Wednesday, November 23, 2016

$20 and 20 minutes: A last-minute Thanksgiving table

If you have $20 minutes and 20 minutes, you can pull off a pretty, last-minute Thanksgiving tablescape with just a few items from the grocery store:
  • A bouquet of Thanksgiving-colored flowers: $10.00
  • 6 pears: $2.00
  • 8-oz Mason jars: $8.00
Cut the flowers so the blooms are just sticking out of the jelly jars, and place the little vases at even intervals down the length of your table. The jelly jars are not only pretty, rustic, cheap, and reusable for a variety of things (I'm using the rest to serve a seasonal cocktail), but they're also low enough that folks can see each other across the table. 



Choose pears with a flat-ish bottom (so they can stand up) and a long stem, if you'd like to use them to affix name tags. I used forelle pears because they have a pretty deep-red and sage-speckled hue. 



Either place the pears between each of the jelly jars along the center of the table or use them as place settings on top of the plates.


Extras: Handmade name tags, pretty ribbon, rosemary sprigs tucked around the pears (you might already have rosemary in the house if you're making a turkey!)



Happy Thanksgiving!
Love to all! 

Sunday, November 13, 2016

Post-mortem

My close friend and I took this picture on Election Day. We posted it on Facebook with a cutesy caption. It was my idea.

We had just voted for different candidates at the same polling place, and taken our little girls out for ice cream sundaes afterwards. How beautiful, how very American, it would be, we thought, to stand together, shoulder-to-shoulder, and graciously and humbly declare ourselves friends and sisters on such a divisive day.

I was giddy with happiness and hope. I had just cast a ballot for a woman who I’ve admired practically my entire life. I had waited for her to be my president for 20 years. I sat in the disabled-access polling box with my little girl and we smiled as I filled in that little bubble with her name next to it.

I must say, it’s a lot easier to be gracious and humble when you’re sure you’re going to win.

This week has been a test for me. I grew up in a bubble, grew up believing certain things. I was taught that it was not OK to judge someone by the color of their skin, what religion they practice or don’t practice, their physical appearance or abilities, or who they love. I took these things for granted as truths, “universally acknowledged,” to quote Jane Austen. When I read Harry Potter to myself and to my daughter, the idea of “Muggle-Born Registries” seemed to be an allegory for distant events, far-removed from the beautiful and inclusive America of the 21st Century. A good reminder for history.

Now we’re flirting with such ideas today. I think everyone can agree, it’s chilling.

Do I believe that my friend, and indeed, even most of our new president-elect’s supporters have hatred and racism in their hearts?

No.

I don’t believe that. I can’t. It would be too much to bear. But I believe that the handful of those who do have hatred in their hearts now have permission for those feelings to be normalized, vocalized, and even acted upon. Now it’s up to Trump and his supporters who don’t feel this way to loudly denounce such words and actions. They’re the only ones who can do so effectively.

I’m white, middle-class, educated, employed, heterosexual, and live in the Northeast. Despite my heartache, my bubble is intact. Yet I do fear for those people who are more vulnerable than I am, including my little girl, who has a physical disability. The world has never been a particularly hospitable or easy place for the differently-abled, but we’ve come so far. Just 30 years ago, when I was her age, my daughter’s life would have been so different. I can’t watch that progress erode away.

But I also think back to where I was one year ago: In the hospital after my daughter had what can only be described as a terrible surgery with a painful, months-long recovery. Who came into my home, without hesitation, bearing food and craft projects, to sit by her side and talk me off the ledge when we had a hospital bed in our living room and my daughter couldn’t sleep for more than 30 minutes at a stretch? My friend in the above picture. Who makes sure that every pathway—literally and metaphorically—is cleared when my daughter is in her care? My friend in the above picture. Who was the first to donate a big, generous box of art supplies when I was collecting them for Boston Children’s Hospital? My friend in the above picture.

And who promised me, in the days following the election, when I was heartbroken and terrified, that she would be by my side, always fighting for what is right on my daughter’s behalf? I think you can guess.

Already, I’m seeing people in my life who are saying, “We might have different opinions about some things, but not the big things. I stand with you.” For that, I’m so grateful. May others who are marginalized also be so lucky, and may those who supported Trump be as brave and outspoken as my friend to tell the people who they love, “I stand with you,” my Muslim friend, my gay friend, my black friend, my immigrant friend.

