Enjoying the Beauty of Becoming

It has been 374 days since my last blog post.  I have continued on with the writing program at SCAD, expanded the weekly meal program to more than 50 families, gotten engaged, gotten un-engaged, catered many fun social events including a Buckhead roof top social of 300 people, catered the most beautiful wedding, my strong beautiful daughter graduated from high school and my sweet Lauren May left G&H after almost three years to work at a great internship.  This has been a fun-filled and heart breaking year, to write the very least.    I have so missed sitting down and writing about it.

I went a little off course, again.  The roads that led to beautiful moments only lead to more roads with the journey that is never-ending.  I lost sight of what I wanted out of life.  I had gotten to a point where I felt angry and disgust for so much – politics, murder, bigotry, oppression, family dynamics, traffic, cancer, my own mistakes and even simpler things such as burnt toast.  These things are black in my soul that follow me unless I write about it.  I was putting so much pressure on myself to be the best mother, the best partner, the best personal chef and business owner, the best student, the best friend, the best daughter and sister.  I hated myself and this beautiful earth we live on.  I hated who I was trying to become, this little miss perfect.   Trying to be the woman everyone else wants me to be- gross.  Or at least what I thought they wanted me to be- even grosser.  She isn’t the woman I am destined to be, but I know her and I hate her more than anything.  My stomach hurts by writing the word hate- such a nasty word.  And, I’ll not kid myself, I was so far from perfect.  I fought with friends and family.  I snapped at annoying but, harmless business calls.   I screamed at the girls.  I continued to bury myself deeper out of sight so that when it was forced upon me to look at myself, I had no idea where or who I was anymore.  The humiliation of this person I had become is, well, excruciatingly painful.  Everyone seemed to know what I refuse to see.  I wonder if there is no wonder.

As we were catering this beautiful wedding back in May, only a few days after my own engagement ended, the question was asked if the yard had been sprayed for mosquitos and I thought for a brief moment of rolling around in the grass to see if I could be eaten and taken off by them.  This event turned out to be such a gift.  The universe will not let me go my own scared way. It was a peaceful union of two people who adored each other and they certainly aren’t perfect in everyone’s eyes but they are authentic and loving and so imperfectly perfect in my eyes.  I am so glad I got to be there to see their union and feed them well.  The positive energy and love was palpable.   Everything about it was the opposite of what I was living and that gave me the truth to start living differently.

Grief, as every emotion, is relative to whom is feeling it. My biggest loop in my head has been “it is my fault this is awful” and I have gone over and over how I could have changed the inevitable.  But, there is no way and god and everyone else knows I have tried.

Now I am trying to flow with the current that is the least resistant.  I have been known on occasion to believe I have to struggle like hell instead of just flow with the nature of things.  Haggard and disheveled, I kick and scream against my own current and for what?  To feel absolutely beaten down.  Everything is easier said than done.  So glad that my friends are not quitters and want to throw in the towel with me.  This does not mean that I don’t have to work hard to evolve.  As M. Scott Peck says love “requires the extension of ourselves, love is always either work or courage.  If an act is not one of work or courage, then it is not an act of love.” But as I start to let go, stop the struggling internally, have faith in myself again, it does feel easier to trust.  It feels so much easier and I think I may even be loving myself a little bit for it.

Where do I go when I feel I have hit the bottom?   I look up and kick like hell the glass ceiling to get out.  Through one tear (or three), one smile, one laugh, one friendly chat on the phone, one weekly meal, one delivery, one hors d’oeuvre, one dinner party, one movie night with the girls, I get up and brush my knees off.  Sometimes I surprise even myself.  Mosquitos would have been a long and painful death.

I have seen in some eyes that they wish I would stay down.  Or we see in some eyes, “you deserve what you get”.  Someone just recently told me I should get a “real job” instead of my “dream job.”  It’s funny, that was always his encouragement and why he is where he is in his own journey.  This job isn’t my dream, yet.  It is still forming and molding.  My children will not need me at home when I can live my dream job.  For now, it is my value.  I can live no other way without that.  There are people out there that do not want the best for others.  And those people, we have to ignore and let go.  I work like hell to have compassion for those who want to harm and hurt just to make themselves feel better or for their “justice”.  I must forgive them, move on, know that I am still loved, so loved and love those who want to be loved.  This is so difficult for me to do.  We can not make people like, love, understand or accept us. I have tried and so desired it but only getting hurt in the trying.  That is my struggle I must let go of.  Accepting that putting my eggs into a basket for it only to be thrown on the floor to break just hurts myself.  So, I choose not to do that.  I give my egg basket to those who want to handle them with care.  What a corny metaphor!  My professors would have a field day with that.  I am so grateful for those professors that encouraged me to keep going this last quarter.

