My Favorite Cole Slaw Ever

I love cole slaw, but I hate, rather vigorously, that crap that passes for cole slaw in most restaurants. I like my cole slaw vinegary, not sweet at all, and I want to be able to taste the cabbage. Many guests in my home have complimented my cole slaw, so I figured I’d share my method. I don’t have a true recipe with set measurements but I will describe as best as possible what I do. This is for one smallish head of cabbage, which I prefer to slice very thinly (either by hand or with a food processor) rather than mince/chop. I just prefer that texture, but do whatever works for you. Also, I make this almost exclusively with red cabbage (yay vitamins and pretty color!) but it is equally delish with green and would probably be just lovely with savoy or any other type you want to try.

Couple heaping Tbsp mayo
Heaping tsp dijon mustard
2-3 Tbsp white wine vinegar
2-3 Tbsp good olive oil
Small shallot, minced
Handful Italian parsley, finely chopped (fresh basil is an amazing alternative to parsley, I just stack the leaves, roll into cigars & chiffonade)
Sea salt & fresh ground pepper to taste

Whisk first four ingredients together and taste. I like it a little sharp because it mellows once on the cabbage. You want a good balance of mustard sharpness and vinegar sharpness. Adjust as necessary to get it where you think it’s good and then add the other ingredients. Taste and adjust again. You will probably want more salt & pepper than you think you do, just trust me on that. I prefer the pepper to be freshly ground and more on the coarse side. If using parsley, I often throw some extra chopped up parsley in with the cabbage, I like parsley. If using basil I’ll take the teeny tiny leaves and throw those in with the cabbage, they are hard to chiffonade anyway and look so pretty with the cabbage. Pour the dressing over the cabbage & mix well. It’s best if it gets to sit in the fridge for about an hour before you eat, but it’s also damn tasty served right away. Also amazing leftover, I particularly like it for breakfast with a couple fried eggs on top (I swear this is so good!).

Nut-Crusted Tilapia Recipe

This has become a go-to recipe in our house. You can make the nut topping in advance and store it in a jar in your spice cabinet so you have it ready to go for a quick weeknight meal. I usually buy 8 frozen filets of tilapia and this recipe makes enough coating to cover them all with some leftover.

1/2 C almond meal
1/4 C pecans, roughly chopped
1/4 C walnuts, roughly chopped
2 scant Tbsp lemon pepper
1 Tbsp dill
1 tsp paprika
~1 tsp sea salt (amt depends on preference and whether or not your lemon pepper has salt in it)

Mix ingredients in a bowl. If you are not sure about amount of salt err on side of less, you can always salt the fish after cooking. Prep a large baking sheet w/ foil and then oil the foil just a bit. Prep your defrosted (or fresh if you are so lucky!) fish by rinsing, patting dry, and brushing with thin coat of olive oil. Preheat oven to 400F. Spoon the nut mixture as evenly as possible over each filet. I do a fairly generous coat because I fear that it will just meld into the fish if the coating is too thin. I also try to distribute the nuts pretty evenly on the filets but I have some control/perfectionist issues, this step is really not necessary. Bake fish for about 20 minutes, it will depend on your oven but you obviously want the fish flakey and done and the coating should be a bit golden. If the fish is done but the coating still seems kind of raw you can broil it briefly but watch it! I have burned some nuts this way, the pecans especially seem to get burned easily. Serve with a hearty squeeze of lemon (mine & Dylan’s preference) or not (Brian’s preference).

The B+ Parent

The amazing Anna Quindlen strikes again! Came across this interview on Momfilter (a newish hip online magazine for moms) and am once again floored by how right-on her observations about parenting are. For example:

“I think having bright lines and boundaries really worked for us, that it made our kids strong and secure because they were clear on expectations and responsibilities. But I wish I had been better able to combine that with letting things go a little bit. Nobody really needs a bath every night. Nobody really needs a balanced meal for every meal. I should have let the freak flag fly a bit more. It’s hard to be a Type A mom. I wish I could have been a bit more B plus, for my sake and their own.”

