The Things We Learn From Strangers

Communication is such a funny thing. Sometimes it’s easier to say the things we can’t normally say when we’re talking to people we hardly know. I read an amazing post today by Girl’s Gone Child. I was humbled by the honesty of her words and the beauty of her metaphor. It was easy to tell a stranger that I fear for my own relationship sometimes, that I, too, have felt the foundation slipping, and I felt comforted by the words of a woman I have never met.

Relationships are exhausting. We keep score, we hold grudges, we reveal our greatest weaknesses. It’s such a relief to know that I am not alone.

It can be so easy to overlook all the good things. We find faults in favors, and we lose patience even though most often our only real pressure comes from within ourselves. “You cooked dinner, but you made a mess.” “You put your clothes away, but your left your shoes everywhere.” We focus on the “you did nots” versus the “you dids.”

We are human and we take the things we love for granted. But sometimes, if we’re lucky, we pick ourselves up and learn from our mistakes. The truth is that love doesn’t need to make a grandiose entrance. Love just needs little coos of appreciation from time to time to nurture it. It is a shared popsicle, it is driving and letting the other one sleep, it is running at a slower pace so your partner can keep up, it is letting one more stray cat stay.

In a way, I’m glad it isn’t easy. It’s like a good soup. What fun would plain onions be or boiled lentils or a spoonful of salt? You’ve gotta give it time to simmer until one flavor makes another one better.

One More Stray Cat

Summer’s Last Hurrah

The weekend has come and gone, and somehow in the brief time I haven’t posted fall has set in. The air has that sun-scorched grass scent of fall and the trees look different — more ready to throw in the towel after a long summer of trying to resist the heat.

Friday night, though, brought with it one more opportunity for a summer meal. I made a quinoa salad with roasted vegetables and grilled salmon. For anyone who has known me long enough, eating fish represents a serious departure from my lifelong diet. Despite this, I am trying to come to terms with the idea of being a pesco-vegetarian. I have been feeling a lag in my energy levels, and I’m hoping that the introduction of a new protein to my diet will give me the power surge I need.

The fish was simple. I coated it in olive oil, lemon zest, minced garlic, dill and salt and pepper. Then we grilled it on a cedar plank. It turned out surprisingly delicious, and I ate more of it than I expected.

The quinoa was fresh and satisfying. Quinoa (pronounced key-nwa) is a seed predominantly eaten in the Andes with a high protein content and an abundance of essential amino acids. It’s easy to cook and can be prepared in a variety of different ways. It’s also gluten free! I enjoy this salad best at room temperature. Judging from the picture below, it doesn’t look like there’s any quinoa in the dish, but it’s there, believe me, buried under a mound of veggies.

Roasted Vegetable Quinoa Salad

Ingredients:
1 cup zucchini (cut into bite-sized pieces)
1 cup yellow squash (cut into bite-sized pieces)
1 tablespoon olive oil
salt and pepper to taste
1 cup quinoa (soaked for 15 minutes and rinsed thoroughly)
1 red bell pepper (cut into bite sized pieces)
1 red onion (halved)
1 cup marinated artichoke hearts (I prefer the spicy ones in the olive bar)
2 cups baby spinach
1/2 cup cherry or grape tomatoes
1 handful feta (crumbled)

Dressing:
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 teaspoon balsamic vinegar
1/2 teaspoon oregano
salt and pepper to taste
1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper (optional)

Directions:
Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Coat the zucchini, squash, red pepper and red onion in oil and salt and pepper. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper, and spread out the squash and onion halves. Place the pepper in a smaller oven-safe dish, and put all the veggies in the oven to roast for 15-20 minutes. The squash and onion will be slightly brown around the edges when done. Remove the squash and onion and turn the oven to the broiler setting. Broil the pepper until the skin is blackened. Carefully place the pepper in a zip-lock bag, seal and let cool for about 20 minutes. Once the pepper has cooled, peel the skin and slice the pepper into strips. Peel the top layer off the roasted onion and slice.

Meanwhile, cook the quinoa according to package instructions and let cool slightly. Combine the veggies and quinoa and toss with oil, vinegar and spices. Top with feta cheese.

When No One is Listening

Today I caught myself singing Hanson in my car. Old school Hanson. They weren’t on the radio or on my iPod. Without any prompting, I felt the urge to belt out “Man From Milwaukee” in the private safety of The Little Blue Gem. (There’s nothing safe or private about the Blogosphere, though, so I guess the secret is out now.)

Patrick and I had an interesting discussion the other day about the way the music you once loved can never really leave your system. If you really, really LOVE a song or an artist, you’ll always love it. I can’t think of a song that I used to like in my younger days that doesn’t still strike a chord in me when I hear it today.

Music is nostalgic. It is visceral. It conjures up memories. It makes you dance like Snoopy. When you love something, it never really leaves you, even if you feel ashamed about ever having loved it in the first place. Am I embarrassed that as a 13-year-old I sobbed like a baby when my VHS tape of Hanson clips got taped over? A little. But Middle of Nowhere got me through my awkward middle school years, and I’ll always hold a special place in my heart for those three blonde brothers.

Dammed

I vacillated for a good long while tonight about whether I would post something. The words in my head aren’t fusing together the way I need them to. It feels like there is a wall holding everything back.

Instead, I’m facing the conniving companions to over-analyzing: insecurity and self-doubt. In an attempt at diagnosing my creative block, I realized that I haven’t cooked at all this entire week. It’s just been one of those weeks where I’ve eaten out, eaten leftovers or eaten nothing for dinner. Cooking is my yoga. It’s my happy place. It’s my zen rose garden. It’s my chop-these-onions-until-I-forget-all-the-things-that-bother-me zone.

So tomorrow I will do some fun Friday night grocery shopping. And hopefully soon I’ll have some more recipes to share and lovely words to offer for dessert.

The First Ride

It’s amazing how the human mind works. I have distinctive memories of various moments from my childhood, and I find it fascinating that I’m able to remember so many seemingly mundane occurrences.

I can easily recall the day I finally learned how to ride a bike. I didn’t finish my dinner that night, and as a result, I was promised no dessert. After dinner, my dad took me outside to continue our two-wheeler training. My parents had attached an old broomstick to the back of the bike so they could hold on and keep the bike steady. My dad would occasionally let go of the broomstick to see if I had gained my balance. Most often, I realized he had let go, and the bike would topple over. I’m sure it was 90% psychology, 10% physical coordination.

That summer evening when I finally succeeded at riding the bike without assistance, the dessert rule went out the window. When the ice cream truck came by, I got my treat.

I’m not sure what changed in my mind at that moment I started pedaling. I’m not sure how I went from fear to faith in such a split second, but after that, riding was easy. I wasn’t afraid anymore. I was exhilarated. Again, I have to attribute this to the boundless potential of the human mind.

I have a lot of thoughts on parenting when I conjure up this particular memory as well as a lot of thoughts on being a kid again. Yesterday was the first day of school here in town, and I’ve been hearing parents’ stories about letting go. There are many mixed emotions for parents as they see their children grow up. They want to protect them from hitting the pavement when they learn how to ride a bike, but they also want to see them flourish. They want them to feel the euphoria of a great ride. It’s so easy to want to reach out and grab that broomstick when you start to see the bike wobble, but I’m glad my parents let me learn to trust my own abilities to ride on my own. And I’m glad they are always there to pick me up whenever I fall.