Feeds:
Posts
Comments

Archive for the ‘Feast’ Category

Matching pjs and silly socks – girls’ weekend with Maggie and Michelle

As I have already mentioned, I get peopled out pretty easily. My introversion is getting more pronounced/intense as I get older. Or maybe I just had less self-awareness and more energy in general that I mistook for the ability to be more social when I was younger. At any rate, there are very few people I can spend a large amount of time with without eventually getting to the staring-into-space overwhelm that I need many hours to recover from.

This may be why the concept of hygge is so appealing to me. Calling something a cozy gathering automatically implies that it’s a small one. Going to the farm to visit my parents, having a few people over for dinner – anything that allows me to enjoy time with others without high-impact social fallout. Ideally, this would be all my social interactions ever.

During the summer, I was discussing with Maggie how nice it would be to have a large house (with actual guest rooms and a huge kitchen) but also the time and resources to really enjoy it. Maybe even have a few people over for the weekend more than once every year or two. I feel like if I didn’t live in a constant state of over-peopled, I’d be a better host. Or at least a less reluctant one.

This week is busy, but the good kind. I have a couple of bookish gatherings, a practice for our performance coming up in November, and just a couple of meetings. All small groups. Then I am looking at a few days off! Socializing means also planning time for recovery for me, but it’s almost always worth it.

I’m writing about the lush life this month.

Read Full Post »

Spring/summer at the farm

Making to-do lists to match my yearly theme always delights me. This is especially true when my word of the year is something like “lush.” In the spirit of Joy The Baker’s summer bucket lists, I’ve been musing about the next few months.

I’ve decided that my lush summer starts now. As I was reminded by Tsh Oxenreider’s newsletter this morning, the pursuit of beauty is important, especially in hard times, so why wait? Also, let’s face it – the weather in Texas basically thinks it’s summer from April-September anyway. And to my amazement and mild chagrin, April is LATER THIS WEEK.

The first step is to find some things to drop so that I have the freedom in my schedule and the energy to do the fun stuff listed below. I’ve already been practicing. My typical response to busyness has been to tough my way through something, even if a pounding headache or sensory overwhelm or exhaustion from panic attacks or some other not-at-all-subtle signal is telling me not to. I have been really good at paying attention to those signals lately, though, and canceling things when I need to. Sure, I’ve missed some things that I wanted to do. But you know what? The world did not end, and I got the rest I needed. Then, I got to actually enjoy the next thing I wanted to do instead of having to trudge my way through it, too. Ultimately, I hope that listening to my body better looks like not making too many plans in the first place instead of having to cancel them, but baby steps.

Here are some snapshots of how I want my lush summer to look.

Plants

Despite my angst about the heat and the pollen, this is a great time of the year for plants. I never met a fruit I didn’t like, but in-season (and I cannot stress that distinction enough) spring/summer fruits—specifically, blueberries, peaches, apricots, and cantaloupe—are my favorites. I have a small space for some containers on my porch, but most of my produce during this season comes from farmers’ markets.

  • Buy fresh produce and/or seeds from Denton Community Market (opening day for the season is this Saturday yay!)
  • Plant tomatoes and basil and all the random seeds I have in my containers 
  • Go to a pick-your-own flower/fruit/veggie farm. Perhaps one of these?
    Wow! U-Pick Farms – veggies
    Gemini Peach and Rose Farm – peaches, roses
    Green Valley Gardens – flowers 
  • Keep fresh flowers (carefully chosen, because allergies) on the table and around the house
  • Repot the office plant and perhaps pick up another new green friend or two along the way

Food

  • Try a new local restaurant. Osteria il Muro is the one I have in mind, but spaces are super limited. Maybe I’ll be able to get a reservation someday.
  • Make sun tea and lemonade
  • Buy cold brew from Coffee Hog once(ish) a month (yes, I could make it myself. But will I?)
  • Snow cones!
  • Make ice cream (or at least an icebox pie or two, which frankly is more likely than dragging out the ice cream maker. But hope springs eternal.)
  • Test some of the updated recipes for my Epic Meal Planning and Feast projects

