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Archive for the ‘Food’ Category

January 2023 TBR

New year, new reading goals! I’m excited about becoming more familiar with the books on my shelves as well as (slowly) whittling down my massive TBR. Here’s the plan for January.

Book Clubs

Home

First, I’m finishing up Welcome Home by Najwa Zebian. It’s a great reminder to be true to myself (and also to figure out what that means in the areas where I’m still a little fuzzy on the subject). 

For many people, home means family. I still refer to the farm where I grew up as home, because even though I haven’t lived there for almost thirty years, the people who brought me into this world, whose influence shaped a lot of who I am, are there. And I feel at home at my sister’s house. I know where things are and how it runs and what’s expected of me there. 

I also have a circle of chosen family – people I know I can call on and count on at any time. Maggie, Michelle, Sarah, Steph. Then there are others in the circle from Spiderweb and church and work who would definitely have my back in a fight (not that I am in such situations very often…at least physically). As someone who lives alone, I have to make more of an effort to see my family – both biological and chosen – than those whose family is in their house, and the older I get, the more I value relationships with people who seem to put as much effort into them as I do. Text Me When You Get Home by Kayleen Schaefer focuses on female friendships, but I expect that the concepts expand across gender, and I am excited to tuck into it!

TBR 

I know I said 3-4 selections, but my TBR is soooo large. I’ll calm down in a few months. Probably.

  • Series – Having never read anything she’s written, I already like two things about Diana Xarissa. First, her last name will let me check off the letter X on my alphabet reading challenge. Second, all the series she’s written are titled in alphabetical order. For example, the Markham Sisters series starts with The Appleton Case, then The Bennett Case, etc. I will probably read those at some point, but this month, I am intrigued by the first book of her new series, the Midlife Crisis Mysteries, which was released in November, called Anxious in Nevada. I am also happy to report that it’s my turn with the library’s copy of the latest Inspector Gamache mystery – A World of Curiosities by Louise Penny – so I’ll be reading that one, too.
  • General fiction – I have this one marked with the notation “read without knowing the premise.” Intrigue! So while I’ve linked you to it, I have obeyed Past Me and not read the blurb. This should be fun. As an added bonus, We Are All Completely Beside Ourselves by Karen Joy Fowler also contains one of GirlXOXO’s January keyword prompts (all), so it’s my selection for this challenge.
  • Memoir – Dear Bob and Sue by Matt and Karen Smith, has been on my list ever since I heard my friend Lois talking about it. It’s a series of letters the authors wrote to their friends while they were traveling to all 59 national parks.
  • Food memoir – I’ve thumbed through the library’s copy of Sobremesa by Josephine Caminos Oria, and I may just end up buying it before the month is over. It looks like everything I love in a food memoir.
  • Essays – I have been a fan of Laurie Notaro since The Idiot Girls’ Action-Adventure Club, although it hurts my feelings a little to notice that it came out 20 years ago. I feel like she and I have grown up together, so I’m excited to hear her take on middle age in Excuse Me While I Disappear.

Collection

For the past year (or three?), any time I’ve put a book on a monthly TBR or was given it as a gift, I moved it to one of the shelves in the living room so that I had easy access to it. Then I put it back where it belonged when I finished it. As a result, I have quite a few books lined up on my living room shelves that I meant to read but didn’t (and thus haven’t made it back to their usual home). So I’m going to read a few this month that I’m still just as excited about as when I first planned to read them. 

  • Before the Coffee Gets Cold by Toshikazu Kawaguchi – This book was planned to fulfill one of the prompts for last year’s POPSUGAR challenge (set in Tokyo, a sister city to New York), and it’s one of the first books I ever bought at Patchouli Joe’s
  • Writers & Lovers by Lily King – I can’t exactly remember how this one ended up on this shelf other than I really like the title and the cover. My best guess is that I ran across it when looking for books with the word “winter” in the title (Lily King also has a book called Five Tuesdays in Winter) for last year’s GirlXOXO challenge.
  • A Place at the Table by Susan Rebecca White – Knowing my love of foodie fiction, Michelle gifted this to me a while ago. It’s one of the ones I pick up and read through when I just have a few minutes, so I’m going to actually finish it this month. Hey – another book to discuss at Rise and Shine! I really am going to try not to dominate the conversation. I promise.

