When a Life is Like a Honeydew

OK – this blog is going to sound a little self-helpy. But everyone can use a dash of it now and again – and I promise it pertains to food, too. So bear with me.

The basic premise is this – sometimes we let perceptions dictate our lives. And as a result we can lose out on things.

I’ve ended more than one relationship when I realize – often a little later than would be good for me – that I was allowing myself to be molded by significant others into an idealized perception. Typically, this shows up when I mention something that crosses my partner’s comfort threshold. It could be musing about a day hike of the Appalachian Trail, whitewater rafting, or trying a new restaurant that’s a 45 minute drive.

Friends who get me will answer, “What makes you want to do that?”

It’s over when I hear: “You wouldn’t like/do that.”

What’s the difference? One is curious response about what makes me tick. The other has put me in a box with a label.

And I do not like labels, unless they include words like kind, adventurous …

As a woman who has been on a self-reflective journey for the past dozen years – more than half of them sober – I know to pause and wonder why someone is starting a statement that starts with “You.”  For one, it puts people on the defensive, immediately.

There’s a whole psychology behind You Statements vs I Statements. The crux is don’t push your own feelings off on someone else. Own them. It’s one thing to say, “I” wouldn’t like to spend a day hiking – OK, I can empathize with that. But please don’t tell me I don’t want to. Because I do. And I spent 20 years in a relationship where someone kept telling me what I did and didn’t like – to the point where I believed it. And that didn’t work out so well for me.

My parents, who have witnessed me hauling my sorry butt up from the depths of various misadventures, might have the authority to invoke a You Statement now and again. But they’ve also witnessed me hauling that same sorry tail through recovery and up a few mountains, across a few oceans, and wading through single parenting (one of the biggest adventures in life). So they like to start with, “I would like it if you would consider …” before I go ziplining off the Eiffel Tower (which I did not do because this would not be a good example for my 14-year-old).

My parents have also been along for quite a few of my culinary calamities, including the all-garlic dinner that left us reeking for days. Literally, we were emitting garlic from our every pore for three days.

They’ve also watched my journey into to my 50s, and how it has been about managing perceptions and taking control of what I can. My parents want happy, healthy children (4) and grandchildren (8).  All of us have different criteria for happy and healthy. Mine comes with a big dog, long walks, travel, gardening, and experimenting in the kitchen. It may not come with a husband, a job with benefits and regular hours, or a size 4 wardrobe.

So what does this have to do with food? Letting perceptions limit your experiences has a lot to do with just about everything in life, including melons.

The honeydew has been among my least favorite melons. It’s green. It’s often just a filler in fruit salad – frequently the least flavorful of the ingredients.  When I was growing up, it was diet food, filled with cottage cheese. In short, it was not on my Wegmans list.

Then I discovered a recipe for a cucumber and honeydew salad on Pinterest. Cubed honeydew is tossed with peeled, seeded, cubed cucumber and sliced red onion, mint, basil, and dill. It is dressed with lemon juice, olive oil, and (optional) honey and/or mustard. Suddenly this melon has moved from breakfast filler to salad star. It’s great with just about any summer dish, but pairs well with any grilled meat. It holds up well in the fridge, making it super for a refreshing summer snack or quick lunch.

I’m in love with honeydew now. All because my perception changed.

The honeydew went from second-rate breakfast dish to a summer staple for salads. All because I could look at it differently – and be flexible. Sometimes it is super sweet – in that case I just squeeze some lemon juice on top and mix in some mint and basil. Sometimes I put in a grind of pepper and a pinch of salt. If it is more on the bland side, then it gets the onion and dill. Then dressing goes into a bowl – lemon, mustard, honey, salt, pepper – and whisked. Then it is tossed with the melon and cucumber, and finally finished with some extra-virgin olive oil.

The secret to picking the right melon?  That’s a tough one. It’s not unlike dating – you can’t always tell from the outside. Labels don’t help either. I’ve had organic duds too. Thumping is useless. You just have to hold one, look for any soft spots, and take a whiff at the end where the stem was attached. If it smells sweet, then you have a winner.

If this worked for dating, I’d be giving seminars by now. Although an occasional thunk to see if a head is soft might not be a bad idea …

Melons are good for any just about any diet out there – paleo, Whole 30, WW, etc. Can’t say the same about boyfriends.

