Thursday, March 22, 2012

Cooking with Julia...An Adventure

For my birthday, I gifted myself an e-book version of Julia's "Mastering the Art of French Cooking". I regretted it almost immediately. The choice to get the e-book as opposed to the real book, that is...not purchasing Julia's classic encyclopedia of all things food that are delicious and french and, at times, revolting (see "aspics"). My regret was simply because there are two, no four, wonderful things real books offer that e-books do not:

1. You can't put it on a shelf, glance at it as you pass by and smile, thinking "Yeah, I own that."
2. E-books don't have that amazing "book" smell.
3. Splatters on e-books don't stick and stain and create lasting memories.
4. And, finally, though you can, technically, hug an e-book via the e-reader, it's just not the same as hugging a real book. (I can't be the only person that hugs books that mean a great deal to me. Can I?)

Despite my initial regret, I soon found myself flipping through page after page of recipes for sauces, poultry, and custards with romantic-sounding french names. Honestly, doesn't Supremes de Volaille a Brun sound infinitesimally better than Chicken Breasts sautéed in butter? Doesn't preparing a dish with a French name make you feel fancy? Like you should be wearing a dress, holding a glass of wine in one hand as you "volaille" your "supremes"? Or, at the very least, put on a strand of pearls? 

As for me, when I decided to dip my toe into the somewhat intimidating pool that is "Mastering the Art of French Cooking", I selected Supremes de Volaille a Brun and Choux de Bruxelles Volaille a Brun (Brussels Sprouts sauteed in butter), sans wine or pearls, but with Julia's voice in the background describing how to prepare a perfect Charlotte Malakoff.  

I'll post more about my first night of Cooking with Julia, complete with pictures and how the recipes actually turned out, in a later post. But, before we launch into that adventure, there are a few things I'd like to say first, about Julia, about my love for her, an about why I'm doing this...

1. I fully realize that blogging about Julia Child is old hat. But, blogging, really, is about sharing life or thought or knowledge as it unfolds and how said life/thought/knowledge affects you. So, in that vein, I blog...about Julia...and, possibly more important...about food. Hopefully, through this process I'll become less and less inclined to take the easy way out when it comes to dinner, skipping the drive through in favor of the grocery...and butter. Maybe you will, too. And, maybe, we won't gain a ridiculous amount of weight in the process.

2. Up until the movie Julie & Julia came out, my information on Julia Child was, basically, limited to Dan Ackroyd's characterization of her on Saturday Night Live. I now watch old, black and white, episodes of The French Chef via the internet and speak like Julia when I cook. I think she is wonderfully awkward and endearing. She inspires me. She makes me smile. And, most importantly for the point of this blog post, she makes me cook. She also makes me want to be French, but, that's another topic for another day.

3. I do not intend to cook through the entire book like Julie Powell did. My goal here is not to be Julie Powell 2.0. It is, simply, to share my experience of discovering Julia, real cooking, and my love-affair with both. Like Julia, I've always loved to eat but really saw cooking as a messy waste of time. I did it out of necessity, but, whenever possible, found ways to eat without cooking or even dirtying a dish. Also, like Julia, I am a bit of a late bloomer in figuring out who I am and what I want to be when I grow up. This is due, in part, to the fact that for the first 40 years of my life, I was really just waiting to become a wife and mother. Long story short, here I am, neither a wife nor a mother, trying to make sense of it all while making the most of the life I have. Cooking amazingly delicious meals...just for one small part of that.

I hope you'll join me on this adventure. It should be lots of fun!

Peace, love, and butter...


Monday, January 23, 2012

47 Days - 40 Before 40

I like lists. I like them more than is reasonable. I make them daily. Sometimes, I re-write them if they aren't pretty enough, neat enough, or sufficiently organized and categorized. Funny thing is, I pretty much never finish all of the items on my list. Ever. And, if I make a grocery list. I leave it at work, or in the car, or stuck in my back pocket until it falls out in the bottom of the washing machine. Yet, I continue to make lists. I don't know why.

