revelations

Once a year, the hubs heads down to Washington D.C. for a week as part of a study through NIH.  I used to dread those weeks ~ so many days alone in my apartment, spooked by every noise, barely able to sleep through the night … Ugh.  Shivers.

I still don’t like being away from him, especially for long periods of time (I weirdly don’t enjoy talking on the phone, which is a necessary part of being apart).  But on Monday, as I prepared dinner for Lucy, and then dinner for myself, I realized that it was the first day since I’d broken my foot and had terrible MS flares that I’d been entirely on my own.  No one to do the ‘tough’ stuff, no one to pick up the slack, no one to baby me or take care of me.  I was completely alone.

And it felt wonderful.

Strange, right?  I feel as though, in turn, I should have felt guilty at the small joy of my solitude, but instead I felt … comfort?  Knowing that as I adjust to my new ‘normals’ of legs and arms and speed and vision, I could do it on my own.  And I was okay.  No husband, no parent, no kindly neighbor baby-sitting me.  Just me, and my furry friend Lucy.

We had a good day, too.  Work was uneventful (a small miracle, or karmic balance for yesterday …  I’m not sure), we went on a walk, and then we settled in to enjoy dinner, some TV and finally, bed.

For our walk, Lucy and I headed to the trails I used to train on for my long runs.  We used to visit them most mornings, and run them from end to end.  I hadn’t been in quite some time, so it was nostalgic and also a little sad.  She was overjoyed, her nose full of so many fall smells that she zig-zagged across the trail, unsure which sniff was superior.  Her tail wagged, and her mouth hung open in a huge doggy smile.  My heart swelled for that, just knowing that this creature, whose care (this week) is solely entrusted to me, was happy.  She’s a funny thing, smart as a whip and so intuitive, and yet bursting with energy from every cell of her body.  We walked a mile ~ a long, tough mile, especially at the end ~ and I tried to remind myself that when I began to run (ahem, jog) I began at a mile, and worked my way up.  I don’t know how this whole MS thing works, but I’m hoping that with practice, a mile won’t be so tough anymore.  I focused on that, instead of the irony of the entire situation.  Learning to walk again, instead of beginning a fitness routine.

I have to admit, this week got off to a bumpy start.  The man & I journeyed to his cousins’ annual Halloween party.  We put together last-minute costumes (purchased exclusively from Lowe’s  ~ now that’s creativity!) because our original idea did not come together well at.all. And then, despite the ratio of one water bottle for each glass of wine, I did not calculate for the jello shots (which kicked my butt).  By the time I curled up in bed on Sunday night (after a great afternoon with my parents watching the Steelers … well, best to forget about that part) I was ready to sleep for days without waking.

However – and this goes to show how far I’ve come regarding being home alone – I still got up Monday morning, made a smoothie for breakfast and got myself to work at a reasonable hour.  It’s small things like that that help keep life in perspective, that help me stay positive and believe in myself.  It was rewarding to get home that night, and instead of feeling adrift and painfully alone, I felt proud of myself.

Last night, feeling a little puffed up and proud of how I’d been handling my week alone, I decided to venture to yoga.  It ended up being a great idea, as work was a bit of a beast.  Rather than heading home and drowning my frustrations in a glass of wine (which would have been delicious, but unneeded) I sweat it out on the mat.  Minda met me there, her own baggage checked at the door, and we both worked our way through class.  For me, it was less frustrating than class a few weeks ago, because I had a better understanding of what would challenge me, and where I would find relief.  I also tried very hard to focus solely on my own practice, so while I know our teacher used themes of Halloween ~ dressing up as someone else, and fear ~ I didn’t dive into those thoughts the way I normally do.  I focused on my breath, and my hands, and my legs, and my movement ~ how the stretches felt now, versus how it used to feel, and how I could use certain clues to know how my body was feeling.

