Once again, my silence around here has extended far beyond my intentions. February, and most of March, slipped by in a series of dramatic, and quiet days. I celebrated my 33rd birthday, had surgery to remove a high risk mass from my breast, took Lu in for two rounds of superglue sutures (on her chin (stairs) and forehead (coffee table), respectively), and one round to remove all the superglue and stitch her forehead up with three sutures, and laying low to recover from the surgery, stitches, and a late round of the seasonal flu. Once we worked through the initial frustration of cabin fever, it was kind of wonderful to find our rhythm of staying in our pajamas all day for days at a time, enjoying the spring downpours and rainbows from the comfort of the couch and backyard, weeding and prepping the garden for spring planting, sipping lots of Sleepytime Tea and hot toddys, and watching pretty much every Disney movie ever made. It’s made the last few days of, “Oh my goodness we actually feel human enough to join the outside world and it’s 55 degrees out!”, so much sweeter.
In the last weeks of recovery and quarantine, I found myself slipping out in the evening to go grocery shopping rather than my usual mid-morning routine of loading up the kids and doing a full grocery shop with them in tow. At first it was because I wasn’t supposed to lift anything (or anyone) heavy, and then because the kids had such rotten coughs and fevers that it would have been socially irresponsible to take them out in public. I have to admit, while I love taking them shopping with me, my quick, short, solo trips to the grocery store have felt like little escapes from the confines of our living room littered with tissues, thermometers, DVD cases, abandoned teddy bear tea parties, and discarded princess dresses. I found myself gravitating towards somewhat repetitive, simple, ingredients and staples; the kind of ingredients that quickly become a crisp, tart salad for lunch, or a fast, simple, quiche or scramble for dinner. I’m sure that next week, when we’re all feeling 100% we will get back to our menu planning and all-together grocery shopping, but I’m going to keep that quiet, efficient, simple, alone-time grocery shopping in my back pocket for those evenings when I need a moment to myself.
It may not seem like much, but as a stay at home, quasi-homeschooling, work from home mom/wife/sister/friend/daughter/person, it’s all about finding those little moments of quiet. It’s about making myself a latte before I get my kids their breakfast even though they’re chirping at me, pulling at my legs, and acting as though we’ve never ever fed them before; the scalding hot shower extended by five minutes; taking an extra long time to walk down the driveway to the mailbox to get the mail; the moment of pause after the kids are buckled in the carseats and the car is loaded with the stroller, water bottles, hand sanitizer, pull ups and a change of pants and underwear “just in case”, sunscreen stick, and half a peanut butter and honey sandwich slapped together for my breakfast that will ultimately be consumed by my kids, to stand inside the front door and take three long, deliberate breaths even though we’re already running late; the extra ten minutes after the kids are down for naps to pull together a refreshing, salty, sweet, tart, crisp, nourishing salad just for me. All of those little moments add up, and give me enough time to remember that I’m doing a good job, that I’m a good mom, a good wife, that I am enough even though I fail often, lose my temper, have to ask for help way more often than I’d like, have muffins I forgot about in my purse and moldy apple cores in the base of my stroller, and a mountain of laundry that could rival Everest.
Anyway, I got a bit off topic, I wanted to share with you my recipe for that “refreshing, salty, sweet, tart, crisp, nourishing salad” I mentioned in my rambling list of ways I’m learning to put myself first. I’ve made variations of this salad, which is, at it’s core, a Fennel, Apple and Celery Salad, but I think I’ve recently come up with my favorite version. The salad begins, as I said, with licorice-y fennel and tart apple, thinly sliced, and is quickly transformed with the addition of crisp, tender celery, crackly celery seeds, salt flecked Parmesan, and Meyer lemon zest and dressing made from sweet, peppery olive oil and fruity Meyer lemon juice (if you don’t have Meyer lemons, a regular lemon will do). Whether it’s raining outside, or there’s sun streaming through the window, or you’re exhausted and recovering from a late night administering Ibuprofen and Tylonel to your little ones, or you’re elated and restored from a long, perfect night’s sleep this lunch will either aid in or add to your restoration with it’s optimistic texture and bright, clean flavors. I’ve made this salad for solo lunches, to accompany roasted chicken, and I’ve even been known to make it for breakfast; that’s the kind of cravings it fosters.
1 sweet apple, cored and thinly sliced
2-3 center ribs of celery (leaves included), thinly sliced on the bias
2 small bulbs fennel, trimmed, cored and thinly sliced
palmful of fennel fronds, finely chopped
1/2 teaspoon celery seeds
1/2 cup coarsely chopped Parmesan cheese
1/4 cup roughly chopped Italian parsley
zest of 1 Meyer lemon
juice of 1 Meyer lemon (about 1/4 cup)
about 1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil (equal parts lemon juice and olive oil)
freshly ground black pepper
In a small bowl whisk together the lemon juice and olive oil and season it to taste with salt and pepper. Set it aside.
In a large bowl toss together the apple, celery, fennel, fennel fronds, celery seeds, Parmesan, parsley, and lemon zest. Toss immediately with the dressing. Season to taste with salt and pepper, and serve.
Serves 2 as a main meal, 4 as a side.
FENNEL , APPLE, and CELERY SALAD