Sometimes, you have to go looking for inspiration.
Sometimes, you are looking in the back of the freezer for a container of frozen orange juice and inspiration falls out of the door, knocks you on the head and cracks open as it hits the floor, spilling its itty bitty slivered contents all over the floor.
A mess? Or inspiration?
It's all in how you see it.
I saw the almonds on the floor, (which was mostly free of black dog hair allowing me to scoop them up and find that I had the exact amount I needed,) and the rosemary sprig on the windowsill and thought..."Focaccia!"
Now, that may not be what your first thought is when you are standing in a nutty mess smelling piney freshness...but it was mine. And if you're smart, which I know you are, you'll give this recipe a second thought some time. It's super easy, looks gorgeous, makes a huge pile of bread and tastes delish!
You might not have known this about me, but have this little side job as the leader of a group of people who get together once a week to talk about struggling with food and behaviors and healthy living and some of the finer Points of weight loss. I am so inspired by this group of losers (as I affectionately call them because collectively they have lost nearly 1,000 pounds over the years) that I cannot believe someone pays me to do this job.
Today, at our meeting I asked them to bring "before" pictures of themselves and clothing that they no longer wear because of their shrinking waistlines. They came. They showed pictures. They shared stories. They modeled ridiculously over-sized clothing. And all sorts of things were said about why they continued to make the effort to transform their lives and their bodies. These people are amazing.
I can sum up the sentiment of all the things said in two short sentences. The struggles. The highs. The lows. The challenges and victories. Two sentences.
Once your head is in the game, your butt has no choice but to follow along.
When we weigh less...we are way more.
Thank you to my Tuesday ladies and gentleman. You are truly an inspiration.
I had to fight my husband back with a fork in order to have enough pieces leftover for this shot. It was all gone once I determined that the picture turned out well enough to post. Yes, it's that good. And yes, it's that easy.
All of the credit for this recipe goes to Deb. She has a wonderful foodie blog that I love to salivate over. Go visit her for inspiration and know that she creates all of her amazing food in a kitchen that is 42 square feet. Whoa!
1 3/4 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
1 tablespoon chopped rosemary plus 2 (6-inch) sprigs
1 teaspoon baking powder
3/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup water
1/3 cup olive oil plus additional for brushing
Karen says, "The way you do anything is the way you do everything." I think that's just about the truest thing ever. Ever.
*just in case you need to know...this pizza is made with my traditional crust (recipe can be found on this blog) with pesto instead of red sauce, some leftover rotisserie chicken, Asiago cheese, red onion and red grapes.
I am not proud of my behavior yesterday in the produce aisle of our local market. But there it is...I was furious. I let it out...in a mostly safe way...and then I immediately moved on. It was kindof amazing. Like the scary valve on the top of a pressure cooker...once I let it out, my anger was completely gone...hmmm, lesson to be learned here perhaps?
Anyway, I am proud of something else. I have invented a drink. An adult beverage. A cocktail! Well...to be honest, I haven't actually invented the drink itself...I have given it a new name. A style makeover of sorts. Seriously upped its "coolness factor". When you combine 2 parts club soda and 1 part red wine some folks call it a Red Wine Spritzer. I've always felt that a Spritzer would be the kind of drink somebody named Muffy would order. Very fah-ncy. So, we renamed it.
When you want to be served 2 parts club soda and 1 part of Beaujolais (red wine) over ice in a big girl glass in our house, you order a...
Makes that bottle of red last a lot longer...nice.
A quick trip. A short list. That's all it was supposed to be. But it wasn't. And there was a melt down. And it was ugly.
I was just finishing up in the produce section of our local market, cart loaded with scallions, peppers and the first Honeycrisps of the season when I was stopped by a friend I hadn't seen in awhile. Pleasant small talk ensued. Children were remarkably patient. Plans were made to get together soon...and then it happened.
