It’s surreal to be sitting on the edge of a stretch of months that I feel have fundamentally changed me as a person, but here I am. And I’ve beaten that theme to death, I think, in the short time I’ve been writing this blog – but it sort of feels like fighting through a current, coming up for air, and realizing you’ve washed up on a different beach.
There are multiple lessons I’m trying to take to heart. The one that’s proved most important, and paid big dividends in my emotional health, is to simply take time to give thanks for tiny moments that may otherwise seem insignificant in passing.
I’m not talking about prayer, though if that’s how you find solace and give thanks, more power to you. But I’m not particularly religious, though I do believe in a higher energy afoot – so I prefer to simply just try to recognize small moments of beauty, luck and love, and allow an appreciation to wash over me in that moment.
Here’s one I realized recently : the ability to gather around a table, cooking for people you love.
It seems simple, right? And it can be. It can be as simple as slapping some peanut butter between two slices of bread and handing it to your tiny tow-headed cousin. It’s also the epitome of the concept I’m trying to explain. That the act of feeding those around you is so basic, so unremarkable, is exactly what we should all pause and celebrate for the gift that it is.
Feed those you love. Host them for dinner, make time to grab drinks if they’re moving out of town, surprise them after spin class with a granola bar.
The appreciation for this hit me over the head last weekend, when we hosted our first dinner party in our new home. The move-in process has been slow but sure. Rather than rush to be settled, we’re living in and around boxes for a few months as we paint, clean and decorate until the home feels truly ours. The first room to be done is, of course, the dining room. Painted a soothing hue that we’ve cheekily dubbed “Braveheart Blue” – it looks almost exactly like the color Mel Gibson painted his face in the movie – it’s also, currently, my favorite room in the house.
Through serendipitous timing, we’ve also moved into our house at the same time as an friend is moving out of hers. Unwilling to transport much of her accumulated belongings to a new home, she’s donated them to the trio of young 20-somethings who are rich in wine glasses and poor in things like vases or decorative items.
Some of this includes beautiful, and indulgent dining accessories like gold-painted chargers and handmade ice cream bowls from Italy. (I know.) So, the other Saturday, armed with bottles of wine and a beautifully set table, we threw our first dinner party.
The meal was simple. Cheese, crackers and grapes to start. Maple-dijon salmon, quinoa salad (recipes for both below) and green beans for a main. The most intricate part of the meal was one none of us who actually live in the new home contributed – my friend Sarah, a phenomenally talented individual, brought over homemade strawberry basil ice cream.
Always, always befriend the girl with the ice cream maker.
I drank too much red wine. I ate too much ice cream. And I was so utterly happy to be in my own home, surrounded by people who make me laugh, who will listen if I need to cry, and who help me feel like a more complete version of myself.
All that was wrought by gathering around a table with individuals who make me happy. That’s it. It’s simple. And yet I went to sleep that night with the kind of peaceful joy that only the best of the universe’s moments can bring.
I’ve been taught that the act of gathering around a table is a vital, powerful, soul-affirming moment. And I think that’s true. Feeding those you love : it’s worth being thankful for.
Maple Dijon salmon
2 fillets salmon, skin on
2 tablespoons Dijon mustard
2 teaspoons maple syrup
2 tablespoons light mayo
Torn fresh basil, to taste
Salt and pepper
Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Place salmon skin-side down in Pyrex baking dish.
Mix all ingredients (that aren’t salmon) together to create a marinade/sauce. Brush over the salmon generously, and allow to sit in refrigerator while oven preheats.
Cook 25-30 minutes, or until salmon flakes and is done.
Almond sriracha quinoa salad
(This was a throw-it-together-in-the-pot recipe. So have some fun.)
1 cup uncooked quinoa
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, + enough to drizzle in cooking
Torn basil, parsley, oregano (amount to taste)
Salt and pepper
¼ cup slivered almonds
4-5 tablespoons sriracha
Cook the quinoa according to package instructions.
While cooking, pour almonds into small skillet and drizzle in olive oil. Slowly pan-roast until golden brown. Cool.
When the quinoa is done, mix with olive oil, herbs and salt and pepper. Taste and adjust accordingly. Add in sriracha (the amount truly depends on your preference) and almonds. Mix, enjoy.
Serve both with glasses of red wine that are almost slopping over the brim and good company.