As I went into a yoga class yesterday, my mantra was to love myself so that I can love others.  I said it over and over through deep breaths.  I felt it through my rib cages sucking in just a little more air to fill the cracks.  I could not help but notice and admire this woman who was fit, beautiful and graceful in her movements.  I quickly wished her love and went on about my practice, not wanting to wish myself to be her.  After class, I grabbed my things and noticed she was leaving in front of me.  I chuckled to myself because I noticed she looked like me but with blonde hair.  Then I noticed when she got into her car, it was the same as mine except a different color.  I smiled again at the universe showing me my mantra.  I drove around to leave when I passed her and noticed she was born in April, like me, from her tag.  I didn’t know this woman and who knows what her story is.  But I know me, and I want to really love and admire fully who I am, the dark and the light.  I could admire this strange woman and not even know her, but admiring myself has always seemed selfish.  This was a little moment of self-love to me.  I have always confused that  self-love was selfish but I do know if we don’t give any to ourselves we are empty.  And empty to give anything to anyone else.  I believe this is an epidemic amongst women, not just in me, that I would love to see gone, forever.  If anything, I will try my damnedest to not pass this on to my own daughters.   I will claw tooth and nail to omit it- really.

One of the biggest things that fills my heart, and I get to share it, is having dinner parties and writing.  I’ve known this but I wasn’t doing it.  So a couple of weeks ago I invited a couple of girlfriends over to sit on the front porch and have dinner.  I had forgotten how much I loved having people over.  I had forgotten how much I loved cooking for people.   My home isn’t big or extravagant.  Since I sold my house I think I have been holding back because it isn’t perfect.  In fact, my neighbor has put a couch out in our front yard that the city of ATL has yet to pick up over the last 3 weeks.  My neurosis are totally kicking in but allowing my imperfections to be seen at the front of the driveway is so much easier than hiding them under my pillow or worse, my heart.   I think the last time I blogged was the last time I had someone over for dinner.  My writing is also so imperfect but it is imperfectly me and that feels so good.

I made a most wonderful, healthy, summer salad with organics from the farmer’s market and grilled chicken breast for our dinner party.  This is my ultimate favorite food, fresh out of the garden.  Can’t you just taste the sweet sun ripening the tomatoes?  We sat outside with a citronella candle to keep any mosquitos from trying to take us away.  If I could encourage others to do one thing, the thing I wasn’t doing, is to do what you enjoy, do what you love and share that light.  Don’t put negative people in your life that want to squash that.  Enjoy moments with loved ones over a meal.  Go write.  Call me if you want to have that dinner but don’t have the time to cook! 😉 I will do that for you and love myself very much for giving you that moment.  Here we are full circle.  My wish is for you to enjoy this summer with friends, a good meal, and sweet peace of mind.

 

Summer Salad with Warm Shiitake Mushrooms and Lemon Mustard Dressing

 

For Salad

Red Leaf Lettuce

Radiccio

Canned Artichoke Hearts in water

Cherry Tomatoes

Cucumber sliced

Shiitake Mushrooms

Grilled Chicken Breast or Grilled Shrimp

Goat Cheese

 

For Lemon Mustard Dressing

¼ cup fresh lemon juice

¼ cup Dijon mustard

2 tablespoons rice wine vinegar

¼ teaspoon salt

¼ teaspoon pepper

1 cup good olive oil

 

 

For salad: Sauté your shiitake mushrooms in a little olive oil, salt and pepper.  After 3-5 minutes take of heat and allow to cool for a few moments.  Pile your other ingredients as big and high with all your veggies and protein that you desire.  Top with shiitake and goat cheese.

For Dressing:  Whisk everything but oil.  Then slowly, while whisking, add oil.  You can add as much or as little dressing as desired to your salad.  Toss, serve and enjoy.

 

This journey of life is far from over, ups and downs, over and under, but I am so glad I can share it with you.  Please feel free to send me your story so that together we can share it with those who may be looking for answers.  May your summer be a glorious one!

