The Elephant: Piece-By-Piece

The last two weeks have been chaotic for me. I accepted a new job with my current company and am now in job limbo. I am carrying on many duties of my previous job while my replacement is hired, while attempting to learn everything there is to know about my new job.

I really started to doubt myself. Can I learn new tasks and an entirely different role at this point in my life? Am I still able to enthusiastically embrace change like I did in my twenties?

My friend Nicole at Trajectory of a Life recently wrote about the Elephant Metaphor and the concept resonated with me so much I felt compelled to share it here.

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(The elephant statue at my daughter’s favorite park. I wouldn’t be able to eat this adorable guy.)

Thinking about an elephant when life’s responsibilities seem too massive to handle reminds us to take a one-bite-at-a-time approach to daunting tasks. I don’t have to learn all 20 of the new software programs at my new job during my first three hours of training. Or, more morbidly speaking, we would all be able to eat an elephant if we don’t try to eat the whole thing at once.

All of this brings me to some self-realization: I am hard on myself when I am learning new things. I often expect perfection overnight, and become a bit overwhelmed when it doesn’t happen.

So this week I’m thinking about the elephant, and taking things piece-by-piece. Thank you, Nicole, for this little gem of wisdom. It has been remarkably helpful.

No elephants were harmed during the writing of this post. It’s merely metaphorical.

Book Thoughts: Kitchen Confidential

I have felt a little lost when it comes to book selection this summer. When watching an episode of Anthony Bourdain: Parts Unknown a few weeks ago, I remembered I have never read his book Kitchen Confidential.

I loved Bourdain’s book Medium Raw: A Bloody Valentine to the World of Food and the People Who Cook. He won me over with the over-the-top adventurous foodie story of dining on Ortolan, a rare small bird illegal to eat in most countries. His description of himself and a group of other world-renowned chefs eating the Ortolan, which are traditionally consumed whole, beak and all, took my breath away.

If you think I wouldn’t try Ortolan if given the chance, you apparently have never seen me eat freshly harvested Rocky Mountain oysters cooked on the branding iron fire.

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(Image from amazon.com)

These tales of the restaurant industry makes me so glad I have never worked in that field. It also makes me realize why so many chefs develop drug and alcohol problems.

Bourdain writes that he has stayed in the rough and exhausting industry because he loves everything about food. I do, too, but I prefer to experience it as a diner and a terrible cook. This is an interesting read and might just make you be thankful for the career field you chose, whatever that might be.

Betty Crocker, Sexism, and Beef Tongue

I have had the 1950 Edition of Betty Crocker’s Picture Cook Book for so long I have forgotten who gave it to me. I have never really flipped through it, but a few days ago I was wondering how to properly cook beef tongue while simultaneously vacuuming my home in high heels, and I knew just where to turn.

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This thing is a classic kitchen staple. I think everybody I know has a copy. As I perused the recipes and kitchen tips, I realized just how sexist this book is.

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Sometimes it is easy not to notice how much human culture is centered around food. How we obtain it, how we prepare it, which members of the household are responsible for these tasks.

The book is not without its charm. It features two-page color spreads of meticulously arranged meals that I imagine were quite impressive to the 1950s reader.

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Some of the recipes for standard, classic American fare are truly useful and easy to follow.

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Then the book veers into over-the-top sexist territory. It reminds us women that it is important to not only prepare a nine-course feast every evening, but also to have our husbands’ favorite cocktails ready for them when they walk in the door and be prepared to amuse him with funny anecdotes.

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“Darling, it was just so humorous today when the neighbor’s cat got stuck in our tree. Fortunately I hadn’t started the Welsh rarebit and your vodka martini yet so I had time retrieve the poor dear.”

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Betty Crocker also urges us to be comfortable while cleaning the home. Today’s version would have me vacuuming barefoot in yoga pants and a Metallica tee, with my wild mane of greasy hair pulled into a messy top knot. Hey, at least the vacuuming gets done.

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The quotes from actual housewives also speaks to the time in which the book was published. What?! No help in your five-room home? Poor thing.

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Ms. Crocker also reminds us to relax from time-to-time as we scurry about to make a happy home. Word is, the originally versions came complete with your very own prescription for Valium.

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Despite its flaws, I will keep Betty Crocker’s Picture Cook Book around as a good reminder of how much has changed in six decades. If the book was published today, I would be horrified by it and immediately boycott it, but the 1950s were a different time. It is also easy to see why women eventually became so annoyed with the status quo that they burned their bras and started the Women’s Liberation Movement.

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So I will place Betty Crocker’s Picture Cook Book back on the shelf where it will stay until I need a potato salad recipe or decided to venture outside the box and prepare a meal of beef tongue. And I might just put my copy of The Feminine Mystique next to it on the shelf for good measure.

Shopping: Neutral Gray, Black, and Ivory

I love gray. It might even be my very favorite color. Maybe because it is the hue of my beloved schnauzer, Norman. Or maybe because it always seems to be flattering and can be paired with almost any color.

