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Archive for the ‘musings’ Category

A couple times recently, I’ve heated up a frozen meal for lunch. On the surface, I suspect, that might not seem revolutionary. But it sort of is for me. 

The meals were part of my second shipment from Mosaic (referral link), a plant-based meal delivery service recommended by a friend. Since my divorce, I’ve struggled with cooking for one, especially in the warmer months. I can make big batches of soup in the winter and eat them all week long, but once May hits, I’m sick of soup, and it doesn’t appeal as much in the summertime. So many recipes, like enchiladas and curries and stir-fry, are meant for three or four people (at least), and not all leftovers keep as well as soup. And though I’ve been making Molly’s ratatouille about once a week, I don’t want to burn myself out on it – especially since it’s not even July yet.

My friend Sharon, who also cooks for one on a regular basis, recommended Mosaic, but I was hesitant at first to try it out. For one thing, it felt like an unnecessary expense: I already buy groceries for myself every week and eat out occasionally, and I wondered if putting more dollars toward food would be worth it. I’m aware that I’m super privileged to even be able to consider a fancy frozen-meal service, and I also wondered: isn’t there something I’m missing? Some hidden cache of easy, quick, nourishing delicious recipes that everyone else knows about and I don’t? (If there is, and you know about it, please send it my way – or any particular recipes you love!)

Resorting to frozen meals also, frankly, felt like admitting defeat: like a fundamental failure in taking care of myself. I did a lot of the cooking when I was married, and there were certainly weeks I groused about it, but for some reason, the prospect of cooking dinner for one, an average of five nights a week, every week since my divorce has ground me down. (I do eat with my guy regularly, and occasionally with friends, but everyone’s work schedules plus the pandemic means I can’t count on that more than a night or two each week.) I grew up in a household where my mother insisted on family dinner, and somehow managed to produce healthy, tasty meals night after night. We rarely, if ever, resorted to TV dinners, though we did enjoy the occasional pizza or taco takeout night. So, on some level, even weighing this option felt like a failure. 

I argued myself out of Mosaic for a couple weeks, but after a few (more) evenings of staring morosely at an uninspiring fridge, I decided to give it a shot. And you know what? It’s good. 

The meals are tasty, healthy and hearty (though I’m always keeping an eye on the sodium content, because I know frozen food has tons of it). Some of them, like the noodle bowls, are a little different than what I would make for myself, which is nice. And instead of seeing my use of the service as a failure, I’m trying to embrace it as another tool: a way of caring for myself (albeit a slightly pricey one) for the days when I’m out of leftovers, inspiration, or both. 

Any tips and tricks for a solo cook? Or do you have other prepared meals you really like? 

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My guy and I love a good bike ride, and he, in particular, can rarely resist a new trail. So when a friend of his told G about a recently completed project that links Cambridge with Watertown – and takes you from a busy retail area to the quiet of Fresh Pond – we had to check it out.

We started in Watertown on a humid Sunday, picking up the trail behind the Arsenal Mall and riding it through neighborhoods neither of us had ever seen. The area is a mix of residential and old industrial buildings, and it’s all suddenly lush with early-summer green. We crossed a few streets G knew, but so much of it was unexplored territory to him, and it was all fresh to me.

We took a snack break near Fresh Pond, eyeing the sky because a storm was rumored to be blowing in. The wind did kick up, but we decided to take our chances, and it was a beautiful ride (my first) around the pond.

I’ve been riding in Boston for several years, but there’s still so much I don’t know about the bike paths in the area. It was a particular treat, though, to explore a trail that neither of us knew – G’s delight in discovery was evident at every turn.

We’ll be riding more this summer, of course, and having other local adventures. I’m looking forward to every single one.

What local adventures are you having, these days?

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This weekend, my guy and I took a Sunday bike ride from his house to Harvard Square. We wandered the weekend farmers’ market, savored BLTs from our beloved Darwin’s, and checked out a new arts and vintage market (where I scored a gorgeous pair of earrings). He headed home after that, but I had one more stop to make: the brand-new location of a favorite Harvard Square institution, Brattle Square Florist.

As regular readers know, I’ve been stopping by Brattle Square since 2013, when I worked at Harvard and bought myself flowers at least once a week. Since I left the university, I’ve done my best to keep dropping in when I can, buying peonies and tulips and daffodils, iris and ranunculus and bright anemones – whatever is in season. I’ve bought amaryllis bulbs and sunflowers and multiple African violets, and Stephen, the kind-eyed owner, has tucked many an extra rose into my bouquets.