 

 

 

 

 

 

Hats Off to the Bluegrass

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Mint Julep


I’ve been nostalgic about Kentucky this week. Partly because I’ve never been gone this long. But also it’s the way the mid-morning sun nestles on the leaves outside my window. I’ve seen the sun perch like this before on old trees back in Louisville. I’m reminded of brisk, silver cast walks to school and sweaty, sunny walks home, with the relief and excitement of a summer almost ripe. The sun has a particular way of shimmering just so at the dawn of May, and that can only mean one thing: it’s Derby week in the Bluegrass.

I can see my Dad at the kitchen table with his racing form, handicapping the horses. Today’s copy of The Courier Journal—filled with thoroughbred facts and hat histories– resting close by. The local news anchors chattering about specialty cuisines, fashion, and celebrity sightings. Like many, my Dad doesn’t attend the derby anymore, but you don’t have to actually go to feel the spirit of the city. It’s alive, and you can pick up on its pulse from anywhere. The season kicks off with a spectacular fireworks display, a hot air balloon race, and includes a marathon, a parade, and the Belle of Louisville swaying down the Ohio in the Great Steam Boat Race.

If ever there’s a time to feel the spirit of Louisville, it’s now. I bet even the weatherman has a pep in his step. The forecast for the first Saturday in May (because yes, I’ve checked) shows sunny and in the 70’s. This means a dry racetrack, oddly patterned sunburns, and copious amounts of mint juleps. I can see Louisville grinning all the way from Georgia. Cheers!

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Mint Julep

Ingredients

KY Bourbon

Simple Syrup (equal parts water and sugar, boiled ’til the sugar dissolves)

Ice

Fresh mint leaves

Coarse sugar (optional)

Directions:

Put the leaves in the bottom of the glass (or shaker) and pour an oz. of the simple syrup in. Muddle the leaves. If you don’t have a muddling tool, improvise. I used a spoon to mash the leaves down. Add in the ice, then Bourbon to taste. Mix. To jazz it up, put some sugar around the rim. 

A Lighter Side

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Asian Slaw

Someone told me before I moved here that Atlanta is really just a big forest.  I thought he was exaggerating, but this past week,  I’ve witnessed the forest bloom into existence. I wake up to bird babbles and pollen soaked everything. Spring has taken over the city.  I’ve even spotted some forest dwellers on their back patios sharing food and drinks, a sure indicator of warmer weather, longer days, and lighter fare.  Last week, I made an Asian inspired slaw–a delightful companion to any barbecue or sandwich.

You can use bags of pre-chopped slaw, or you can buy a head each of red and green cabbage. I prefer the latter for a few reasons. 1. It just tastes better. 2. The road to freshly chopped cabbage is much more exciting. If you take this route, PLEASE remember to stop and marvel that a red cabbage cut in half looks like a Van Gogh painting, even more than his own cabbage still lifes.  Here is the recipe!

Asian Inspired Slaw

1 head Red cabbage

1 head Green cabbage

OR a bag of pre-chopped slaw (the boring shortcut)

2 carrots, chopped or shaved

3 large scallions, sliced

2 tablespoons cilantro (chopped as  garnish)

Dressing

1/4 cup soy sauce

1/4 cup lemon juice

1/4 cup vegetable or canola oil

2 tablespoons white wine vinegar

2  tablespoons brown sugar

2 1/2 teaspoons sesame oil

Salt and Pepper to taste

Optional ingredients:

1/2 red onion, chopped

1-2 tablespoons sesame seeds

1-2 teaspoons chopped Jalapeño, if you’re feeling hot

Directions:

Chop the vegetables and whisk the dressing separately, then unite in a big bowl. Garnish with cilantro.

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Lauren’s Debut

IMG_0349I moved to Atlanta with my beau in mid January. We had been here about a month and while I was slowly carving my spot teaching at yoga studios around town, I knew I needed another job. Serving is always an option, but as my love for cooking has escalated over the years, I wanted a back-of-house experience. One night, a glass of wine in sight as I chopped vegetables in our tiny kitchen, I pondered my next move. With little experience in a restaurant kitchen, I thought and said out loud, “I would love to work for a small private catering company, where I could learn the intricacies of the kitchen without being in a high pressure restaurant kitchen”. The next day, I saw Mandy’s ad mirroring what I had verbalized the night before. I had applied for numerous other jobs with very few responses, but Mandy called me back within the hour, and I knew it was going to work out. When I met her a few days later at Inman Perk, it was more of a reunion of old friends than a job interview.