I just booked an October family photo session with the incomparable Alyssa Crawford and so that means I run immediately to the drawing board for outfit ideas. I’m feeling gray, black, and ivory for this year’s family photo. In case you’re wondering, my husband will be wearing a plain gray or black button down shirt already in his closet and jeans. So today it’s all about shopping for us girls!

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1. I plan to pair this dress with leggings in, you guessed it, gray. (H&M) 2. A bit of lace dresses up a simple tee. Before ordering, I did verify that the lace portion is not see-through. I’m a modest gal. (J. Crew) 3. The perfect black cardigan for my toddler. It looks like something from my closet. (Carter’s) 4. My girl refuses to leave in cute hair decorations, but she’ll do hats. This one is my fave. (H&M) 5. Mother of Pearl earrings keep with my love for gray. (Kate Spade/Nordstrom’s) 6. A simple ivory skirt for my girl to pair with the black cardigan. (Gap)

Book Thoughts: The Natural Way of Things by Charlotte Wood

I have been in a book rut this summer. I just haven’t been able to find a book that really wows me. Until now. I devoured The Natural Way of Things by Australian author Charlotte Wood.

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(Image from amazon.com)

The book is set in a dystopian, misogynistic society at a prison camp where young women are sent to be punished for sexually promiscuity, even for being raped. They withstand violence and hard physical labor at the hands of the prison guards.

This harshness changes them, bringing some of the young women closer. Verla and Yolanda, the two main characters, are flawed and fierce. Wood’s development of characters is excellent, making the book a total page-turner.

Wood’s imagery is perfection, even when it is extremely disturbing. A really good author can make me cringe with her descriptions, and Wood does just that.

If you’re looking for light summer reading, this isn’t it. It’s dark. Very dark. There’s always little parts of dystopian stories that are a little too close for comfort to our real-life society. Despite having none of the happy, light-heartedness many of us look for in summer reading choices, I loved this book and couldn’t put it down.

 

 

Shrimp, Strawberry, and Feta Salad

Hot summer days call for refreshing, yet satisfying dinners. We have been in a salad mood at our house and trying to come up with new combinations. My husband made an amazing steak salad for lunch Sunday so I tried to top that with this creation.

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The savory roasted shrimp and crumbled feta balance out the sweetness of the fresh strawberries.

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I like the Olde Thompson Fish and Seafood Seasoning to give the shrimp plenty of flavor. You can find it at most grocery stores. I bought this at Target.

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Chopped shallots add flavor to the easy vinaigrette.

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Balsamic vinegar, olive oil, and a little salt and pepper round out the vinaigrette.

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I use feta a lot. It is rich and creamy.

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This is a perfect dinner for a hot summer night. Cheers to August!

Recipe:

  • About 1 pound raw shrimp, peeled and deveined
  • Olive oil to coat shrimp
  • Salt and pepper
  • Seafood seasoning
  • 1 tablespoon chopped shallot
  • 2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
  • 2 tablespoons water
  • 1 cup sliced strawberries
  • Greens (I used romaine)
  • 1 cup crumbled feta

 

  • Toss as much raw, peeled, and deveined shrimp as you like in olive oil and season. I used Olde Thompson Fish and Seafood Seasoning, available at Target.
  • Roast at 400 degrees for 10 minutes.
  • Meanwhile, make the vinaigrette: Whisk together a tablespoon of chopped shallot, 3 tablespoons of olive oil, 2 tablespoons of water, 2 tablespoons of balsamic vinegar, and a little salt and pepper.
  • Arrange greens on plates. Cover with sliced strawberries and crumbled feta.
  • When shrimp is cooked and cools for a minute, arrange it on the salad.
  • Drizzle with vinaigrette.
  • Serve and enjoy!

Husbands, Wives, and a Little Thank-You

Lately I have heard a lot of people talk about presence of mind, mindfulness, and other fancy terms that I think are really just telling us to stop and smell the roses.

The other night, I was attempting to be present with my husband and daughter while cleaning up the kitchen after dinner. That’s when I realized something my husband is really good at. (I mean, aside from organized sports and removing foreign objects from people’s eyes.) It’s saying thank you for the little things.

That night, while I was feeling extra glamorous scrubbing a pan, he came up and said “thank you for cleaning up, Babe.” It was such a seemingly small gesture, but exactly what I needed to hear at that moment. After all, don’t we all just yearn to be appreciated? To have our efforts acknowledged when we’re exhausted from the day and don’t feel like we have another ounce to give?

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(Our second anniversary date in Las Vegas.)

I’m far from a marriage expert, but I think a little thank-you goes a long way. A simple thank-you for those daily, often monotonous household tasks can help keep us from taking each other for granted (or feeling taken for granted). So thank you, my dear husband, for making me a better person just by being around you. Now teach me to be a star athlete.