Monthly Archives: December 2010

Her Fearful Symmetry

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I wanted to read Her Fearful Symmetry because I loved The Time Traveler’s Wife so much, both novels written by Audrey Niffenegger.

While I agree with some of the critics that said the plot and plausability was a bit thin in areas, and I wanted to know some of the characters more, I did find Niffenegger’s signature style – which I can only describe as a wall, and behind that wall a constant ache in the corner of your heart no matter your mood – still in tact. And that is what I craved from Nieffenegger and her second novel, so I was ultimately satisfied.

The story is about ghosts and has quite a bit of the supernatural, which I was expecting to find trite, if not downright tasteless, but I think Nieffengger’s treatment of these ideas was well done. It is so difficult to follow such a triumph and commercial success such as The Time Traveler’s Wife so I am really looking forward to Nieffenger’s next novel, which I expect won’t feel the pressure that Her Fearful Symmetry has. Have you read either book? What’d you think?

Healthy Winter Soup

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Ryan’s parents were in town for the weekend, and we were running around like chickens with our heads cut off, seeing the sites and sampling all the food that DC has to offer. By the time Sunday night rolled around, we were all ready to relax, so we invited them over for some football, 60 Minutes and soup.

The great thing about this soup, like all soups, is that it’s so easy and no stress. You really can’t mess it up. I served it with a side of cornbread and sliced chicken for the Healy men – Ryan and his dad, Jack – to add into their bowls; it was a big hit.

If you haven’t noticed, my cooking style is to take a bunch of ingredients, throw them into a pot and let the flavors meld. Nowhere is that better suited than a warm Winter soup. This one is healthy too so you don’t have to feel bad when you ladle yourself a second helping.

Healthy Winter Soup
Adapted from my Mother.

Ingredients
1 large can of chicken broth + 1 regular-sized can
2 potatoes, peeled and diced
2 medium onions, peeled and diced
2 cans small white beans
2 cans diced tomatoes
2 tsp whole peppercorns
1 tbsp dried herbs like basil and oregano
1/2 bag of fresh spinach, chopped

To Serve
Shredded Parmesan or Romano
Extra virgin olive oil

Preparation Instructions

Combine all ingredients except for the spinach in a large pot, adding more liquid as necessary. Bring to a boil and simmer on med-low until potatoes are cooked (about 35-45 minutes). When potatoes are tender, add chopped spinach and stir until spinach is just tender.

Ladle into bowls and add a bit of cheese and drizzle some olive oil on top. Serve.

See! Easy peasy. What is your favorite Winter soup recipe? Do share in the comments.

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Project: Gift Wrap Ideas

I love wrapping gifts. The humble packages that result and wait under the tree are a lovely tradition of patience and anticipation.

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This year, I used brown wrapping paper, an old table cloth that I tore into strips, leftover gift tags, raffia, ornaments from Crate and Barrel, and fake berries from an old decoration to wrap many of our gifts under the tree.

You’ll need to set aside a good two to three hours to wrap gifts depending on how many you have, and make sure to have several types of tape on hand. For awkwardly-shaped packages, I use packaging tape to hold everything in place as opposed to regular scotch tape.

Ornaments work great as an alternative to bows and ribbons, and cost about the same (although I found these for cheaper). Try stringing raffia, string or ribbon through the holes in a relatively flat ornament (see top photo) to add a quick embellishment; a treat before you even tear off the paper. Smaller ornaments can be attached just like gift tags.

I love that extra bit of delight.

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You Don’t Need To Settle

This is a guest post from my dear friend and change-maker Sam Davidson. Sam Davidson is a writer, entrepreneur, and dreamer who believes that the world needs more passionate people. To help people find and live their passion, he has written 50 Things Your Life Doesn’t Need. He is the co-founder of Cool People Care and Proof Branding, and lives in Nashville with his wife and daughter.

50 Things Your Life Doesn’t Need from Point House Films on Vimeo.

Finding and living your passion is a process. It’s not something you do once over the course of an afternoon at a coffee shop and are done with. It’s a journey you live deeply, repeating as necessary until you die. It’s a commitment, a lifelong pursuit, and a work of epic proportions. Once you decide that you must find your passion, you cannot settle until you do.

This is something I learned from Rebecca Thorman. She doesn’t settle. And neither can you when discovering what it is you love, who it is you’re becoming, and what it is you’re passionate about.

I’ve met Rebecca once. Nothing about her was second rate. The coffee shop where we met, the sushi place we grabbed dinner, the martini bar we went to after that – it was all top notch. Look at her blog design. Read about her boyfriend. Check out what she does for a living. Look at pictures of where she lives (or used to). What about this woman screams compromise?

Nothing.

Take heed: you can’t settle when you’re looking for your passion. You also can’t settle  – once you find it – as to where that passion takes you.