I thought about how Minda and I both came to the mat from situations of angst ~ but how different it manifested for me in contrast to her.   She gave birth to her second child in June, and has been adjusting to  life as a mother of two plus a full-time high school teacher at the same time I’ve been struggling through crutches and crazy MS symptoms.  Funny how life works, right?  Both emotional roller coasters on the best of days, and yet so fundamentally different in their challenges.

I’m glad I took the time to figure out my schedule and Lucy’s to make it to class last night.  I think it was a healthy release for the stress that is weighing down my shoulders, and also a nice, albeit brief, catch up with my friend, whose life is winding down such a different path than mine.  Moments like that are precious, and I think I understand and appreciate that more as I get older.  Everyone makes choices based on their own personal circumstances, wants, desires and lives move in different directions based on those choices.  It’s sort of an interesting thing to contemplate, and to me, is what makes life so beautiful.

Today marks the halfway point of my girls’ week with Lucy.  And I’m okay with that.  I’ve enjoyed my quiet evenings and my early bedtimes, but I miss my husband and am looking forward to having him home.  Lucy is, too.  (He’s her favorite!)

 

good mornings

Some of my most favorite moments include the gray early morning, when Lucy hops up on our bed and curls up down between our feet.  I’m usually still half asleep, but those minutes before the alarm goes off, with our whole family snuggled together, count as some of the most precious of my day.  Lucy’s breath evens out and she begins to snurfle and I feel completely contented, safe and warm.

This morning the man disturbed this loveliness by heading to the gym.  Me and my bum legs stayed at home and enjoyed sleeping in a little longer.

This afternoon we have plans to attend Chestnut Hill’s Second Annual Harry Potter Festival.  One of my girlfriends found a House Quiz, and I will be decked out in HufflePull colors this afternoon, while the man will be Gryffindor.  Cheers to fun things to do on the weekend with friends!

new friends & byobs

There is something magical about the sun in the morning ~ stretching its arms across fields, pale fresh light building to glowing yellow.  This morning, on my drive to work, I was awed by the beauty of the sun kissing the fields, full of cows and sheep and grass swaying in the breeze.  I was glad ~ even though traffic stopped dead about a mile from the traffic light (which is unusual)~ that I chose the route to work I take in the mornings.  Living in suburbia, there aren’t many places to see farmland, but there is a stretch near our house which also happens to be on the way to my office, and every morning and every evening it gives me peace to drive through the fields.

I would have taken a photo, but I try (very hard) to leave my phone untouched while I drive.

So, since I can’t share this morning’s enchanting beginning, I will share last night’s enchanting evening.  The man, who travels very infrequently for work, went to Chicago a few months back.  He had a great time and was able to visit “The Girl and the Goat,” something of  a top-of-the-wish-list thing for him.  On his journey home, he happened to fall into conversation with his seatmate and discussed, among other things, the food & wine business (still flush with his visit to Stephanie Izzard’s flagship).  He informed me upon his return that he’d met a really cool chick on his flight home, she visited Philly for business frequently, and there was a chance that we would get together in the future.

One of our current favs, and what we enjoyed with our Veal

Fast forward a few months.  On our third attempt to get together, we finally made it happen last night at a delicious BYOB, Paloma.  It was enchanting! (I use that word again, and deliberately, as it felt like a step back in time when you entered ~ white linens, lots of glassware, ornately folded napkins).

I have to say that I have huge admiration for Peggy; for reaching out to John, for meeting near strangers for dinner.  But I’m so glad she did, because after the initial awkwardness (have I mentioned that in general, I can be socially awkward … and talk non-stop about, well, anything and everything … and have huge non sequitur because something clicked in my brain that might not make any sense to those around me ….? Yes, well, all that is true) we had a really awesome time.

It started when all three of us ordered the exact.same.thing for dinner.  It continued when Peggy and I discovered we enjoy the same ‘escapist’ television (in the form of Nashville and Scandal).   After that, it was all gravy.

