Only Love Today

It’s been quiet here on the blog, as perhaps you’ve noticed. I’ve had a hard time writing since January’s presidential inauguration. While the Women’s March the following day was a balm, and a tremendously positive experience, my world felt unhinged with the onset of the new administration.

Writing, which has always been my anchor, suddenly felt frivolous. How could I focus on my memoir in the midst of my newfound activism? I also found it hard to read anything longer than an article or a Facebook post. By the time I turned off my phone at the end of the day, my brain was oversaturated, my heart overwhelmed.

Luckily, I received a book on January 23rd, and it’s been the only one I’ve been able to read.

only love arc

Only Love Today
Reminders to Breathe More, Stress Less, and Choose Love
by Rachel Macy Stafford

I’ve been hooked on Rachel for years, ever since I stumbled on her blog, Hands Free Mama, which, by the way, you don’t need to be a mom to love, and then reviewed her second book, Hands Free Life.

I was honored to be selected as part of her launch team* for Only Love Today, her beautiful new book, which is organized by season and written in both short poignant essays and prose poems.

After enjoying the lovely introduction, I started Part One: Spring. But something felt off. I quickly realized it had nothing to do with Rachel’s wise words or keenly wrought sentiments – I was simply in the wrong season. I flipped ahead to Winter and fell headlong into passages like this one:

only love hope

 

Most mornings I’d try to steal a few pages before the kids stampeded into the kitchen, or at night after they were in bed. A few minutes, a few pages, is sometimes all I had time for, but often, it was all I needed.

In the midst of a particularly challenging news cycle, when I felt swallowed up by despair, wondering if anything I was doing could possibly make a difference, these words appeared, rising up off the page and pressing into me with a tenderness I could almost feel:

“Maybe the bravest thing you could do right now is just decide this will not defeat you.”

Yes. Oh, yes.

Then a week later, I read this passage while calmly sipping my morning coffee, not knowing that later in the day, these words would serve as a lifeline:

only love fighter

The thing I always receive from Rachel, whether online or in her books, is love. Sounds kind of cheesy, right? But I mean it in all sincerity. Because Rachel is sincere. She genuinely wants to help people, and she does, through her writing and her actions.

She lives out her mantra, only love today, or at least she tries to. What makes Rachel and her books so approachable is that she does not profess to be perfect. She hasn’t figured it all out. Every day, every hour, is a choice. To choose love – not just for others, but for ourselves.

Sometimes I forget this. I put on my Only Love Today bracelet, and think, today I’m going to be better. I’m going to be more patient, more kind. I won’t yell at my kids.

only love bracelet

And then, I lose it. Maybe not even an hour later. My go-to reaction is disgust and self-loathing. I might even take off the bracelet, as if I’m not worthy of wearing it.

only love purple minion

This is what I feel like on bad days.

Then I remember – I’m the one who actually needs it.

The more love I offer to myself, the more generous I can be with others.

*Give-away update! The winner has been selected and informed. Thank you all for your comments here and on Facebook. I wish I had more copies to give away, but it’s worth checking out for yourself if you are so inspired. I hear Target is selling it in droves! xo

only love and pix

Cat not included.

*I was given complimentary copies of the ARC and hardcover as part of the Only Love Today launch team, but the opinions here are entirely my own. 

 

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Recipe: Chocolate Mint Pretzel Bark and a Contest

*Congratulations to Yolanda, winner of Stephen King’s, “On Writing.” The last book I’m giving away is one of my favorites: “Women Who Run with the Wolves” by Clarissa Pinkola Estés, Ph.D. The winner will be chosen at random from my entire email subscription list. Sign up now to be eligible. (Scroll down for details.) 

So, as you are probably aware, it’s holiday crunch time. My daughter’s class party is tomorrow, there are teacher cards to write, last minute gifts to buy, and chocolate bark to eat, um, I mean make. Well, both.

peppermint pretzel bark

This is one of the easiest and fastest homemade holiday treats and you probably have all the ingredients in your pantry already. If not, I’m betting you have to go back to the grocery store anyhow. I know I do.

