On Wonderment

I want to find wonderment in simple things, in candid moments, in messes. In dust bunnies discovered under the couch, a collection of singleton socks, the cooktop so weathered from use it will never again be entirely clean. Windows that need replacing,  a box full of birthday cards, and a new pint of Southern Butter Pecan Talenti gelato. Feeling solid earth under my feet, my head on a pillowcase that still smells of clean laundry, a freshly sharpened Ticonderoga pencil between my fingertips. In a resolved conflict, and my tiny first apartment. The beating of my heart; my tastebuds. 

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Oftentimes I fixate on perception: what others think and why, how they define worth, if I measure up. When the ruminating gets to be too exhausting, I peel away the layers and focus on primal matters instead. Am I hungry, does the weather warrant a sweater, did I call Nana to say "good morning"? I try to focus on the tasks at hand, the minutiae that when taken together comprise a lifetime. I make breakfast, put gas in my tank, yield for pedestrians. Answer emails, send a thank you note, buy a bouqet of flowers. 

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I want to find wonderment in simple things, in candid moments, in messes. Beauty rooted in simplicity is abundant. In fudge brownie pie, words of affirmation, and a phone call from your best friend. Clasped hands, Monopoly, and eggs over easy. In broken hearts, our capacity as people to feel,  and compassion revealed in the unlikliest of places. In arguments and fighting the urge to cry. In succumbing to the tears and starting over. Saying goodbye but memories dear, letting go of something you fear. 

 To prepare, line small pans of your choice with pie crust. Fill with your favorite brownie batter. Get creative with assorted cookie cutters. I used a set Tic Tac Toe set from Sur La Table, that can double as hugs and kisses. Bake at 350 degrees for 25 to 30 minutes. Top with ice cream! 

To prepare, line small pans of your choice with pie crust. Fill with your favorite brownie batter. Get creative with assorted cookie cutters. I used a set Tic Tac Toe set from Sur La Table, that can double as hugs and kisses. Bake at 350 degrees for 25 to 30 minutes. Top with ice cream! 

I need to find wonderment in simple things, in candid moments, in messes. I have little faith in the alternative.

 

 

You mean something to someone

In the age of social media, big business, and the endless pursuit of affirmation, the focus seems to have shifted from quality to one of quantity. How many followers do we have, how many strangers "like" something we have released into the world, how many dollars we take home at the end of the week. These metrics are important, undoubtedly. Dollars put food on table, rent checks in the mail, and shoes on feet. Followers and fans pave the way for business opportunities, social influence (hopefully in the direction of good),  and link communities across the world. Access encourages communication, and even competition which fuels innovation. In the absence of competition, we may never reach the cutting edge, but rather hover in the mediocre zone. The pursuit is necessary.

Thus the negative connotation I speak with is not an assault on striving, pursuing material success, or aspiring to attain fame in a particular field. It's more so a reminder that regardless of these metrics, you mean something to someone.  

I recently read for the countless time a darling little book by Anna Quindlen called A Short Guide To A Happy Life. It has offered me great consolation in times of anxiety and uncertainty. It has reminded me to be grateful when worry rears its unceasing head. I highly recommend reading it; it's brief so there is no excuse not to. In it she writes, 

“Life is made of moments, small pieces of silver amidst long stretches of tedium. It would be wonderful if they came to us unsummoned, but particularly in lives as busy as the ones most of us lead now, that won’t happen. We have to teach ourselves now to live, really live…to love the journey, not the destination.”

She speaks with a humility that is inspiring (she is an accomplished author and New York Times bestseller on multiple occasions), and an appreciation for life's beautiful moments that we all too often overlook. Dew resting on blades of grass, a belly laugh from a toddler, a wet kiss from your dog. She has helped me to quiet the noise, focus on "small pieces of silver", and give thanks for them.

Recently, I've gotten engaged and have successfully put off any serious thought about the expectations of planning a wedding. People have asked about the details, who will shoot the photos, what brand the dress will be, who will cater... the list goes on. I've managed to avoid getting caught up in these details just yet so that I may soak in this moment in my life. A moment that hopefully doesn't come around again. James and I each have so many quirks that I think we are more or less bound together. Regardless of the venue, the cost of the dress, the size of the ring, and the champagne served for a toast, at the end of that day I'll be a wife, he'll be a husband and our loved ones will have been there to rejoice in a happy moment. A moment where two people decided they'll face the world, the pursuit, the uncertainty - together. While I won't walk a runway in my gown, and James won't get a James Beard award, I will still feel beautiful in that dress and he will still be the greatest Chef I know. I mean something to him and he means everything to me. And that is enough for this day. We'll face tomorrow when it comes. 

My cousin took some photos of us to commemorate this moment. Obviously we decided to go to a farm that sells apple cider donuts. 