We all began with the Mushroom Flan.  Oh.my.goodness.  Deliciousness.  Light and fluffy, but full of incredible, intense flavor.  And so rich.  The chef’s wife (and, obviously, owner) took care of our table for most of the night, so we got to learn fun tidbits as well as lots of information about the menu.  Which, interestingly enough, is being changed as of today (seasonality ~ love it!).  She assured us prior to ordering that the Mushroom Flan appetizer would be remaining on the menu (it had, in fact, been on the menu for all 16 -18?- years of the restaurant’s existence).  Despite the possibility of missing something else that would no longer be around, we all immediately chose the flan.  And none of us regretted it one bit!

For dinner, we all enjoyed stuffed veal, which was a perfect complement to the Flan (well done, us!)  The veal was served with a side of rice and asparagus, which visually cannot communicate the subtle and incredible flavors it held. I think we were all a little surprised at how good the rice was.

And then, to round out our dinner, we had two courses of dessert.  Which maybe wasn’t necessary, but boy, was it worth it.

We all did a Prix Fix menu, which did not include all the house-made desserts as options (not a surprise). Our options were layer cake, biscotti or bread pudding.  Peggy and I had the pudding & the man had the biscotti.  But this girl loves cheesecake, and I couldn’t not have cheesecake (especially considering the lovely woman who was taking care of us was also the pastry chef and had made it herself).

It did not disappoint.

White chocolate cheesecake, homemade crust, chocolate ganache top.  Mmm, mmm, delicious.  And even more surprising and fun ~ a coffee bean whipped cream to finish everything off.

So good.

Now that we’ve broken the ice with Peggy, I hope we get to have lots more culinary adventures when she is in Philadelphia and free.  But, even if it turns out to be few and far between, last night was a riot (our host told us several hilarious stories about her ‘other’ career as a lawyer and marijuana … you can imagine how amazing that was!).

Last night felt normal ~ something I have been striving for more and more every day.  Some days, normal is driving to work and wishing to walk through the fields of cows & sheep wrapped in a snuggly sweater.  Some days, normal is working really hard and getting piles of things accomplished.  On other days, it’s enjoying good take-out, good wine and the company of my man and my dog on our couch.  But yesterday was a different kind of normal ~ a throw back to when the man & I still worked downtown and went out to new restaurants more often.  It felt fun and refreshing … and a true treat.

Til tomorrow.  Xo.

paths of least resistance

Sometimes, on this crazy journey, I get more caught up in what I can no longer do, instead of focusing on what I can do.  I think that’s inevitable ~ life felt established, with routines and traditions and then all of a sudden, those things were taken away, like a rug being pulled out from under my feet.

Every time I see someone posting on social media about running, I feel deflated and frustrated.  I drive past the trails that Lucy and I used to run three or four mornings a week, and I am sad.  I’d like to believe I will be able to run again, but the truth is, I don’t know.  I feel so angry and defeated.  I am full of regrets ~ regrets for not running Broad Street earlier this year before everything started with my legs … disappointed in myself for not running the Half Marathon last October in Atlantic City ~ something I may never have the opportunity to do again.  It calls to mind the saying “Never put off until tomorrow what you can do today.”  Had I not delayed, failed to train sufficiently last fall, at least now I would have the satisfaction of having run a half marathon, instead of the sadness that I got close and failed to get it done.

And then I think of all the things I am still able to do, and remind myself to be grateful for those things ~ yoga, swimming, walking.  And I try to talk myself up and remind myself to focus on the positives.  I know that what is most essential right now is action ~ creating a new routine, finding new ways to stay healthy and get exercise.  But it’s harder than that  … loading Lucy in the trunk of the car and heading to the trails was a matter of getting up and doing it.  Swimming or yoga requires scheduling and can’t include my pupster, who deserves to stretch her legs even more than I do.