A big part of my absence from this blog has been due to my desire to focus more on real life, on the tangible things that matter, like being present for and with Dylan. Not to say I’m giving up my own interests and shelving my creative impulses to be the best mom ever, but I’m making a lot of decisions lately by putting them through the “looking back” filter. As in, when I look back on my life, what do I want to see? What will matter? I have been trying really hard to just enjoy this time, because it’s going fast and someday soon it will be gone. So maybe that means I am not writing my blog, but maybe that also means that I am relaxing my standards a little bit and remembering that the purpose of life is to have fun, not to get to the end with a perfect grade.

Spring Reads

I’ve been doing more reading! I’m not sure what the typical “spring reads” are but my recent reads are all over the place in terms of content. These are all highly recommended, but I will warn you that Room will make you cry (in a good but still very emotional sort of way).

An Object of Beauty: A Novel by Steve Martin

Room: A Novel by Emma Donoghue

Outliers: The Story of Success by Malcolm Gladwell

I also started Life by Keith Richards and I Was Told There’d Be Cake by Sloane Crosley, but I couldn’t get into either one. I think Life is better suited to winter reading, though I’m not sure why. I kept it on my list to try again later. As for I Was Told There’d Be Cake…well, ugh. It came highly recommended by multiple people who tend to like the same kind of stuff that I do, but I found the author’s voice annoying. Or maybe it was the subject matter? Either way the book was way too self-indulgent for my taste (this coming from a huge David Sedaris fan) so I stopped halfway.

I am currently about halfway through Radical Homemakers: Reclaiming Domesticity from a Consumer Culture by Shannon Hayes, which is awesome and I can already say you should read it, especially if you give a shit about family and community and living life on your own terms. Also on the bedside table are Blink: The Power of Thinking Without Thinking by Malcolm Gladwell (this has been on my “to read” list for years; I’m very excited to read it especially because Outliers was fantastic!) and Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother (as a mom, how could I not read this?! Also, I’ve been on the waitlist for it at our library since January).

I wish I had something more insightful to say about these books, or a cute photo of my current reads stacked up on the floor next to my bed, but as I type this there are SIX sweaty men digging up the sewer line in my front yard and I am having trouble concentrating because I can physically feel the money being drained from my bank account. Also I have a headache (unrelated to the sewer line. I think). Here’s hoping that your spring is getting on well and that you are reading or otherwise expanding your mind and your horizons. I have lots to tell you about and hope to see you back here a little more frequently in the coming weeks!

The Good Enough Mother

I recently stumbled upon* the most amazing article. It was written by Anna Quindlen and published in Newsweek back in 2005 but is still so, so relevant. If you are a parent, or you want to be one, you HAVE to read it. It’s all about the recent emphasis on being the perfect do-it-all mom and how that is not actually what kids need or want. I tend to put a lot of pressure on myself to be perfect, especially in my mothering, and this article both opened my eyes a bit wider to reality and also made me breathe a heavy sigh of relief. Maybe life really is about having fun.

* Thanks to Michelle for posting about this article!

Relax, just do it.

I am having one of those days (weeks? months?) when I realize that I really just need to relax. I am taking everything so seriously, especially in regards to Dylan, that I am sure to have a nervous breakdown and also drive my family crazy if I don’t find a way to chill out. I am just amped up and cranky. Is it the season? The moon? Bad personality habits? Too much chocolate?

Dylan has been up at night the past three nights. Not just waking up and we go in, change his diaper, and put him back down. Oh, no. He has been waking up and staying awake and getting all kinds of emotional if we try to leave him in his room. Brian has slept on the floor in Dylan’s room, with Dylan, for at least some part of the last three nights. Have I mentioned that the foundation of our house is concrete slab, and that the carpet in the bedrooms is laid right on top with just a thin layer of padding between? Our floors are hard. I guess this is just another of those little “phases” that babies go through, but every time we encounter one I feel blindsided. Like, everything was working so great, what did I do to cause this? I search my brain for the reason (daylight savings time? not enough outside time? staying up a little too late a couple days last week?), but I know it just is what it is and I hope that it ends soon.