What book are you most excited about reading next?

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I typically spend December reflecting on the year that’s ending, and part of that process is reading through my journals and blog posts. Several times throughout the year, I have mentioned home and pondered what it meant. One particular quote stood out – “Perhaps home care is self-care?” Home isn’t just the place I live physically, although one’s environment is important. It also involves a sense of belonging – of being secure and loved and accepted – particularly within myself, so that no matter who I am with, I can still be at home. So even before I started reading Najwa Zebian’s Welcome Home, I was already preparing my mind to explore it in this context, but of course, there’s always more to learn.

Merriam-Webster defines home as…

“…one’s place of residence”

I always enjoyed having people over and feeding them in The Before Times. But then COVID protocols shut that down, and the adjustment was hard and, at times, heartbreaking. In many ways, though, it was also nice. I really do like having the space all to myself. It can be a mess, and I don’t feel the need to explain or apologize for it. It’s also less of a mess because there’s no panic cleaning (which results in some actual tidying/cleaning but mostly consists of “oh, shit, I don’t have time to actually go through all this paper on my table because people will be here tonight so I’m going to shove it into a bag and put it in the office closet where it now lives forever and ever amen.”). Additionally, being home alone sets a clear boundary for when I need solitude.

Every once in a while, though, I get a little pang of nostalgia (usually when I’m looking at entertaining arrangements on Pinterest). I’d like to find more of a balance this year that honors my home as my sanctuary but also is welcoming to those I want to invite into it.

“…house”

*sighs; wants*

I would love a house. With a backyard for some (very) minor gardening but mostly for looking at the sunrise and birds and the moon while I drink my coffee/tea/wine, undisturbed by passing cars or neighbors. With a garage so that the neighborhood squirrels will stop chewing on the wires in my car, the neighborhood cats will stop peeing on it, and the multiple hailstorms each spring will stop adding dimples to its hood. With a decent kitchen and laundry room. With walls and a ceiling I don’t have to share with strangers. With more room for books.

This is unlikely to come to pass this year, unless I suddenly get a huge promotion/raise. So instead I’m focusing on how to make my apartment, which has its odd quirks but overall is a decent place to live, more homey.

“…the social unit formed by a family living together”

This one is a little tricky, as I do not “live together” with anyone. I’m expanding it to include those who are family (both biological and chosen). I’m pretty good about spending time/keeping up/supporting some of them; I could do better with others. 

“…a familiar or usual setting; congenial environment; the focus of one’s domestic attention”

Last year – my lush year – I paid special attention to the places where I feel like I fit the best and that brought me the most joy/peace/calm/etc., so I feel pretty well set up for this one. It’s been interesting to see how quickly I notice not only when a setting feels off for me but also when it’s just right. It’s made decisions about which social situations, responsibilities, and tangible objects to take on and which ones to give up a lot easier.

“…habitat”

This makes me think about nesting, which can go a number of ways for me (not all of them good). I do tend to make cozy nests, which I really love while I’m using them, but then I leave them where they are, and as it turns out, an unoccupied former nest is just a lot of stuff out of place and probably some tea/coffee cups that need washing. I may need to find a way to create more permanent, aesthetically pleasing nests that I (and the occasional guest, I guess) can enjoy without having to put them together and take them down every time. I have some ideas.

“…a place of origin”

As my parents age, I’ve been spending more time at the farm. I used to make it home three or four times a year, but I’ve been going at least every other month for a while. I like to check in on them because they (and by they I do mean we as a family) tend to downplay struggles, so it’s good to see with my own two eyes what’s happening. I also just like the drive. It’s one of my favorites. 

“…at home”

  • Relaxed; comfortable; at ease – This is not my standard MO. I tend more toward the tense/anxious/fidgety end of the spectrum. But I look forward to finding ways to mosey toward the other side (or at least in the direction of middle ground) this year.
  • In harmony with the surroundings – I’ve been trying a few new habits at home already that seem to make it cozier and more harmonious. Work may be a challenge. I have a few steps in mind, including taking more frequent breaks any time I start to feel overwhelmed, using broader scheduling blocks for tasks (to adjust for inevitable interruptions to them), taking mental health days when I first need them rather than waiting until they’re almost an emergency, and, just in general, advocating for myself as fervently as I advocate for others.
  • On familiar ground; knowledgeable – I love learning, so this part is exciting. There are specific topics/skills I want to improve this year, including music theory and experimentation, reading/speaking Spanish, editing fiction, writing poetry, etc. I’m sure I’ll come up with more as the year progresses.

