I started three new projects this week and was on-track to redesign a bathroom, figure out how to turn a so-so office into one that was stylish and ready for its Zoom-closeup, and turn a commercial space from “Ick!” to chic.
And then Election Day and the following days of “What the heck?!” happened: time stood still (I imagined our clocks dripping a la a Dali painting), my focus turned from looking at tile to toggling between various news channels, and I began cramming handfuls of our son’s Halloween candy into my mouth as a coping mechanism–I imagine it will make an unwanted appearance on my waistline next week.
But I couldn’t help it. As I explained to friends, family and clients in the rapid-fire texts we’d send one another signaling support during this time of crisis when morality itself seemed moribund, waiting for the results of the election felt like waiting for a loved one to come out of surgery. Until I knew He was going to make it, my entire focus fell by the wayside.
The one thing that has helped was knowing we are in this together. We’re not alone. More people than not collectively care. So just in case you were also feeling the opposite of calm, I thought I’d suggest some happy, soothing things. A figurative flashlight, if you will, to help us as we make our way out of the woods.
Not to promote drinking….but, you might want to try this cocktail. I give my mom credit for coming up with the basics when one night she asked aloud “I wonder if ginger kombucha and Maker’s Mark would taste good together?” It turns out they did. I added to it until I turned it into my new favorite cocktail. It’s not too sweet, the freshly grated ginger adds a refreshing bite, and the element of kombucha can kind of make you feel like you’re imbibing something healthy. Kind of.
Ginger Kombucha Cocktail (makes one strong cocktail; you’re welcome!):
2 oz. Maker’s Mark
2 oz. GTS Kombucha Gingerade
2 to 3 oz. ginger beer
1/2 oz freshly squeezed lime juice (or the juice of half a large lime)
1 heaping teaspoon of freshly grated ginger
One slice of candied ginger for the garnish (optional)
Pour all ingredients over ice in a lowball glass. Cut halfway through the candied ginger slice and position it on the edge of the glass as a garnish. Cheers! You should start to feel better in about fifteen minutes or fewer. 🙂
Go outside! I know it sounds like a no-brainer, but sometimes we all need a reminder to get some fresh air. Did you know the air outdoors is often 2 to 5 times cleaner than the air which we sit inside inhaling…and exhaling…and inhaling? Not only is the air outside often cleaner, but a little sunlight can do a lot of good as we enter these shorter days because exposure to sunlight can release a much-needed dose of serotonin. As you probably know, serotonin keeps us calm and focused and without enough exposure to sunlight, our natural levels can dip. Nail-biting elections have also been known to drop levels of serotonin off a cliff.
I don’t think anyone needs encouragement to eat more–at least, I don’t; eating is my happy place when the state of things seems to spiral out of control–but eating good, healthy meals, is a wise idea to keep your wits about you. Even the act of cooking can be comforting. Recently I’ve found following a new recipe to be a welcome distraction. This one for Company Pot Roast was well worth the effort (and, be forewarned, there is some effort, but also a great payoff when you taste how comforting and yummy this dish is)!
But I do suggest this: this recipe makes a lot of sauce and as you’re likely to run out of meat before you run out of sauce (there is sauce for days–literally, you’ll have leftovers for days!) we found ourselves making plates of sauce, piling on sliced Swiss cheese (Gruyere also works) and microwaving the dish until the sauce was heated and the cheese was melted. It tasted like a heartier, more vegetable-filled version of French Onion soup.
And another tip: I plated the dish over egg noddles to sop up some of the sauce and garnished the meal with Italian parsley, otherwise, I thought it seemed too blah looking.
Okay, so maybe you’re too stressed to follow such a long recipe. Before I tasted it and knew it was a success, I almost texted my foodie friend to say, “This better work or I want the last hour and a half back!”–there is quite a lot of slicing and searing and chopping before you even get to the part where you stick the roast in the oven–to cook for 2 1/2 hours!– so do plan ahead!