I think a lot about this blog, one of my few creative outlets, and I still don’t know what I’m doing with it besides neglecting it. I have a lot of recipes in the queue and some posts on gardening and fashion and design, but in the spirit of cutting myself a break I am going to try not to worry about the drafts piling up in my WordPress dashboard. Right now what I need is less computer time, more productivity, and to shake up the routine a bit. I think part of my crank is coming from just feeling like we are in a rut of doing the same things, eating the same foods, bickering over the same stuff (we don’t even really know what it is, don’t you hate that? fighting and then stepping back and saying, hey, what are we fighting about? I think we are all just tapped out around here), etc. I also think I am missing my CrossFit! It’s been two months, thank GOD I am going back on Monday before my butt completely disappears. I am not 100% but definitely much better and the plan is to just modify and scale as needed. My ass needs CrossFit for sure, but after this break I am certain my mind needs it more.

The weather in Austin is amazing lately, kind of hot for the season but I’ll take it over the cold. I bought all the transplants and seeds for our spring garden (no such thing as a summer garden in Austin, really) and am working this week to get the garden prepped, planted, and outfitted with a new fence! We are also going to build a trellis for the tomatoes and cucumbers since we do square foot gardening and don’t have the space to let them spread out–they need to grow up up up! Maybe I will turn this into a photo blog and just post some shots from around the house and garden and call it a day. I dropped my iPhone on the patio yesterday but it still works so I still have my trusty everywhere camera. Ironically, I dropped it while trying to take a photo (and shoo away a mosquito, WTF, it’s only March!).

Also, unrelated, my house is such a mess and I want a maid so badly that when the across-the-street neighbor’s maid shows up on Tuesdays (I am watching her unload her cleaning supplies right now!) I just want to cry. In my future life of riches and leisure I will have a maid. Just putting that out there now so the universe can work on it for me.

What are you all up to? Gardening? Spring cleaning? Traveling? Exercising? I think a lot of us get a little funk or a little bug to change things up around this time of year, so what’s doing?

Reading List

Books are the new black, didn’t you know? My free subscriptions to Vogue, Allure, and Dwell ran out, and there isn’t any TV that I am interested in now that Friday Night Lights is over, so I’ve got nothing but time. Time to stretch out on the couch and read books all day and night. Okay, that’s a lie. There aren’t enough hours in the day for everything I want and need to do, but I have recently re-committed to reading books for myself. Not just books on how to be a good parent or how to eat or how to make a million dollars and have the life of your dreams. No, I am going to read books for entertainment, like I used to do when I was a kid. I feel better when I read books. Even if I watch quality movies and read quality articles in magazines, they still don’t do whatever it is that a good book does for me.

I’ve started this year off pretty well, it’s only March and I’ve already finished four books and am almost done with two more. I got something great out of all of these books, and isn’t that the thing, really? To spend your time and not feel as though you wasted it? I think that’s my goal in life (or one of my goals), to feel like I made the right choices. I’ve decided that I am going to keep track of all the books I read this year here on Goodbye, Small Heart, both for myself and for you, in case you are looking for some reading material.

I should note that I get almost all the books I read from my public library. We’re on a budget and I don’t like owning books unless I will refer back to them often. Every once in a while I buy something if I can’t get it at the library or borrow it from a friend, but then I usually put it into circulation among friends or sell it. I recently sold a big bag of books and made $6! Woohoo! That’s almost enough to buy a burger at our local burger joint (Phil’s Icehouse in case you are wondering, and I mention this only so I can tell you that Brian refers to it as MILF’s Icehouse because it is a popular lunch spot for the hottie stay-at-home-mom crowd. Ha!).

Anyway, without further ado, here are the books I’ve read so far this year, all highly recommended:

The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet’s Nest

The Paleo Solution: The Original Human Diet

A Million Miles in a Thousand Years: How I Learned to Live a Better Story

Born to Run: A Hidden Tribe, Superathletes, and the Greatest Race the World Has Never Seen

Good Advice

Recently happened upon some good advice:

If there is something you want to do that you don’t have time for, you need to do less of something else.

