Tuesday, January 29, 2013

The Pursuit of Hobbyness

The only insult I've ever received in my adult life was when someone asked me, "Do you have a hobby?" A HOBBY?! DO I LOOK LIKE A FUCKING DABBLER?!
~ John Waters, Role Models

It seems we are trained, from a very early age, that having hobbies and multiple interests are an integral part of being an interesting and enigmatic human being.  As children, we are encouraged to try our hands at any number of sports, musical instruments, activities - usually at the urging of our over-involved parents - and it just evolves from there.  In junior high and high school?  You must join clubs and participate in extra-curricular activities...must have a laundry list of credits to your name in order to ensure you'll get into a good college (again, this is our parents).  In college, these hobbies often fall by the wayside as we discover the pure joy of being in charge of ourselves for the first time.  Hobbies are replaced by classes, skipping classes, frat parties, bars, discovering who we are in the absence of our parents and their rules.  However, we still strive to maintain an appropriate level of interests, if for no other reason to appear dynamic and to have something interesting to say about ourselves upon meeting someone new....and this practice will continue into adulthood.

Personally, my list of "hobbies" is admittedly boring and cliched.  When asked what I enjoy doing in my free time (after I pause to lament the lack of free time in my life not already spoken for), I am acutely aware that the typical response is along the lines of reading, cooking, spending time with my family and friends, etc.  Hardly the illuminating list I would have once imagined for myself.  Admittedly, the list of things I wish I did in my free time is not only longer, but more admirable...playing piano, writing that book I've always wanted to write, having the knack to discover great antique finds, gardening, painting, and so on.

I posess a tremendous lack of ambition when it comes to conquering my list of "someday I'd really like to..." list.  I tend to get pretty gung ho when I decide I want to start learning something new, improving at something I'm only half-assed at, doing that one thing I liked that one time in college because that guy I met (and cannot recall the name of) made it look so amazing...and after I talk it to death and decide to give it a shot, I find it alarmingly difficult to maintain the stamina and drive to make it more than a brief occurence. 

I grapple internally (and sometimes not so internally, sorry Ray) with who I want to be, what I want to be doing, and with generally becoming the striking and wholly well-rounded person of my dreams.  I think it can certainly become more difficult in the presence of marriage and parenthood, because there is a propensity to lump yourself into one big pile as opposed to remembering who you were before those things appeared in your line of vision.  It's dangerously simple to define yourself by terms such as wife, mother, stay-at-home mom...especially at an age when the person you were at your most defining times of self-realization (early adulthood) seem to be but a speck in the rearview mirror.

So, in the interest of becoming that well-rounded person that I so strive to be, I am resolving to step out of my comfort zone, out of myself, and into a place where I can stop thinking about what I wish I were doing and instead, be doing it.  Taking inventory of where I currently sit, as opposed to where I saw myself sitting at this stage in my life, has presented me with a bit of distress and discomfort that most certainly needs to be addressed. 

Let the games begin...

Saturday, January 19, 2013

Sprout Shout Out

We kids feared many things in those days - werewolves, dentists, North Koreans, Sunday school - but they all paled in comparison with Brussels sprouts.
~ Dave Barry, Miami Herald columnist

I love Brussels sprouts. Adore them. I'm well aware that is an unpopular opinion, and I could care less, because that means there are more for me. I make them on a very regular basis...and the preparation falls into one of three categories based on my mood. I roast them whole if I'm feeling lazy, do them halved if I'm mildly ambitious, and opt for shredded when I want the end result to be transcendant.

On a recent trip to Vegas, we ate at an amazing steakhouse called Stripsteak (if the opportunity presents itself, this place is a must), and as soon as I saw they had shredded Brussels sprouts as a side dish, all bets were off. (Ignore the obvious pun.) They were simply heavenly. Studded with chunks of thick smoky bacon and tossed in an apple cider vinegar reduction, they practically melted in our mouths. Peppery, slightly sweet, with a bit of char and caramelization...I simply cannot fathom anyone not liking these.

I decided to try my hand at recreating this recipe...and while it wasn't exact, it was close.  I used balsamic vinegar in place of the apple cider, which provided a bit of tang to contrast with the sweetness of the sprouts and the salty bits of bacon.  I finished them with some fresh pecorino romano cheese and that added additional depth of flavor.  This is so simple to make...cut off the ends of the sprouts, halve them and then chop them until they are finely shredded.  Saute the shredded sprouts in a bit of butter, olive oil and minced garlic until they are tender with a slight browned crisp, then toss them with chopped cooked bacon (I used a thick cut peppered bacon) and balsamic vinegar that has been reduced in a saucepan until it is slightly thickened.  Squeeze a touch of fresh lemon juice over them, add a sprinkle of brown sugar, grate the cheese over the dish and dig in.

(These photos aren't great, as I took them with my phone, but you get the drift.)

Wednesday, January 16, 2013


We often need to lose sight of our priorities in order to see them.
~ John Irving

Around these parts, perspective tends to get pretty skewed on a too-regular basis.  It's dangerously easy to forget how lucky we are, how incredibly blessed we've been, and how we continue to rise on an upward slope when it comes to maintaining an above-average level of happiness.  Every now and then, I have to stop and think...and then stop again, cause damn.  Shit is pretty good.  I'm irrational at times, and guilty of having pity parties on some days (cue the violins while I pout at how much time my hard-working, income earning provider of a husband spends at the office).  In the presence of strain or stress, I have a fight or flight mentality....I stick my head in the sand, or I come out of my corner swinging.  There is no rhyme or reason.

In the event I am feeling sorry for myself due to something completely inconsequential and insignificant, I try to stop it at the source, and subsequently wind up strapped with a massive level of guilt.  The guilt takes over my brain once I remind myself of all the cliches along the lines of "things could be much worse" and "some people would consider themselves blessed to have these so-called issues" and results in a pretty vicious cycle.  I tend to go into overdrive after said guilt enters the equation, getting sappy and emotional with anyone in my direct path.  I'm a tornado during these times, wreaking havoc and upsetting the landscape with my destructive desire to appreciate the shit out of every little thing. 

It's all too true that marriage, and parenthood, and just life in general are not things to be taken lightly and in order to preserve some semblance of normality, we must make conscious efforts to avoid taking things for granted.  It's important to pay homage to the people that make us and break us, and to allow them and provide them the appropriate level of control and entrance into our worlds.  It's crucial to remember what brought us here, what made us who we are and what we want to continue to be as we navigate through the maze. 

It is in the simplest of moments that I find an almost paralyzing peace...catching Merrill concentrating on a tiny task she is trying to master, finding hysterical laughter in an inside joke that no one but Ray and myself understand, knowing that there are a select few who have seen me at my worst and continue to support and embrace me.  No matter what.  Not a bad place to be, if you can find your way there.