My most recent list is "40 Before 40". It's, obviously, a list of 40 things I want to do before I turn 47 days. There are no major bucket list items on this list due to the fact that A. I only have 47 days and B. I'm not wealthy enough to jet off to Paris or charter a spelunking expedition. (Side note: I actually spelled "spelunking" correctly on my first try. Go me!) The list isn't intended to fulfill my life's dreams, it's just a little extra motivation to help get me off the couch and out there living, enjoying the days I have, instead of just dreading the inevitable.

Here's my list:
  1. Get my LLC (I have all of the paperwork ready, I just need to file it)
  2. Go on a personal retreat - (I'm going on a retreat with a friend this weekend)
  3. Visit a friend a week
  4. Go to tea
  5. Host a brunch
  6. De-clutter, re-organize my home, top to bottom (I've already started this...)
  7. Redecorate my bedroom
  8. Go on a photo walk in the Quarter
  9. Complete 7 weeks of C25k
  10. Read the book of Hebrews and a 40 Psalms
  11. Play in the rain
  12. Watch a sunrise
  13. Stay up for 24 hours last time. :)
  14.  Spend a whole day in my PJs watching P&P
  15. Take the kids puddle jumping
  16. Book a trip to Canada
  17. Buy and cook something out of Julia Child’s cookbook
  18. Have a sleepover with my nieces
  19. Go on a date with each of my nephews
  20. Say “I love you” instead of goodbye
  21. Watch a Bollywood movie
  22. Eat at a restaurant I’m afraid of
  23. Go thrifting/antiquing
  24. Cook dinner for my parents - from julia’s book
  25. Play laser tag with my brothers
  26. Blog at least once a week
  27. Read a Piper book
  28. Get rid of the treadmill
  29. Watch 3 classic movies I’ve never seen (Casablanca, An American in Paris, Manchurian Candidate)
  30. Cousin’s pictionary night
  31. Write a letter to someone who’s made a difference in my life
  32. Go out dancing
  33. Eat sushi
  34. find my signature scent
  35. Mani-Pedi
  36. Cut & Color
  37. Lose 25 lbs
  38. Buy an awesome dress
  39. Drink a martini
  40. put up a collage of my own photos in my house

Sunday, January 22, 2012

Day 48 - Like Mother, Not Necessarily Like Daughter

I am the only daughter of an only daughter, that and our hazel eyes are pretty much the only things we have in common.

Mom met Dad in high school. They spent most of their lives just around the corner from each other in an all white neighborhood, but theirs was the day of boys schools and girls schools, so, their meeting was a bit delayed. They dated, went to all the dances, and got married right after mom graduated from high school. My grandma made her wedding dress, sewing on appliqués in the hospital as my grandfather was treated for a ruptured appendix. Shortly after the wedding, they moved to San Diego where dad was stationed during his service with the Marines. Three years later, they moved back to Louisiana with me and one of my brothers, bought the home they still live in, and had 3 more children. It wasn't always easy and it wasn't always fun, but, forty one years later, they still get a little smoochy sometimes and I really love that about them.

I was born in San Diego. I don't remember living anywhere but the house my parents bought in Kenner, in a neighborhood that was way more diverse than its model homes would lead you to believe. From the time I was about 5, I played mother hen to my four younger brothers. Yes. Four. I didn't meet a boy in high school or go to any dances. The only marriage proposal I ever received was from a boy down the street...who still lives down the street...with his mother...and works at a grocery store. Oh, and there was also the co-worker who REALLY liked my red velvet cake, but that hardly counts. Instead of getting married after high school, I went to college. I took all sorts of classes, made a lot of friends, and came out of my shell a bit. I graduated, got a job and an apartment, and have had some small degree of success in the working world. I live alone. I rent my home. I still don't date. Like my mother, my family is my life.

That's one more thing we have in common.

As I approach my 40th birthday, still as single as I was back in school, and look back over my life, over the milestones that I missed...that my parents missed, I can't help but feel an ache in my chest. My mom never got to help me pick out any dresses. My dad never got to walk his only daughter down the aisle. And, their beloved grandchildren have come courtesy of other people's daughters. In those moments, my college education, my talents, my job history, even my character really don't seem to amount to much.

I feel like a disappointment. I know, to a degree, I am, though they would never, ever admit that to me. Truth is, I don't blame them. I'm disappointed in my the type of daughter I've turned out to be.