Man does this ring true for me. There are a million things I want to do that I know would nourish me and make me so happy yet I can never “find” the time. The concept of “making” the time by consciously choosing to do less of other things is so obvious and simple yet never occurred to me. I always think I will do these things in some fantasy future-time, when all my dishes are done and miraculously stay done, the baby takes 3-hour naps (or is in school, ha!), etc etc etc. But the truth is that life will always be like it is now, with a lot of commitments, a lot of little things on the to-do list, and a household that needs my love and attention. I need to take a good hard look at how I spend my time and decide what I am going to do less of. Then I will have time to do more, and to be more.

Upping the happiness quotient

I went through a phase this fall of feeling very wanty a lot of the time. I hate that, especially because at my core I am really interested in reducing consumption, being happier with less stuff, and living simply. But every once in a while I catch the consumerist bug and it drives me crazy until one day I wake up and feel normal again. I don’t satisfy this bug with lots of purchasing, partly because the single-income budget does not allow for such indulgence, but also because of the minimalist values mentioned above. (Yes, even in the haze of want want want I can still find a minute to actually think–a lesson learned, no doubt, from a lot of stupid purchases made when I was younger. Many of which were returned, but still, what a huge waste of time and energy!)

Anyway, the backlash from my wanty phase this past fall is that lately I’m feeling very ascetic. Like, I don’t want to buy anything at all. I just want to get rid of stuff and pare down and spend my time doing other things besides contemplating all of the material goods I could own. I’m also feeling a strong desire to have more leisure in my life. I’m typically a go go go kind of person, yet am also strangely unproductive. It makes no sense. So I’ve decided to do more of the things I want to do and not worry as much about the stuff I feel like I should do. Certainly some of the should do’s are important and need attention, but I tend to fall into the trap of devoting way too much time to that stuff, most often in an extremely unproductive fashion, and to the exclusion of relaxation and fun. Lame.

This weekend I did some things that made me significantly happier, and didn’t cost me any money. That’s kind of perfect, isn’t it? I thought I’d share these things with you in the hopes that you either identify with me or get inspired to find more happiness in your life as it is now.

  1. Painted my nails (and my toenails, but that hardly merits mention as painted toes are de rigueur por moi).
  2. Organized our bookshelf and purged the unwanted or unused books.
  3. Put three books on hold for myself at the local library.
  4. Got started on our taxes. This may not sound fun but it was actually really soothing and gratifying to have an hour to myself to get medical bills and spreadsheets organized. I like being on top of things but am usually doing our taxes at 10pm on April 14th. Reducing my stress level and being proactive = huge win!
  5. Sat down and read a magazine instead of cooking/cleaning/doing laundry. This was especially amazing. I sat in our new Eames chair with a nice snack and just relaxed for an hour without feeling guilty about the housework I wasn’t doing at that moment.
  6. Organized and cleaned out our pantry, which has been a complete disaster since we moved into our house in September.
  7. Organized  and cleaned out our freezer, which was as scary as our pantry. Now I can find stuff, and we have so much more space.
  8. Rearranged some side tables and lamps. Now we have bedside lamps! No night stands yet but who cares when I no longer have to get out of bed to turn off the light when we are done reading at night.

In reviewing this list I realize that some of these things sound like “work,” and that it seems unrealistic that “work” can increase your happiness quotient. But items 2, 6, and 7 have been causing me low-level, constant stress for months. And stress means unhappiness. Every time I walked into our extra bedroom and saw the piles of books on the floor and the bookshelf that was totally disorganized I felt stress. I knew there were books I could sell or donate and that there were other books I had been looking for that were lurking somewhere in the mess. Getting this sorted out took about 30 minutes (I was thinking it would take much longer) and now I feel so much better. No more books on the floor and all the ones on the shelf are arranged by topic so we can easily find what we’re looking for. Same thing for the pantry and freezer. I had been putting off dealing with them because in my mind they became these huge daunting projects (do you do that, too?) and I didn’t know when I’d ever find the time. Turns out that the freezer took about 15 minutes and the pantry about 30 minutes, and both were accomplished while Dylan was awake. Amazing.