Events/Travel
(if the aforementioned improved minding of my schedule allows, of course)

  • I’d like to take a small road trip if I can make room in the budget for it. San Antonio to see Hope and Nowhere? Beach getaway?
  • Attend a summer festival (or two). Maybe these?
    North Texas Lavender Festival (June 26-27) – TX-Ture Farm
    North Texas Book Festival (Aug 20, 3-7pm) – Greater Denton Arts Council
  • Visit the family farm once a month
  • Hang out at a winery with friends
  • Enjoy afternoons/days on the Denton, McKinney, and/or Gainesville square(s)

Social/Miscellaneous

  • Pool time with friends
  • Girls weekend with Maggie and Michelle
  • Lounge around in bookshops
  • Continue my cleaning streak by cleaning out closets and actually taking donations where they need to go
  • Redecorate or organize one small space in the apartment each week

What do you love most about warmer days? Anything you’re looking forward to?

Read Full Post »

UGH HOW CUTE IS MY NEW PLANNER

In addition to focusing on LUSH as my word of the year and continuing my work with Sarah on our album, I am also setting a few tangible personal goals. Most of my resolutions this year are measurable, longer-term versions of some of the habits I am already tracking. Having a specific, larger goal in mind is useful for days when I’m like, “Hmm…maybe I just watch another episode…”

So here are some things I’m going to keep doing and the in-about-a-year goal that goes with them.

Read 150 books – Given that I almost read this many books in 2021, I feel like this is a gentle reach. It’s still challenging but perfectly attainable, even when my schedule stays busy. In addition to reading for book clubs, I’m participating in Book Riot’s Read Harder Challenge because I particularly like the prompts for 2022. Girlxoxo’s Monthly Key Word Reading Challenge looks interesting, too (and some of the books I’m reading in January already fit).

Write 5 short stories – My first instinct was “write a short story every month!” but since I finished a whole two stories in 2021, that high of an expectation might sabotage me before I even get started. Specifically, I want to practice writing dialogue. Fishbowl rewrites have been dry lately, and I think this will help me practice my skills for that long-term project as well.

Finish expanded rough drafts of Feast and Epic Meal Planning – My 31 Days series in October 2021 about books was challenging but also exciting. I forgot how much I enjoy writing essays. Over the past few years, I have started drafting two different essay collections (some of you may remember the epic meal planning series), and I want to finish the expanded drafts this year. I’ve already kinda planned the menu for the celebratory gatherings when each one is complete. Because priorities.

Earn $7500 with copywriting job – Last year, I set a word count goal for this job to write more articles. But what’s better than more work? More money. I’ve stayed within the $6500-$7000 range the last few years, but I want to give it a little boost in 2022. Depending on what is available on my teams, this can either mean adding an article or two to each pay period or focusing on articles that pay more per word. My preference heavily leans to the latter, so this will be my focus whenever such things are in my control. Is this what they mean by working smarter, not harder?

Build a consistent practice of an average of 30 minutes/day of movement – I have added activity to my life this past year, but the draw to sit for long spells is strong. As I continue to get older, I want to make sure I don’t lapse into a sedentary state and lose more agility/balance/etc, than necessary. So I want to be more intentional about making sure I keep and expand good habits. Also, some performances this year may include a little dancey action, so I want to be ready for that.

This is a solid list to start with. I’m sure I’ll amend them as needed, but I feel pretty good about these goals.

Read Full Post »

I have dreams about this delicious stew.