In that case, here’s another recipe, courtesy of Ina Garten, which I made Election Night knowing I’d want be glued to the television, not the cutting board. She describes it in her cookbook as the meal she’ll prepare when she’s in a hurry, and she was right. It’s simple and quick to prepare, but delicious and comforting to consume.
Tip: See that tiny green thing midway up the chicken breast? That was what happens to the basil leaf the recipe recommends you stick under the chicken skin. Because like most cooked green things, basil leaves have an incredible ability to shrink, I’d suggest adding four or five basil leaves (instead of the recommended one) under the skin of each breast to add more flavor–and color! After all, this is called Chicken with Goat Cheese and Basil not Chicken with Goat Cheese and A Tiny Speck of Something Green Which May or May Not Be Detectable As Basil. But that’s just my opinion.
While we’re on the subject of cooking, here is a wonderfully cheery clip of everyone’s favorite (or at least their top five) cooks: Julia Child. Watch this and I bet you’ll feel your blood pressure drop almost immediately. Okay, while you’re at it, watch this one, too.
After all that time standing and stirring, your feet might need a rest. I ordered these house slippers from Target a couple of weeks ago and have been slipping them on every morning ever since. They’re cozy, come in other colors , they’re real suede, and…wait for it…they’re only $20!
I don’t know about you, but I always feel better after I clean the house–not during, but after. Once the dust has literally cleared, I move things around. A new arrangement gives me a new perspective and I certainly needed that this week. And since we just wrapped up on all-things-Halloween, it seemed the perfect time to transition our house into all-things-Fall.
I wiped away all the spooky, and added a plethora of pumpkins.
And a couple of faux pheasants. And a table runner. Here is a similar one that is pretty and a pretty great price.
Then I followed my own advice from last week’s post and added a gazillion lanterns and battery-operated LED candles around the house, set them to timer mode, and now every day at 5:00 pm, just as the shadows start to creep in, they’re kept at bay by the cozy glow of candlelight. I wish you could see it aglow at night. It’s so pretty!
Admittedly, I couldn’t tear myself away from the news this week, but it did occur to me I should switch the channel and watch something so engrossing I’d forget our country’s democracy was in danger. The thing was, I didn’t know what to watch (what would be as compelling as watching our country almost go to hell in a hand basket?) because I had already watched the most engrossing, captivating, enchanting show ever, Gran Hotel, on Netflix. It’s set in 1907 Spain, has Spanish subtitles, swelling orchestral music, a plot that will keep you guessing til the end (it’s a who-dunnit) and the most beautiful sets and actors you can imagine. I’ve told so many people about this show and so far they’ve all gotten hooked.
My mom and I watched it at our respective houses, would call each and instead of saying “How are you?” say “Can you believe s/he did that?” and we dreaded it coming to a close. When it did end, we were in withdrawals for a brief period during which time I filled the void by following most of the main characters (well the actors who played them, although I like to believe they’re still the characters) on Instagram just to keep them in my life. I know I sound like a crazy person. That is how good this show is: it’s crazy-making!
If drinking, breathing fresh air, wearing comfy house slippers, cooking, cleaning your house, and binge-watching television fails to calm you down, there’s always chocolate cake. I found this recipe for Chocolate Cake in a book a client/friend/dear person lent me, The Sweet Life In Paris, by David Lebovitz which is also a very good read and makes you think you might not be missing much by not being able to travel to France right now (he makes a case for Parisians not being the politest of people).
Before sharing the recipe, he explains every Frenchwoman he knows has a go-to chocolate cake recipe that she’s committed to memory, that can be made on a moment’s notice. And if there was ever a week that called for chocolate cake to be consumed in big, hulking wedges, drowned down with a cold glass of milk (or maybe a Kombucha Ginger Cocktail), I think this was it.
Here’s to next week being much better, to staying calm, staying kind, and counting all the votes!
Update: He made it!
Thanks for stopping by!