I looked over my friend's left shoulder and saw them. The bulk bin full of little candy corn pumpkins. A Fall favorite that has been a lifelong struggle for me. WHAT THE HELL ARE THEY DOING IN THE STORE IN SEPTEMBER?!?!?!? I cannot eat just one. When they are in the house, I cannot stay away from them. I used to buy them, and then hide them...but it turns out, I'm not stupid and I always remember where I hid them. And I would just keep eating them until I was sick. Not sick of them...literally sick, because I had eaten an irresponsible amount of them. So now I don't buy them until right before Halloween, knowing full well, that I will eat them all. But then it will be over. Damage done. Damage contained to one reckless incident.
So I just walked away. I walked away. Knees quivering. Mouth watering. Strength dissolving. Walked away. Focused hard on my list and moved on to bread and milk and other necessary items. Mostly recovered, and safely surrounded by salad dressings and other innocuous condiments I began to falter again.
What if I bought just one? Paid for it so I could truly appreciate the cost, both monetary and caloric, and limited myself like this until the October gorge could begin? Bulk bin, right? Sold by weight. This will work. I nearly tipped the cart over in my rush to do a u-turn in aisle 7 and made my way back to the other end of the store. Fighting the urge to stick my whole head inside the bin as I lifted the protective lid, I nudged the scooper in and selected just one confection. One itty bitty fruit of the vine. One. I carefully dropped it into the overly large plastic bulk bag, handed my 3 year old a free apple and turned to place it in my cart...
"Um. Excuse me ma'am," came the embarrassed whisper of the pimply faced produce adolescent. "You can't buy just one. It won't register on the scale at the checkout. You have to buy at least a whole scoop full." A scoop full!? Do you have any idea how many of these little pumpkins I can fit in my mouth at once!? I don't want a whole scoop full! It has taken me 15 minutes to build up the strength to buy just one and now you tell me I can't have just one! My face must have whitened as I fought the sick feeling in the pit of my stomach and shakily turned towards him. He really did look apologetic, but he had no idea how sorry he was about to be.
"But I only want one," I explained to him, trying to remain calm.
"If you like, you could totally have a "free sample" of one today," was his brilliant solution. He's feeling soooo clever. Like he's doing me a favor or something...aarrggghhhhh! My mind was flooded with images of me hitting this market several times a day to pick up my free sample...get a grip girl. This is irrational. You have already decided to pay for this pumpkin. Money and calories. Totally worth it...can't buy a scoop full and limit myself to just one a day...have tried that in the past. Doesn't. Work. Oh God...why did he have to offer me a free sample.
"Can't you just put a price sticker on it for me? Like maybe 10 cents or something? I am happy to pay for it. It's not a problem." I could hear my voice getting panicky. Ridiculous, I know. Don't judge me.
"Um. No ma'am. I'm sorry. The bulk stuff isn't labeled for individual sale."
My mind was racing again. Maybe I could buy the damn scoop full and throw the rest of them away in the trash can right outside of the store...no, probably not capable of that. This is stupid. Actually it's quite amazing how fast my mind is working right now.
Back to reality. "Um, ma'am. Did you want that free sample?"
"No thank you. I'll just pass for today," I whispered in defeat and handed him the bag with the solitary orange pumpkin. And just as I was turning my back to head towards the checkout I saw him toss the whole thing into the trash can next to the bulk bins. Water welling in my eyes and mouth dropping open I spun around and caught his eye.
"I have to throw it out. You touched it and now we can't sell it to anyone else," was his pathetic explanation.
Shaking. Fuming. Trying not to completely lose it in front of my child and the other unsuspecting shoppers, I gripped my cart for support, swung around so I could roll right past him and said...
"I hope you're happy. You just crushed my soul. I wish I could see things from your point of view, but I can't seem to get my head that far up my ass. Have a nice day."
They are actually not his eyes at all. They are just spots on his flesh meant to look like eyes in an attempt to scare away children with sticks predators. This tiny crawler will one day become a swallowtail butterfly, but for now he just goes about the business of trying to get filled up with enough leaf and when you look at him, you see eyes. But that's what you're supposed to see. When you look closely you can see his real eyes...but you have to get really close. He's busy and he needs you to think he's fierce. But he's so fragile.
