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Archive for the ‘Nourish’ Category

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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Lush

My word for 2022 is LUSH. It’s the sort of word I feel compelled to type in all caps and use italics for emphasis. I like that. This is gonna be fun. 

According to Merriam-Webster, the word LUSH means…

  1. “…having a lot of full and healthy growth”

I often come to the new year feeling as if I haven’t quite finished exploring the word for the previous one. In a way, this makes sense. Growth is continual, lifelong, etc. I wanted my word for 2022 to acknowledge that. My first thought was “nourish.” I wanted to look forward and continue to grow in all the things I have learned these past few years. I want to continue to have experiences and read books that explore joy, but also that feature hope, wild, alive, lucky, fun, true, and other core values.

But LUSH encompasses my underlying goal better. There is an implied immoderate quality to this word. Not just growth but a lot of growth. An abundance of growth. A fullness. All the growth I can possibly squeeze into this little pocket of time and space. Maybe I should add “rest” to that list above so that I remember that it, too, is important. Overworked and stressed out does not fit in with a lush lifestyle. Healthy is a vital part of the definition.

  1. “…covered with healthy green plants”

I am currently looking for a place in my apartment to put a huge Poinsettia that I bought in honor of my MeMaws for the Christmas season at church and gazing fondly at my faux Christmas tree. I don’t even want to think about what’s happening in the office with The Little Juniper That Could (but if I did want to think of it, I might confess that I fear its days are numbered. RIP, probably). On the porch outside, my briefly successful tomato plant has long given up the ghost (but that’s not my fault – that’s just on account-a it being not summer), but the flowers that died when I was caring for them have resurrected now that I’ve stopped doing anything, which seems unnecessarily petty of them.

When it comes to plants, I have great plans and motivation but little success. I’m going to take this part of the definition literally. My goal? Have a live, thriving plant in each room. Also, flowers on the table make me happy, so I’m going to make more of an effort to do that more often.

Don’t think I didn’t notice that they snuck in “healthy” again. I see what you did there, M-W.

  1. “…having a pleasingly rich quality”

I love this turn of phrase. Yes, I would like this to describe my life. In many ways, it already does. But wouldn’t it be amazing if just about every aspect of my life had a pleasingly rich quality? I think so. Let’s delve deeper into how to make that happen this year.

  1. “…lavishly productive: such as…”

…fertile. NOPE. Unless we’re talking about a fertile bank account. Or garden. Or birthing a book and an album. Otherwise? Nope, nope, nope.

…thriving. That would be lovely. Not just to make it through but to flourish. 

…abundant/plentiful. Are we talking about books? Trips? Friends? Coffee? Peace? Love? Kindness? Cash? To all of the above I say yes.

…prosperous/profitable. I could definitely handle a little prosperity. Let me go submit some more applications and write some more articles. What I would really like? Get paid for the work I already do in my spare time (and that I actually enjoy) so that I can ultimately spend more time doing it and also still have a place to live. #CapitalismIsTrash

…savory/delicious. I’m not sure if this means enjoying more savory and delicious things or recognizing how savory and delicious I am. Either way, I’m on board.

…appealing to the senses. As a sensory sensitive person, this is a welcome goal. Too much of my time and energy are spent having my focus derailed by extraneous, irritating sounds or that smell that NO ONE ELSE CAN SMELL BUT IT’S THERE I’M NOT IMAGINING IT BECAUSE IMAGINARY THINGS DON’T MAKE ME SNEEZE. Finding ways to better navigate (escape?) consistently assaulting environments would be grand.

…exuberant/profuse. With vigor and vitality, and without restraint. There are some areas of my life that could definitely use this treatment.

…opulent/sumptuous. Oh, gosh I love these words. Also known as rich, luxurious, lavish. Splendid. And ostentatiously so. These words make me want to crawl right into a cozy bed with scandalously soft fabrics and pillows of the exact right firmness. Or a warm bubble bath with a glass of wine and some good cheese. 

And finally, speaking of wine…

  1. “…intoxicating liquor” or “…a habitual heavy drinker”

I mean, it’s not a goal, per se (although my limoncello, while mostly delicious, could use some tweaking). But if it happens, it happens. Here’s to enjoying life a little more and worrying about what all could go wrong a little less. Just as long as I remember to hydrate.

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Where do I read? A better question might be – where don’t I read? I will read standing in line at the grocery store.

But if I’m settling in for a nice, long reading session, I want it to be comfortable. Cozy, even.

I start by selecting a chair.

In my current apartment, I have three main places where I enjoy reading for an extended period of time. The chair pictured above is set up to be my official reading chair. It reclines, but not so much that I can’t still enjoy a drink while I read. There is a bookshelf on one side and a window on the other, and it usually has a lamp behind it to ensure good lighting at night. During Christmas, however, that corner is the best space for the tree, so the chair and the lamp get moved. This year, the lamp never made it back over there, so this has become the morning reading chair (when I can take advantage of a lot of natural light).

The big red chair in my living room is usually just where I eat and/or watch TV. But it has also become a reading chair simply because that’s where the lamp has been this year. It’s not within arm’s length of my current-reads shelf, but it’s comfy enough, and there is a ottoman in front of it. So while settling in takes a little more effort, it works well once I do.

The third place I read in the apartment is in the office. When I have an online meeting, I block out some time (usually 30 minutes to an hour) beforehand just in case I need to review notes from the last session or otherwise finish preparations. I’ll fill up the water bottle, make a cup of coffee or tea (or glass of wine, depending on the meeting), and then take a seat in the cushy chair (that I moved out of the living room when I was working from home all day) at my desk. I hardly ever need as much prep time as I set aside, so as I happen to be in my library, it just makes sense to spend the rest of the wait reading. I often find myself lingering there after the meeting is over to finish the chapter I started.

In addition to choosing a chair, I also make sure I have several books stacked nearby in case I start reading one and decide I’m in the mood for something else. Before I begin reading, I like to have something to drink – at least a bottle of water but also usually a warm beverage of some sort – on the table beside me. I put a blanket within reach just in case I get chilly once I get still for an extended period of time. Once I’m there, I can read for hours.

Do you have a particular place where you prefer to read?

I’m writing about books and reading all month.

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