The South

And so it goes. This weekend we take a day off from work to head out on a ‘road trip.’ This is the American dream. A road trip to,  or through ‘The South.’ Living in central Florida, I would say that we are south of the south. We are in our own Disney loving swamp that isn’t Miami, that being chic or undeniably hot, but in the suburbs of no place.

What is the existential south? It’s slow afternoons on the porch, beach-goin, day drinkin, cemetery wanderin, football watchin, Bob Matthews talkin madness. (Bob Matthews being the family friend of a friend who brings out an Alabama drawl like nobody’s business.)

I am from ‘The West.’ It’s true that I am from about as west as it gets and have been transplanted into this place that is close to a place while not quite it. I come from rough and tumble, reserve is natural, scenery flies high just before plunging low, and pull up your bootstraps. We are all a product of something And so, we take trips to find something. Maybe rest? Home? Maybe respite? Southern hospitality? Probably all of those things. Probably magic.

home again

Whenever Z and I pull into the garage–someone, probably me, says ‘home again.’ The last post here was eight months ago and was written in the halfway house/apartment/roach motel where I lost my bloggin’ mojo but not my heart.  We were there as we built a new home that we actually moved into on August 1. Building from dirt is as slow, as random, and then just like that finished, as you can imagine.  A lot of waiting and then a lot of hurry up. Choices have to be made quickly and then time seems to stand still while you wait for a plumber.  Things are put together in ways you didn’t ask for and don’t like.  Choices you made are not that clear, even to yourself. Then you have to change because a choice is no longer an option. And then, just like that they hand over the keys. Here are the lows and highs of the build.


Last night we were at Canvas , a new restaurant in Lake Nona where, when given the option to sit outside, at a table or at the chef’s counter, I jumped on the chance to watch cooks in action.  Chef’s counter please.  I love to see what they are doing right so I can emulate it at home.  No matter that I regularly say to Z, ‘I’m struggling here.” as I cook dinner.  I am going to be clear, just because I enjoy cooking most of the time doesn’t mean I rock it out on any kind of daily basis.  Thursday night I was working on a project for a new cookbook for work and actually bailed mid-stream sending an email to my co-workers regarding my attempt and it’s new home in the trash can.  Keeping it real. Short Rib Flatbread

But, last night, at Canvas, which is basically within walking distance of the dirt, I sat and watched the line cooks make my short rib, tomato jam, Taleggio cheese and dressed arugula flatbread while sipping a Pink Flower (Hendricks gin? Yes please.)  makes me think I should keep trying.   We watched the cook, about 2-3 feet in front of us spread the tomato jam on the crisp pre-prepped flatbread, and take a pre-portioned amount of braised short ribs and then deftly drop on hunks of what our server cautioned me was strong cheese.  His comments about the cheese drove me to order this item.  It also reminds me that everyone has a different palate and to appreciate my own. A second person who works shoulder to shoulder in front of a hot oven, dressed the greens.  He plated by cutting on a board and then sending it 10 feet or so to the chef to check and clear.  Our server then picked up and brought it back to me.  So fascinating the journey of a simple flatbread.  I imagine that at least 6 and more like 8 different people worked on that plate of food. Nevermind Z’s Cuban and fries which came from both separate part of the kitchen and the fryer 25 feet down the line.  I wonder at my own struggle to produce (or try) restaurant quality food at home and this comforts me.  I’m only one or sometimes two if I ask Z to help.  I think about the fact of food quality, food cost, the number of people in a kitchen, people who complain over food costs without thinking of the human interaction and cost, literal lives spent ‘on the line’ making me dinner.     I hope I never stop appreciating these things.

That said, I loved my flatbread.  I’d eat another one today.  So far, we’ve eaten at Canvas four times and I’ve tried four different menu items along with tastes of 3 other meals.  I judged them on their burger-good, the grouper Rueben with kimchi (GREAT) and tasted the shrimp Mofongo.  I’m excited about it’s entry into our neighborhood and hopefully the future meals and conversation and engagement I’ll get by going.

continuing thoughts on the Art

pantryMy friend Karin wrote a post on her reading and interpretation of The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up by Marie Kondo.  You should read it because she, like me, took a big break from blogging and is honestly more back than I am.  What’s funny is she also just wrote a post of a home tour of her house/hallway/federal prison and I could do similar about the halfway house/roach hotel/apartment that we are living in right now during the build of the dirt.  Anyhow, her post on tidying up reinforced my need to review and edit my closet.  Something I’ve wanted to do since Z and I moved in a month and a half ago and was also reinforced by Z having to move a clothes pile off the (permanent) ironing board that serves as my dresser since we moved in so it wouldn’t fall over in the middle of the night under the weight of my clothes and angst.  Classy.  Z and I are now sharing a closet and admittedly, I am 80% of that space while he maintains a capsule wardrobe without even trying.  He’s so hip.  My ski jacket sits next to tee shirts next to my favorite pants and blingy holiday sweaters and all wrinkled as they fall out of the closet when I try to pull them down even though I ironed them.  I iron. Don’t judge.  The slightly damp laundry hanging in the bedroom doorway mocking me and falling on the floor regularly as the merest breath of air/full sized human scoots by.  Saturday I spent the day, yes, like 5 hours, doing laundry, ironing, organizing and editing both for my and the Goodwill’s benefit. Three bags delivered by 4 pm along with a load off my mind.  It’s stunning how many clothes I have when I take a look at them.I had thought I probably needed a bunch of new clothes.  I’ve decided I really don’t-only a few new shirts and a pair or two of shoes.  Sunday I spent an hour reorganizing the pantry (my suburban pantry?) and finding random cans of canellini beans behind sugar, four pouches of Temptations cat treats (enough for a year) and a ridiculous amount of snacks in the treat basket.  I organized it all and made room for Betty in there.  Now I just have to bring myself to get her down from her perch and give her a Lysol wipe.  I can’t say that this reduction of things will cause existential lightness of being or not but the other night Z caught me smiling as I walked past the closet and asked why.  That–is magical.

