Life is a funny, busy, heartbreaking, joyful thing. As I write this, I am sitting on the couch for the first time in a very long time. Pablo is laying on the back of the couch, peering down over my shoulder and sighing sleepily. He's felt it, too. This month, this long May month, has been out of routine. It's been out of my comfort zone. There haven't been nearly enough nights spent eating ice cream and watching Netflix together (the preferred evening pastime in the Braley household).
And yet, now here we are. With only a few weeks left of school and in between loads of laundry, we have found a moment to rest. And, as I slow down long enough to think a complete thought or two, I realize it's been a while since I have stopped to take stock of things. It turns out I'm more tired than I thought. And out of all the ways busyness takes a toll on the body and mind, I think the worst is its ability to make you drop what you love most so that you can accomplish more, more, and more.
And the thing I have dropped is writing to all of you. I need to get back to taking pleasure in the methodical measuring of ingredients. I need to return to the creation of dinner being the main event, not just an annoyance which must be squeezed in and cleaned up so we can get somewhere on time.
It's 7 AM and all the windows were open when I got up this morning. It was so chilly that I had to put on socks and a sweater, and now I'm sipping hot coffee, thinking .... (close your eyes, cold weather haters)... that it's beginning to feel an awful lot like Fall.
I always get this feeling when Fall is coming on. It's like a sweet and sad nostalgia, remembering soccer games with greasy grilled cheeses and leafy hikes followed by hot chocolate long passed. It is both an ending - of the long coffee mornings and beachy goodness of summer, and a beginning - of the routine of school, warm things bubbling in the CrockPot, and really great wool socks.
But even though I love the season that follows, I spent most of the summer dreading it's end - I woke up lamenting the fact that someday, I would have to wake up at 6 AM again and be an active member of society. I mean, I would have to brush my hair. Much to my frazzled schoolteacher surprise and dismay, however, summer didn't turn out to be just a time to watch Gilmore Girls until 10 AM and cuddle shamelessly with Pablo (although there was plenty of that). It was a season of waiting, worrying, praying, preparing, and wondering.
It's been a while. I just logged onto my site and the friendly little gator mascot in the corner reminded me my last post was in April. April... May... June.... I counted in my brain. And now it's July. That makes three months. Yikes.
It's funny how time sneaks away from us. I always think there is going to be more time tomorrow, or next week, but unless I make time for what I intend to do, somehow the day is lost in laundry and Pablo and a coffee with a friend and, suddenly, a sleepy episode of Friends on the couch with the hubby before bed.
But here I am now and here you are, and how good it is to be back! In the last three months a lot has happened. My first year of teaching is finished. It ended in a water gun fight with the kids before sending them away on the busses. Yes, my school is awesome. Pablo has made all sorts of doggy and people friends and has gotten into all sorts of trouble (yesterday he ate a stick of butter). One of mine and Ethan's best friends got married in a beautiful wedding filled with love last weekend in Otisfield, while in Aroostok County family on my dad's side flooded in to celebrate the life of my amazing Aunt Becky. And in kitchen news - I've gotten a renewed love for veggies.
Saturday mornings are glorious. I relish the chance to sleep in a little later, snuggle the Pablonater a little longer, and breathe a little deeper. Sometimes I will welcome the start of the weekend with a sweaty yoga sesh at the gym, but more often than not I can't resist the temptation to sit in my puffy green chair in the living room and sip coffee while reading a good book.
But the best way of all to enjoy a Saturday morning is to have breakfast with a dear friend. My friend Karita came over last weekend for an early breakfast and coffee-drinking date. I was so excited to have an excuse to cook something other than microwave oatmeal - my weekday morning staple. But it had been a busy week and we didn't have a lot of food in the refrigerator. Thinking about what I could whip up in a flash and with very few ingredients, I decided to make popovers.