On a different, and more positive note, the start of this week was a busy one for me work-wise.  Our third project hit full speed with a Tasting and Happy Hour for potential investors on Tuesday evening which had been preceded by a preliminary Panini tasting on Monday.  Which has meant take-out three nights in a row at home.  On Monday, I cheated and brought home treats from work (who can honestly say no to prosciutto, kunik and pizza?  seriously). Tuesday was a visit to our favorite local sushi place (where they do actually know our names… and our order.  As a small sidenote, there is something indefinably comforting about walking into a place of business and being recognized.  I believe that is a legit part of Starbucks training … and not a bad idea.  I know how important it was and what great relationships were built when I worked in restaurants every day instead of the office ~ a great part of real social interaction versus social media).  We have been enjoying some choice selections from Pennsylvania’s Chairman Select collection.  On Tuesday, we cracked open a bottle of Duckhorn Decoy Zinfandel.  I happen to deeply love the thick headiness of a good Zin ~ the husby isn’t quite as big a fan (he prefers more dry, minerally juice) but we both enjoyed the bottle, and our movie pic, The Great Gatsby (directed by Baz Luhrmann).  Totally didn’t expect the movie to be what it was but we were both completely drawn into the overly stylized telling of F. Scott Fitzgerald’s classic.

Last night we checked out a new take-out place, Palace of Asia.  I was worn out (I usually am by Wednesday … how lame is that?)  and the man and I didn’t feel like shopping and then cooking.  So after some menu perusing, we got a variety of vegetarian entrees featured on the Indian cuisine menu.

Whew.  Delish.  Despite the major language barrier encountered when calling in, we got everything we ordered, and enjoyed every bite.  Our first entrée was a selection of nine garden vegetables (squash, potato, peas, etc) cooked in a spicy cream sauce (Korma ~ my favorite!).  The second dish featured tiny potatoes stuffed with cheese in a kashmiri sauce (a super amazing cream sauce with nuts and raisins).  For our first foray into Indian take-out, it was a success.  Although I couldn’t eat that every week ~ much too heavy! I love the flavors and seasoning Indian food employs though ~ so outside of the flavors I grew up with and know.  So decadent.  We caught up on some sitcoms and enjoyed another bottle of Zin (the man is going to boycott soon) which was actually (dare I say it? sacrilege) a little superior to the Duckhorn.

At the end of October, my offices will move downtown again, and when that happens, I hope the husby and I can get into a groove with cooking, and the gym and Miss Lucy.  Until then, I plan on enjoying the waning days of my easy commute and spending as much evening lounge time with my family as possible.  This evening we are headed out to a Mexican “Haute Cuisine” BYOB in Old City (which we have only heard rave reviews about)  … I am very much looking forward to it, and to continuing our streak of not cooking this whole week.  (Hehe!)

Until tomorrow.  xo.

 

past times

Two days ago I went to my first yoga class in over four months. It was uplifting, challenging, frustrating … difficult!  But when it was all done, and my legs had finished shaking, the core feeling I had was relief.  I had been toying with the idea of returning to class for a few weeks but when I got right down to it, fear was holding me back.  I’ve never been a star athlete -and that’s okay! – but I’ve also never had this little strength or control over my body.  When yoga was difficult in the past I  muscled through (just hold on through the breath ~ nothing lasts forever).  That’s not an option anymore.  I lost a lot of strength during the healing of my broken foot, and I lost a lot of feeling, control and balance during my last MS flare.  Stepping back into the studio, I wasn’t sure where I would hit the most challenges.  At the beginning, it was just sitting.  My right ankle was so stiff I couldn’t comfortably sit.  But as class progressed, the things I was worried about ended up being okay, and things I didn’t even think about -ahem, lunges – basically (and almost literally) brought me to my knees.