I was sad when I heard they were moving – but relieved that they found a new space right down the street, near the Ed School and now bright with flowers and houseplants. They moved in last week, and though the new space is smaller, it feels a bit like the old: exposed brick, buckets of blooms, some of the carved wooden angels from the old shop, and Stephen’s smile.

I sniffed and explored and bought a vivid bouquet: orange roses and three Coral Charm peonies, which change color as they bloom. I hugged Stephen and rode home, thrilled to see an old favorite transplanted and flourishing in a new place.

What local adventures are you having, these days?

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Hello, friends. It is June, somehow, and the world is purple and green: tall ruffled iris, big puffball alliums, flowering catmint, leggy delphiniums. And the pink is splashing out, too: rhododendrons, fluffy peonies, bright sweet beach roses overflowing with bees.

The weather is up and down, as it often is; the headlines are heartbreaking, as they often are; and some evenings I’m so exhausted I can barely see straight. But, as always, there are a number of things saving my life in this season. Here’s my latest list:

  • Pink fluffy peonies from Trader Joe’s, in addition to the ones in my neighbors’ yards.
  • Petting Gigi, our sweet office dog, who’s always so happy to see me.
  • Jenny’s maple-pecan granola. Making it for myself, when I can, feels like the sweetest act of self-care.
  • Moisturizer, which sounds boring but is also vital self-care (see above).
  • Friends who respond to my (frantic or joyful or silly) texts, and keep me going.
  • The occasional zoom with my writing group: class is officially out for the summer, but we’re still meeting once in a while.
  • Batch after batch of Molly’s ratatouille, which is just about the only thing I want to cook/eat these days.
  • A recent adventure to Portsmouth, NH, with a girlfriend, which included trips to Book & Bar and Auspicious Brew.
  • Bike rides with my guy, including a hop down a new trail the other week.
  • Piles and piles of good books: incisive nonfiction, immersive novels, fun mysteries, joyous middle grade.

What’s saving your life, these days?

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Earlier this month, I joined a running club – the newish, informal, neighborhood group that meets at the foot of the Golden Stairs, mere yards from my house. I’d been seeing their posts on Instagram for months now, and seen them running in a pack through the neighborhood – but I’d hesitated to try it out. I usually like to run alone, plus 7 a.m. sounded a wee bit early…plus (and this is the real thing) I hate walking up to groups of strangers. I’ve never enjoyed that moment of being the odd new person, but like so many things, it’s gotten worse with two years of isolation during the pandemic.

But. It’s spring (tipping into summer this weekend, with 90-degree temps on the way). The mornings are lighter; the lilacs are blooming; the azaleas are a blaze of pink and the rhododendrons are right behind them. And in small ways, I can feel myself opening up, too: finally unclenching after months of clinging to all things safe and familiar.

Don’t get me wrong: I still need lots of nights on my couch with a book, or morning runs by myself with the Wailin’ Jennys or Martina McBride in my ears. But some things feel more possible, less scary, than they did a year ago. I’m seeing it all around me: people are traveling again, eating in restaurants and gathering with friends. I went to the movies last night for the first time in a year. It all feels like training wheels for being back in the world, a chance to try out – in a safe context – the things we used to do and the things we want to do, and decide which (if any) we’d like to keep.

Long before the pandemic, I was telling myself a story about meeting people in Boston: that it’s hard and scary and they probably won’t welcome me anyway. This was true at my first workplace here, and I’ve carried it with me, like a stone in my chest, for a decade. It has taken years to untangle that story, and the fear still rises up every so often. But the other week, I set my alarm for 6:15, ate some granola and drank a cup of tea, grabbed my keys and headed down the stairs. Just try it, I told myself. If you hate it, you never have to go back again.

Well. I didn’t hate it – as evidenced by the fact that I got up early this morning for the third Friday in a row. I ran a 5K last weekend in the sweaty, steamy heat with some of these people – and I didn’t even mind that much when I came in dead last. I’ve run into a couple folks already in the neighborhood. And most weeks, we walk to the new cafe afterward to grab coffee and chat.

It feels like community, like connection, like finding a new way to be in this neighborhood where I’ve spent three joyful and also difficult years. It feels like pushing off with those training wheels, learning to balance again. It feels – in a sneaky, surprising way – like joy.