I do this. I wear an outer shell that looks very much like something it is not. Just like that swallowtail, my exterior is also meant to scare away children with sticks predators. My outward appearance says 'I've totally got this all handled' and 'managing my life is such a cinch'. On the outside you see calm and balanced and tall. (It's funny to me how people always think I'm tall. I'm only 5'6". I think tall is what I want you to see, so I wear tall shoes and a tall personality. But I'm not tall.) I'm just going about the difficult business of managing two jobs and three children and an extremely busy husband. I'm just trying to get filled with enough sleep and exercise and spaciousness and peace so I can make it through the day. I'm busy and sometimes I need you to think that I'm fierce. But I'm so fragile.
We all do this. We all wear things on our outsides that are not what they seem. We are all just going about the business of getting filled up. But when we let people get close, they can see the real parts. The parts that are what they seem to be. And that is amazing.
I try to be efficient when I clean and straighten the house. I do not run willy nilly from room to room or up and down the stairs again and again returning things to their proper place. This approach, which works very well, often leaves me with a small pile at the top of the stairs. Usually, I try to grab a handful of items when I'm headed up or down. But today just as I was about to finish with my piles, I realized I had misjudged my time and needed to shower quickly before the school bus arrived, my kindergartener flew in the door, we scooped up the little one and ran out the door to do a few errands. So consequently that pile at the top of the stairs was forgotten.
Forgotten when the unattended 3 year old watched Dora while I showered.
Forgotten when we left the house.
Forgotten when we returned, arms loaded with bags of groceries and piles of papers from the school bags.
Forgotten when we settled in for an afternoon of Legos and dress up play.
Forgotten when the big sister returned from school and we zipped around to get ready for dancing school.
Forgotten numerous times today as we all ran right by.
Tonight when I looked again at the top of the stairs and saw the pile I was not frustrated by the fact that my family ignored the pile and chose not to help me return items to their proper place. Tonight I was not feeling like the unappreciated servant that seems to be the only one who actually sees the piles.
Tonight, I realized how lucky I am to have 3 young children who will ignore a pile like that 20 times in a day as they run past. I was grateful for my safe walls, my un-punctured furniture and the lack of broken bones, of any kind, in my house on this lovely Fall evening.
*Pictured, just as they sit, in their pile at the top of the stairs; a 5 pound rubber coated steel mallet, one screw driver and a paper bag full of packing peanuts.
Depending on what your plans are for the day, there might be quite a bit of traffic. Lots of things getting in your way. You have a choice...you always have a choice whether or not you choose to admit it...you can either be patient and wait for the things in your way to move along. Or get their shoes or turn left or finish writing their check or walk faster! Or you can choose to do something else.
Is it worth waiting? Is it something that must be done today?
If you skip it today will the opportunity be there tomorrow?
Will this be a miss out or a skip out?
Are there actually things in your way? Are you getting in your own way?
In the spirit of "Harvest Time" I promised my recipe for pesto. Because I would have missed out on over 50 servings of pesto if I had chosen to do something else yesterday. The basil needed to be picked and cleaned and married with cheese. There are lots of ways to make pesto. This is how I make pesto. It is good.
4 cups basil, lightly packed
1/2 cup olive oil
1/3 cup pine nuts
2 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese (or 1/4 cup Parmesan and 1/4 Asiago)
1 teaspoon salt
Combine all ingredients in a food processor and pulse until well combined. Use within 3 days or freeze. I spoon it into ice cube trays and cover the trays with plastic wrap for the initial freeze. When solid, I take them out and re-wrap them in groups of 5 "pesto cubes" because that is the amount we need for our family to have with gnocchi (our favorite winter pasta choice.) Each cube is approximately 2 tablespoons of pesto or 1 serving.
Facebook is not the solution to the problem of feeling disconnected. Facebook does not keep a list of who your true friends are. Facebook does not contain a record of how your friends are truly feeling. Facebook does not bring people together, it keeps them at home. Alone.
Interacting with their devices instead of their people.
That being said...the following is a picture of me interacting with Facebook. I am displaying this exuberant image of my unwashed, pajama clad self as a way to connect with all of you. What you cannot miss is how truly overjoyed I am at the status I am reading on my Facebook news feed. The news that my true friend, my actual real life friend who also happens to be my Facebook friend, is celebrating some amazing news and if I could run up and crush her with my hugs and tears of joy, I would.