Truth is a funny thing. It can be ugly. Hard to hear. Hard to accept. Yet, at the same time, necessary...cathartic...the only way to really be free of the lies we sometimes believe because they are attached to, or sprinkled with, a little bit of truth. And, that is what I'm really hoping and praying for as I go through this journey to 40, to be free, not only of the lies, but the pain, the wounds, the sort of defeated resignation, of believing I'm always going to be disappointed with life so I just need to suck it up and make do. My dad may never get to walk me down the aisle. My mom may never get to see one of my babies born. That is sad. But, God...

I was made for more than defeated resignation. My life is measured by more than dances, boyfriends, weddings and babies. There is a plan. Stubbornly reading and re-reading over another plan isn't going to change the course I'm on. Embracing the real plan will, though. It will change my heart, my mind, and my response to life as it unfolds before me. No longer will life-events be "not a husband", "not a baby", "not a house", summarily discounted and thrown on the heap with all of the other gifts, blessings and accomplishments that didn't measure up to my plan, instead, they will be received with thanksgiving and celebrated. At least, that's the theory I'm going with now.

As I "x" off the days on my calendar leading up to my birthday, I want to be expectant. Mostly, I want to really live, not just make do, and look forward to the future. I want to do it for myself, for that girl who had to watch all of her friends get asked to the dances and walk down the aisles and have the babies, because, you know what, she turned out pretty great, actually. But, also, I want to do it for my God, because He loves me, has gifted me this life, far more than I deserve, and because "He knows the way that I take and when he has tried me I shall come forth as gold"- Job 23:10

Friday, January 20, 2012

Day 50 - For Reals

I have two things to say:

1.   Clearly, me and math are not friends.

TODAY is really day 50, despite what previous posts say.

Math has been my nemesis since fractions were forced upon me, taunting me with their slashes and weird backwards division and multiplication. I’ve dealt with it and moved on. Yet, still, math likes to bully me whenever it can. I don’t take it personally and know that I am the true winner because I’m not mean and confusing. Well…at least I’m not mean.

2.   I don't know who the heck I am right now!
To aid in my effort to blog this journey to 40 (and beyond!), I decided to write the number countdown on my desk calendar (thus discovering the trap math had set for me). As I wrote the numbers, I found myself getting more and more excited. Giddy even. Now, I don’t get excited, much less giddy, about birthdays. What’s more, I’ve been dreading this particular birthday for about a decade. So, imagine my astonishment when my stomach started doing flip flops as I wrote, “3, 2, 1, 0”.

Instead of trying to mentally snap myself out of this obvious delusion, I decided to go with it. Enjoy it. Be thankful for it. And, make a list…that’s how I roll. 

I decided to make a list of 40 things I want to do before I’m 40. Now, considering I’ve got 50 (not 49) days until this particular milestone, and that I do not have unlimited funds, the list won’t include any trips to Paris or any other sort of bucket list sort of things for that matter. In fact, I’d really like to stay away from bucket list type items and just reinforce the feeling that 40 is not the end of anything…it’s the beginning of everything. Hey, I’ve always been a late bloomer. I was the last to experience all of the adolescent girly things. I didn’t really know I could sing until high school. I didn’t start my photography business until I was in my late 30s. Why should this be any different? Maybe, for me, life really does begin at 40? 

If nothing else, at least, today I am hopeful about the future instead of dreading it, and that is no small thing.

Thursday, January 19, 2012

Day 50 - Choices

I'm not a dumb person. I'm educated. I'm logical. Rational. I think through my decision and, generally speaking, try to make the best choice. One that will benefit me without hurting anyone else. One that will give me the best long-term results. Except when it comes to food. When I am faced with a buffet or a what-to-get-for-dinner-because-I-don't-want-to-cook, I make the dumbest choices. Truly.

Night before last, I was coming off of 2 days of migraines, I was tired, I was "done" in every way. The last thing I wanted to do was go home, cook, and wash dishes. So, though I'd made good food choices all day, instead of sticking with that trend and going to McDonalds for a salad or Wendy's for a chili, I went to Burger King...and ordered an obscene amount of food. I exceeded my daily calorie allowance in that one meal. Then, later, I walked to the corner store for a bag of chips and some chocolate...just for good measure.