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Loving Working

“We clean to give space for Art.”
        Micaela Miranda, Freedom Theatre, Palestine

Work was a shining refuge when wind sank its tooth
into my mind. Everything we love is going away,
drifting – but you could sweep this stretch of floor,
this patio or porch, gather white stones in a bucket,
rake the patch for future planting, mop the counter
with a rag. Lovely wet gray rag, squeeze it hard
it does so much. Clear the yard of blowing bits of plastic.
The glory in the doing. The breath of the doing.
Sometimes the simplest move kept fear from
fragmenting into no energy at all, or sorrow from
multiplying, or sorrow from being the only person
living in the house.

April is National Poetry Month, and I am sharing poetry – with an emphasis on women of color – here on Fridays this month, as I do every year. 

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Before

No shoes and a glossy
red helmet, I rode
on the back of my dad’s
Harley at seven years old.
Before the divorce.
Before the new apartment.
Before the new marriage.
Before the apple tree.
Before the ceramics in the garbage.
Before the dog’s chain.
Before the koi were all eaten
by the crane. Before the road
between us, there was the road
beneath us, and I was just
big enough not to let go:
Henno Road, creek just below,
rough wind, chicken legs,
and I never knew survival
was like that. If you live,
you look back and beg
for it again, the hazardous
bliss before you know
what you would miss.

I have been thinking a lot about the lives we live “before” (this time of year makes me remember, vividly, the process of going through my divorce, three years ago). This poem of Limón’s made me think of Nora Ephron’s lists of what she would (and wouldn’t) miss, written before her death in 2012.

April is National Poetry Month, and I am sharing poetry – with an emphasis on women of color – here on Fridays this month, as I do every year. 

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If they come in the night

Long ago on a night of danger and vigil
a friend said, why are you happy?
He explained (we lay together
on a cold hard floor) what prison
meant because he had done
time, and I talked of the death
of friends. Why are you happy
then, he asked, close to
angry.

I said, I like my life. If I
have to give it back, if they
take it from me, let me
not feel I wasted any, let me
not feel I forgot to love anyone
I meant to love, that I forgot
to give what I held in my hands,
that I forgot to do some little
piece of the work that wanted
to come through.

Sun and moonshine, starshine,
the muted light off the waters
of the bay at night, the white
light of the fog stealing in,
the first spears of morning
touching a face
I love. We all lose
everything. We lose
ourselves. We are lost.

Only what we manage to do
lasts, what love sculpts from us;
but what I count, my rubies, my
children, are those moments
wide open when I know clearly
who I am, who you are, what we
do, a marigold, an oakleaf, a meteor,
with all my senses hungry and filled
at once like a pitcher with light.

It has been a hard and heavy few weeks in the headlines, and this poem – found via Abby Rasminsky – made me think of Ukraine and also of my own life. I hope it moves you.

April is National Poetry Month, and I am sharing poetry – with an emphasis on women – here on Fridays this month, as I do every year. 

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flowers

here we are
running with the weeds
colors exaggerated
pistils wild
embarrassing the calm family flowers oh
here we are
flourishing for the field
and the name of the place
is Love

I found this poem in How to Carry Water, a robust collection of Clifton’s poems. I love its riotous exuberance, its verbs, its unapologetic flourishing. And that last line! As a flower geek and a perennial optimist, I love it all.

April is National Poetry Month, and I am sharing poetry – with an emphasis on women of color – here on Fridays this month, as I do every year. 

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March ended up being a very full month – it included a trip out west to see dear friends in Tucson, the L.A. suburbs and (again) San Diego. Plus a hiring process for a new colleague; lots of running (still building my stamina back after having COVID); both snow and spring flowers, as is normal for March; and dinners with a few friends I hadn’t seen in a long time. Whew.

April is here now, with its blustery winds, sharp spring light and budding tulips (!), and here’s what I learned in March:

  • Sometimes granola needs an extra 10 minutes in the oven. (Jenny’s recipe is my favorite.)
  • I tried this recipe for Thai butternut squash soup – a yummy, spicy alternative to my classic one.
  • Delays can be a chance to explore – as when my Amtrak train in CA was an hour late and I wandered the main street of Moorpark. (And picked up snacks and a yummy burrito!)
  • I might be a legwarmers kind of girl after all.
  • Write it down. You’d think I’d know this, but especially at work these days, if it doesn’t get written down, it flies right out of my brain.
  • I need a bit of margin in my week – especially salient now that the pace of life is picking back up.
  • Just ask. (Still and always working on this one.)

What did you learn in March?

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