*in case you are curious–the cardinal in the featured post photo is singing for me most mornings when I come into work.  He reminds me of lots of things, including my Grandma James.   I try to catch him in a photo all the time but he’s shy and I am unskilled.


#movingishard and choosing the best things

ohmyheartEven if you move because you chose it, like building a new house where you get to pick #allthethings from the sidewalk pavers to the sink shapes to the placement of a secret hidden phone jack that they force you to have, it is hard.   Everything from cleaning out the last home you chose, and deciding what can fit into the tiny halfway house/apartment that you also chose and that feels like it is a soul and joy sucking roach.  Oh, no, that’s a regular roach.  It’s just hard.  It makes you plain tired and leaves you wondering what you were thinking.   So many choices.  Everyday, the average American sees something like 15,000 pieces of branding.   How do I keep the best possible ones for me?  How do I discard all the soul and life suckers and keep the joy?

One of the choices I made in moving was to finely edit, in the hour or so it took me to pack them, my cookbooks.  To only bring the ones that I want to cook out of for the next 6 to 12 months while the dirt is shaped into a house.   I have a broad ranging collection and mostly use them for about one recipe each as the inspiration of beauty from a photo, a sudden desire for something healthy, or a craving hit. How do I pack that away when they imbue so much happiness just from the mere sight of them?  And then, just as I think maybe I can hack this apartment living an #epicpalmetto (call it what it is people, a ROACH!) falls from the heavens (weird slot on the side of the cupboard) and behind my happy little stack of cookbooks on the counter sometime in the timeframe of 5:30 am as I am getting up to make coffee. The biggest damn bug I have EVER laid eyes on and I am expected to dispatch it in an efficient manner when I am driven to tears by the mere sight of them.  Why?   I can barely see in the o’dark hundred hour and I am forced to slowly remove the books from the counter with one hand and a wad of papertowels in the other in the odd advent of being able to find it.  Oh. I found it.  In the corner behind the very last book. My copy of the Betty Crocker cookbook that my mom gives everyone (or did, for their weddings for the greater part of my life. I don’t think she does any more, what with the web and wedding registries from everywhere from Cabela’s to Tiffany.)  Sorry, Betty, I’ll never feel the same as I think about that bug touching the hallows of the only way I can remember that corn will get tough if you salt the water.  I promptly moved the books to the top shelf where I can’t reach them and they do me no good.  I’m going to Lysol wipe Betty one of these days and try to move on.  Really.   Meanwhile, I forced the apartment people to come and spray.  It’s gotten better.  I think.  I’ll try not to mention it again.  I’ve stopped crying at the sight of them.  #win

So, here’s a list of what I brought.  The rest packed away in storage until the veritable Christmas day that I get to see them again.  I’m going to try to use them.  If for nothing more than a happy boost and to choose a bit of a happy place.  I need to find a lower safe place for them soon.  In no particular order but in order of the photo.

  1.  Everyday Food – Light by Martha Steward collective –I figured it would be good to lose more than space in this process.
  2. Bobby Flay’s Burgers, Fries and Shakes –my first ‘cook the book’ and I for some reason didn’t want to be parted from it.
  3. Food Gift Love by Maggie Battista –actually purchased post move during an amazing trip to Philadelphia that I’ll have to write about soon-more to that story than meets the eye.
  4. Good Stuff by Spike Mendelsohn – Burgers mainly, and wedge salads –  We use a few of the burger topping recipes regularly.
  5. The Meatball Shop Cookbook – Because meatballs.
  6. The Broad Fork by Hugh Acheson – same thing as Martha – veggies are healthy and I want us to be eating more of them and more creatively. Plus hughnibrow.
  7. Family Meal by Tyler Florence – mainly for the Turkey Meatloaf.  Love.
  8. Bobby Flay’s Bar Americain – Best salads ever.
  9. Wichcraft by Tom Colicchio – unbelieveably delicious sandwiches – I want one today.
  10. that skinny spiral bound thing is a Disney Food & Wine Fest Cookbook with two of our favorites.  Chicken Souvlaki and Cheddar Beer Soup.  ‘Nough said.
  11. tacolicious – amazeballs tacos and cali-mex food from a trip to San Francisco.
  12. Sorella – inventive Italianish food and one of our favorite salads of all time.
  13. Nigella Express by Nigella Lawson – because apartment means no time?  I’m not sure.
  14. Food by Guy Fieri.  I kind of hate his recipes because so many ingredients but dang his sloppy joe’s are amazing.

and last but not least.

15.  The Betty Crocker Cookbook.  Timeless helps for cooking corn.  And the stuffing I grew up on.  Like I’d make a turkey.  No link to my version but worth it.   The kitchen I grew up in had the 1969 version.