“…to be at one’s place of residence”

So much of my stress and mental health struggles could be more easily handled if I would just say no and stay home more often. I never, ever regret staying home. I really like it there. I don’t know why I find it so difficult to make it happen more often. I want get better at it this year.

“…to a vital, sensitive core”

This phrase jumped out at me, but so did the use-it-in-a-sentence example they gave. “The truth struck home.” I spent a whole year examining my core values, but that process has continued in the years that followed, because as we change, so do the things we value most sometimes. Currently, I would still list hope, generosity, and joy as some of the main things that drive my decisions, but the older I get (and thus, the more I discover there is to learn), the more important it seems to keep curiosity in the forefront of my mind, too. I’m sure these values will play a role in my exploration of home this year.

Two of the ways I want to do that is through two things I love – eating and reading. 

I’m going to make recipes that remind me of home. I haven’t decided if I’m going to post recipes and stories throughout the year or if I want to compile them for discussion as a 31 Days series in October (leaning heavily toward the latter, but we’ll see). 

Welcome Home was a solid start for books with home as part of the title and/or theme. I probably won’t get to all the ones I’m considering this year, but here’s the list so far:

Text Me When You Get Home by Kayleen Schaefer

At Home by Bill Bryson

My Hygge Home by Meik Wiking (February)

A Place in the World: Finding the Meaning of Home by Frances Mayes

The Poetry Home Repair Manual by Ted Kooser 

Patricia Wells At Home in Provence by Patricia Wells

The Home Edit by Clea Shearer and Joanna Teplin

At Home on an Unruly Planet by Madeline Ostrander

Cozy Minimalist Home by Myquillyn Smith

At Home with Madame Chic by Jennifer L. Scott

Eat, Drink, Nap: Bringing the House Home (Soho House)

This is Home: The Art of Simple Living by Natalie Walton and Chris Warnes

Placemaker: Cultivating Places of Comfort, Beauty, and Peace by Christie Purifoy

The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho

Do you have a theme word for the year? I’d love to hear what it is!

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If spring and summer are water months, the fall and winter are for fires.

Well, outside fires. I’m clearly in the hygge minority when I say that I don’t like fireplaces. They’re smelly and dirty and are more likely to make me sniffly than cozy. If I ever find a house that doesn’t have one, I will know it’s the house for me. I’m pretty resigned to never finding that, though, because it seems that all the newer houses have them. Apparently, it’s a big selling point. In Texas. Where it often reaches the upper 60s and 70s even in the dead of winter.

Anyway.

I do appreciate the glow and warmth of a communal fire when the air is crisp. I’m lucky enough to have several friends with fire pits in their backyards who generously invite me over to enjoy them. A warm blaze, a little cozy beverage, and camaraderie. Happy.

In addition to actually being able to walk from my car to my office without ending up a sweaty mess, there are many things I love about fall and winter. Boots. Sweaters. Soup. Cider. I enjoy baking in the winter, so I often have biscuits, scones, cookies, and cake lying around. Occasionally I get industrious and even make a pie.

I like warm beverages all year long, but they feel especially soothing when it’s cool outside. My go-to adult beverage is typically wine, but I also tend to keep Southern Comfort and peach schnapps around (don’t scoff until you try it – mix equal parts and enjoy) during the winter. I often drink it cold, but it’s better warm. Add apple cider or cranberry juice if you really must. Downright medicinal.

Shorter days make it easier for me to slow down and relax. I occasionally experience a little seasonal depression, but it doesn’t happen every year. Perhaps that’s because I actually rest in the cooler months. I typically sleep better in the winter than at any other time of the year.

I’m excited that we’re entering the time of the year that I find the coziest.

Cozy seasons are an important part of lush life.

