Writer Chats, Part VIII: Training Wheels

The number of days I have spent with Joanna in person, you could count on two hands—but sometimes, like when she writes me an email full of wisdom or, like a few weeks ago, when she passes two hours like nothing (!!) with me on the phone, I think how this woman is one of the best friends I’ve ever been given. She is a breath of fresh air, a kind of big-time magazine editor, and, also, a gifted thinker and writer. We’re so happy to be sharing her helpful and inspiring thoughts, in part eight of our Writer Chats series.

writerchat-joanna

With almost everything in me, I want to write a novel. I want to tell stories that reveal truth, that change hearts, that make readers feel something.

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Grill-less Grilled Sambal Chicken Skewers over Greens

Sambal Chicken Skewers

You would think, after nearly five years of regular blogging, a person would become immune to the kindness in the blog community. At least that’s what I keep thinking this week, after publishing Tuesday’s post, and hearing such kind, thoughtful responses from so many of you. You would think I would be used to this and, accordingly, that it wouldn’t mean much, but, in fact, the opposite is true. You guys. Thank you. Thank you for reading here, caring about what’s said, and writing quick notes in response. More and more, I see that it’s a gift for bloggers to let the world into their lives, to be “publishing parts of [our] li[ves] for the world to read, [thereby opening ourselves up] to judgement and critique,” as Kelsey put it. But, like she concluded, I also see that it’s a gift that people do, in fact, read. It’s a gift that you come to this space. I might not ever get over the fact that friends and strangers listen to our stories, or the fact that you’re reading this one, today, but thank you.

Around here, in the world of “cooking my feelings,” it’s been a round-the-clock-kitchen week of buckwheat chocolate chip cookies, vegetarian pot pies, haphazard salad dressings made with whatever I throw together in the Vitamix, summer rolls, peanut sauce, beet greens, roasted beets, bananas topped with peanut butter, Dutch baby breakfasts and, I could keep going, but I think you catch my drift. Also, Sunday, after we listened to someone talk about the idea of grace, which is, put simply, undeserved goodness, we came home and made these Sambal chicken skewers from Bon Appetit.

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The Moments That Make Up Our Days | A Monthly Photo Essay (July)

This morning, I tried to wake Tim up at 6:30 AM; instead, we both ended up sleeping until almost 9. I can’t say I’m sorry. I will say, however, that the magnetic force that pulls you back towards the covers is the very same force that tells you to leave the camera on the shelf and, accordingly, that today’s photo-every-hour project almost didn’t happen. Looking back on these images now, though, I’m glad it did. I’m also glad for the many gifts—graces—this project represents (more on those graces Friday). I keep thinking lately that all of us, everywhere, are constantly being given graces, morning by morning, comforts we didn’t cause. I wish we paid attention to them.

(View last month’s photo essay here)
(View May’s photo essay here)

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// 8:30 AM: Who of us has ever helped the sun come up? And yet, each morning, there it is, again.   //

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Zucchini Ribbons in Vegan Pesto Alfredo Sauce

Zucchini Ribbons in Vegan Pesto Alfredo Sauce

There is such satisfaction in bringing together a meal, especially on a dreary day. Where most people crave blankets and movie screens on cloudy weekends, I am the type to crave the kitchen. The kitchen is a place of birth and discovery–a space for testing ideas and seeing what works, for creating combinations that nourish and delight–and when the dreary day you’re facing stems from more than the weather, discovering new things is like medicine for the soul.

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Beet and Lettuce Salad with Green Onion Vinaigrette

Beet and Lettuce Salad with Green Onion Vinaigrette

Tim and I got a new bathroom ceiling this week. First, we got a massive ceiling bubble that Tim had to pop with a knife, straddling the toilet and the tub, a five-gallon bucket in his other hand while water shot from the ceiling cyst like milk from a cow; but then, beginning Wednesday and ending, hopefully, right around the time this post publishes, a nice handyman named Jim patched and worked and painted things, and our ceiling looked like a ceiling again. I’m not afraid to use the bathroom anymore, and I don’t have to drive down the street to White Castle to sneak into the ladies’ room, so obviously things are looking up. Also, Monday night and Tuesday night, like rewards for the days we’d survived and laughed through, the two of us sat down to matching plates piled high with salads like this one. Even I have to admit it’s hard to complain when your plate is full of this.

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Picnicking and a Grape Galette

“The proper attitude toward a picnic is somewhat devil-may-care. You do not have to stand in the kitchen cutting perfect sandwiches and making perfect potato salad or frying chicken (although every once in a while an old-fashioned picnic is just the right thing). So what if all you have in the fridge is leftover rice, a couple of scallions, and a jar of almonds? You may have invented a lovely new rice salad, and no one will care if it is not their usual, because you are on a picnic.” — Laurie Colwin, More Home Cooking

picnicking

If there’s anything better than spending a summer night outdoors, it’s spending a summer night outdoors, in a vineyard, with a bag full of picnic food and blankets. Around here, our typical version of Colwin’s “rice salad,” tends to look like bread, fruit, cheese and chocolate, along with whatever leftovers or sauces or sides we can drum up on our way out the door. Let me tell you, nothing tastes better than that humble spread, set out in the fresh air and golden daylight, while you wave off gnats and listen to kids playing tag on the hill below. Picnics like these, to me, are summer—the very essence of longer days and freer schedules and warm air on your cheeks. You could eat grapes and bread in the car or or on the sofa or at the kitchen table, but taking them to grassy fields reminds you of the season you are in, of the time that’s moving ever forward, of the need to stop and savor it and drink it in.

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