Four years ago in March, I was reeling from what had been a terrible year. My worst year, actually, in which everything- my job, my living situation, my long-term relationship- had all just crumbled, a horrible orchestral crescendo of awfulness. Then came the death of a beloved little girl, a child I was quite close to and loved dearly. She succumbed to cancer days before her fourth birthday, then my mother was diagnosed with cancer, and then I just fell apart. I quit everything and left the country in an attempt to find my way back to the land of people who were not miserable. I did return home three months later, but it was primarily because my niece was about to make her appearance and I wanted to meet her. ASAP. Fresh from the womb. I needed something to look forward to and she was it.
So then you can understand why she’s pretty special to me. When I see her, in addition to the fact that she’s my niece and is tremendously sweet, I am reminded of what she brought with her arrival. I still see the light that sparkled up during a pretty bleak time in my life. In fact, those two words- regardless of my own experience of her arrival- are ones I think that everyone would agree are accurate descriptors of her. Light. Sparkle.
This is a four-year-old with a bigger imagination than anyone I’ve ever met, who, after spilling a little bit of water while getting herself a drink, looked down at it and said, ‘I put some water on the floor for when I turn into a kitty.’ Of course. It was all planned out! She is precocious and chatty. Her favorite colors are ‘pink, purple and sprinkles’. Even more than those things, she is full of love and joy. I think she’s quite a peach; I wish everyone could meet her.
I wasn’t there for her birthday again this year, but it is really important to me that she knows just how much I love her. Love, of course, doesn’t have to be demonstrated by a box of goodies wrapped in pretty paper, but (aside from me moving in to their spare bedroom so I can give her big hugs on the daily) it may be one of the best ways at the moment. I wanted to send something for her that she would open and immediately think “WOW! I AM SO SPECIAL!” because, wow, she really is. Nothing says party-in-a-box like sprinkles, a feather boa (her mom might kill me for that particular shedding piece of merriment), balloons, a birthday wand, and a big load of confetti. Am I right?
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What was intended to be a four week post-holiday spree of meatless eating has turned into an ongoing conversation that frequently includes this phrase: ‘So, are we vegetarian?’
Spoiler alert, we are not, not really. We order meat sometimes when we’re at a restaurant (read: steak burrito at Chipotle yesterday) and will happily eat it if someone else has cooked for us (read: we don’t want to be those people, the ones with the fussy diet that makes everyone feel anxious about having us over) but at home, we eat a lot of vegetables. And we eat at home 90% of the time, which means bring on the baby spinach.
I never thought I, a midwestern barbecue chicken enthusiast, would go for months without having beef or chicken in my refrigerator. I truly did not, much in the same way that I don’t anticipate ever dying my hair platinum blonde or attempting to grow the worlds longest fingernails. It’s a surprise to me, is what I am trying to say, but I like it. I like surprising myself. I like the challenge of finding new recipes and adapting the old ones. I like the way I feel healthier.
I also like offering myself meat at the grocery store to make sure I am not deprived by my idealism. Here Emily, I said, how about that tasty-looking wing in the deli section? Want one of those little guys? No? Okay, maybe next week.
Now, after three months and nearly 60 new recipes, O and I have some stand-out favorites. The quinoa would be worse with ground beef in it, I swear it’s that good, but don’t forget the avocado! The eggplant dish… well, anything with baked fresh mozzarella is a winner in my book. And the cold orzo salad is perfect for the warm spring day that I keep waiting to arrive. And speaking of springtime, Punxsutawney Phil, I am coming after you, you lying scoundrel.
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Many of you have probably seen the ‘something you want, something you need, something to wear, something to read’ series that a handful of bloggers do on a regular basis. Bleubird is the first that comes to mind. And while I like these posts, it just doesn’t quite fit what I want to do in my own home-blog space. First, I am no fashion blogger- scratch the ‘something to wear’ column. Second, I don’t really ‘need’ much, so scratch that, too. After several failed attempts at rhyme, this is what I’ve come up with: a book, a food, a piece of decor, and then one more thing. Things I like. I enjoy the last category particularly; it leaves me feeling less hemmed in, more free to roam.
Book. I’m currently reading this for book club and am finding it a page-turner, a fun read.
Decor. This reminds me of our new sheets. Too matchy-matchy? Maybe, but I am a sucker for a birch veneer tray.
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// noon, a Monday //
Them: Hello, thanks for calling Groupon. How can I help you?
Me: I was wondering about available travel dates for the Costa Rica trip. I need to leave on May 18th or 19th from New York and-
Them: So sorry. The only departure date remaining is May 24th.
Me: Oh. Nothing for the 18th, huh?
Them: No. Definitely not. Absolutely not. I am obnoxiously certain there is not. Let me put you on hold for 53450 hours while I confirm that, though.
// the minutes tick by while I listen to music with birdsong playing loud loud loudly in the background //
Them: Well, I can confirm that there are no available departures for that day. The best I can do is get you there on the 18th for an extra [emphasis on the unpleasantness of this inevitability] fee. So sorry. Please consider Groupon for your next trip!
Me: Alright, well, that’s too bad. Thanks. How much is the extra fee, by the way?
Them: Fifteen dollars, ma’am.
You’d think they would actually try and sell these things, right?!
When we decide to halt the progress of the accumulating grit O’s bike carries in from the street, we have to call over to our friends across the courtyard. We don’t own a vacuum, people. I don’t think we qualify as real adults.
Driving, driving, driving to Ohio. We pass by a sign that says Scranton, PA, and decide to take a detour through the downtown area and check it out. I am a number one fan of The Office- have been since I first heard Michael explain how he grilled his own foot in a George Forman grill- and so Scranton is a Destination.
‘I can really see Michael Scott living here,’ I say. Continuing, ‘it really looks like a perfect place for him.’
‘Um, you do know he’s not real, right?’
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