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When I think of the things I like about spring and summer, it’s a short list, and it’s mostly food. The fresh produce in Texas during summer, y’all? Amazing. I mean, it’s good all year, really, because we don’t have proper seasons. But that first bite of ripe peach in late June/early July almost makes me forgive it for being 14,000 degrees outside.

During childhood, summer meant swimming lessons and the occasional church camp. Mostly it meant more time to read and being locked outside to “enjoy the sunlight, dammit.” We have a big backyard at the farm, so there were often games set up for the family or whoever else moseyed on by to play. I still have a scar from running into the horseshoe post while playing frisbee. My favorite game we played was croquet. Spoiler alert for my 50th birthday coming up in a few years – I may have a Wonderland party, complete with an ongoing game of croquet. That seems like a fitting way to end half a century and kick off the spring.

Summertime is synonymous with play to me. I never quite shook the summer vacation vibe, even though I no longer work in a job where I have summers off (or at least with a lighter workload). I’m more spontaneous during the summer. I’m more likely to say yes when people say, “Hey, if you’re not doing anything tonight, join us for ___!” Unless it’s outside. Because WHY. What about Texas outside in the summer is fun at all?

For the last few years, I’ve posted a summer bucket list that is often full of fun things that I want to remember to enjoy, like farmers’ markets, swimming, fresh flowers, and snow cones. My food staples are typically fruit, salad, and sandwiches because it’s too hot to cook. I make several batches of sun tea, and I usually have a signature potion or two that I particularly like that season (this past summer was a toss-up between hibiscus and fresh mint).

I’m also more likely to adopt a signature cocktail over the summer. Some of my summer favorites include:

Summer hygge is capturing that perfect lazy afternoon by the pool with a good book and an umbrella drink. Days like that almost trick me into forgetting the weather.

Every season has its lush moments.

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I can actually smell this picture.

One of my hesitations with choosing lush as my theme for the year was that it might get expensive. When I think of what lush means, I imagine extravagance and living my best life (whatever that means). I was concerned that I would be tempted to spend more money than I needed to in order to turn my life into what I imagined it could become.

I am delighted to find, however, that a truly lush life is for everyone. In fact, an obsession with consumption and spending beyond my means is, in most ways, in direct opposition to the life I actually want.

I think what attracts me most to hygge is how egalitarian it is. The goal is not to impress with fancy parties or expensive things. In fact, according to Wiking, “the more money and prestige is associated with something, the less hyggeligt it becomes.” There’s nothing wrong with toasting your friends with champagne, but if you’re going for warmth and comfort, a simple cup of tea or hot chocolate is better suited to the task. I think having a lush life is the same way. I’d rather chop up a ton of veggies and invite everyone over for soup than have to be stingier with the guest list to keep my grocery bill in check.

Many of my thoughts about what having a lush life means to me come back to community care. Everyone has something to contribute, and someone can always benefit from your excess. Growing up in a small farming community taught me this. When someone grows more peas than they can eat, the neighbors get fed, too. When our fruit trees were full, our friends were welcome to help themselves. One of my favorite holiday memories is getting to eat homemade tamales from Mom’s friend Bertha in exchange for a couple of Mom’s meringue pies.

Of course, community care goes beyond feeding each other, but it’s a good start. The joys of sharing a simple meal or talking over coffee are part of a lush life that everyone can experience.

I’m musing about the lush life this month.

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“If hygge was a person, I think it would be Alice Waters.”
Meik Wiking – The Little Book of Hygge

From the moment I heard about Alice Waters and her connection to the Slow Food movement, I’ve been hooked. Maybe it’s because I grew up on a farm where we grew our own peaches and pecans and enjoyed the bounty of MeMaw’s robust garden. Perhaps it’s because I’ve always harbored secret fantasies of building my own version of Chez Panisse. It could just be the simple fact that good food, especially food grown or produced within driving distance and/or cooked with love, gives me a solid sense of place like nothing else can.

The fastest way to my affection is to cook for me. One of my favorite birthdays was one of the years I was vegan. I was having a hard time coming up with a restaurant that all my friends would enjoy and where I also could get food I loved and would eat. I was about to give up when my sister offered her house to host a potluck. My friends brought over such a feast of all my favorite vegan things. It was so kind and generous and the best gift I could have asked for. Another favorite birthday was the year I invited everyone over to my apartment and served three kinds of lasagne.

