love.life.eat. of the week

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Last night I dreamed that seven editors vyed for my manuscript, and I was so excited I rolled over and fell off my bed. I fell OFF MY BED while I was sleeping, people. This is where I’m at this week in case you’re wondering. My manuscript is out with four discerning readers, and so far the feedback has been strong and overwhelmingly positive, although I’m white-knuckling, waiting for my agent’s read with bated breath. That, coupled with a busy week at work and preparations for my upcoming nutritionist appointment (and life change!!!), have me spent. I plan to keep things chill today before I toast my friend Hitha’s 30th birthday this evening.

This week I read this article on the psychology of clutter. An ardent minimalist, I don’t own anything that isn’t functional, useful, or devastatingly beautiful. However, parting with a few pieces in my closet has been difficult because they remind me of a smaller size and a markedly different version of myself. Admittedly, it’s easy to cleave to the image of who we used to be–we romanticize it and focus on the broad strokes (the drape of clothes and the exhilaration we felt in buying them) rather than the particulars (the unhealthy lifestyle, the absence of mindfulness). Over the past few weeks I’ve donated and given away 40% of my wardrobe, and have started the task of rebuilding. Purchasing key pieces for the life I lead now and for the body I have now. Granted, who knows what will happen after my three-month program with the nutritionist, but I’ve got to show up for myself and honor myself the best way I know how–not obsessing over a 25-year-old Felicia. To that end, I’ve made a few, deliberate purchases (slacks, dresses, layering tees and cardigans), and I’m really loving everything at LOFT’s Lou + Grey.

I’ll be candid: I don’t like LOFT. At all. The pieces remind me of a “full on Monet,” where the clothes are wonderful at first glance, but up-close, not so great. I’ve had many LOFT pieces which have not survived a year of wear, and I initially regarded the new collection with trepidation. However, after carefully inspecting the goods (seriously, I’m like a surgeon in the dressing room, turning sweaters inside out), I’ve picked up some of the lightweight cardigans and layering tees (on sale!), as well as this linen dress (it’s slightly sheer, so you’ll need a slip). The pieces are lightweight, perfect for the office, and super supple and soft.

When it comes to books, however, I’m a bit of a collector (read: polar opposite of minimalist). I love the feel of books, the crack of spines and the smell of paper. I WILL NEVER GET AN E-READER, EVER. I purchased two books this week: a delightful illustrated wide-range tale of Julia Child’s life–from her childhood upbringing to her being a WWII spy to her ascension as a cookbook and TV star. My friend + brilliant illustrator, Summer tweeted about this book, and when Summer speaks, I listen.

I’ve also scored Alessandro Baricco’s latest. It’s hard to describe his work, other than to say it reminds me of Borges with his dream-like prose, but Baricco always delivers a potent political or societal message. I’ve read all his books and have been mesmerized by the beauty in them, and I’m excited to dive into Mr. Gwyn.

Finally, after long days at work and brutal workouts, it’s nice to come home to a cool apartment, a sweet kitty, and a hot shower, where I can slather 80 Acres’ soothing lavender scrub–the perfect way to ease myself into slumber.

sunday breakfast pancakes + the definition of success

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The measure of achievement is not winning awards. It’s doing something that you appreciate, something you believe is worthwhile. I think of my strawberry souffle. I did that at least twenty-eight times before I finally conquered it. — Julia Child

Years ago, someone told me that this space, this blog you’re reading right this moment, will never be big. Scores of people have told me that my books will never be big because I’m difficult; I don’t color in the lines, rather I invent a whole new book in which to draw and write. I’m not easy, I erect walls the size of skyscrapers. The ambiguity in my writing tends to keep others at a remove, and I don’t tend to look at my work as something that could be viral, easily pinnable, endlessly commented on.

I’m never going to be big because, by definition, I’m not mass market.

For a time these statements confused me, and it’s not until this year that I understood why. Why are we defining success by a metric, a site visit, a number of comments? Why is mass suddenly the marker of achievement? A blog with a book deal and a stylish home living show and a line at a tasteful department store — are these the new markers of success? Have we updated the old playbook where we were told as children that a good life meant having a career, getting married, having kids, buying a house, having a summer house, and retiring blissfully?

Shouldn’t success and happiness be the achievement of what we love to its own end, knowing that end might be private and personal? That we should strive to create depth, complexity, difficulty, meaning and devotion in every single thing that we do instead of optimizing our content for search? Being “social” because that’s the sort of thing we ought to do?

Someone once we told me that we have to think about content in the context of its distribution. For nearly four years I clung to this fiction, repeated it to a litany of clients, left an indelible mark on those whom I mentored, and it occurred to me that this statement was wrong. Yes, of course, of course, we don’t create something to simply leave it there to gather dust, wither and curl inward. But, if I start to fixate on the end game, the thing I’m creating suddenly loses something. It becomes airless, soulless, a pretty picture worth pinning.

I’ll be brutally honest. This blog will never be a platform, a means to make money, or a mechanism for achieving some sort of microfame. For me, this space has always been about exploration, an online space where I can collect and share what I’m thinking, reading, baking, eating, doing. I don’t have an endgame. What I have is a need to create something beautiful each day. So if that means that I post less content, or the pictures (like these delicious pancakes) are not a towering heap of global perfection basking in white light — so perfect for re-pinnning! — so be it.

We are not meant to be just one thing. There is not one endgame or goal. Rather, we should keep exploring and building all the things that make us want to bolt out of bed. For me, it’s writing, it’s baking, it’s sharing food with friends in my home, and it’s sometimes marketing. These worlds have to be symbiotic in some way, that the threads of creativity and passion and devotion find its way from one to another, like points on a map. My job is the driving, the journey.

By the way, who cares about being big? Why not be bold, bombastic and remarkable instead?

INGREDIENTS: Adapted from Nigella Lawson’s How to Be a Domestic Goddess: Baking and the Art of Comfort Cooking
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 tablespoon baking powder
pinch of salt
1 teaspoon sugar
2 large eggs, beaten
2 tablespoons butter, melted and cooled
1 1/3 cups milk
2 tablespoons pure maple syrup
butter for frying

DIRECTIONS
The method to make these deluxe, spongy pancakes is incredibly simple — Nigella is queen of convenience that way. Essentially, make sure all the dry ingredients are well mixed and evenly distributed, and then mix in, with a fork, all of the wet ingredients. Although Nigella recommends that you allow the batter to stand for twenty minutes (to activate the leavening agent, garnering towering fluffs of pancakes), I waited five and my pancakes were delicious and thick.

When you cook the pancakes, all you need to remember is that when the upper side of the pancake is blistering and bubbling it’s time to cook the second side, and this needs only about 1 minute, if that. You can get over a dozen silver dollar cakes with this recipe.

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