She is 2,000 miles away. I am in my pajamas. We'll get to that hug some other day.
This was the first tomato sandwich I ever ate. While on vacation this summer in North Carolina I was introduced to this southern gem. Lightly toasted bread, with a wee scrape of mayo, fat chunks of July ripened tomato and a twist of sea salt. Enjoyed on the back porch on a gorgeous summer day. Couldn't be more simple. Couldn't be more delicious.
This is the tomato sandwich I ate for lunch today. That same southern gem with my own spin...
Lightly toasted cheese and chive challah bread, made by me, a generous schmear of locally produced chevre cheese, topped with the last wee tomatoes from this year's garden and a shake of sea salt. Enjoyed in the warm kitchen, because it's too cold to eat outside today. Couldn't be more simple. Couldn't be more delicious. Couldn't be more somber. Mournful. Depressing. A pathetic harbinger of impending doom.
...Wait? What....where did this post go awry?
Well, dear readers, this is the last tomato sandwich of the season, for tonight, I plan to commit herbicide. The frost will come and I will not get out the old sheets. The cold will snap and I will let it. The basil has been harvested. The cukes collected. And those final little reds sliced and diced for the season's final nosh.
It was delicious and all the more sweet because it was the last.
Stay tuned...tomorrow I will be processing 5 paper bags full of basil. Pesto anyone?
"This is a wine truck. It delivers wine to people's houses so they don't have to go out and get it themselves. You can place any kind of order. It will bring you wine from California or Michigan or even from Italian. This truck will also bring you extra stems if you run out of glasses for all of your wine people. It is a very wonderful invention"
Legos are the new favorite toy around our house and I have no idea know exactly why my children would build a vehicle of this type instead of some sort of spaceship thingy.
The situation is, we do not have a tree in our yard large enough for my girls to climb. They want one. They asked me to plant a tree of sufficient size. And they were not happy when I explained that you can't just plant a tree that big. You have to put in a small one and wait. Years. "But Maaahhhhhm. We want to climb."
My children don't have a climbing tree in their yard. My children don't have a lot of things. Ten years ago too many people didn't get to wake up on September 12th and be sad about what they didn't have. I am sad for the people who wake up everyday and don't see what they do have. How long have you been waiting for something to appear? How long have
you been seeing something only as the world sees it?
Is it because you lost someone? Or something? Or failed, or missed an
opportunity, or simply screwed up? We fold our tragedies into the
layers of our lives. We build on them. They either raise us up and
make us more solid or rock our foundations and make us unstable. Your
tragedies may not look like anyone else's, but make no mistake...the towers we build collapse all the time.
days did you waste wishing for something to be true...that just wasn't?
Stop. Be grateful for what it is. Or make it into something else.
My friend Mr. Maple Syrup went on quite a rant the other night about people who use the phrase, "It is what it is." More than a bit shocked at how riled up he got over the use of a simple string of words, I asked for an explanation.
"It's a cop out," he said, "People just say that when they don't feel like making an effort."
I totally disagreed with him...but on second thought...Darn him! He has a way of getting to me. That guy!
In this house, Fridays are special. We don't just meet the bus at the corner and let it be the last day of school for the week. We meet the bus at the corner with a giant bowl of popcorn and make it the first day of the weekend. We make it special.
So many times as a mother or a wife or a daughter or a sister or a woman, I have chosen to view things as what I make them and not just what they are.
So, Mr. Syrup, as much as it pains me to admit this...you were right. It's not what it is.
Our town has a very big celebration this weekend. Four days of carnival rides, funnel cake and the best small town parade that you've ever seen! Ever! We are celebrating the defeat of a very famous bank robber and bringing an official end to the summer season.
If you come to our town this weekend you'll see all the typical Fall changes. Front porch geraniums become buckets bursting with orange mums and haystacks piled with pumpkins. Little sisters become big kids and everyone has officially graduated to the next grade. Stay at home moms find themselves with empty rooms after everyone goes off to school and the farmer's market is loaded with tables of apples.