Perhaps that biggest thing that upped my happiness quotient, aside from the obvious pampering  and relaxing, is that I feel so empowered by choosing how to spend my time and then committing to that choice, whether it’s painting my nails, reading a magazine, or organizing last year’s medical bills. I’m usually the kind of person with a mile-long to do list and everything on it seems so important that I can’t decide what to do and I’m paralyzed by my need to do the “right” thing, OR, I pick something but can’t really focus or be efficient because I am thinking about all the other things I could (should?) be doing. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve sat down to read a book but couldn’t enjoy myself because I felt like I was shirking responsibility. It all comes down to conscious choice, commitment, and focus.

What choices could you make about how you spend your time that would make you happier right now, in your current life? I’m curious if other people engage in some of the same habitual self-sabotaging behaviors that I have. What can you do right now that won’t cost you any money, but that will reduce your stress, help you relax, or bring you happiness?

Musings, and a big-ass goal

The second half of last year really wore me down. Well, let’s be honest, the first half did, too. I feel like I spent an entire year not knowing who I was. I forgot how to dream. I wonder, is it possible to ever reach a point in your life when you know exactly who you are, what you are all about, and where you are going? Is that even desirable? I don’t know. I see people who make me think they have got it together, like they never have a moment of crisis or indecision, never need to just sit and stare at a wall for a little while. I want to be one of those people, but I feel like I am still trying to figure out who I am. Now, many people who know me will disagree with this. They will say, “Oh, you are so self-possessed, you know exactly who you are and what you are all about,” but they are just confused because I have opinions about almost everything and am loud. Do my opinions make me who I am? I think not.

I have been doing a lot of thinking lately, of the soul-searching variety. Like, what do I want to be when I grow up? How do I want to spend my time, what is important to me? What kind of parent do I want to be? And on a more superficial level, should I keep that cute pair of shoes I bought even though I want to be a minimalist (a chic minimalist, mind you) and live simply? These are the things that keep me up at night. Well, these things and my bad habits, but it’s so much easier to blame an overactive mind than bad habits. Much less guilt-inducing.

One of the things I came up with in my soul-searching, or rather, one of the things I returned to, is my lifelong desire to write a book. I have always, for as long as I can remember, wanted to be a writer. I wrote a lot of bad poetry and fiction during the angsty years of adolescence, toyed with the idea of getting an MFA when I was in my twenties, and finally realized that what I really want is to write a memoir. I don’t know how to go about this. I know that I don’t want it to be self-indulgent. I want it to be interesting and to help other people see things in themselves that maybe they have been ignoring or perhaps didn’t even know were there. I thought that I should start by writing short essays about specific events in my life, to help me figure out how to approach the telling of a larger story. To help me figure out what the larger story is. I always get stuck on that part, but I figure maybe I just have not lived long enough to have a story yet…but in many ways that is just a crap excuse. I need to buckle down and just start writing some stuff, because I’ll never get anywhere just by dreaming a lot and being a perfectionist. Maybe I should title my memoir, “Paralyzed by Perfection.”

I listen to The Moth podcast a lot, especially when I am cooking or doing dishes. I imagine that it must be so fun, so satisfying, to tell a story at The Moth. Somehow I came up with the idea that it would be a good exercise for me, in terms of writing and storytelling, to tell at story at one of The Moth StorySLAMS. But then I thought, well, anyone can tell a story at a StorySLAM, all you have to do is have your name picked out of a hat. But then I remembered that the stories are judged and there are winners. So it was decided, and I have a new goal. This might actually be my only goal since most of my other “goals” are really just to-do list items that I am pretending are goals so I don’t have think about what I really want out of life. Anyway, here it is, stated clearly so I can’t fool anyone, or more importantly, fool myself:

I want to tell a story at one of The Moth StorySLAMs in NYC, and win.

This scares me and makes my heart do a little flutter, so I know I’ve hit the target. Brian and I have been talking about dropping Dylan at his grandparents’ house in PA for a few days this summer and going up to NYC to visit friends. I think we need to make this trip a reality and schedule it around a StorySLAM.