Category Archives: birthday

Twenties, Thirties, & Beyond: How It Gets Better

It’s my third and final night in Paris tonight.

It’s also my 35th birthday in 10 days.

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Between this adventure I’m currently on and the life I’m living, I’ve had lots of time to reflect, and lots of great conversations with old friends. These have led me to an interesting conclusion.

Life just seems to get better and better.

In speaking with friends scattered across the globe, a common theme emerges: we’re aging. But we’re seeing some really great things come out of the process, not just the wrinkles and the graduated torture of additional medical exams.

As I look out from the middle of my fourth decade, I’m feeling like I have ‘a new lease on life,’ as the old saying goes. And why? What could give someone who is no longer ‘young’ the feeling that the world is her oyster? Well, I’ll tell you.

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You don’t put up with SHIT.

Back in your 20s, maybe you had a boyfriend for 3 years that you should have split up with after Year 1. But you thought maybe it was you, and you could change, and then you’d be perfect together.

Now you wouldn’t think twice about standing up for your standards because time with someone who doesn’t make you happy in some way is time wasted. Life wasted. And ain’t nobody got time for that.

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You don’t CARE about shit.

Back in my former life, I toed the line, following others’ expectations for my life, because I was too insecure about going after the things I really wanted: to be a musical comedy actress, for example. I couldn’t move somewhere on my own and try something so drastically dreamy without someone cheering me on, now, could I?

Instead, I worried about how my pencil skirt fit, and made a concerted effort to purchase the perfect plates for hors d’oeuvres at dinner parties.

And after all this agonizing, I realized that it’s not about the style of teacup used as an air plant receptacle; it’s the fact that someone wanted a planter more than a teacup at one point, so they adapted what they had to suit.

Things don’t matter. Don’t bother ironing. Suit yourself.

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You know yourself.

(hopefully)

Now that you’ve been an ‘adult’ in name for a while, you’ve probably tried out a few things. Partners. Shoes. Cities.

Maybe you’ve been from one extreme to the other: from Cairo to Buffalo, from Vans to Jimmy Choo, from frat guy to polyamory. And when you tried on these different situations, maybe like Goldilocks you found a happy medium.

Or maybe you’re still searching. But you know yourself better after those experiences, don’t you?

You’re not the type to stay with an unhappy partner. Because you don’t put up with that shit.

You are the type to wear suede triple-tone Oxfords to work. Because you like them, and who cares if purple, blue, and brown are impossible to match?

You can take this self-knowledge and design your life now, instead of feeling like your choices are circumscribed by some cosmic forces, or society, or the popular crowd at school.

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And even better news? I’ve got it from several sources that your 40s are even better.

Life gets better and better. Well, maybe there’s a place where it starts to bend back downward But I don’t think we’re there yet.

 

Do you see the same shape in your life? How? Do you see other benefits in aging? Tell us in the comments!

 

Images property of author

Mind-Swimming and Mind-Diving

Things have been pretty crazy ’round here.
Shady Shot of Caramelized Cabbage & Roasted Roots!

I had the first test-run cooking class on April 5th, and the second on May 3rd. Both menus showcased Scottish cuisine, and were a blast to put on. I also hosted a little dinner party on April 13th, between a work trip to Memphis and another to Omaha, and oh- let’s not forget that I was in DC for my birthday (April 20th) before jetting out to Italy for a week’s vacation.

“A little month,” as Hamlet says.

I’ve been in a state that I call “Mind-Swimming,” inspired by the feeling that I am awash in details, projects, and ideas. My mind literally feels like it is navigating water because it is so crowded in there!

Last Saturday though, I had a day of “Mind-Diving,” meaning I chose one topic for a “deep dive.” I woke up at 4 AM after a dream and decided to jump into some behind-the-scenes blog work that I’ve been wrestling with (with the happy assistance of friend and blog coach Ethan Waldman of Cloud Coach). It continued until about 5 PM, and I made some good progress.

This swimming/diving metaphor is another way of expressing Emilie’s (of Puttylike fame) concept of the Three C’s: that there is some technique involved in organizing your time according to the type of activity. Is the activity one of creation, consumption, or connection? This concept sort of blew my mind a few months ago, and I’ve been using it as a touchstone for getting things done in a way that doesn’t burn me out- highly recommended.

Speaking of burnout, while I’ve been doing all this ‘swimming’ through ideas, and projects, and research, you may well ask what sustains me? The answer to that, and what gives me confidence that this venture will be a success, is that I keep doing it.

That’s right. I’m using the insanity to prove I’m not insane.