I posted a version of this recipe way back when on my other blog, which I’ve modified slightly and added new pics. The great thing about it is you can use whatever kind of candy or chocolate you want. I use gluten free pretzels because that’s what my family eats, but obviously you don’t have to. Mix up the salty and the sweet, or stick with sweet. I won’t judge.

This time I added marshmallows just because. Mini would’ve been easier because cutting them with a knife was a rather sticky and frustrating experience, but the good news is, it is possible.

Chocolate Peppermint Pretzel Bark with Marshmallows

peppermint bark close up

Ingredients:

  • 2 bags of semi sweet chocolate chips, 24 ounces
  • little less than half a bag of broken up pretzels (I used Snyder’s gluten free)
  • 8 regular sized candy canes (Bob’s brand is GF, btw) crunched up (set aside a handful)
  • about a cup of mini marshmallows or a handful of big ones cut up (optional)
  • 2 gallon size zip lock bags for candy cane crunching

*You can easily halve this recipe, but I needed A LOT so I went for it. In the end it filled 7 small gift bags.

bark gift bag close up

Notice that the measurements are approximate. Play with what you have. As long as you can pour the lumpy chocolate mixture on a sheet and smooth it out a bit, you’re good to go.

Directions:

1. Line a cookie sheet with parchment (or wax) paper, set aside.

2. Put chips in a microwave safe bowl. Heat for 30 second intervals. Check and stir after each 30 second increment. Be careful not to overcook. The chocolate should be smooth and shiny. Let sit for a minute or two while you smash candy canes and pretzels.

3. Break up the pretzels into pieces, not crumbs. Put candy canes in a zip lock bag and then ANOTHER zip lock (that’s two zip locks) and then hit with the back of a spoon to crunch up. If you use one bag you’ll risk breaking it and candy cane particles will fly all over the place. Not fun.

4. Add all pretzel bits and MOST of the candy cane pieces and marshmallows to the melted chocolate. Stir it up so it’s completely coated.

5. Using a spatula or spoon, pour onto the parchment paper. Smooth out a bit. If you used the recipe above it will almost fill up the cookie sheet.

6. Sprinkle with the rest of the candy cane pieces and stick a few marshmallows on the top, if you’d like. This is mostly for looks since the bulk of the candy is mixed in.

This is last year's version sans marshmallows.

This is last year’s version sans marshmallows.

7. Put the cookie sheet in the fridge or freezer until hardened. Then break up into pieces and serve, or wrap up as gifts. Store in a cold place or risk meltage.

This recipe yields 7 small gift bags. Not bad.

bark gift bags

Hope you all have a wonderful holiday, whatever you celebrate. We do pretty much all of it.

dec kids 2014

 But don’t forget about the…

CONTEST! WIN A FREE BOOK!

This month’s final giveaway, Women Who Run with the Wolves by Clarissa Pinkola Estés, Ph.D., is closest to my creative heart. I believe reading this book helped reignite me as a writer.

women who run with the wolves

I know that may sound dramatic, but there were times when I felt the author was speaking directly to me, as if the paragraph I read was exactly the one I needed at that moment. Eerie, but true. This is not a book about writing, per say, but about creating and self-discovery. I believe every woman, no matter her vocation or interest, would benefit from reading this book.

Keep in mind, it’s dense, gorgeously so, but it can be intimidating at first. My suggestion is don’t be afraid to skip around or even skim. I first tried reading this book in college and gave up. Perhaps I wasn’t ready. But last year a dear friend, a talented writer, artist, and mother, suggested I try again, and I was blown away by what I discovered. Thank you Anastasia!

All you have to do is sign up for my email newsletter and you’re eligible to win. The results of this random drawing will be posted here on Tuesday, December 30rd. 

What I’m Writing

One of the reasons I started this blog was to find and foster community among my fellow mother-writers, and I’ve already found a lovely one in Maddy over at Writing Bubble. She invited me to join her weekly link up that she co-hosts with Chrissie over at Muddled Manuscript (oh, I love that name) called, “What I’m Writing,” which of course I can’t resist.