I don’t always love cooking, but I love sharing food. I doubt I’ll ever actually own a restaurant, but I love feeding people. For me, there’s no such thing as a lush life without shared meals.

I go through phases of different favorite things to make. Bread. Pie. Cookies. Risotto. A couple of times, Maggie and I put aside a whole weekend to bake and invite people over to enjoy what we made. Cookie weekend was epic. Pie weekend was pretty good, too. Maybe July wasn’t the best time to bake pies all weekend, but it was delicious.

I’m on a real soup kick right now. Yesterday, I did not want to go to the grocery store, so I did a pantry sweep to see what I could make for the week without running that particular errand. Imagine my delight at finding a goldmine of yellow split peas. With some onions and bell peppers and a few herbs, I now have a vat of one of my favorite soups to indulge in all week. Bliss.

Saturday, our church is hosting its annual Empty Bowls luncheon, and I’m looking forward to sampling soups from several restaurants in the area. Maybe I’ll even host a soup party of my own someday.

I am writing about all the things that make life lush this month.

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Workplace Hygge

Once I started exploring what it means to have a lush life, the word cozy kept coming up. And the more I started searching for cozy things, the more I kept running into posts and books about hygge. For those unfamiliar with the term (and clearly not on Pinterest, because it is all over Pinterest), hygge is a Danish concept that takes cozy to the next level. In addition to embracing comfort, it also includes elements of warmth, well-being, and connection.

I’m way down the hygge rabbit hole, so it’s likely to come up a few times this month. If you want a quick and charming crash course, I recommend The Little Book of Hygge by Meik Wiking. Today, I’m giving you a brief overview of the five dimensions of hygge he outlines, which are essentially ways you can experience the phenomenon through your senses. Everyone’s preferences are going to be different, but I’ve included examples of mine. This is a particularly useful exercise for me, as I am easily overwhelmed by sensory input. It’s good to intentionally make note of the ones I enjoy.

Taste

Food is a big part of comfort, and the Danes know this. They have a whole pastry named after their nationality (which I really need to try in Denmark, I think. You know, to get the full experience.). When I think of cozy food, things that are familiar and satisfying come to mind:

  • Soups with a side of crusty bread
  • Eggs and toast
  • Oatmeal with dried fruit and maple syrup
  • Stir fry/warm salads
  • Peaches, nectarines, and apricots (really any fresh fruit, but those are my faves)
  • Antipasti – any combination of cheese, bread/crackers, pickles/olives, maybe salami or fruit
  • Burgers
  • Potatoes in any form. Particularly if there is also cheese involved.

There are also specific flavors that fit in this category for me. I love coconut and caramel and peppermint (not all together, though). And of course, a nice cup of coffee or hot tea increases the cozy factor of any activity.

Sound

I love rainy day sounds. Not just the rain but the things I like to do inside when there’s a storm outside. The tink of knitting needles. Soft instrumental music, particularly piano and/or acoustic base. Pages turning as I read. The washer and dryer running. Small sipping sounds as I try to drink my cup of tea before it’s cool enough to do so (this is the only eating/drinking sound I like at all, btw. All the rest are gross and upsetting. This is a hill I am prepared to die on.).

One of the reasons I find coffee shops so comforting is the combination of sounds coming from behind the counter. Kettles boiling. The clinks and clunks of the espresso machine. Coffee dripping and pouring. It’s very much what I imagine Heaven must sound like.

Also…when cats ekekekekek. That’s some good ASMR right there.

Smell

Coffee. Vanilla and butter. Citrus. Tomato or pea plants. Fresh bread. Food smells, basically, are my favorites.

The other scents I think of as comforting are those that remind me of a particular time, place, or event. For example, the very specific smell that hits me when I open up Mom’s Christmas cabinet where she stores all her decorations. It’s sort of like an apple/cinnamon smell but not quite.

