Archive for September, 2009

Around The Kitchen Table

The title of this post describes what this blog is turning into– and I could not be more delighted! Do you guys have any idea how much fun it is to get the kind of response you have been giving me lately?

Because here’s what the process of posting actually looks like: I come up with an idea, think about it a while (sometimes making notes or Google-ing more information on the subject), sit down at the computer and try to put it into exactly the words that adequately convey what I’m trying to say (whether serious or ridiculous), relentlessly edit and re-edit myself until it looks and feels right to me (here’s a dirty little secret: how many of you are aware of the fact that sometimes I continue to edit waaay after I’ve even already posted it?! I actually sneak back to my first draft and change things, sometimes even a day or two later!), try to find something visual to go with it, then hit “Publish”, then sit back and see how you respond.

And here’s the REALLY incredible part– you all actually show up, read what I’ve written, write the most insightful, funny, encouraging, challenging responses, and then start talking among yourselves! Completely independent of me, you are developing a (here’s that cliched, over-used term again…) community here. You are learning about each other and becoming friends. You are praying for each other and checking in to see how you are all doing. It’s just truly the most amazing thing to witness. It’s like I’m having a dinner party with all of these different kinds of people, and I’m looking around and realizing that yeah, this is totally working– everybody has now drifted into the kitchen where I’m cooking the food and you’re all sitting around the table or perching up on the countertop with your coffee or glass of wine (yes, I’m looking at YOU, jonny! OK, and me too…) and while I putter around, you guys are engaging in these lively discussions and laughing your heads off and generally having a great time. That’s what the ‘bloomr feels like these days, the perfect dinner party! So today, I just wanted to take a minute to thank you all for coming, and continuing to come week after week. I promise I’ll try my best to do my part and keep coming up with wonderful new menus that will keep you coming back!

And as long as I am beating this analogy to death on the subject of food…

Yesterday when I was at the grocery store grabbing something to make for dinner before I picked up the girls from school, I turned the corner by the pasta aisle and saw a lovely  display of something I haven’t bought in a while… Hostess Twinkies. Now for my international readers, I will explain exactly what I am talking about. A Twinkie is a yummy little junk snack food item made of  ‘golden sponge cake with a creamy filling.’ Here’s a visual:



They aren’t exactly the healthiest thing you’ll ever eat –with a shelf life of about, oh, a decade or so, I would guess they have more than their fair share of preservatives, etc. They’ve been around for about 75 years, so if you grew up in the U.S. chances are they were definitely a part of your childhood. My mom used to send me to school with all kinds of incredible home-baked treats in my ‘Man From U.N.C.L.E .’ lunch box– from her perfect chocolate chip cookies to her tart, flaky apricot turnovers– but of course being a kid I would stare longingly at my friends whose moms had stuck a cheap, prefabricated, plastic-wrapped, fake-cream-filled, artery-clogging Hostess Twinkie in their lunch and attempt to negotiate a trade.  (Mom also used to optimistically send us all to school with carefully cut-up carrot and celery sticks with their own little package of salt to dip them in, which we of course would systematically throw away unopened every single day, but that’s another story.)

Now that I’m a card-carrying adult with a God-given right to purchase my own snack items, every once in a while I’ll remember the delicious golden goodness that is personified in the body of a Twinkie and buy myself a box. Yesterday was one of those days, but sadly, at some point in their childhood I thoughtlessly introduced them to the girls as well, so now I have to share. I don’t buy them often, but when I do, dang, they hit the spot! Hostess also makes a slew of other unhealthily delicious things– don’t even get me started on the glorious chocolate waxiness of the  Ding Dong– but being a traditionalist, I do have a tendency to return to the Twinkie.

When we were in London, Madi and I discovered an unbelievable  little British snack item called a “Mini-Pud”– a name derived, I think, from the fact that they are mini versions of a larger dessert which the English call a ‘pudding’, but which to my American eyes is not anything like the little plastic cups of  Jello pudding that we have, and is in reality, more like a cake. At any rate, may I just say… FAB-U-LOUS!!! They are made of a dense, dark, rich, very expensive-tasting chocolate and when you heat them for precisely 12 seconds in the microwave (trust me, Madi and I ate so many of these that we got it down to a science) they come out with a molten lava-like interior that oozes onto your plate when you cut into it with your spoon. I would pair them with some perfect little English strawberries and a dollop of real whipped cream… heaven. Madi was more hard-core, she ate them straight from the refrigerator, unadorned and creamy cold. Here’s a picture, for the purpose of international snack comparison:



Clearly, as in most things, the British have the edge in the ‘elegance’ category, but I do have to stand up for the good ol’ U S of A and say that though our Twinkies are not as gorgeously decadent as the mini puds, they do have the edge in the ‘ridiculously addictive’ category. If you eat more than two mini puds at one sitting you will definitely feel a little queasy and over-sated, whereas most people I know can blow through about four Twinkies before they even realize it. Or maybe that’s just me.