In the end, it was a relief to physically get through class without having to step out and it was mentally and emotionally a relief to get back to a part of my life that had ceased to exist for over a third of a year.  Slowly but surely, the man and I have been finding a rhythm again ~ getting back to life and the basics.  It feels sort of amazing.
Last night, we decided to do something that we have been wanting to do since our honeymoon.  One of the masterclasses we attended in Aspen was with Andrew Zimmern, who did a whole demonstration on making noodles.  It was fascinating to watch how easily he did it, and we happened to be sitting beside Carla Hall, who was given the finished dish to enjoy.  She graciously shared it with those seated around her … and it was the.best.peanut.sauce.ever.  Seriously.  Incredible.

I have to say, one of my favorite things is cooking with my husband.  Last night was a fun adventure, as neither of us had made a peanut sauce before, we knew we wanted it to taste like the dish we’d had in Aspen … and we had no idea how to achieve that.

The man found a basic recipe online (unfortunately, the recipe for the sauce that Mr. Zimmern made was not one of the included recipes in the Aspen Classic magazine).  We picked up the missing pieces from the grocery store, and went about creating a dish.

The man decanted a nice bottle of vino ~ a staff pick from our local Wine & Spirits store.  It was very bright, and enjoyable.

The man had an idea in his head of what he wanted the dish to be like. He cooked up some bacon and had me chop up some cilantro.  We snuggled up with our wine, and two bowls of fettuccine topped with delicious sauce, bacon & cilantro.  It was a good night.

 

#photofriday ~ home

I was feeling a little sentimental about our house today (which we .. erm, the man … cleaned because tomorrow we are throwing my little brother a little fete).

We have lived here for over four years.  It is nearly the longest I have lived anywhere.  It’s where John and I began as an us, it’s where we celebrated our marriage … our home means the world to me.  Happy Friday.

Please note that Lucy has her own mansion within our home.  And her toys belong … well, wherever she wants to leave them.  🙂

huh what

This morning I was appropriately on the ball (minus not making it to yoga again … but I’m warming it up … six a.m. is early).  There is something seriously satisfying about having breakfast, taking all my meds (whew!), having a packed lunch and being dressed for work and out the door on time.

I just didn’t think about the traffic.

To the city, to the restaurant and then back out to the office was a full two and half hours.  By the time I rolled into my office I was frazzled, frustrated and completely unmotivated.

Which made my boss’s appearance … twice!! … so amazingly unbelievable.

Today felt like a roller coaster ride … and I kept having to stop, take a breath and remind myself not to freak out.  Ever have a moment (this could come completely from me being a total control freak) when you feel as though life has begun balancing out … and then you’re back in the deep end again, not sure which way is up?

That’s how today felt.  Despite it’s auspicious beginnings.

By the end of the day only a quarter of my to-do list was done, I have less than 30 days to vacate my office and I was told quite bluntly that none of my decorating choices were welcome in our new space.  Ouch.  (Tact … maybe something my boss did not employ today at my expense).

But then I think about the day, and all the worries, and even though it sort of … well, sucked  … I’d take a dozen days like today over another day when my legs just don’t work.  So that really helps with perspective.  And it makes me laugh.  And that is good.

Having sushi helped, too.  Perspective, right? 🙂

favorites

Today, after smoothies for breakfast and salads for lunch and all the good mumbo jumbo, the man and I cooked and enjoyed Quiche for dinner  … for the first time in a looooong time.  I could have made gluten-free crust (but I did not) and I like to think it’s good for me because of the abundance of spinach.  Solid.  🙂

I will say that I should have checked the weather when I did my Sunday meal planning (we are trying to plan and grocery shop for the upcoming week … which is more challenging than I thought it would be).  Had I checked to see that it was going to be stinky hot for October, I might not have chosen Quiche for tonight’s dinner (which necessitated the oven being at full force for over an hour).  But I didn’t, and we made the Quiche … and it was glorious.

Glorious, I tell you.  And I won’t take it back for anything.

On a completely unrelated tangent, six years ago today at about seven in the morning, I was driving home from the gym (I used to be uber-inspired, and work out with the dedicated folk of the six o’clock hour … God bless them) and the phone rang.  It was my mother, and she let me know that my grandmother had passed away.

