Bells Begin Ringing

My favorite weeknight recipe of late.

My favorite weeknight recipe of late.

The day I turned in my second Life and Thyme magazine story, I reorganized all the mason jars in my pantry. Brown paper bags had been piling up with scoops of lentils, various grains of rice, and seeds, and to say there was disorder among them would be an understatement.

When I'm under a deadline it's hard to focus on anything else. I'd spent the previous two weeks writing approximately five drafts and simultaneously neglecting tasks like laundry, dusting, and said pantry. There was also the matter of my day job to contend with.

It was this past Sunday morning. Fresh off a dinner party the night before and with my husband reading through the story one last time, I pulled out the offenders. Pistachios, beluga lentils, oats, plus a few empty jars waiting to be filled. It felt good to finish one task and begin another.

That morning I also browsed quickly through my Twitter feed and discovered a timely quote.

I revise a great deal. I know when something is right because bells begin ringing and lights flash.
— E.B. White
Red pen marks for days.

Red pen marks for days.

I feel this way sometimes, too. You just know when the work is done. You know when it's close, when it needs one more read, when you would be best served by walking away for a few hours, and when it's finally, miraculously good enough.

The same surge of energy I feel at the beginning of a project is usually there at the end, except it's even more satisfying because you've survived the treacherous middle, the "jigsaw puzzle" phase as I like to call it.

Much writing is very much like putting a puzzle together on a rainy day. You open the box and sink a little bit when your eyes lock on 1,000 scattered pieces of a Monet painting. Then you plow forward and do the practical thing: collect all the pieces with an edge.

Our writing needs a framework, and the first draft is like the framed puzzle with nothing in the middle. We know where it's going, the edges are set, we can see the puzzle being completed, but there is still work to be done.

Next we categorize by color. All the blue sky pieces in one corner, the sunlit hills in another. Animals over to one side of the table, and anything questionable clustered on the other side. Then you start putting pieces together section by section, setting them inside the puzzle's frame with a triumphant smile. These are like paragraphs, threaded together and sorted one after the other until the truth is revealed.

You almost believe you will finish. One moment, you do. 

To complete a puzzle, or any writing project, is a momentous occasion. Whether it's a single blog post, a long magazine article, or an entire manuscript, it's worth celebrating once you hear the bells and see the lights flash.

I'll let you know when the magazine comes out this summer. I'm particularly proud of this one, because it's a story close to my heart that's been three years in the making featuring an inspiring new restaurant in Los Angeles. More on that soon! 

Snacks at Alma Restaurant

Snacks at Alma Restaurant

As you might imagine, my cooking for the past few weeks has relied on some tried and true dishes instead of testing new recipes, but I have managed to work a couple of new ones into the mix. 

The First Mess put together a healthy bowl from Sprouted Kitchen's new cookbook. It's the kind of meal that makes you feel really, really good. Healthy, energized, and powerful. During busy weeks, meals like this are essential. Cook a few grains on Sunday (like brown rice and quinoa), and make the dressing, then all you need to do is assemble. I'm in love. 

I've also been eating a lot of panzanella. It's another easy assembly-style dish. 

And a week doesn't go by when there isn't kale salad on the menu (similar to this one). Lately I've been making mine with a bright red wine vinegar and mustard dressing that can stand up to the sturdy leaves. Topped with toasted breadcrumbs and a very healthy dose of Parmesan cheese, it's absolutely perfect. 

The kale salad I can't live without.

The kale salad I can't live without.