I’ve mentioned before that I have been trying to limit my food waste for the last year, and I have had some pretty good successes. I used to throw out a lot of condiments. I would open a jar of salsa, for example, to eat with some chips, and the rest of it would sit in the fridge unused until it started to grow things. One might argue that another option is just to make salsa from scratch because 1) it’s so much better and 2) then I would only make as much as I need, but to make this argument one would first have to drastically overestimate my commitment to eating salsa. I’ve tried to pay more attention this year, only opening condiments when I have a plan for the whole container. It’s not perfect yet, but progress has been made.

I also used to throw out a lot of prepared food. I cook in big batches to save time and energy, but I always got tired of eating what I made on Saturday before it was all gone. I like leftovers, just not five times in the same week. This past year, I’ve been freezing leftovers so that they last longer, and it has completely eliminated my prepared food waste. I have included my favorite basic big-batch concept (the skillet meal) and variations of the recipe below. These have become my go-to staples, and at any given moment, I probably have a few servings of at least two of them in the freezer.

I find the peeling, chopping, etc., of fresh vegetables cathartic, and I’m so happy about the local produce available. But if you are short on desire, time, storage space, or access to fresh options, frozen veggies work beautifully in all of these recipes, too. I cook all of these things in my trusty, gigantic covered skillet. If my apartment were on fire, I’d save my grandmother’s quilt, the picture frame bookends with beloved photos from my childhood, and that skillet (not really – insurance would easily cover its replacement. But I do really, really love it).

Another thing to know about my cooking style – I rarely measure. This is why I need supervision when I bake, and I accept that about me. I may begrudgingly stick to a recipe the first time I try it, but then I do what I want until it “looks right” every time after that. I’ve included links to similar recipes for those of you who want a little more structure.

I also don’t like a lot of salt, so most people will want to add some to the seasoning step to taste.

Basic Skillet

  1. Sauté aromatics (onions, peppers, celery, garlic, etc.) until translucent-ish
  2. Add and cook protein/additional veggies (chicken, ground beef, beans, veggie crumbles, etc.)
  3. Add a large can of tomato sauce or crushed tomatoes or a mess of chopped fresh tomatoes from the market
  4. Add water (about three cups? Whatever roughly a large tomato can and a half is) and bring to a boil
  5. Add seasonings
  6. Add starch (enough to soak up the liquid, which will vary from recipe to recipe. Just make sure it is all thoroughly covered with room for stirring and you should be fine) and cover, stirring occasionally, until it’s done
  7. Add final touches and serve

Cheeseburger skillet – similar to Budget Bytes Skillet Cheeseburger Pasta – it’s essentially Hamburger Helper from scratch so it’s got the childhood nostalgia going for it. Onions and peppers (1), ground beef, veggie crumbles, or black beans (2), onion soup packet and fresh ground black pepper (5), your favorite small pasta (6), top with dill pickle relish (although I just stir a few spoonfuls into the big batch itself) and cheddar cheese to serve (7).

Chickpea stew (pictured above) – I can’t remember where I got this idea. I may have just had a lot of the ingredients in the kitchen and thought, “I wonder how that would taste together.” Onions, peppers (I used a poblano in this one and I highly recommend that), celery, and garlic (1), chickpeas (2), garam masala (5), top with raisins or currants (optional but delicious) to serve.

Cajun skilletanother Budget Bytes inspiration – really delicious no matter which protein option you choose. Onions, garlic, and bell peppers (1), chicken, sausage, or kidney beans…or all three (2), oregano, thyme, cayenne, paprika, red pepper flakes, black pepper (5), a cup and a half (ish) of rice (6).

Mozzarella skilletessentially, cavatini (but mine is better) – this is one of my favorite meals from childhood. Mom made it with ground beef and pepperoni, but I usually make it vegetarian. It’s delicious both ways. Onions and garlic (1), ground beef, pepperoni, pancetta, and/or diced salami – alternatively (or additionally -just throw everything in), zucchini, eggplant, and/or spinach or whatever green you have handy (2), onion soup packet, oregano, thyme, basil, a little cayenne, black pepper (5), your favorite pasta (6). Then – take all the mozzarella you have (shred it first, of course – for scale, Mom made this in the small stock pot and put 32 oz. of cheese in there – do not skimp) – and stir it into the skillet until it’s melted and, frankly, glorious. Add shaved Parmesan on top to serve.