Enjoy

XOXOXO

marnie

marnie@meadballs.com

Print Recipe
Herbed Honeydew Cucumber Salad
Course lunch, Salad, side dish
Cuisine American
Servings
Ingredients
Course lunch, Salad, side dish
Cuisine American
Servings
Ingredients
Instructions
  1. Whisk together dressing ingredients until blended. If honeydew is sweet, don't use mustard.
  2. Set aside.
  3. Cut melon in half; remove seeds. Then cut into quarters. Slide a knife between the sweet fruit and the rind. Remove rind. Cut fruit into chunks, Add to bowl. Cut peeled and seeded cucumber into chunks and add to bowl. If you are preparing this ahead of time, add mint and cover and chill.
  4. Before serving, add onion, remaining herbs, and dressing. Toss to mix and serve.
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Celebrate Each Birthday

My birthday is a time for personal reflection. Some people use the calendar year, but mine restarts every May 27. In the week leading up to the big day, I check in on how I have used my last 365 days on the planet.

Were they a wise use of this gift of time? Because it is a gift. Every day. Every morning that the birds are singing. Every morning when the sun shines (or at least tries to). And every evening when I tuck myself into bed. Each day I ask if I was good to my daughter. To the planet. To myself. To my family. Did I accomplish anything? Or at least do no harm?

I don’t plant to go through life just skimming along, however. It’s not enough just to know I tried to keep my carbon footprint low, my optimism contagious, and my contributions on the plus side of the abacus. On birthdays, I want  to measure whether I have hit goals that are important to me.

I wasn’t always like this. For awhile there (like maybe 20 years), I told myself I was content to get up each morning, have a coffee or Diet Coke, go to work, go home, make dinner, go to bed. Repeat. Throw in a Sunday dinner with family. An occasional evening out with friends. But really, at the end of the year, I measured my worth by my job title, and accompanying raise or bonus.

Then the raises and bonuses stopped, not because of my work, but because of the industry. And I was mad. Mad at the industry, bosses, etc. A complete and total waste of emotional investment. Yet I did it anyway.

I would like to report that I read a book, or attended a lecture, or saw a counselor who gave me an a-ha moment. But life doesn’t work like that. There are clues dropped along the way to a better path. You can either pick them up or ignore them.

Finally, I started picking them up.  I started really listening to friends – not just preparing a monologue of a reply in my head. I was present. I dug out books recommended by a career counselor, but ignored. I found poignant passages. Then I bought more books. Did more Internet searches. Listened more.

And, eventually, I climbed three mountains with my sister. Those mountains in Colorado were the start of setting goals – and reaching for them. I didn’t master the 14,400-foot one, but I did enjoy a day climbing to nearly 13,000 feet. The old me would have insisted on the Fourteen-er, no matter how miserable I would have been (and the guide assured me I would have been). Instead, when he recommended a compromise that would have meant enjoying the scenery, I accepted that challenge instead.

Since then, I’ve traveled to France, Greece, Italy, and England. I started riding a bike again. I adopted a wonderful dog from the A.N.N.A. Shelter. And my relationship with my daughter, and my family, is a blessing with challenges that I embrace.

I’m single – and that’s a good thing. I am now old enough to know what I want out of life, and I’m going after it. My friend Claudette jokes that men just need to meet me to realize that clingy, needy female I am not. I tried that shoe on, and it just didn’t fit. Another friend said she loves her 50s because now she can say what she has been thinking all along. The fabulous 50s.

I’m loving them.

So what’s a birthday girl do for her dinner when she doesn’t have a “date?”

She makes dinner for her daughter – which we eat in our PJs – and then make plans to go to Creamland for ice cream.

Damn right 50s are fabulous.

XOXOXO

Marnie

Marnie@meadballs.com

Print Recipe
Crab Topped Flounder
Course dinner
Cuisine American
Prep Time 15 minutes
Cook Time 25 minutes
Servings
people
Course dinner
Cuisine American
Prep Time 15 minutes
Cook Time 25 minutes
Servings
people
Instructions
  1. Heat oven to 350 degrees.
  2. In a saucepan, melt butter over medium heat. Add onion and red pepper. Saute until soft, about 5 minutes. Set aside to cool.
  3. In a medium bowl, mix together mayonnaise, mustard, egg yolk, seafood seasoning, Worcestershire, lemon juice, a dash or so of hot sauce (optional). Stir. Add in onion and pepper mix. Taste and add salt and pepper if desired.
  4. Fold crabmeat (picked over for any shell, and rinsed if you are using canned) into mayo mixture. Gently. You want lumps of crab.
  5. On a rimmed baking sheet lined with parchment, place the flounder fillets. Top with equal portions (4 in this case) of crab meat, to cover entire length of fish.
  6. Dot with butter, if using. Sprinkle additional seafood seasoning. Bake for 20 to 25 minutes.
  7. Serve with lemon wedges.
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Meatless Monday Salad

Easter break means a trip to visit my parents in Florida. We’ve been heading to Indian Rocks Beach, on the Gulf Coast, since my daughter was 3 or 4 – or about a decade.