This week I’ve spent much of my (minimal) writing time polishing up the rusty bits of a blog post and formatting my very first newsletter (!) that I will be sending out shortly. I really enjoyed writing the newsletter, but felt a bit guilty that I wasn’t working on the novel.

Oh, the novel! It’s like my albatross, but a very special and beloved albatross that I tend to with absolute devotion despite its overwhelming weight and refusal to budge off my neck.

Photo Credit: ultomatt via Compfight cc They look so innocent flying in the air.

Photo Credit: ultomatt via Compfight cc
They look so innocent flying in the air.

But I will say, I’ve made progress on it this year. Last January I dusted off my woefully neglected albatross, I mean, manuscript – one that sat in a safe (literally, a safe!) for five years. I had finished it just two days before giving birth to my daughter…who is now six and a half. Do the math if you must. It’s not pretty.

Photo Credit: elseniorfox via Compfight cc Ok, it wasn't this old.

Photo Credit: elseniorfox via Comp fight cc
Ok, it wasn’t quite this old.

One day while my daughter was in kindergarten and my son with his sitter, I read the whole thing, from start to finish. I don’t know what I expected, certainly not perfection or genius (I’m not that deluded), but I also didn’t think it would be total garbage (though parts came close). When I finally put the pages down I felt a strange sense of relief. I knew what I had to do. Start again.

I salvaged what I could, about sixty pages, and then cut the rest of it. There is still a file on my computer with 200+ pages that should for all intents and purposes be deleted but I can’t bear to do so, yet. Since then I’ve written many, many more pages, some of which have made the cut while many more have not.

You have to be ruthless as a writer, but you also have to hold onto a certain naiveté or willful ignorance. Dani Shapiro says it well in her book, Still Writing:

“So how do we make peace with the knowledge that every word, every sentence we write may very well hit the cutting room floor? Well, we don’t make peace with this knowledge. We willfully disregard it.”

That’s what I’m doing as I work on my novel. Some days the task feels so monumental, so overwhelming, it’s like chipping away at a glacier with a toothpick.

Photo Credit: blue polaris via Compfight cc

Photo Credit: blue polaris via Compfight cc

But I keep on going, not knowing what will be saved or cut, not knowing if this latest draft will be good enough to merit an edit, and then, after that, if it will ever be read by eyes other than my own.

I’m writing in the dark, slow and steady like the tortoise because my kids are young and underfoot, and that’s how it has to be, for now.

But I sense with a kind of animal instinct, or maybe just a writerly one, that I’m approaching something with my novel. There is a quickening, a slight uptake in the beating of my heart. I feel as though I’m on a roller coaster, ratcheting up the tracks. Before all I could hear was the steady clacking sound, but now I can see something too, a glimmering in the distance. I am getting closer to the top. Closer than I have been. If I keep going I will finish. And that is my goal.

What are you working on? Are you chipping away a sliver at a time or are you making great gouges?

typewriter-butterflies-badge-small

Recipe: DIY Starbucks Kale + Veggie Salad

*First of all, congratulations to Carolyn, winner of Anne Lamott’s “Bird by Bird”! Thanks to everyone who signed up for my newsletter. There are still two more great books to give away. Next up is Stephen King’s On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft.

If you haven’t signed up yet, go now! I’m choosing winners at random from my entire email subscription list. (Scroll all the way down for more info.) The next drawing will be on Tuesday, December 23, and the final one on the 30.

Now, let’s talk about some writing – and eating habits…

diy starbucks kale and roasted veggie salad

During the thirteen years I lived in Brooklyn, I rarely went to Starbucks. Why would I? I lived in the land of Quirky Cool Coffee Shops (that’s a direct quote from the linked article, by the way, I’m not trying to be a snob), and besides, the closest Starbucks was too far of a walk.

But I love writing in cafes, and the closest one to me in Brooklyn was a little sliver of a cafe called Steeplechase, which had the most delicious cinnamon chip scones (alas, not gluten free). I used to go there once a week when my son had a sitter. 