For some people, a passion becomes a profession. For others, it becomes a wonderful hobby to explore after work or on the weekends. Some become passionate about a cause and others about people. Be warned: when you decide that you can’t be anything but passionate, you are beginning the journey of a lifetime.

But, what a wonderful journey it is! I firmly believe that the world needs more passionate people. This is why I wrote 50 Things Your Life Doesn’t Need. Using the excuse to eliminate excess from our lives, I also detail how getting rid of what doesn’t matter can help you discover what does. The same is true in reverse: once we find what’s truly important, everything that isn’t can fade into the background.

Have you seen pictures of what Rebecca cooks? Doesn’t it want to make you do the same? Your passion will be similar. Once you find it, others will see the contagious fire within and want to find theirs. And when they do – when a friend or colleague tells you that they want to be as passionate about something as you are, make sure to warn them. Let them know that if they truly want to find that which makes them feel alive, they can’t compromise. They can’t settle. They’ve got to follow the journey until it’s logical and exciting conclusion. Your passion demands nothing less.

Serious applicants only.

Other things (actually in the book) that you don’t need:
#3: Untaken risks
#12: Pictures that don’t mean anything
#47: A job you hate

Contest:
Share your passionate story in the comments. What is it that you’re passionate about? How did you find it? How long did it take? Where has it taken you now? One lucky commenter will receive a signed copy of 50 Things Your Life Doesn’t Need.

Staying Alive

On the way home, I walked past the men’s shelter and met Walter, catcalling for money, and Pierre, sitting on a bench behind him on Carroll St, under the shaded trees that lined the Capitol Square.

Walter was from Chicago where he had gotten kicked out of his apartment for having the wrong kind of people over. He snickered at the memory and lit a cigarette. He had family in Madison, that’s why he was there. Pierre was more motivated and as Walter leaned back, Pierre leaned forward; he was from Chicago as well. Pierre was looking for a job. He was working for the day-laborer companies just until something else came up. He didn’t have a bank account, but he tried to save as best he could. As Pierre spoke, Walter blew smoke directly in my face. I held my breath.

Walter turned away and Pierre focused all of his attention on me – Where was I from? Where did I live? How long had I been in Madison? What did I study in school?

It was humid and hot under the bangs on my forehead, and I was only a block from home. I shifted, told them I would see them around. Suddenly, Walter was all the way on the tips of his toes.

Around here, he asked?

Yeah, around here, soon.

In participation with #reverb10.

Just One Word

You know how in Eat Pray Love, the sage memoirist Elizabeth Gilbert summarizes entire cities and personalities into one singular word? New York City is predictably assigned Achieve, Stockholm receives Conform, and the word Attraversiamo, which means “let’s cross over” in Italiano, is eventually assigned to Gilbert herself.

Now there is even a Facebook group to one-word devotees, where the city Provo, UT gets Marry, and Jacksonville, FL is stuck with Ridiculous. But there’s no need to stop at cities and people. Much can be acutely summarized in one word – your dinner meal, a presidency, a TV show – and now, as the year comes to a close, the last 365 days.

I’d like to tell you my word for 2010 was Sex! or Moola-oh-la-la, but alas, my every day isn’t filled with lingerie and shopping. We can save those words for the The Real Housewives or perhaps, Penelope Trunk (I only jest).

No, this year brought about a reverie from anxious comparisons and slowly, but surely I learned to lean less on my measuring stick for support. Perhaps most revealing is that my lungs experienced the luxuriate familiarity of full and deep breaths again and again, sometimes for entire days.

People will often ask me how I like DC or what my relationship with Ryan is like, and I will reply, “I feel like I can finally breathe.” Shorthand, which I hope people understand to mean that Ryan and the city allow me to sink into more of myself. They allow me to be more of me. People will often say Comfort to describe being able to be themselves. But I think it is more than that, as it is also Challenge.

The dichotomy between comfort and challenge is where I found my word for 2010 sitting in flashing lights above my head as I pondered (and is also my sorry attempt at describing Love which selfishly eludes description).

It is not really a word to describe the entirety of 2010, but rather the result of each day following the day before it. The word is – Confidence. That is, this is the year I got my mojo back.

Hello, Mojo.

Incidentally, when I did this exercise last year, I expected the year of 2010 to be all about Friends, Social/Culture. Yes, that is how I wrote it, forward slash and all. Which is exactly what DC has been the past two months, plus a healthy dose of Family. Funny how things work out in the end.

(The year of 2009 carried the theme Ryan/Alice, Love is All Around in case you were wondering).

My choice for a feeling to carry me into 2011 is Follow-Through. It’s a dull choice perhaps, but also full of intention, continuance, and completion. And it has so many great translations from its literal definitions like “movement after the release,” and “continue until all motion of body has ceased,” – all of which are so lovely when you apply them not just to baseball or golf, but to the excruciating discipline of self.

So, cheers to that. And cheers to you, dear reader, and whatever word you have in mind for 2011.

In participation with #reverb10.