Touch

One of the first things I did after I chose the word lush for my theme this year was to buy new bed linens. There was nothing wrong with the ones I had, but they were getting a little worn and scratchy. [So, I guess there was something wrong with them. I just feel wasteful if I get rid of something before it’s absolutely unusable (no worries – they have been refurbished into decorations/costumes).] I love flannel sheets, and I use them all year long. I also bought a comforter that is slightly weighted (not too much! Most weighted blankets are too much!), which helps me fall asleep. I like drinking out of glass or ceramic receptacles. I will drink out of metal or plastic or paper cups, but it’s just not the same.

I think I’ve gotten to the point where I absolutely refuse to wear hard pants. Jeans, slacks, anything that you have to button/zip? Not interested. I don’t even know that I own any such thing anymore. My daily attire is all dresses and skirts with either shorts or leggings. Comfy shoes that are designed for long hours roaming bookstores. Sweaters and other layers just in case the temperature suddenly changes because Texas. Bookcore for life.

Sight

I’m going to go into this more when I talk about having a cozy home later in the month, so I won’t dwell now, but muted lighting (I’m in the market for lamps), candles, and twinkle lights are my jam. I love dark, rich colors (and yes, classically eccentric is a good name for my preferred decorating style). In pictures or movie scenes or art, I prefer slow-moving ease to bustle. I favor open sky and beaches over woods or forest. I need intentional blank space in decorating, too.

What makes you feel cozy?

I’m writing about lush life this month.

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Today, I want to daydream a little. Journey with me, if you will, to what a typical week of lush life would look like to me. Some of these things are already firmly in place in my life; some will have to wait until I retire (at least partially. Eight. More. Years.) and have the time to incorporate them. This life as a whole also requires a somewhat bigger, definitely steadier income (I really just need to make every month what I make in a good month). 

It’s good to have goals.

Overall, the things I think of when I imagine a lush life basically boil down to five elements:

  • Good balance of company and solitude
  • Good food
  • Cozy environments
  • Meaningful work
  • Lots of time for play

So let’s begin.

At no point in a truly lush life will I wake to an alarm. Each day starts with waking up naturally, whenever I am fully rested, as God and nature intended. As a night owl who tries (and perpetually fails) to overcome my natural tendencies in order to make life with a work schedule created by capitalism and sadistic morning people more manageable, I may actually have a ceremony where I dispose of my alarm clock when I retire. 

Even if I’m rested, any activities where I have to be dressed, social, and coherent before noon are just the worst. So my ideal day is one that allows me to ease into it. A French press of coffee and a good breakfast (mmm…veggie omelet with toast…or poached eggs over potatoes) are required. As long as we’re dreaming, I would like to insert the company of a partner who shares both cooking/cleaning duties and my preference for rampant lounging at the start of the day. Alternatively, I am content listening to whatever audiobook I’m reading, show I’m currently bingeing, or background music softly crooning from the record player. The rest of the morning is likely to be spent reading or working on a craft/art project such as knitting or art journaling.

Afternoons are for responsibilities, because no matter how lush my life becomes, someone still has to do laundry (and also I sort of love doing laundry so, by someone, I am happy to mean me). Having said this, I want the luxury of being picky about which work I do and which work I delegate. For example, I am usually pretty good about keeping up with most daily chores, such as washing dishes or tidying, but I fall behind on things like dusting and vacuuming because I can’t just do part of the house and be satisfied, so I find the size of the job overwhelming to the point of inaction. I want to be able to hire someone to do all the chores and errands that I dislike (and thus avoid until they’re really out of control).

Three or four days a week, my main goal for the afternoon is to write. Most of the time will be spent on creative works in progress, but I also want to maintain my current writing job or something like it to keep a steady income. On the off days, I’ll probably spend the non-chore time running errands, which includes frequenting my favorite local coffee shops and bookstores.

I will likely spend most evenings pretty much the same way I do now – book clubs, choir, attending (or performing in) shows and concerts, hanging out with beloved folk, or staying at home to read. Maybe this fabled partner and I go out dancing occasionally. How lovely that would be. Another habit I would like to resume as I mold my life into something more manageable is to have people over for dinner and drinks on a fairly regular basis. It’s a lot of work, as there are several things (many of which are mentioned above) that have to be in place for me to be relaxed enough to enjoy it, but sometimes I miss it.

