Category Archives: breakfast

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.

IMG_1061

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.

IMG_1051

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.

IMG_0871

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.

IMG_0339

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.

IMG_1070

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

A Taste of Asheville

Asheville sunset

Asheville, NC

was my destination for Day 2. Have you heard of Asheville? I had not until about a year ago, when my numerous trips to Charlotte, NC meant that I had dipped a toe in the waters of western North Carolina, leaving me clamoring for more.

Asheville is the unofficial capital of the western North Carlina region, which includes the Great Smoky Mountains National Park (but more on that in the next post!) and a whole lot of rural backwaters. My first few hours there I walked only a few blocks, but found above 7 street musicians performing- quite a musical town, it seems.

I also found several different views of the city itself from denizens and newly-arrived outsiders, from “artsy” to “overpriced” to “in the process of gentrifying” and more.

I had an afternoon, a night, and a morning to explore the city, and got down to business:

Battery Park Book Exchange and Champagne Bar, Asheville, NC

Grove Arcade

is a sort of shopping arcade like I found at the Victorian Market in Inverness, but modernized instead of kept historical. This structure held one of my favorite finds in Asheville, the Battery Park Book Exchange and Champagne Bar— I mean, can you imagine my excitement?? Such an awesome idea, and so well designed and structured inside to promote cozy little conversations.

Up Haywood Ave, I found another of the city’s highlights:

Malaprop’s Bookstore & Cafe

which was all a good indie bookstore could hope to be: a font of local knowledge, a repository for independent book news, a generator of uncountable staff recommendations in every category, a magnet for many local writers and visiting authors… the cafe did not manage to tempt me with its delights, but that may have been because I had already popped into:

French Broad Chocolate Lounge

where I promptly tried to order one of everything (have I done this before?) and the counter staff were patient with my questions and very helpful. I love the principles that guide the company, summed up and displayed proudly in the lounge area:

Malaprop's Bookstore Cafe

I had dinner at a small southern-style tapas joint that was pretty good, The Southern, and then found a place hosting a ‘string band’ for the night- which I learned meant bluegrass if they sang along with it. It was a bar called:

Jack o’ the Wood

and I would love to share the band’s sound with you (they were called Chompin’ At The Bit) but WordPress isn’t allowing videos for security reasons… and I’m on the road trying to get these updates out as they come, so that’s enough of that!

I returned after one fun set to my lodging, my first ever experience of AirBnb, up the hill to the north of downtown. As I would later learn, the picturesque winding, hilly roads of the neighborhood would be good practice for the Great Smoky Mountain Roads! And then next morning, I ventured forth to a famous local joint:

Early Girl Eatery

which serves typical southern breakfast fare, biscuits and gravy, fried green tomatoes, shrimp and grits, even “Meat ‘N’ Two’s” a southern staple, or so I’m told. I went for the biscuits and smoky bacon gravy, my first ever! Very scrumptious, and my wallet approved as well ($4 lunch, don’t mind if I do).

It was a delightful, too-short taste of a town that definitely has a lot to offer. My favorites, and missed attractions that merit a return visit are: the music, the indie scene, and the Biltmore Estate (not enough time to justify the $45 ticket).

Got any thoughts on these last three? Or the other places I mentioned? From Asheville? What did I miss?

I’ll be spicing up the ‘Life Observation’ posts with ‘Local Travelogue’ posts like this one as I criss-cross the country; next up: the Great Smoky Mountains.

Great Smoky Mountains in Fog

They do look pretty smoky in the fog, don’t they?

The First Tea Klatsch

I.e. ‘you need to crack a few eggs… to make oefs en cocotte’

The undertaking of a new action brings new strength.

How exciting it is to start out fresh!

This Tea Klatsch is another first, following on the heels of the Literary Tea, and I am totally jazzed about these initial successes!

Since I usually document the cooking and baking process with photos but can’t do the same for the event-planning process, I will weave in the event steps here, alongside the I’m-sure-tantalizing food photos.