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Less is More (5)

Old becoming new again

My late grandmother and her family, used to cook on this very stove in my summer kitchen. I live in a two family house that my dad and his cousins grew up in. There is an additional kitchen downstairs because Italians can never have too many kitchens. It is fueled by a pilot light and has a nifty retro label in cursive. I feel like the value of cursive has been lost on our generation, but I still have this stove. It's so old that despite scrubbing with abrasive sponges, it will not come clean, but I feel this is to our benefit. It's a reminder of where we come from, and that old becomes new again. 

There is great comfort in remaining connected to my roots. They are strong roots, caring and resolved. Proof etched in grease remains from the makers before us, who prepared food for their families, my family, in the summer heat.

 The unstoppable summer kitchen stove. 

The unstoppable summer kitchen stove. 

A new flavor of iced coffee at Dunkin Donuts

I said once before that I look forward to my three o'clock iced coffee break, like a kid craves a visit to Disney World. And it is true. I allocate my projects and tasks at work around that three o'clock break, and frame it as a reward and indulgence. While coffee for some is black, mine is more like dessert especially since Dunkin Donuts partnered with Baskin Robbins to release ice cream inspired coffee flavors. I am weak in the knees for the Cookie Dough. I get my medium iced with one squirt of the Cookie Dough syrup (that stuff is sweet!) and some, well, cream. So much for a mere coffee break; how about a mini vacation. 

A bouquet

 The littlest bouquet I ever received, and one of the more special ones. 

The littlest bouquet I ever received, and one of the more special ones. 

Children are remarkably resilient. They are creative and find solutions in the rarest of places. Along those lines, they also find joy in under appreciated situations. There are like walking, talking mini ambassadors for simple pleasure seeking. I've been spending some time with three special kids. The middle child walked up to me in the backyard with this tiny bouquet. It was only the size of my thumb, but it was beautiful, a gift from her to me. 

Making pickles

So far this season I have made pickles twice, with darling little gherkins from the Farmer's Market. The first pass was a great success and I thought to myself that I must have the pickling touch. The second pass, I parted from the recipe and improvised, adding additional items and in different orders to the brine. My mason jar filled with cucumbers nearly exploded two days later. I had even gifted one of the jars from the second batch to friends, and was horrified to tell them, "I think something is wrong with the pickles. Proceed with caution."  I do love pickles though and will certainly try again; the summer is long. James bought me a pickling book so I can build a stronger foundation. 

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Lunch at Raymond's

Raymond's is a charming diner style restaurant on Church Street in Montclair, New Jersey. It's the sort of place you go for a meal but leave feeling uplifted whether from stimulating conversation with a friend, a killer Cobb salad and fries, or the happy chatter of others. Children are always there I've noticed which I interpret as a good omen. The waitstaff are amiable and genuine, dressed in denim for a casual feel. My favorites there are the egg salad sandwich,  the calamari salad, and the French toast. It's made with French bread and is simply decadent. It was at Raymond's I had my first Lime Rickey, discussed new business ventures, and comforted a single mom whose youngest was preparing for her wedding.  Everyone has a Raymond's. The local spot to get a milkshake or a cup of coffee that is made just right each time. 

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Water in motion

Water has an inexplicable soothing effect. For the spiritual, it is symbolic of beginnings, the washing away of sins, and forgiveness. For the non-spiritual it is just as powerful. A close friend of mine once told me if I was ever to become worried or anxious, to envision myself floating in a running river, water rushing at my sides, my concerns washing away. I've never forgotten that; it has served me a great deal.

Nurturing a plant 

My first semester at Georgetown, my mother got my roommate and I a delicate plant for our little dorm. It only lasted one week. Neither of us were very adept at caring for plants, although understandably it isn't really that difficult. Perhaps we were overwhelmed with the new chapter of college life. Since then I have made a conscious effort to take more attentive care of plants. Throughout our lives we will take care of children, siblings, pets, and elderly family members. We might even dedicate our time to caring for complete strangers. There is a certain comfort though in nurturing something that has nothing to say or give. That you can talk to without fear of judgment or worse, indifference. That won't poop on the carpet. 

Grilled pizza

We've been grilling a great deal as the weather has been warm and summer beckons. The Chef of the house has a wild imagination and can make nearly anything on the charcoal grill. Inspired by a trip to the Monk Room, James recreated their Carbonara pizza with guanciale, eggs and crushed black pepper. It was perfectly, imperfect with its amoeba-like shape. Maybe he will make me another for breakfast.

The sound of fury

No, not William Faulkner , we're talking NASCAR. I attended my first race at the Pocono Raceway in Pennsylvania this past weekend. Unsure what to expect, I imagined it would be loud but wasn't prepared for the sheer magnitude of those engines. Despite the great volume, it was I might even say melodic as the cars whizzed by like furious bees. The roar faded in and out as they rounded the track. Even with ear plugs, the bleachers shook with every lap.