When we moved to New Hope, I knew I’d have to find a place to write. Sure, I had a whole house instead of a tiny apartment, but the thing is, I like the background noise of coffee shops. Plus, I love coffee.

I tried seeking out a cute little independent shop, but seating was a problem. The local Starbucks, however, has some rather comfy armchairs. Did you know they now offer a blonde (light) roast? It’s pretty tasty and far less intense than their dark roasts. Just my personal preference because I know plenty of people who can’t get enough of their regular sludge, I mean coffee.

Anyway, I was also pleased to see that they added some healthy and hearty food options to their menu. Including this awesome salad, which to my knowledge, is gluten free (though not labeled as such):

starbucks kale salad

(Yes, it’s sitting on my dashboard because I was too hungry to take it home for a proper photo shoot.)

So, after buying it several times, I decided to make it myself. It’s a bit labor intensive, but it makes a week’s worth of lunches (unless someone in your household steals half of them…)

DIY Kale, Brown Rice + Roasted Veggie Bowl

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Stuff to buy:

  • big old bag of Kale
  • pre-chopped butternut squash
  • golden or red beets
  • shredded carrots
  • shredded red cabbage
  • broccoli
  • peas
  • brown rice (or grain of choice)
  • dressing of choice, I used a Tahini Sesame kind to mimic Starbucks
  • olive oil, salt, pepper for roasting veggies
  • small/medium plastic or glass containers for storing each portion

To make things easier, look for precut and shredded veggies, frozen and steam ready packages of broccoli and peas (or whatever veggie you’d like, edamame would be great). Pre cooked brown rice would be awesome. Can you tell I love short cuts?

Instructions:

1. Chop up your kale into bite sized pieces. You really don’t want to try to eat a piece the size of your head.

chopped kale

2. Roast your butternut squash by peeling and chopping into bite size pieces (unless you bought pre-cut). Toss with a few tablespoons of olive oil, salt, and pepper, then roast at 400 in a casserole dish or on a parchment paper lined cookie sheet for about thirty minutes. Let them cool.

3. Roast your beets. Beware they will stain your fingers when you peel them, even golden beets! But they are SO good, and pretty, it’s (almost) worth the effort.

roasted beets

4. Cook your rice. I used short grain brown rice for a nice chewy effect, but you could use ANY other grain like quinoa, millet, etc. I have a rice cooker that I’m terribly in love with, but you could use the quick cooking kind or pre-cooked.

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5. Microwave your other veggies like broccoli and peas. The best kind is the one you steam in the bag. I LOVE the single serve packages.

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6. Assemble your assembly line. Put stuff in bowls, try to make it sort of organized. Put your kids in front of the TV so they stop asking you why there’s food all over the counter.

kale salad assembly line

7. Then put it together! I put the kale on the bottom and then added everything else on top. I made 4 portions, but probably could’ve made another.

diy kale salads stacked

My daughter was very intrigued by my efforts and wanted to be in a picture. That purple stuff on her cheek is face paint. Created by me. Yes, I’m multi-talented. Just don’t ask for anything but a flower or a rainbow.

kale salads and bunkyThen make sure you hide them in the fridge just in case your veggie averse husband or partner or housemate or child catches wind of your kitchen witchery and tries to steal your lunch. Which totally happened.

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What are your guilty (or not so guilty) coffee shop pleasures? Do you prefer to write in cafes or at home?

And don’t forget about the…

CONTEST! WIN A FREE BOOK!

This week’s giveaway book is Stephen King’s On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft, a clever and entertaining book filled anecdotes about his life interspersed with practical advice.

onwriting

I had it in my collection for years, but for some reason it took me almost a decade to pick it up. Big mistake. If you haven’t read it yet, you’re in for a treat. 

All you have to do is sign up for my email newsletter and you’re eligible to win. The results of this random drawing will be posted here on Tuesday, December 23rd. 

Thank you to all who have already signed up! You can also follow my blog by clicking the button on the sidebar if you’d like to be notified every time I post something new.