Archive for the ‘improvisation’ Category

Recently I had a conversation with someone I have not known long, and after mentioning some of the activities I had planned for the weekend, they replied, “How do you do all that?” I  made an offhand remark about making time by eliminating chores like laundry and dishes from my daily routine. (If only that were a joke…) I thought about what she said though, and why these varied activities are a part of my life. The reason is, they make me happy. In fact, one my earliest posts on this blog was about the capacity for happiness. We all have things we do because they enhance our lives – and if you don’t have these things, I’m willing to bet you’re not a very happy person.

Une petit prince: Adding what is needed; taking away what is not.

That’s not to say that activities equal happiness. There is a yin to this yang – Antoine du Saint-Exupery (The Little Prince) wrote, “Perfection is achieved not when there is nothing more to add, but when there is nothing left to take away.” Part of happiness is balance of doing and not doing. The list of things I don’t do is much longer than this humble list, in no particular order, of things that make me happy. (more…)


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I know this song from my childhood. I tried to sing it to the Monkey tonight but couldn’t recall the lyrics, and when I went to find it on You Tube, low and behold: it’s not sung by a dude. It’s a chick who sounds like a dude.


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I’m not tooting my own horn here, but I have one trait that above all others I value in myself. Once I recognized it, I practiced cultivating it, and now know how to keep it healthy and working for me. It’s returns are better than any other investment I have.

My capacity for happiness.

A “capacity” is like a container – I don’t know if we all just have a certain sized happy-container assigned in our genes at birth, or if we can “trade up” for bigger and more resilient containers if we want them. Maybe we just need to learn to maximize our containers, like living well in a tiny apartment. However it works, it’s worth figuring out.

I can say more about this later – since I’m about to go out and cultivate my capacity for New York City – but I leave you with this little guy. Talk about making the most of things. He has found what others might consider to be worthless, ugly, or dangerous, and made it home. On him, it looks like art and makes me smile.

Make the most of your circumstances – whatever they are, I really believe in the capacity to find happiness in, around, or through them. Go ahead and figure out how today. It’s worth it.

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The term “Pollan-ated” isn’t my own, but I’ll run with it, because it is exactly what happened to me in the fall of 2009.

Leading up to my Pollan-ation, though, my soon-to-be husband and I moved from a little basement apartment in Adams Morgan, to a sun-drenched 10th-floor apartment on the edge of DC’s Mt. Pleasant neighborhood. Among it’s many charms is Mt. Pleasant’s reputation for being a small oasis for urban hippies. One shining evidence of that is it’s Saturday Farmer’s Market (a smaller, homier version of the gigantic Dupont Circle Farmer’s Market on Sundays. We moved in May, and within two weeks had abandoned our habit of sleeping till noon to get to the Farmer’s Market each Saturday, to spend way too much money on tempting and tasty fresh, organic and locally grown produce.

iPhone photo, red bell peppers

Tempted by the small pots of seedlings for sale, we put our first balcony to good use, harnessing the solar blessings of our westward facing balcony to grow cherry tomatoes, bell peppers, and an array of herbs that graced our dinners throughout the summer.

iPhone image, cherry tomatoes from our balcony garden, summer 2009

Our refridgerator transformed from a den of bottles and tupperware containers full of leftovers, to a tiny produce section brimming with seasonal delights! The apples! Tomatoes! fresh garlic and basil. Food never tasted so good!

I cannot forget to mention, just prior to our move, we’d signed up for weekly deliveries from South Mountain Creamery, a local dairy that delivers organic milk from grass-fed cows, and a host of other products sourced from a tight regional circle. I guess that milk was the first step, and the market, along with our balcony garden, was the second.

The third came in the fall, when I read Michael Pollan‘s In Defense of Food. Few books have had such an impact on me (and no doubt over the course of this year, the others that have will come up). Pollan’s book reminded me of many of the things I’d heard over the years about healthful food, organic and sustainable growing practices, what is worth eating, and in these days of industrialized agriculture, how to make a difference in the practices that are robbing us of nutritious and delicious food.

And it was joyful! Embracing local, seasonal, sustainably grown food is actually an adventure worthy of my time and attention, and exceptionally rewarding. Since this prequel to my food politics has been a long post, I’ll end by posting what I consider to be my developing “food rules”, and share with you one recipe I made and photographed for you this week. (Each food rule probably warrants a post of its own. I’ve got a year, I’ll get around to it.)

My food rules:
1) It matters what I eat: to my body, to my soul, to my family, to my community and to the planet I live on. So buy as if it matters. Cook as if it matters.
2) It is worth the cost to eat the best available food, even if it means eating less of it, or waiting for certain things till they can be found in their best possible form.
3) Learning to eat what is grown sustainably and in its season is an adventure in gastronomy and improvisation that will result in enjoying a greater variety of foods, which is good for the body and good for the mind.
4) Good husbandry and agriculture should resist the manipulation of plants and food-animals in ways that damage the plant or animal, diminish its nutritive qualities, add unhealthy substances to the final product or grow and harvest in ways that damage the land’s ability to continue to support healthy husbandry and agrictulture. I am responsible through my purchases to support good practices and reject bad ones.
5) Eliminate temptation. I now use Peapod delivery to bring groceries I cannot source from organic, local sources. I have milk, fresh bread and most meats delivered from South Mountain Creamery, and weekly vegetable delivery from South Mountain Veggies. I don’t see all the stuff I’m missing, and am healthier for it.
6) I can learn to love better things, and be a better person for doing so.

My rules are a process, and I probably break them daily. I still eat take-out pizza and salad dressing. I am not yet a vegetarian. But, little by little, I am coming to prefer to my organic roasted potatoes to take-out pizza, and happily noting which days in a week I feed us without meats, and being grateful to see greenhouse romaine in my veggie delivery for fresh salads in winter.

Enough. Here is a recipe for Andouille Roasted Potatoes, with pictures! Andouille sausage probably breaks my rules, but it’s a staple of my husband’s Cajun cooking, and we’re attached. You can substitute any favorite sausage or vegetarian favorite. I improvised the recipe, to make use of items I had from my latest veggie delivery.

Slice 4 large organic potatoes into large chunks and boil in salted water till tender to a fork. Drain and arrange in a suitable baking dish. Top with 3/4 cup or so of finely diced Andouille sausage, 4-5 small shallots, diced, and a sprinkling of Parmesan cheese that suits your taste. Bake at 400F for 20 minutes. Delicious!

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From More Views from the Balcony

Challenge yourself: see things in a new way! It’s in your hands.

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As a new year approaches I’m enjoying a new blog (besides my own): The Improvised Life is a call to everyone to find inspiration in improvisation. A call I can heed with gusto!

Here’s how the little community of writers at The Improvised Life explain it:

The improvised life is about making and creating with whatever is at hand  –  improvising as a daily practice. It starts at home and works outward into the world. While it focuses on the practical, it also encompasses intangibles like intuition, fear and how to tap your inner artist. At heart is the belief that anyone can improvise; it’s a mindset that can be cultivated, first by simply orienting yourself to the idea of improvising, and then by connecting to resources, ideas, and examples that foster it.  We hope that ‘the improvised life’ will provide daily inspiration for your own brilliant ideas.

And, from the site, a manifesto: Improvised Life Manifesto

I hope you find some inspiration there, and also here at One/Week, as you welcome 2010 and it’s infinite possibilities.

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