Of course, what I mean is that if I didn’t enjoy the cooking, hosting, planning, researching, why would I keep doing it? It gives this introvert energy, and that’s the secret of following your bliss, folks.

It’ll probably change and evolve, since that’s what multipotentialites do, and that’s okay! I’ll be keeping a weather eye on the horizon, a firm hand on the rudder, and I’ll adapt.

But for now, this is the hot ticket! :-)

I invited two couples of friends over for this Friday night dinner, and I knew when I did so that it needed to be creative. One of the husbands is a fancy cook. He had also previously commented on there not being enough food at one of my dinners, by which he meant the main dish. Lesson learned in my book, and so I wanted to be a little more impressive this time.
I started with sweet potatoes, as I often do (love this Ode to the Sweet Potato from Tasty Kitchen). I added paprika. I roasted with olive oil and salt.

I bought taco shells and shredded (the horror!) jack cheese, thinking of a potential different recipe, but collapsed them into a topping/stuffing/filling bar instead: with this red cabbage with apples recipe being the long-simmered and aromatic star.

I combined some unusual bedfellows when composing hors d’oeuvres: Saltines, black olive paste, and boquerones (marinated white anchovies).

The boquerones, by the way, were inspired by the tapas at Estadio– also delicious- but bought at Vace, an Italian delicatessen at Cleveland Park, much less expensively. Score!

There were a lot of choices in little bowls around the table, which was a little awkward to pass, but tasted good in the mouth. The husband previously referred to said that it was unusual to offer red cabbage as a taco filling.

Good observation.
We like doing unusual here.
Do try the red cabbage recipe- it’s a smash hit, as well as cheap and easy (earning it a place on my next Favorites List). Let me know if you like it, or find good variations, in the comments!

Forays into darkest Moosewood

First beans, then oxtail, what’s next? Rye whiskey??

No, no, we will be continuing a review of the classics but leaving the pioneer food to delve into a different genre with today’s post:

Moosewood Fudge Brownies

If you haven’t heard of Moosewood, here’s the short version:

  • restaurant in Ithaca, NY
  • featuring healthful natural foods
  • been around for 38 years
  • has produced a lot of cookbooks…

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one of which I love to use for new dessert ideas. In this case I was aiming to use up the last of a jar of instant espresso and some very ripe bananas. The idea was to add them into the recipe for MW’s fudge brownies, substituting the bananas for some of the liquid. Which would have worked fine if, as I was pouring the batter into the square pan, I hadn’t turned around and seen

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i.e. that’s what I get for going into the ‘zone’ of following a recipe and not remembering my intent to add-on to it! Bananas still to use and espresso still to finish. #firstworldproblems for sure.

Anyway, following the recipe yielded an interesting result. The brownies turned out very flat, very dense, and even a bit dry, kind of like a flourless chocolate cake (although I did use flour, a combination of white whole-wheat and whole-wheat pastry flour). This was not a case of me overcooking in my terrible oven, either. The batter suuuuure looked beautiful though, eh?
Pouring that fudge brownie batter into the pan

Here’s the order of how it came together. Trader Joe’s chocolate discs and butter, melted.

Melted to the perfect consistency to add the brown sugar and vanilla…
Whisking in the egg, giving it a frothy surface temporarily…
Getting artistic… (look Ma, one-handed whisking!)
Adding flour, a bit at a time

Moosewood Banana Muffins

And finally, that fudge-y consistency we all know and love so well. I brought these into work on an off day (we’ve been having terrible network problems, so a lot of people have been staying home), but they still went over pretty well. Wondering if anyone has had a similar result on the texture/ moisture issue though, since I like a gooey-er brownie myself.

So that was attempt number one. Since I realized I had forgotten the espresso and the bananas right before I put the brownies in the oven, it gave me some time to wash up and start over, which I determined to do. Easiest recipe to turn to in time of need? Well, these were already bookmarked to try in the same book, soooo…

 

Moosewood Banana Muffins it is (was)! (with add-ins of espresso and chocolate chips)
I had previously made a chocolate banana gingerbread, so I only had 2 bananas. I think this made the muffins a little dry, but the flavor was right on, and if you heat them in the microwave for a few seconds under a wet paper towel…… you can’t tell the difference.

I celebrated my birthday yesterday with many good friends, and am leaving in a few hours for Napoli for a solo vacation, so you could say I’m sandwiched between pleasures.
To come when I return: Scottish Cuisine: my take; Cherry blossoms of DC in 2012; and other treats of living this life full throttle. Salute!