All of my good choices throughout the day...toast...moot...worthless.

Or were they?

That night, as I sat there, feeling ridiculously full from my feast, emotionally cornered by my failure (again), anticipating a killer carb migraine, feeling zero ability or motivation to do anything but just go with this life of gluttony and laziness, I had a decision to make. I could just resign myself to this, these habits, these feelings, and in a sense, define myself by this meal OR I could look at the good choices I DID make that day and believe that tomorrow I could make more.

I chose to believe. I chose to have hope. I chose life.

I went to bed praying that tomorrow would be different, believing that the Lord would meet me in that desire and I would find the strength to make good choices.

Fast-forward to 8pm the next night...

After a short jog on the treadmill, I logged on to the computer and input my food for the day and, hallelujah, I was under my calorie goal. I did it! I changed my mind. I chose to believe. I got through a day without bad choices and could go to sleep with no regrets.

I didn't FEEL like making good choices. I didn't FEEL like eating a salad for lunch. I didn't FEEL like jogging. But I did. More than that, I didn't let my FEELINGS rule the day. I made a choice. I did the next right thing. And, today, I'm in a better place. I'm more likely to make a good choice than a bad one. I'm stronger for fighting through the feelings, for choosing hope and the next right thing in the face of ZERO motivation. I took a step and pray that this step, this choice will lead to more and more and more.

I may fail again. I likely will. But, today, I believe in the God to whom I pray...and to believe in me, and I like that feeling. :)

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

59 Days

 In hope he believed against hope, ... He did not weaken in faith when he considered his own body, which was as good as dead (since he was about a hundred years old), or when he considered the barrenness of Sarah's womb. No unbelief made him waver concerning the promise of God, but he grew strong in his faith as he gave glory to God, fully convinced that God was able to do what he had promised.  ~ Romans 4:18-21 ESV

Sunday's usually find me in church, usually serving in some way. The last few months, though, I've been away more than I've been there. My absence is due, in part, to chronic migraines, tons of family functions, and, if I'm honest, my own spiritual deficit these says. Thankfully, though, in this age of technology, missing church does not mean missing the message. Missing church also does not mean missing out on connecting with and being cared for by church friends. Before this Sunday was through, one such faithful friend sent me a text message (just how much went unsaid or how much time was spent on the phone prior to text messaging?!?!) and said "You must download and listen to the sermon ASAP!" For me, ASAP was about 2 days later. That's how "on top of things" I am these days.

Personal and spiritual discipline aside, I am so thankful for my friend. What I'm not so thankful for is choosing to listen to the message at work. The result was a weepy me, trying to type, in front of an office full of people.

Sobbing at one's desk is FROWNED UPON in this establishment! ;)

The message was from Romans 4. It was about Faith in Barren times. If ever there was someone in scripture that knows waiting, endurance, and sustaining faith in barren times, its Abraham and Sarah.

When you read this passage, and the full account in the Old Testament, one thing becomes abundantly clear: Abraham was led and sustained by one thing alone...the promise of God. Sure, he had a unique experience with God that was powerful, but many years went by, many trials were faced between that encounter and the fulfillment of that promise. And, as the speaker of this message, Dave Harvey, reminds us...Memories fade. One thing remains: what God said. One thing is constant: what God said. One thing kept him true, kept his heart from failing: what God said. For a long time, he didn't have peaceful circumstances, a content wife, or a son...but he had the promise. And so do we. More to the point, while listening to the message, what I heard was "and, so do I."

I don't have a husband, or the ability to look in a mirror and like what I see. I can't run a mile full-stop or wear a bathing suit in public. I don't have my dream job or own a home. All I have is a rented apartment, a job that pays the bills (mostly), family, a few close friends...AND A Promise...that I am chosen, saved, beloved, not forgotten, delighted in, and that he will work these disappointments and barren times out for good.

In the meantime, I am called to be "fully convinced that God [is] able to do what he [has] promised" or, as Dave Harvey says "trust what God says about my future more than I trust what my circumstances say."

That is my mission for Day 59...