My grandmother ~ as I have mentioned in this blog before ~ was no ordinary woman.  She was a corker, a force of nature … a stubborn anomaly of her generation.  She was amazing. Hearing that news, as the sun blinded me in the passenger seat of the car, and traffic edged forward in a painful stop and go motion ~ was utterly devastating.  It felt as though the air had stopped going to my lungs … I couldn’t breath, couldn’t speak.  Something had ended that I would never get back.

Today, six years later, my mother had a follow-up with her doctor.  She’d had a few tests run a week or so ago, and the whole family, whether we outwardly admitted it or not, were on pins and needles worrying about the results.  I know that no one’s heart was in quite the vice grip that my mother’s was … I know this from the sound of her voice on the phone, but also from the tension that I held for weeks waiting for my own results to come back.  It’s agonizing, torturous … a vast plain of speculation and fear.

And when my phone buzzed with a message from my father, a positive, upbeat “it’s good news” message, it felt as though the weight that had pinned the corners of life down had been released.

I can wax poetic about a  lot of things … I’m good at it.  Adjectives are my friends.  But today, words couldn’t possibly capture the relief and joy I, along with my family, felt at the good news.

My brother (himself quite familiar with adjectives and powerful language) wrote a beautiful note that equated the karmic balance of today’s significance.  Six years ago we lost a woman who shaped our lives and we will never fully heal from that.  Today, we were given the gift of my mother’s life and health.  And nothing can fully explain the power and intensity of that.  To whomever we each individually believe in, I think I can say unequivocally that we are all grateful beyond measure.

normalcy

I’ve missed cooking.

I mean, i have cooked in the past few months.  But not something new.  And that has made all the difference.

But today, I decided to try out a new recipe (from my fav, Iowa Girl Eats). And it was well worth it.  The man & I curled up onto our couch, watched a new movie (that neither of us had seen before!) and enjoyed a new recipe and a delish bottle of vino.

It felt ah.may.zing to feel normal.

IGE Spinach and Sausage Pinwheels 

So here’s what i used (per Iowa Girl Eats … it’s 100% her recipe):

1 pkg frozen spinach (10 oz, defrosted and squeezed dry)

1/2 cup Ricotta

2 oz Crumbled Feta

1 tsp Italian Seasoning

1/2 tsp Salt

Pepper

1 pkg Pillsbury Crescent Rolls

Marinara

Here’s What I did: 

1.  I took two sweet Italian sausages (I am not a fan of hot sausage but I deeply believe that it would -having now had the meal – be delicious), decased them, and cooked the meat up in a sauce pan.  Then, I let it cool.

Meanwhile …

2.  I combined the ricotta, feta, squeeze-dried spinach, Italian seasoning, salt and pepper in a mixing bowl and made a nice big bowl of goop.  (I happen to love that word.  And ricotta.  I might have had a spoonful  … maybe….).

3.  I took the Pillsbury crescent roll dough and rolled it out.  Then I cut it in half.  And evenly spread the spinach ricotta mixture on both halves of dough.

4.  On top of the spinach and ricotta I added the sausage.  Then I attempted to tightly roll the dough and toppings.  And then I cut them (with a sharp, serrated knife …) into eight pieces.

5.  I placed the pieces on a cookie sheet and cooked them for about 15 minutes (they were, indeed, golden brown).

6.  The man warmed up and doctored some marinara and we completely enjoyed our dinner snack.

~~~

All of the things we are dealing with are difficult … I know that in general, what most people deal with on a daily basis can be difficult.  And we all soldier on, because that’s the nature of life.

And yet sometimes, when your house is clean, and you enjoyed a good (and new) dinner and the wine rocked (the man found an out-of-this-world Italian Zinfandel that I will dream about) and work isn’t actually killing you … and you’re snuggled with your amazing husband and puppy  … life feels a little normal and a little okay.  And that is a true blessing.