That's America. 

Tuesday, November 8, 2016

Eat Well, Travel Often

The view from the stunning Grace Bay Club in
Providenciales, Turks and Caicos

On our last night on Turks and Caicos Islands (TCI for short), we drove away from the gorgeous Grace Bay Club resort to have dinner at Bugaloo’s, a wooden conch shack that’s as popular with locals as it is with visitors. Bugaloo’s is perched at the edge of a bay in an area of Providenciales island called Five Cays Settlement, where little fishing boats bob gently with the tide and jetties piled with rocks and conch shells extend across the sand.

We arrived after sundown, when the restaurant’s open-air deck was packed with people and ringed with palm trees strung with white lights. Across the sand, a band played a mix of traditional music and island-infused pop hits.

The band plays at Bugaloo's.

Other performers wowed the crowd with tricks. One spun a flaming wheel on his foot and balanced weird combinations of items on his head, like a plastic deck chair and stacks of glass bottles. Another, dubbed “TCI James Brown,” took the stage in a glittering, sequined red jacket and danced frenetically, channeling the Godfather of Soul as he jerked and shimmied across the stage to songs like “Papa’s Got a Brand New Bag” and “I Got You.”

Couples danced barefoot in the sand. A little girl, who looked about 4, spun in gleeful circles on the deck, pumping her tiny fists and stomping her feet, just a little off the beat. A mangy, stray “potcake” dog—a mongrel breed found only on TCI and the Bahamas that’s named after the cooking-pot dregs that the locals feed them—hobbled between the tables, in search of food scraps and ear scratches. 


This potcake wouldn't stay still long enough for a decent
picture of his cute and crazy face.

It was a happy night. We ordered a silly amount of traditional island food, filling the table with plates for the five of us to share—coconut-fried shrimp; fried spiny lobster; rich, pepper-flecked mac and cheese; cool, crunchy cole slaw; peas and rice (which in the U.S. we might call rice and beans); and conch every which way: fresh and citrusy scorched conch; conch salad; cracked conch; crispy coconut conch; and conch fritters. We drank pleasantly bitter Turks Head beer, an island brew, and passed plates heavy with food, urging each other to “Try this!” We unabashedly ordered second helpings of mac and cheese. We gasped and applauded as the performer “ate” fire and sang along with the band.


Our delicious spread of fried everything.

I loved the amber beer; my new buddy Nick
opted for the lager.


I've always wondered how someone first discovers
they have a talent for balancing stuff on their face.

Later, I walked across the deck to look at a small jewelry stall that stood adjacent to the restaurant and noticed TCI James Brown sitting on a stool a few feet away. He put out his hand for me to shake, and I took it. Before long, we were deep in conversation, with him regaling me with stories about his life, his fame, his friends around the world, meeting "The Godfather" himself (James Brown), and his philosophy on aging (In a nutshell: Never retire). I’m not really sure how the conversation strayed that way, but I listened to his stream-of-consciousness chatter, only asking the occasional question. His eccentricity was apparent, and so was his genuineness.

“Hate and poison sound the same,” he opined. “But love sounds good.”

I nodded, unsure about what to say. Yes, love does sound good.

Aren’t people interesting and funny?

This is my favorite part of traveling. I believe with all my heart that the world would be an infinitely better, more generous, and more understanding place if everyone had a passport and eagerly filled the pages with stamps. They’d discover that the world is both exhilaratingly enormous and humblingly small. They’d discover that most people are good and are trying their best, and that everyone wants someone to listen to them. They’d discover that all of these good people live their lives a little bit differently (sometimes a lot differently) but in many ways—the most important ways—we’re really all exactly the same. We all get zits and headaches. We accidentally swear in front of our kids when we stub a toe. We share meals with family and sometimes have a few too many glasses of wine. We laugh so hard we can’t breathe (and maybe pee a little). We love our kids more than life itself and stare up at the stars and find pictures.

We are not alone in the world, which to me, is an exciting and comforting thought. I love the far-flung beaches and new flavors that come with traveling, but when I get home the moments that tend to stick with me most are the conversations with people whose paths I never would have crossed unless one of us stepped onto a plane and into each other’s lives, at least temporarily.

It’s a little piece of magic that I hope to chase all across the world. It's a healthy reminder that we're all in this thing together. And it gives you a chance to do stuff like this: 


Travel well, my friends. Love to all.