Our meeting has transpired as we transition into new phases of life. This is the first time I’ve lived outside Kentucky for longer than a few months, and first time writing on a blog, though I’ve edited other people’s blogs and been a writer my whole life. After 8 years of odd jobs, travels, and soul wanderings, I’m now in my first year of teaching yoga and ready to move forward with my writing. Novels, story lines, and screenplays simmer at my forethoughts as I try on the shoes of graduate student (but I mostly write and teach barefoot). I’m not yet married, don’t have any kids, and have 3 months left as a 20-something.

Mandy is weathering a different type of transition. As she grows her business and steers her daughters into young women, she is growing, too. Not only as a business owner and parent, but as an artist. I jumped on board to help her, like any new, old friend would do. I arrive in the mornings to find Mandy in a skylit kitchen aglow, music frolicking around her as she scans her yellow legal pad of tasks. I put on my apron and we jump into a recipe. She teaches me discernment techniques, like when to buy campari tomatoes v. roma tomatoes, and we share stories, secrets, and gossip. We laugh A LOT. I get to practice operating fancy mixers, choppers, spinners, smashers, juicers and zesters, and am always astonished to see how many items Mandy can cram into the dishwasher.

When I come home to my own kitchen, I practice techniques I’ve learned or try out similar recipes. Last night, as I poured a real silver tablespoon of balsamic into the pan (I couldn’t find my measuring spoon), it reminded me of when my parents poured cough syrup into one when we were sick. This food is medicine– it brings comfort to the people that eat it and is just as comforting to make.

Another childhood memory comes to mind: sitting up on the counter as my mom makes sugar cookies in the big brown mixing bowl. After mixing the sugar and the butter, she would let me lick the beaters. Sugar and butter are a magical combination and a delightful part of the recipe. But what about trying the oil mixed with egg, yet another phase of the journey? No thank you. Transitions don’t always taste yummy, but you practice patience and keep going, because you know it’s not done yet.

This is simply the beginning and I’m grateful to be here:)

Believing and Receiving

IMG_0404I put an ad in Craig’s List looking for help.  I have had great people working with me sporadically but I needed someone on a more regular basis.  I had no time to comb my hair and brush my teeth and that wasn’t so good for business or those who love me.  I was a little hesitant because that would mean more responsibility.  It would mean instead of feeding three little mouths, one big guy, a feral cat, and all my clients, that I would need to add one more to the list of depending on me.   When fear lurks, adding someone to that list can be quite overwhelming.  The what if’s start to rattle in my brian.  The “how in the hell am I going to accomplish this?” wakes me up at 3am.  I was at a cross-road.  Could I continue at this speed, drinking coffee at all waking moments, not practicing what I preach about balance and eating healthy, and looking as if I had stuck my finger in an electrical socket?  Or could I actually trust, ask, and most importantly receive help graciously?

I had an idea of what type of person I wanted to hire but I had no idea what was heading my way.  I received about 50 inquiries to the position and almost all of them started out with a few words that made little to no sense.  I am not a professional writer, but I am pretty sure that what I was reading was not sentences.  I had hired people before when managing at a local bakery.  I knew what hiring someone “difficult” could mean… stolen goods, eye rolls and a big pain in the ass if ever you asked them nicely to take out the trash.  When I told people I put an ad in Craig’s List they looked at me like I was crazy.  I know this look.  I have received it many times before.

I met with two people from those 50+ resumes.  I knew they weren’t a good fit.  In this business there is a lot to weed out.  The number of people with drug and alcohol addictions seem to permeate this industry. Then, I received this email from a sweet young woman who had just moved to Atlanta from Kentucky.  She is a Bikram Yoga instructor, an artist, a dreamer, and most certainly a hard-working individual.  I knew from her first message that she was the one.  We did an interview and afterwards I was skipping home on cloud nine.  She was the perfect fit!

When we worked together the first day, she introduced me to a book, The Artist Way by Julia Cameron.   I mention the book because she gives so much more than just a sandwich.  She’s smart, grounded, generous, and loves to live life to the fullest.  Shes great at organization, taste and writing.   And now, I am flattered to call her my friend.

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I believed a person was out there who could help me with my next transition at Grits and Honey.  I knew she was going to be fabulous but I had no idea how wonderful she could be.  I am super happy to introduce Lauren to all of you!  She will be writing some blogs and helping me with getting recipes out.   I know you will enjoy her humor and wit as much as I do.  Here’s to you, Lauren!  Welcome to G&H!  This is ging to be so much fun…stay tuned!