(You can listen to the message HERE, if you're interested)

Thursday, January 5, 2012

64 Days

It's coming. There is no avoiding it. I can see it, hear it, feel it, rumbling beneath my feet, shaking me to the core, like a freight train with no brakes. No amount of whining or hiding or, contrarywise, planning and celebrating will change its reality or, I fear, numb the disappointment. I can try. I can talk to myself, build up my expectations, console myself with a load of it-could-be-worses, but, really, for this girl...there aren't many things worse.

I want to feel the rumbling, set my face like flint in the direction of what is coming, and be expectant. I'd like to wait, filled with hope. I want to believe that the Lord has led me "by a straight way" (Psalm 107:7), that this place I find myself in isn't a huge mistake, that the rumbling isn't warning me to prepare for the punishment I deserve. But, if I'm pressed, if I'm backed into a corner, or, no, really if you just listen to what I say, watch how I respond to the ordinary ups and downs of life, you'll see that I really don't believe any of that. I believe I, pardon the phrase, screwed up in a royal way and this, the freight train of doom, is the much-deserved consequence.

What's the freight train? What's the consequence? What's in 64 days?

In 64 days, I will turn 40.
In 64 days, I will turn 40 as a, still single woman.
In 64 days, I will turn 40 as a still single, barren woman.
In 64 days, I will turn 40 as a still single, barren woman who hasn't had a date since the 80s.

It's a place, a condition, a milestone, a becoming "that type of person" I've dreaded most of my life. When I didn't get asked to a dance, I saw "her". When I still didn't have a boyfriend in college, I saw "her". When my 30th bday party was a bust, I saw "her". Each Valentine's Day, New Years Eve, birthday, baby shower, wedding, or romantic scene in a movie, I saw "her". That woman. That sad, lonely, unwanted woman. That pitied, forgotten,dreadful woman I never, ever wanted to be.

I can't stop the train from coming. In 64 days, I will turn 40 and, barring the appearance of a genie or a time machine or a pill that undoes years of laziness and gluttony over night, I'll likely still be fat, alone, and wanting it to be otherwise when I blow out the candles on my cake. 

But, God...

Those words echo as I recite my harsh realities.

But, God...

Those words stir in my heart and give me no choice but to hope.

But, God...

Those words simply won't let me lay down on the tracks and wait for the train to come and destroy me.

But, God...

Yes, I'm fat. Yes, I'm older. Yes, I've been alone a long time. Yes, these may continue to be constants in my life. Yes, I'm not okay with that and it feels like a death sentence right now.

But, God...

He hasn't and won't stop...pursuing me, encouraging me, extending grace and mercy to me, lifting my eyes to see His goodness as I cower in the prison cell of my dashed hopes and disappointments, speaking to me through His word, answering prayer, and giving me strength for another day, strength to keep going, to keep trying, to keep hoping that whatever my lot, it won't always feel like "this", and, in the end, I will agree and see that it was, indeed, good. Not because I got my way, but because of who He was to me in those times when life was just plain hard and I was a big ol' brat...because he "filled my longing soul" and "satisfied my desires in the scorched places" and I came out stronger, fit to fight another day, more thankful for what I did have, and more equipped to love and serve others.

At least...that's what I'm hoping for today. 

I'm hoping that by loosening the grip I have on my plans, my hopes, my dreams, my desires (again), and even my estimation of what God will do and what I deserve, that I will see God.

I'm also hoping that as I see Him, the rumbling of the freight train will turn into the roar of delight for what God is going to do on the other side of this, the excitement of Hope, the Joy of knowing that God doesn't mean to crush my dreams into the ground, but means to fulfill them...the real dreams I have deep down in my heart...the dreams He dreams for me. Or in the words of a very wise soul, the dreams he bought for me:
"I have lots of dreams in my head. Jesus bought them for me as a present." ~My friend's son, Daniel. Age 5.

Today, these are words, stirring words, words I want to mean so much that it causes tears to fill my eyes, but still words, not reality. 

Today, I'm tired, tired of this life, these feelings, this fight. 

But, God...

He promises that "we who have believed enter [His] rest." (Hebrews 4:3) So, I wait for the words to be real and hope to birth belief and belief to bring rest...and to see Him...and what He'll do on Day 63...