings with my kids and my husband are the most important parts of my day. With them, I feel connected and whole.

What is your favorite day of the week? Why?

I love Saturdays above all. I wake up to the sounds of my kids playing instead of to the blaring of my alarm, I enjoy a cup of coffee at a leisurely pace, and I get to spend the day free of obligation. Saturdays are the day I can read or write at my own pace, I can cook and bake with no time constraints, and I can do nothing if I choose. I would have said Sundays, but on Sundays I’m generally stressing out about Monday.

If you could travel anywhere in the world for free, where would you go and how long would you stay?

Italy. I have never been to Europe, and Italy is on the top of my wish list. I love the idea of traveling there with my family and renting a villa for a month in the summer. I would spend the time touring ancient ruins, exploring vineyards, drinking good wine with my husband, and cooking and eating fabulous meals.

What is your favorite cookbook?

The two cookbooks I reach for most often are the The America’s Test Kitchen Family Cookbook and Dorie Greenspan’s Baking: From My Home to Yours. When I want to get creative and develop a recipe, my go-to book is The Flavor Bible. I have other favorites, but you asked for one and I already gave you three. I’ll stop there.

What recipe on your blog are you most proud of?

It wasn’t my original recipe, but I’m most proud of my very first layer cake – chocolate stout cake with buttercream frosting. I had gotten it in my head that I wasn’t talented enough to bake and decorate a layer cake, and with this cake, I proved to myself that I could. I posted it on my blog’s first anniversary, and it’s still one of my favorite posts.

chocolate-cake1205

What recipe on your blog do your readers seem to love most?

Nearly one year ago, I wrote about a chocolate dessert that I’d tweaked from an Ina Garten recipe. The dessert, a chocolate brownie pudding, struck a chord with Pinterest users, and that single post has had the most traffic of any I’ve written.

brownie-pudding

What have you found to be the most challenging part of blogging?

The Internet is filled with beautiful things (Pinterest, anyone?) and amazingly creative people. These talented folks are publishing food photos that are impeccably styled and perfectly lit. They’re publishing blog posts filled with well-written prose that tugs at one’s heart and soul. And they’re all doing it effortlessly, while eating only organic, locally-raised, and homemade foods.

Can you tell I’m a bit envious? Comparison is the toughest part of blogging for me. It doesn’t help that I’m a perfectionist by nature. I’ve written about the dangers of comparison here, and it’s something I struggle with daily.

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Thanks MJ! I love The Flavor Bible too, it is amazing when brainstorming new recipes. And FYI, anyone who writes this sentence: “They’re publishing blog posts filled with well-written prose that tugs at one’s heart and soul” doesn’t have to worry about their writing being sub-par.

You can also find Merry-Jennifer on Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest and Google+.

Disclaimer: Those post contains affiliate links.

When you make a recipe from my site tag it with #RachelCooks!
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8 comments

  1. Wow, what a great interview – I marvel at how MJ gets it all done! So inspirational!

  2. You are all SO incredibly kind. Thank you, thank you, thank you!

    Really, this was great fun to put together — and I kind of overwhelmed myself with how busy my days are. Luckily, I love the life I live and wouldn’t give up a single part of it. I’m so glad you’re enjoying a little peek into it. :)

  3. She’s an oncologist changing peoples lives everyday even if she never writes a single blog post or makes another recipe. Now that is something to be incredibly proud of!

  4. I love these posts – it is always fun to step into someone else’s world for a minute…not in a nosey, stalkerish way but to share their day and find — we are all so very much alike.

  5. This post made my morning. MJ is one of my most favorite & special bloggers (now friend) that I’ve been lucky to meet & get to know better over the years. So down to earth, real & obviously talented. Great post!!

  6. Wow- I what a Super Mom! I love your blog Merry-Jennifer- nice to read more about your days!

  7. I agree with Maureen… YOU ARE AMAZING!

  8. What a lovely interview. I cannot imagine how MJ gets everything done in such a brilliant manner. Talk about super organized! That chocolate brownie pudding looks scrummy.

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