It’s the Journey, Not the Number

The past two weeks I met stress and the verdict is still out on if I conquered it. Over-scheduling and multi-tasking are nothing new but a new job, a new home and a new age can be a bit cumbersome at 33.

No longer are schlepping boxes, meeting new people and waking-up in unfamiliar territory easy tasks to feel comfortable in. The body just isn’t as flexible, despite all the yoga, Pilates and dancing. Perhaps the memory needs to be worked on. For those of us that are sensitive, maybe leaving a house because there is one better suited does not always mean it’s easy to uproot.

Nonetheless, a new position and deciding to move are two choices we can make in life. Turning a year older however . . . well, it’s better than the alternative. I was recently inspired by Karlen Chase’s article, in which she counts what she has learned in the past 33 years, not so much the number of moves or gray hairs. So I decided to reflect on where I’ve called home for the past three decades and what I took away from my stays as I globe trotted.

New York State: Where life began and dreams were sprouted. Imagination got its start and Western New York is always home to go back to.

Ohio: Middle America. A roller coaster summer of awesomeness.

Dublin, Ireland: The closest place to heaven on Earth. The farther from home I got, the more people I met that were like me. Rosie cheeks, pints and tiny cigars. Stumbling upon a cottage George Bernard Shaw lived in during my usual hike up Dalkey Hill and going past the tower where Joyce wrote Ulysses because it was on my morning commute.

Rochester, NY: A first real (and still favorite apartment). Roving reporter. Real relationship. Good practice for life.

New York City: “Came here for school, graduated to the high life, Ball players, rap stars, addicted to the limelight, MDMA got you feeling like a champion, The city never sleeps better slip you a Ambien.” The Village and the Upper East Side, still a second home and where my heart is. Went there searching for life and got a story of a lifetime, friends forever and learned how to walk away.

Massachusetts: I didn’t want you. Serendipitous to have met certain people and two that moved there at the same time. Historical. Beautiful. Quiet.

Buffalo, NY: Apparently you can go home again, and pick up right where you left off. But this time, life is really fabulous and there are great friends, many laughs and expectations that I can’t even begin to map out because they are just going to be that good.

Single: Many aren’t afraid to tell me they always thought I’d be married by now. Sometimes I think it’s sad to admit I am incredibly happy because I am not, nor have I been, married. Perhaps it’s because I’m content and it’s hard to meet someone with the same life experiences. I’ve decided the latter is actually a great problem to have, because I’ve filled a life with lots of stories in a somewhat short period of time. I also have a hunch, what is around the corner will be worth the wait.

Gray: The plan is to age gracefully. Welcome gray hair because it will make me more distinguished and others will treat me with more respect. Wrong. The aforementioned is achieved in via mind and wisdom. Sure, presentation is important, but seeking that polished yet sexy Diane Sawyer look isn’t done by being natural. I recently went back to my roots – literally; and guess what, blonds do have more fun.

The Cookbook Club

Julia Child started cooking at 32, and she said, up until then she just ate. If there is anything we learned from her and other culinary greats, is it’s essential to have a love affair with your food in life.

A cookbook club was my idea. Having more creative thoughts in a single morning than some may have in a week, combined with energy, can be more of a curse than a blessing.

I accepted the members that showed interest. Some of us have been friends for decades, while others are new acquaintances. Devour this blog post to get a taste of what our monthly meetings or meals consist of. While we are a secret group, there is no hidden agenda to cookbook club, aka the Cooka Nostra.

The time following the holidays for me is always a downer, so I thought it would be uplifting to have the Initial Meeting of Cooka Nostra in early January. In compliance with the time of year, I chose the winter section of Ina Garten’s Barefoot Contessa Parties! for the group. With two soups, an appetizer, ham for the main course, a side of sweet potatoes and apple crisp for dessert, we had an instant feast for seven.

Snacking on fresh vegetables with a crisp Tzatziki dip was a great way to start the night, brought to the dinner by Julie. This healthy and light snack, combined with Jason’s contribution of a refreshing Pinot Grigio, was a great palate cleanser.

Excellent to be served with drinks

Sitting down to a delicious steaming hot bowl of Fennel Soup Gratin and melted, freshly shredded Gruyere Cheese on top, is the way to any cheese lover’s heart; but while tasty, we soon learned Brad’s contribution was just a tease to our taste buds.

Not to be gluttonous, but we had two soups that evening. Matt’s Butternut Squash Soup soon followed. He altered Ina’s recipe by using just one Macintosh apple and added a little extra onion. Not only was it the group’s favorite dish, it was also the most surprising.

Many thought there was a secret ingredient to the soup

The main course was greeted with comments like, “When I eat ham it’s never this good.” That’s because Lynn, who never cooked a ham, also changed her dish with cranberry orange chutney, to bring out the orange flavor from the orange zest and juice. Like Lynn, I cannot stick to a recipe, which makes me a horrible baker. Nonetheless, I attempted the Old-Fashioned Apple Crisp. Making it healthier, I used whole-wheat flour and organic oatmeal. In the future, I’m going back to my own recipe, which is much more simple.

Ham and potatoes. It’s important to keep them moist.

Jennifer made it to the table sans her fingerprints. The night before she was scrubbing potatoes and peeling, coring and cutting apples for the Smashed Sweet Potatoes with Apples, a perfect side dish to the meal.

Personalities were large, giving way to festive conversation. With a group like this, one must keep a marker and dry erase board on hand for recording quotes.

There should be a lesson learned from every meal and this time I was taught, for even the biggest control freak, planning a cookbook club meeting doesn’t have much pressure and a terrific time is guaranteed.