Who doesn‘t need maple-oat scones?
1) Identify the need
Having kept my ear to the ground during discussions with friends, I noticed that many of us were going through transitions, and were feeling the need to talk about it, get advice about it, vent about it, and/or hear about others’ experience. So, how ’bout a party?
2) Come up with Idea to Pitch to Serve the Need
Since people are busy, and people going through transitions usually more so, I needed to come up with an idea for a gathering that would be fun and inviting, not just a happy hour or brunch in DC. Being me, I like themes, and this one was easy to see: transitions!
3) Organize and Invite
I chose to twist the traditional coffee klatsch idea to my purposes, creating a ‘Tea Klatsch,” and promising to bake some goodies. This turned into brunch as I let my imagination run away with me (usually a good thing). I used Google calendar for the email invitation again, even though it created some non-gmail address problems last time…
4) Prepare!
I combed my spreadsheet of waiting-list recipes the night before, honing in on the tab for breakfast, and easily landed on the Maple-Oat Scones from Smitten Kitchen. I followed her recipe almost exactly, except that I substituted an extra 1/4 cup of whole wheat flour for all-purpose, and didn’t have space to roll out dough, nor a cutter to cut (plus I’m not good at this), so used the (patent-pending) ball-and-squash method for shaping.
Next I found a couple great resources online for how to plan a brunch, one at Smitten Kitchen itself, and a similarly witty one at A Dinner Party, a favorite blog. From the former I took the idea for latkes, but neglected to take her suggestion to make them ahead, since I was struggling with a cold and hoping it would go away. Oops. 
From the latter I struck on eggs for a balance of protein– baked eggs seemed the least fussy. Found that recipe (also called ‘oefs en cocotte’ for those who like to get fancy) here. Didn’t change anything except the cooking time, which was foiled by two late arrivals, hence ‘shirred eggs’ became basically hard-boiled. Ah well. Also, for those who have crappy baking pans like me: I couldn’t make a bain-marie of 1 1/4 inches, so I set the timer for every 3 minutes to check if I needed to refill the water in the shallow pan so it didn’t go dry. That worked out well.
The Latkes: Having gotten the idea for these from Smitten Kitchen, I was immediately drawn to making them because:
1) I never got my annual fix of latke fever last Hannukah and was still craving it
2) I had a sack of premium Dutch yellow potatoes rarin’ to go (thanks, Trader Joe’s)
3) they were not bread and not protein, so seemed to offer some balance to the brunch spread (if pressed, I would include them in the vegetables group)
My one hang-up? When I Googled the how-to’s for latkes, starchier potatoes were recommended for crispiest results. Where the heck were Dutch yellows on the scale of starchiness? More Googling ensued. It turns out the company which produced the potatoes, Melissa’s, had a recipe for latkes on their site. Bingo! I went back to following SK’s approximate recipe, approximately doubling the ingredients. My ingredients included:

1.5 lbs dutch yellow potatoes, rinsed and grated (held in water-and-lemon-juice while preparing the rest)
1 large yellow onion, chopped finely
2 small fall apples, peeled and grated
the beaten egg from the scones plus another medium egg, + flour

salt and pepper
The teas chosen were again from Capital Teas, a purveyor now available in Dupont Circle: Caramel Toffee Pu-Erh, Love Affair (a rooibos), South Pacific (a flavored black tea), and Lemon Basil Oolong. No complaints, except that I need more tea strainers for this kind of thing!
The results?

 I think they speak for themselves.

Or at least the smiling faces might.

Going forward, I would:
1) do the latkes ahead of time as suggested and reheat in a medium oven
2) ditch the individual baked eggs and go for one big cheese souffle

In terms of non-food results, some of them remain to be seen, but it was oh-so-energizing to get such positive vibes and unconditional support from other gals facing their own tough decisions.
I look forward to checking in with them about the steps they are taking to reach their goals, and expect them to be checking in on me with mine as well!