At any rate, I’d like to hear from all of you: What is your favorite not-that-good-for-you-but-hard-to-resist snack item of choice? As always, in the interest of diversity and world peace, I am not placing any strict guidelines on the discussion. My heart and mind are open to all manner of classifications– your sweet, your salty, your savory, WHATEVER.

Let the snacking discourse begin.

The Perfect and the Broken Hallelujahs*

I love it when life feels full of possibilities! You know that hopeful feeling, when it seems as if you’re poised on the brink of something good, maybe a new job or a new friendship or a new season in your life? Actually now that I think about it, things have sort of felt that way around here, lately. It’s like a honeymoon, that brief giddy period before reality sets in. Yeah, I love that.

So it stands to reason that my least favorite feeling, what I hate the most, is when all of those promising dreams have been dashed and I’m left standing in the smoking ruins of disillusionment– angry at myself for daring to hope or believe in whatever it was that has now let me down, and angry at God for letting it happen.

I’ve spent a lot of my life somewhere in between those two places. Not wildly careening back and forth (I’m not really a “careening” kinda girl), more like cautiously basking in the ‘full of possibilities’ days and doggedly struggling to survive the disillusioning ones. Optimistic by nature, I’ve never lingered in the Land of the Hopeless long enough to really set down a taproot, but I have definitely spent more time than I would like to admit wandering around in the State of Numbness– detached, listless, emotionally muted. It’s like drawing a big ol’ self-protective cloak around myself, except that of course, it never works. It doesn’t actually protect me from anything, it just serves to delay the feelings that I am trying so hard to avoid. And then when I do inevitably have to face my grief and sadness, it’s as though they’ve gathered strength in the meantime like one of those tropical storms that hover out over the ocean and develop into a Category 5 hurricane before they return to land and flatten everything in sight. Sadly, the numbness never really seems to last long enough to soften the blow. At best, it just buys me a little time between initial shock and grudging acceptance.

You’d probably think that someone who hates disappointment as much (and as melodramatically) as I do would be very leery about daring to hope again, wouldn’t you? Well, you’d be wrong. For better or worse, before I know it, something or someone will show up on my metaphoric doorstep and I will sense that stirring in my heart, that lightening of my spirit, that feeling that once again, life is full of possibilities. And I will happily allow myself to be seduced by it– because honestly, who wants to live in a world without hope? Not this middle-aged blonde.

I need to believe that the horrible, shot-thru-the-heart moments in life are survivable. Not only that, but I need to believe if we allow God to work that alchemy that only He can do, the devastation those experiences leave in their wake can be born again as wisdom, compassion and yes, *she says in spite of herself*, even victory. I need to know that I am not left alone in my sorrow, that Someone is there even when I can’t feel Him, rooting for me, waiting for me, empowering me. And I need to know that the universe, for all of it’s mystical inscrutability, does still contain some absolutes, some things that have proven to be true again and again– and the most important one is that God does indeed love me, beyond all reason. He can’t help it, it’s who He is. After all, the primary message of the gospel is redemption, it’s what God does best. He takes something that has died and breathes life back into it. My job is to simply believe that even when I don’t understand and wholeheartedly HATE what is happening to me, there is a power greater than myself at work. If I allow myself to surrender to that power, the anguish and despair will eventually fade and what remains will be a hard-won faith that I can call my own. Because even though grace is free, sometimes faith has a price.

I’m so grateful for each of those crystalline, rose-colored, gloriously expectant moments in my life. And reluctantly, I’m also grateful for each of the shatteringly sad, desperate and disenchanted moments, too. I’ve learned to recognize and accept them both as the ultimately redemptive gifts they are– the perfect and the broken.


(*I borrowed my title from my favorite Leonard Cohen song. Here’s a bunch of Norwegian guys performing the best version I’ve ever heard:)

BlogHer Reviewer