I typically eat these dishes as meals by themselves, but I suppose you could serve a salad and bread alongside them. If you simply must act civilized about it. But there’s something so comforting to me about tucking into one delicious bowl of goodness.

And bonus – they all freeze beautifully.

Read Full Post »

Happy

photo-3.jpg

Coffee with friends = ❤

It seems like cheating to list happiness as a core value, so I’m not going to do that. While I’m sure that there are some people who don’t value happiness, I think most people probably list “happy” as something they’d like to be or as something they enjoy being. It also seems to be what a large corner of the self-help market tries to help us achieve. I don’t know how good most of us are at getting there without work.

I just finished Gabrielle Union’s audio version of We’re Going to Need More Wine, and a line stood out to me. “When you’re in a place where you don’t know what makes you happy, it’s really easy to be an asshole.” That makes a lot of sense to me. The times it’s easiest to be mean are the times when I’m in a fog or a funk and can’t find a way to get myself out of it. So for those times, I’m just going to leave this list of things that make me happy.

  1. Having dinner with people I love. Whether I’m having friends over or being invited over as a guest or eating with family, I love sharing meals with people. I like cooking for people and seeing them enjoy it. I also like not having to cook. Feeding people and being fed may be one of my love languages.
  2. Reading. That is, most reading. Occasionally, I will trudge my way through a book that tries to eat my soul, but most of the reading I do is relaxing. Even if it’s challenging or outside my typical comfort zone, those challenges energize me.
  3. Fresh, ripe peaches. They save the day during my least favorite season. All the oppressive heat of summer is worth it when I see peaches at the farmers’ market.
  4. Doing laundry. I know it’s weird. But I find it so soothing. I think it’s the sound of the dryer. Sometimes I wait to pop the last load in the dryer until I go to bed, just so I can go to sleep to the sound. I also enjoy that the ratio of effect to effort is larger with laundry than with other chores.
  5. Seeing something beautiful when I walk into my apartment. Whether it is a vase of flowers on the table, the Christmas tree lit up, or just an uncharacteristically neat living room, it immediately puts me at peace.
  6. A wide, open sky. Wine and sunset, coffee and sunrise, country drive or road trip, rain or shine. The sky is my favorite part of nature.
  7. My dad telling stories about his dogs. It’s Dad at his most animated. I think it makes him happy, too.

What would be on your list?

 

Read Full Post »

Manners!

photo 1 (13)

Note to self: Find other time besides dusk to take photos. Need better lighting.

Also pictured: one of the cutest cups in the world.

I have a healthy throng of how-to books, particularly when it comes to cooking and entertaining. But scattered among them are a few guidebooks simply on how to be nice. I think I picked up one of the Miss Manners books from a library sale, but the others were gifts. I’m not sure what the gift of “Here, have a book on how not to be an ass,” says (you know…other than that), but I do enjoy thumbing through them.

Reading through Emily Post’s Etiquette: Manners for a New World is like listening to propriety lessons from my parents, particularly regarding my inclination to report various events to “The Internets.”  I love the wit in Miss Manners’ Guide to Excruciatingly Correct Behavior. It reminds me of punctuation nerd conversations about the Oxford comma. And Don’t: A Manual of Mistakes and Improprieties More or Less Prevalent in Conduct and Speech is fun to read aloud to captive guests.

And that’s all I want for these manuals to be in my house- fun. Yes, it’s important to have good manners, or as Peggy Post puts it, “a sensitive awareness of the feelings of others.” It’s nice to be polite. But “good” and “polite” according to whom? In writing Feast, I have wrestled with this conundrum. What seems like good manners to some people is stiff, dull, and unnecessary to others. And to hold others to a standard of behavior that really speaks more to certain personality quirks, certain cultural norms (i.e., whiteness), and certain tactical preferences than to real other-awareness seems to accomplish exactly the opposite of what it claims to intend. Rude.