It’s always like hitting the reset button. The changing colors of the water and sky; family connections; sun; even rain. It all adds up to recharging of batteries.

It’s also a great time to reset my taste buds as well. While I have great anticipation for the bounty that will come starting in late June – I’m get stuck in a rut when it comes to food after months of seeing the same items in the grocery store visit after visit.

But in Florida, the strawberry season is just starting the close. Fresh local citrus is still available. Fish is on every menu, and in the grocery store. I see the recipes my mother has posted on her refrigerator, and stacked on my father’s desk.

I’m surrounded by inspiration.

The very act of taking a trip, of seeing things in a different (literally) light, recharges my synapses. They start firing again.

This happens whenever I have a change of scenery – and why doctors suggest taking walks outside. The very act of getting out of a rut can help change how your brain thinks. This is why I walk the dog on different routes. If I see the same thing every day, even the act of taking the walk becomes routine. Although when it’s 20 degrees outside, it is hard to find the inspiration to walk a new route.

Today – the day after Easter – as I look at the colorful hard-cooked eggs, I am seeing something different. Instead of dreading them in egg salad, I am inspired to make a blueberry and spinach salad.

This is because of what my mother clipped out of People magazine and put on the fridge. I get People, but totally missed the salad. She saw the magazine with a different eye, and, as a result, we enjoyed a delightful salad that I’m sharing today.

If you want to use strawberries instead of blueberries, go ahead. Don’t like nuts – skip them. Or try roasted pumpkin seeds, or sunflower seeds. The crunch is nice. You can add shrimp, chicken, or salmon if you need more protein. Do try the dressing. It is delightful.

This is what I leave you with today – a salad for a meatless Monday. It’s a snap to make. Use whatever time you save to take a walk. It’s beautiful out there.

XOXOXO

marnie

marnie@meadballs.com

Print Recipe
Spinach, Blueberry, Avocado, and Cucumber Salad
Instructions
  1. Whisk together honey, mustard, salt and pepper in a small bowl. Whisk in lemon juice. Slowly add in olive oil in a steady stream. Whisk constantly until mixture is thick. Taste. Adjust salt and pepper as needed.
  2. In a large bowl, toss spinach, blueberries and cucumber. Drizzle dressing over the salad. Toss to combine. Top with avocado, hard-cooked egg slices, and nuts
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Spring Closet Cleaning

Spring cleaning consumed the past two weekends. The warm weather is partly to blame. My daughter shares the rest.

Sometimes she helps me get dressed. A teen with a keen fashion sense of her own, I run outfit combinations by her from time to time when I’m trying to burst out of my uniform of leggings, tunic sweater and turtleneck. It’s the perfect way to hide the winter calories.

But, come the start of spring, the layers give way to … muffin tops and insecurity when getting dressed. My winter uniform hides a myriad of sins that spring strips away. As a result, I stand in front of not one, but two, closets filled with clothes.

And I have nothing to wear.

So I proclaim.

My daughter got tired of having her head bitten off when she dared say I looked “just fine.”  She politely suggested I call “that lady you interviewed who helps people with their closets.”

She was referring to Marian Taylor, owner of Simple Solutions for Living.

Clearly, I needed a closet intervention.

Marian not only assists the closet impaired like me, she specializes in downsizing. She helps people move into smaller homes (or new homes), especially empty nesters transferring to new digs without kids and seniors moving into assisted living.

If you have a parent moving – she’s the best. She makes the move so easy – and takes the stress off the the children by acting as an impartial arbiter of what stays and what goes. She doesn’t throw anything out unless you want her to, but she does have the tact to inquire just why you are keeping it.

She used this approach with my closet, which was filled with trips down memory lane: the skirt from Greece that I’ve worn once; the dress I bought when I didn’t have anything to wear to a funeral; the pants I bought on sale without trying on. Then there was the stuff that didn’t fit. And the stuff that looked great when I was a brunette, but does’t look so hot now that I’m a blonde.

