The other day, I had a conversation with a friend about the merits of investing in a can crusher. The purchase has become increasingly necessary as, one glimpse inside our recycling bin will show you, we are clearly not using our space to its utmost.
That’s because we are addicted to La Croix.
If you, too, are familiar with this obsession, let me be the first to commiserate with you. For us, it started about two summers ago when we were introduced to this brand of sparkling water. I remember looking at its can critically that first time — a friend had brought a case over — and coming away impressed that it looked like it would be marvelously at home at the beach. Or on a boat. Possibly one with a sail.
It’s a Monday and, as with Mondays, I’m feeling the pinch of what needs to get done and hearing the squeal of my reluctance to do it. My book needs work. No one is reading the Sway Essay blog. I need to take some kind of compelling picture for my Sway social media posts. I need to update Toasted Tomato. I need to edit a student’s personal statement. I need to bring William his lunch. And my parents are coming soon (yay!), however that requires a head-to-toe houseclean before their arrival.
But gently creating a calming environment conducive to creativity and progress is the house fan that fans all the day long. It’s especially loud in the basement, where I’ve been working for the past months, and I’ve come to rely on it like an old friend.
Sound ridiculous? Oh, it’s ridiculous, all right. But, and I’m ready to admit this, I am a White Noise Addict. I need it to go to and stay asleep. I need it to write. It helps me focus. It keeps me grounded. It makes me calm.
If, like me, you’re at all in New Year’s Resolution limbo, it feels like the rest of your life is on hold until you can make up for the excesses of December. For myself, that means shedding weight, resuming an exercise regime, and being more moderate in the happy hour department.
Do I badly miss December and all of its treats?
I badly do.
However, I can say I feel better, and I now have more than one pair of pants that fit. My ancient bootcut-style yoga tights are relieved.
To what can I get the credit? Amazingly, food blogs have come to my rescue.
It’s the time of year where it’s best to just stay put and wait it out, am I right? It’s cold, but snowless. Christmas is over and thinking about it kind of makes you need a shot of Pepto. And January is one long month. Really, the most we can do is hang on until Groundhog Day, Valentine’s and St. Patty’s Day, which are, if we’re honest, really B- and C-list holidays at best. I mean, you don’t even get the day off.
But! I have the solution. It’s called Sequence and I prescribe playing it on a daily basis.
When you’ve gained seven pounds in less than a month, you know you’ve had a heck of a good time in December. And, dear readers, I’m here to tell you I did. My lighthearted days were filled with everything delicious: cheese biscuits, cream cheese, bagels and lox, pierogi, meat pie, bread, bread and more bread, stuffing, fudge, thumbprint cookies, rice pudding.
And, of course, a whole mountain (Rocky-style, not Smokies) of mashed potatoes and gravy. I’ve actually thought about writing an entire column about just how much I love the combo, an ode that would begin, “To my greatest love of all.” In fact, this past month, I actually conducted an experiment to see whether or not I would tire of ‘taters by eating them nearly exclusively for every meal for five days.
I suppose I can say the experiment was a success since I was able to come to a conclusion. Which was that I didn’t. Tire of them, I mean. In fact, I could have a big plate of them right now.
Of course, now that it’s the beginning of January, it’s time to get real with these seven pounds, which, let’s face it, join the four from Thanksgiving that I never shed.
Is it too soon to do it now?
What about now?
How about … now?
But now though?
These are the only thoughts I have in my brain once Christmas is over and all the decorations are still up.
With Gabrielle away at college and our nest decidedly empty, this Christmas season has required adjustment. We’ve managed by introducing new traditions into the fold. We have two Christmas trees, instead of one. The advent calendar is filled with love poems instead of scavenger hunt clues. We’ve hosted old friends in small gatherings whom we haven’t seen for far too long. And every day, I have opened my Instagram and taken a look at the cookie recipe posted by the editors of the New York Times’ cooking section (@nytcooking).
They post a different one every day in December, and, if you check each day, it’s like an advent calendar of its own, with the photos beautiful enough to feel like a gift.
Of course, I haven’t made any — in part because I’m waiting for Gabrielle to come home, but in part because I’ve realized that cooking doesn’t have to be complicated or elaborate to feel festive. With William’s full endorsement, in fact, I’ve cooked more simply than I ever have before and it’s reminded me of the beauty of a 15-minute recipe.
“What a week! My heart is warmed by the incredible stream of people that have been through the doors of my business, buying their Christmas gifts, birthday gifts, treats for themselves — and telling me of their mission to shop local. I know it’s a cool and trendy hashtag we all use and talk about, but you truly just do not know how real this is and how important it is unless you’re a small business owner, dependent every day on that community support to keep the doors open. It is so appreciated! Thank you, thank you, thank you!”
This was a note I saw on Facebook last week from one Tammy Martin Hoehler, owner of The Mole Hole in Somerset. The gift store is somewhat of an institution here, opened in 1995 and taken over by Hoehler in 2012. It’s a darling, lime-hued store filled with fabulous finds, from sassy dish towels to to-die-for Christmas ornaments to picture frames to deluxe serving ware to chocolates to candles that, somehow, smell better than anything in real life.
I’ll start this week’s blog post with a tiny recap of last week’s. I was standing in my kitchen pinching my bleeding, loosely-bandaged finger and holding it over my head. An hour before, I’d sliced a big chunk of it off, and I now had less than an hour before 16 women were set to arrive for a Friendsgiving meal, which I’d insisted I would single-handedly make myself.
Single handed, indeed.
However, just then, my friend Sarah, who is a doctor, walked into the kitchen ready to assess my finger. And she’d brought along her son, Owen.
Owen Charles Lewis is the kind of kid who never greets you without a hug. Years ago, he christened me T-Rex, and T-Rex I’ve been ever since. Most recently, Owen Charles Lewis, newly 11, has decided to take up the art of cooking.
And upon learning of my predicament, he immediately offered his services.
I had spent the past few days preparing a Friendsgiving for 16 women, pleasurable hours imagining a fun, relaxed evening that would include boisterous conversation, a golden turkey, fluffy potatoes, citrusy cranberries, pumpkin tart and maybe even a little bit of dancing.
It was about two hours before everyone was set to arrive when this thought crossed my mind: “I must actually be getting to the point where I know what I’m doing. In fact, this really isn’t a very hard meal to pull off if you plan ahead.”
Famous last words.