Well, I'm happy (and slightly ashamed) that after two and a half long months, I am finally getting around to sharing another recipe with you. January, February, and March in Maine are a quarter of the year with which I can never quite reconcile. My thought process during those months goes something like this:
- January - I will OWN this new year. I will keep up with my blog, I will cook healthy, and I will be a nice, always-dressed-in-real-pants wife. And I will be a stellar teacher.
- February - Well, I went to the gym twice. And what's so wrong with wearing leggings? It's not so bad to eat a whole loaf of garlic bread. When is vacation?
- March - Hot, cold, snow, sun. What are these feelings I am even having? This "Spring Forward" crap is baloney. I needed that hour of sleep. I've been robbed - now I'll never catch up. I'm grumpy. I guess I'll just go eat a block of cheese.
And so when April 1st finally came, I welcomed it with a newfound sense of hope (and a touch of caution....being an elementary teacher on April Fool's Day is scary). That day the sun peeped out, the air was uncharacteristically warm, and the peepers blasted us with a cacophany of chirping bliss. I finally decided I must get out of the rut I had fallen prey to. So I cooked a real meal that night instead of ordering pizza. And what better meal to please the masses and soothe the soul, I thought, than beef and broccoli, our all-time favorite take-out fake-out?
I lived in Spain for a semester of college. My roomie Briana and I lived in a small flat in Sevilla with a host family that spoke little English. We'd originally been excited to escape Maine in January, but when we arrived in Spain, it was blustery with a dampness that chilled you to the bone. Inevitably, that whole month and the one to follow were filled with sickness and shivers, with only small bouts of feeling well in between. Our physical sickness filled us with homesickness. I remember dreaming of being at home in my mother's kitchen, playing with the dog and smelling supper - or better yet, chocolate chip cookies - cooking in the oven. Afterward, I pictured her gently rubbing my feet and giving me cough syrup, my belly full and warm and my sinuses empty.
There is no replacement, I have found, for your mother when you are feeling ill. But I soon discovered that in Spain, if you can't have your mother, a warm slice of tortilla will often do in a pinch. And there were many nights, around 10 PM when we were eating a modest supper with our mamá,, that I found comfort in the traditional meal of tortilla de patatas con corizo.
Today there was a blizzard. It started in the morning as a dreary drizzle, then the water began to freeze, and slowly, large, fat fluffs of snow began to swirl through the sky in a crazy dance.
Today we celebrated the life of one of the most wonderful women I have ever known - my Aunt Becky. Outside, while we navigated the icy roads to the service, the blizzard was slushy and dangerous and messy, but once we got inside the church, the snow falling outside seemed beautiful, harmless.
Isn't that just the way life goes? At first, everything that hurts seems dangerous and messy. It feels like your life is the blizzard and you're driving right through the middle of it without snow tires. But then, once you get through the worst of it, you can look outside the window and see the beauty of it, even while knowing that just a short while ago it scared the bajeepers out of you.
Some people choose to ring in the New Year with fancy diets and exercise plans. And I respect that. But I prefer to welcome it in with warm chocolate breakfast pastries.
There is nothing quite so enticing as the aroma of crushed peppermint at Christmastime. That is, unless, it is combined with dark chocolate and then baked into cookie perfection. As I write this, the strong, deep notes of "Christmastime is Here" are dancing from the kitchen and I am basking in the glow of the Christmas tree, waiting for my husband and a couple of good friends to come spend the evening. I'm feeling sentimental; perhaps it's the fact that I spent the week with a bunch of fourth and fifth graders who are pained with the anticipation of Santa, or because the living room is filled with a slight evergreen smell mixed with freshly baked, gooey cookies that reminds me of a time when I was that age myself.
It's raining outside, which isn't quite right, but now that it's dark I can almost make myself imagine there's a winter wonderland on the other side of the window.
Some things in life just make you close your eyes with a sigh and say, "This is freaking amazing." Foot massages, for example. Or a comfortable sweater with leggings. Creamy goat cheese spread on a crostini. Or, in this case, hearty white chicken chili on a drizzly November evening when you want to literally eat comfort.