By rehanging all my clothes – in order or color by category – we also discovered I had quite of few of the same items in the same color – just hanging in two different closets. Did I need 4 black skirts ? No. I don’t. Other people may have a different answer.

She also took the time to show me pairings of clothes. She took a blouse I liked, but had never worn, and matched it with a sweater I already had. I wore it this week. Now, when I head into the closet, I don’t stand there staring. I can see immediate outfit ideas.

Marian has a nifty app that allowed us to total up the charitable value of the clothes headed to the City Mission.

When we finished, she suggested a new organizer from ClosetMaid that would give me twice the space for the shirts and sweaters using a double rod system.

Marian is also a rep for Cabi, a clothing line that makes capsule dressing easy and fun. The colors coordinate from season to season. After cleaning so much black out of my closet, it was time to replace it with navy, which is much more flattering for me.

That was the weekend of Feb. 25. During the week, I ordered the closet organizer for my clothes. And other one for my shoes.

So the following weekend, I installed the closet organizer. It only took about 4 1/2 hours – it would take a pro a lot less. I think I spent an hour trying to find the studs in the closet wall. I spent another hour  to 90 minutes hanging and organizing.

The shoe organizing took another 90 minutes, 45 of which was assembling the new shoe rack. It is designed to hold 50 pair of shoes. Fifty should be plenty. I had to discard about 30 pair of shoes – some I could only wear for an hour or two because they hurt so much. Turns out I have a lot of black shoes.

Again – I’m a blonde now. Blue and beige are better choices.

But the new rule is: One in, one out (preferably two).

All this organizing means dinner hasn’t been particularly organized this week. Fortunately, I subscribe to one of those home meal prep delivery services. I’ve been trying out Hello Fresh (I’ve also tried Plated, Blue Apron, and Home Chef). I’ll write more about these later.

So I had a box with pork chops, sweet potato, and Brussels sprouts. I wasn’t fond of the recipe and directions, so I winged it. In less than 20 minutes, we had dinner. I pan seared the pork chops and finished it with a peach glaze from some peach preserves I had in the fridge. The Brussls sprouts were easy – they just went into a 400 degree oven with olive oil, salt and pepper, for about 10 to 12 minutes.

I hauled the Kitchen Aid out and attached the spiralizer and had sweet potato noodles in minutes. You could blanch them, but I tossed them into a skillet with olive oil, salt, pepper, and a pinch of sugar. They could have gone into the oven with the Brussels sprouts if I had been thinking.

Sometimes we all need a hand with the basic tasks of living. Thanks to Marian, getting dressed takes just minutes. And thanks to the various meal services I’ve been trying, I was able to get dinner on the table in less than 30 minutes.

Now, if only those meals arrived already made …

XOXOXO

marnie

marniemead@gmail.com

Print Recipe
Pork Chops with Peach, Whiskey and Mustard Glaze
Course Main Dish
Cuisine American
Cook Time 15 minutes
Passive Time 5 minutes
Servings
people
Ingredients
Course Main Dish
Cuisine American
Cook Time 15 minutes
Passive Time 5 minutes
Servings
people
Ingredients
Instructions
  1. 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
  2. Pinch ground black pepper
  3. 1 teaspoons garlic powder<
  4. 2 teaspoons smoked paprika
  5. 2 boneless pork chops, about 1/2-inch thick
  6. 1 tablespoon olive oil
  7. 1/4 cup chicken stock
  8. 2 tablespoons peach preserves
  9. 2 tablespoons bourbon or other whiskey
  10. 1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
  11. Heat oven to 375 degrees.
  12. In a small bowl, combine the salt, pepper, garlic powder and paprika. Season each pork
  13. chop generously on both sides and rub the mixture into the meat.
  14. Heat a nonstick oven-proof skillet on medium high heat. Add the olive oil and the seasoned pork chops. Sear on each
  15. side for 2 minutes to get a nice crust. Remove pork chops from the pan.
  16. Return the pan to medium heat. Add the whiskey and bring to a boil, then add chicken stock and reduce heat to a simmer. Cook for about 2 mintues then stir in peach preserves, and mustard. Whisk to combine. Turn off heat.
  17. Return chops to the pan and turn several times to coat with the peach glaze. Place pan with chops in oven and roast until done, about 5 to 7 minutes.
  18. Let the pork chops rest for 5 minutes before serving, then spoon some of the glaze from the pan over the chops.
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