Of course, there will be exceptions to this general structure. There will be day trips with friends, library book club or church in the mornings on some weekends, and doctor’s appointments that I almost always schedule at the beginning of the day so I can cross them quickly off the list. And at least three times a month, I’m going to need a mental health day in which all scheduling, planned productivity, chores, and socializing go out the window. Just a slow day spent in my favorite comfy pants that I don’t wear in public, enjoying copious amounts of hot tea, books, music, blankets, naps, and maybe a walk. Opportunities for extended rest are important even when I’m living my most charmed life.

There is more to lush living, of course, but this is the basic lifestyle I’d love to have.

I’m writing about lush life this month. Click here to see the whole series (so far).

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When I chose lush (pardon me…LUSH) as my theme word for this year, I imagined quite a few possible scenarios:

  • Home and patio full of healthy plants
  • Delicious, wholesome (and sometimes decadent) meals
  • Calm, unrushed afternoons spent in coffee shops or bookstores
  • Good cheese, wine, and coffee
  • Regularly designated time to make art
  • Organized nooks throughout the apartment designed to maximize coziness
  • Fun outings with friends and family

It seemed so simple and exciting. But it turns out, there are reasons those things weren’t happening on a regular basis already. 

First of all, these things cost money. Not a lot, for the most part, but still more than I have coming in on the regular. My budget is very basic, and until I get a better job or become inexplicably wealthy, it’s got to stay that way. So one challenge I’ve been tackling is to envision a lush life that doesn’t depend on spending more.

Second, these things take time. Extra time to do more of anything turns into a scarce commodity when you have two jobs and a lot of other responsibilities that (allegedly) come first. I stepped down from a few things I was doing last year, but then I became church council president this year. I am glad to be asked to serve, but it’s been a lot, and I am counting the days until it’s over. In fact, I am working on significantly streamlining how I use the free time I have available. For example, at church, maybe I have fewer weeknight meetings but more engagement on Sunday mornings when I’m already attending the service anyway. At work, maybe I stop volunteering for everything that looks vaguely interesting so I can focus on things I enjoy and not be so overwhelmed all the time (to the small extent that I can control that. More on this later in the month).

Also more breaks. Particularly at and from work. I’m not great at taking breaks.

Third, I forgot to factor in mental health. I set the bar for lush life really high. There’s nothing wrong with high standards, of course. A cozy, tidy home with lots of greenery, comforting homemade meals, large blocks of time to be creative, and also adequate quality time to spend with people I love? Sounds lovely. Wonderful. A fantastic way to live and a grand life to have.

It also sounds like a lot of work. 

I have had some heightened mental health struggles this year that I did not anticipate. Burnout, executive dysfunction, and sensory sensitivity make getting through even the simplest to-do list a challenge some days. And by some, I do mean most. On those days, does lush life look like cooking good meals (and cleaning up afterward) and trying to find scraps of focus/energy to do creative things or hang out with friends? Or does it look like eating a bowl of cereal and calling it a night with a cup of tea and a good book? I know I’m worth the effort it would take to do the former, but I’m also worth the rest I get from doing the latter. Some days, it’s hard to tell which is better.

This month, I’m going to write through more of these thoughts on what I thought lush life would be, what it’s actually turning out to be, and what I think of that. I have some feelings. You’ve been warned.

Day 2 – A Typical Lush Week
Day 3 – Lush at Work
Day 4 – October TBR
Day 5 – Artsy
Day 6 – Lush and Hygge
Days 7 & 8 – A Social Shift
Day 9 – Trips
Day 10 – World Mental Health Day
Day 11 – Community Care
Day 12 – My Ideal Home
Day 13 – Wise Counsel
Day 14 – Nooks
Day 15 – Comfort Crafting
Day 16 – Food
Day 17 – Socializing for Introverts
Day 18 – The Challenges of Reading Challenges
Day 19 – Maintaining a Lush Space
Day 20 – Cozy Office
Day 21 – A Lush Life for All
Day 22 – A Little More Love
Day 23 – A Thousand Words
Day 24 – Sabbatical
Day 25 – Unrestricted Sabbatical
Day 26 – Moving On
Day 27 – In Praise of Subscriptions
Day 28 – Spring and Summer Cozy
Day 29 – Fall and Winter Cozy
Day 30 – Holiday Cozy
Day 31 – Whimsy and Creativity






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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?

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