I would like to hear more diverse voices in the area of etiquette.

I am writing 31 Days of Shelfies.

Read Full Post »

My Book

This is my favorite picture I’ve taken in a long time. I’m not sure what I was trying to do here, but it makes me laugh and laugh.

I do know where I’m pointing, though. On my shelves, that’s where my books – the books I’ll write – will go.

Like the books of the authors on the L Shelves, I will want to keep my nonfiction and fiction together. You can’t see it in the picture, but I’ve already left some space on this shelf for Tolkien to shift on down when I have my first published book in hand.

(I enjoy that my book gets to sit next to Tolkien on my shelf.)

I have two manuscripts started. This month, I’m working to finish Feast, and I will be starting back up in December writing more on Fishbowl. I have a story I wrote during NaNoWriMo one year called Emma Jane, which Maggie helped me realize was actually two stories, so I’m going to pick up one of those again (I guess the Emma portion) after I finish Fishbowl.

But in November, I’m going to take some of the Jane character and rewrite/add another dimension to her story. Or I may (read: most likely will) start over with that character and a whole new story line. Either way, I’m excited to get another story started.

“But Suzanne – doesn’t that slow down your writing process?” you ask.

Yes and no.

Yes, it takes longer to write two or three books than it does to write one. But – and this is why the process works for me – when one story is getting stagnant, I can turn to another, read a little bit of it, and write it with fresh eyes.

I do some of my best work that way.

And I promise, someday it will show up in that space on my shelf.

I’m taking (sometimes ridiculous) pictures of myself and my shelves and writing about it this month.

Read Full Post »

Let’s Dish

Our prompt this week in the writing community at Andilit was “your favorite dish.”

My favorite dish is not actually mine at all. It’s Mel’s. And it’s adorable:

photo (20)

I kept it for her after we shared an apartment for a couple of months before she got married. She was downsizing to move into her apartment with Adam, and I was happy to look after her peas-in-a-pod serving dish.

This dish is not merely a dip holder; it’s a conversation starter. Prompted by this dish, guests in my apartment have discussed:

  • Decorating
  • Entertaining
  • Weird dishes our families pass down (and the stories behind them)
  • How adamantly one of my friends hates peas (which I do not understand at all)
  • Gardening
  • The importance of color-coordinating food and dishes (there may have been an excess of wine involved here)
  • Gift-giving (or specifically, how if someone gave her something lovely like this, she wouldn’t have to work so hard to pretend she liked it)

A good dish or a good recipe is one that sparks commentary. While I find compliments unnecessary in other parts of my life, there is not a quicker way to my heart than to compliment my cooking, my coffee, or my presentation. I put a lot of care into creating a good dinner experience for guests, and cute crockery makes it easy.

When I’m alone, I still like festive dishes. Aunt Gale gave me part of her old school Fiestaware set, and I love them.

photo (21)

(Not pictured – cream and sugar set and gravy boat)

I swear that everything I eat off these plates tastes better. The colors are vibrant and cheerful. These plates are also sturdy. I dropped one of them on the kitchen floor once, and it remained intact and didn’t even chip. They remind me of my family – strong and stubbornly optimistic.

These pieces are little artifacts of my life. Ideally, I would like every item in my kitchen to tell a story or serve as a reminder of a loved one. Perhaps one day, they all will.

Read Full Post »

Invitation to Breathe

I’m working on Feast this month. I’ve changed the title to “From Fret to Feast: Entertaining for the Socially Reluctant,” because that seems to be the theme of most of the essays. There were other perspectives I’ve toyed with – entertaining as a single person, entertaining in small spaces, entertaining on a budget – and those perspectives are present in small doses. They weave their way into several of the snippets on party activities and stress.

