What I Write on Random Tuesdays

I’ve got nothin’. It’s not that I don’t want to provide you with humiliating tales about my children or a ghost story or, I don’t know… something more than what I’m about to give you, but I can’t. I’m gearing up for the first residency of my master’s program. From July 8th through July 18th I will immersed in readings, workshops and classes and all at a location away from home. Yes, that’s right. I’ll be completing my residency on the gorgeous coast of Maine. Right about now you’re probably saying to yourself, Uh…doesn’t she live in Maine? Yes, I do and I’ll only be about a half an hour from my house. Nonetheless, I won’t be home and I have so much work to do before July 8th. Despite the fact that I’ll be working really hard, I can’t help but kind of look forward to ten full days away from children. Does that sound awful?

Let me put it this way, before children I had a career and now I don’t. Sure, that career wasn’t my dream but it was stimulating. There were grown ups there and while it’s true that some acted like children, I still sometimes miss getting in my car and driving down 684 into White Plains and entering the corporate headquarters of Starwood Hotels and Resorts Worldwide, Inc. Yes, I actually said that, I miss it. The company cafe served things like bagels with smoked salmon and, for lunch, soft shell crabs. Thanks to vendor contracts with Starbucks, the coffee was free and, at that mid-afternoon witching hour – the one where you want to crawl under your desk and take a snooze – a man came around with a cart filled with drinks and candy and other delicious snacks aimed at pumping us full of caffeine and sugar to push us through ’til quitting time. You knew he was coming because someone (usually me) announced his arrival by yelling, “SNACK CART!” I loved watching all those people do the prairie dog from their cubicles. The image still cracks me up.

I miss the travel and the employee ‘Hot Rate’ that provided us with discounted rates at Starwood Hotels around the world. Everyone traveled. People would stand around the proverbial water cooler on Mondays and talk about who jetted to where over the weekend. Cheap flights out of Newark and that Hot Rate were the biggest perk of all. Thanks to that job, I dressed in my beautiful clothes purchased during post-work shopping sprees at The Westchester and in Manhattan. My feet were wrapped in the finest of shoes and my hair was always perfectly highlighted and cut. I even enjoyed monthly facials. The world was my oyster. Actually, I like Oscar Wilde’s version of that quote, “The world was my oyster but I used the wrong fork.” I did use the wrong fork. My job ended up being a casualty after I divorced my ex-life and ran away. I don’t regret the run, but I have at times, missed the Heavenly Bed by Westin.

So the long-winded point that I am attempting to make is that I didn’t love my old job, but I did love the perks and glamour that came with it. Working in the legal department of a hotel company was about as far from my dream of writing as I could have strayed. So last winter I applied to Stonecoast at the University of Southern Maine. I sent in my writing samples, transcripts and recommendations and half expected to be declined. I wasn’t. Step one toward making my dream come true has been completed.

The funny thing about going to graduate school to earn a master’s of fine arts in creative writing is that a lot of people have opinions. There were the people who asked why I was “bothering when I already have a kick ass blog” or the people who politely tried to suggest that perhaps a master’s in something more practical would make sense, thus allowing me to write on the side. Then there those who seemed reluctantly supportive, wrapping their encouragement in thinly veiled negativity. I was stopped in my tracks by a few of those people. I wondered why in the world my goal to fulfill a lifelong dream was so bothersome. Was it that they didn’t think I could do it? Did they think I wasn’t talented enough? Did they think that I didn’t deserve to follow the path I veered from all those years ago? Then I mentally gave them the finger and moved on. I’m a grown-up and I applied with the full support and encouragement of my amazing husband. Thanks to his confidence in me, I’m going to earn that master’s degree in creative writing. I’m going to do what I love and isn’t that what life should be about?

So on that note faithful readers, I leave you with this delicious summer salad recipe. Before I got all wordy and self-righteous back there, my plan was to post a picture and some ingredients before I hit the beach with the kids. Instead, you got an earful plus a healthy and scrumptious salad…because that’s how No. 7 rolls.

CUCUMBER & BLUEBERRY SALAD WITH FETA

3 english cucumbers halved and thinly sliced

1 pint of blueberries

salt & pepper to taste

white balsamic vinaigrette (I use Olde Cap Cod brand)

3 tbs fresh mint leaves, sliced into a chiffonade

1 cup crumbled feta cheese

1. combine the blueberries and cucumbers in a bowl and season with salt and pepper.

2. add the white balsamic vinaigrette, mint and feta and gently toss to combine.

Summer Staples

These two salads are staples at my house during the summer months or any other time that I get on a ‘meat is disgusting’ kick and break out my vegetarian cookbooks. Both salads are, hands down, the easiest salad to prepare and both versions are packed with flavor!

Can I also mention that they are also really visually appealing? Look at how vibrant the colors are. I’m a sucker for visual appeal and have been known to arrange every one’s food so that it looks pretty before serving. Frankly, it doesn’t matter what it is… chicken nuggets and broccoli aren’t even immune to an artful arrangement in my kitchen. I’m kind of freaky like that and, besides, the kids like broccoli trees standing tall in mashed potato mountain.

I’ve gone off subject again haven’t I? Shiny things…

Shredded Carrot Salad with Cilantro Dressing
Using a food processor or hand-held grater, shred 2 1/2 cups of peeled carrots and set aside.
Cilantro Dressing
3 tablespoons olive oil
1 small clove of garlic, minced or pressed
1 teaspoon minced fresh cilantro
1 tablespoon minced fresh parsley
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
pinch of cayenne (optional)
With a whisk, combine the ingredients for the dressing, pour over the carrots and toss well. Serve lightly chilled or at room temperature.
 Pretty Beets & Carrots
The bright colors of this salad, combined with its crisp texture and tangy flavor makes it a fantastic summer side-dish.
1 large raw beet, peeled
1 large carrot, peeled
1 walnut-sized piece of fresh ginger root
2 tablespoons olive oil
3 tablespoons cider vinegar
1 garlic clove, minced or pressed
salt and ground pepper to taste
1/4 minced scallions (I’ve also used 1 minced shallot)
lettuce leaves, watercress, arugula or frisee (optional)
  • Using a food processor shredded/grate the carrot then the beet, place in separate bowls and set aside.
  • Grate the ginger finely with a micro-plane and combine it with the oil, vinegar and garlic. Toss the beets with half the dressing and add salt and pepper to taste. Mix together the scallions, carrots and remaining dressing, add salt and pepper if you’d like.
  • Arrange the lettuce on a platter, mound the carrot mixture in the center and spoon the beets around it.
  • Serve chilled or at room temperature.
Both recipes were adapted from the Moosewood Restaurant New Classics by The Moosewood Collective.

Head over to My3LittleBirds and link up to one of my favorite blogs. While you’re there, take some time to read her work. She is, by far, one of my favorite writers. xoxoxoxo