But ours is not the typical end to summer. We wait until the weekend after Labor Day in this town, and all sorts of ordinary things become something quite extraordinary. The empty field by the river becomes a carnival and the mayor starts riding a horse. The dog park becomes a rodeo and the downtown streets are filled with music and street food. People that grew up next door become royalty and little boys on bicycles get to be cowboys...even if it's only for a few days.
The Question: Are you going to work out this morning?
The Quick Answer: Probably not. I have too much to do.
The Full Answer: The facts are, I have PMS, and my sports bra is dirty, and I could really use new sneakers so my toes don't get crunched. I'm sick of my exercise dvds, and I'm planning to go to spin class on Sunday morning so that should be enough cardio for this week. I have been idle for so long it is hard to get back into it again, and it's wonderful to just have one child at home for a few glorious hours this gorgeous Fall morning in the Middle, and I already ate breakfast and I worry that I'll get a cramp. Oh and the cool weather is perfect for throwing open the windows and baking some bread.
Plus, she is so happy playing by herself and I really could get some writing and book promotion done, and she would be just as happy watching another episode of Dora so I could go meditate for an hour and she would never notice.
And there's the list. I have so many things to do this morning. I could really jam
through them because I have only one girl at home this morning while
her sisters are at school. Laundry, the giant weeds under the bird
feeder (it is such a lovely morning to be outside), the dishes in
the sink from yesterday, emails, dancing school registration, a last
trip to Target for preschool supplies, Costco list, editing my pictures
from the Train concert, scheduling the dentist, the mammogram, the haircut...paying the bills, posting the furniture on craigslist, giving the dog a bath, rotating the closets...
The Real Answer: The only thing that keeps me from working out. Is me. The only thing that keeps me from doing any thing. Is me.
Just look at the size of the step she has to take to get on that bus. It's almost like she needs a hand to grab from the sister who leaped up just ahead of her. Or maybe a boost from Mom standing just out of the picture. That final reach with her leading foot, up on her pink sparkly toes in the back. Climbing into the mystery of the school bus that will carry her to the great big hallways full of friends and classrooms full of new experiences.
Her sister knows about those things. She knows a lot of
things and she is more than happy to tell you about them. She has been
passing down information about school for two years now and my MiddleBit
has been taking it all in. Reaching out for more and more details as her first
day of school approached.
I know about those things too. I am so excited for her to go and do them. I was thrilled for her to go out the door this morning and up into that bus. I didn't push her out, she didn't need much encouragement. What I gave was more of a boost. From just outside the picture.
Today was her turn to take her first ride on the big bus. Just look at the size of that first step.
Does a picture ever remind you of something funny and completely random?
I am always looking for a clean good joke that I can tell in mixed company without getting myself into trouble. My children's ears are not so little anymore and they WILL repeat everything they hear so I have to be very careful these days.
This one fits the bill in every area...love!
A chicken and an egg were snuggled next to each other in bed late at night. The chicken, with a very frustrated look on it's face, laid very still, with its wings crossed over its breasts angrily. The egg, nearly falling asleep, and smoking a cigarette turned to look over at the chicken and simply said,
It's an uncomfortable little bit of guilt that I can't shake.
The longer I let it sit there the bigger it grows. The worse it gets. The scarier it seems.
I haven't posted on this blog in nearly 6 weeks. Sorry. I made a promise to myself, and unofficially to my readers, even before I had any, that I was never going to post just for the sake of posting. If I didn't have something worthy to share, or a piece that was well written enough to be "out there" then I would just skip it. I am intensely grateful for the fact that any of you read what I have to say. I have a tremendous amount of respect for the time it takes you to come to theMiddleBit and read my words. And I am not going to waste your time with junk.
Thank you for taking the time. I am embarking on a bit of a photo journey during the month of September to guide my writing. Part exercise, part really seeing what is right in front of me, part sharing with you. What you will find here everyday for the next 30 is a picture of something that happened that week and the words that flowed out as a result.
Just when you can barely stand it any longer. That thing right behind you. When you get out in front of it and go back to acting like yourself again it's amazing what happens.
It's not nagging at me anymore.
I'm finished feeling guilty.
It is big.
It could be worse.
And it's often scary.
But this time, it's behind 3 inches of safety glass.