But there is a distinct moment in the planning stages of every party I host. While I’ve never regretted having people over, and I usually have a great time when I do, I know there is going to be a time when my introvert heart digs her heels in and says, “Nope.” There is a moment during planning that I just want to scrap it all. There is a point where I throw my hands up and say, “What am I doing? I don’t like swarms of people. What am I thinking? Why am I doing this?!” I have even been known to rant to myself (or my co-planner) aloud.

This freak-out passes pretty quickly, but it always happens. So I am basically writing a manual to talk myself (and others like me) down when it does. Step one of talking myself down is to breathe.

The freak-out happened this week. I’m not even planning an event. I’m just writing a book about planning events. Last night, instead of writing, I poured myself a glass of wine and ranted, “I don’t know what I’m doing. I’m never going to finish this. It’s so dull. I am running out of time (which is ridiculous, because my timeline is pretty fluid).” Then I went to bed and dreamed of dancing chocolate bars, which I think is an appropriate metaphor for my life right now. It’s chock full of whimsical, random, WTF moments.

So now is the time to breathe.

When I’m planning a party, a breather looks like taking a shower and going to a movie or going out to dinner. In writing, a breather looks like a break. I’m going to put Feast aside for a week and a half (until Sunday, July 26, to be exact). I am going to use my normally scheduled writing time to read, schedule some blog posts, and take care of some things in my personal life that I really want to be present for. I may jot down notes or play around with menus (spoiler alert – eight meals and general party ideas to go along with them will be a part of Feast, which I think is the most exciting thing of all), but mostly, I will be focused elsewhere.

Is there an area of your life where you need to breathe? I invite you to do so. What does that look like for you?

Read Full Post »

I am renewing my lease today for another year at my apartment. My tiny apartment in the crowded neighborhood with terrible parking. I thought I would be out of there by now. I’m not sure that I planned to make that happen; it was just a meandering thought.

magnificott

(It looked so huge…when it was empty)

So here I am again, facing another year in a space that makes having people over particularly challenging.

When I had been in the apartment about a year, a friend who used to come to all my parties said, “You haven’t had a party in a while. When’s the next one?” And I didn’t have an answer. It didn’t seem like a big deal to invite 15 people over when I had a big kitchen and an extra bedroom for books and television. But with the office and the kitchen overflow and the living room all crammed into one room, we start tripping over one another when there are just six guests. There were only four of us Sunday night, and I still had to hop up on the couch at one point to let someone pass by.

The thought of the cookie party where at one point we had forty-something people present makes me want to crawl under the table and hide.

I am not willing to go another year without a party, though, so I’ve been thinking – what if the parties were all-day, come-and-go affairs instead of events with a beginning, middle, and end?

For example, when Maggie and I had Pie Weekend, we told people to come over any time. Sure, there were times that were busier than others, but we got to host small groups of people throughout the weekend, and it was fun. As an added bonus, people just ate whatever we had available at the time they visited (and we literally baked pies all weekend), so the pressure of having enough was off. Having enough was not a problem.

I’ve already started brainstorming the types of parties I would like to have:

  • Hemingway Day – Held on or around July 21 (Hemingway’s birthday), the menu would be simple but good (like his sentences) and laden with alcohol (like…well…Hemingway).
  • St. Patrick’s Day – A day of Irish food and drink, but really just an excuse to start my birthday celebration a day early.
  • Cookie Weekend – Some weekend in early-to-mid-December, combining my favorite things about cookie party (dress up, bring your own tin, and for the love of all that is holy take these cookies!) with my favorite things about pie weekend (communal baking and drinking).
  • Write-ins – Bring your work in progress, whether it’s a story, poem, art piece, etc., and spend some time on it, drinking good coffee or tea and eating delicious things while you work.

So we will see what this next year brings. It could be a failure. But it could be wonderful.

Read Full Post »

Older Posts »

%d bloggers like this: