The inconvenient issue with my knee, the pop I heard while playing tennis with my son a month ago, turned out to be a torn meniscus. As a result, I’m unable to do many things I’m used to doing, and I have to do other things instead. Like sit my fat ass in a chair and write, for one.
Having been endowed by my mother with deep-seated optimism and by my father with a pragmatic edge, the first thought I had, upon realizing I would be temporarily incapacitated, was that I might finally finish some things that require sitting still. I thought of my artist friend who illustrated a beautiful children’s book while recovering from a torn ACL.
So I am sitting indoors, watching rain turn the trees green, working on a few things that need to be finished, and thinking about equilibrium, how balance is way of the universe, one way or another.
One thing I finished: some painted eggs to decorate for Easter. Because this project has been on my want-to-do list for years, and finally I had time (and immobility) to make it happen.
Also finished: my printable grocery list, a years-long project that should have been simple but wasn’t. If the division of labor in your household is anything like ours, then a grocery list – on a piece of paper, not a goddamned phone app – helps smooth life along. Once upon a time I found a terrific grocery list pad at Target, when they carried a co-branded Real Simple line.
When that product was discontinued, I vowed to create a newer, better replacement that we could use and that I could share with anyone who might find such a thing useful. A printed grocery list pad, with a magnet or hook on the back so it can hang in the kitchen, has been on my list of product ideas for an eternity. Yesterday, in the rain, with a post-exercise ice bag on my knee, I created the prototype. Here ’tis, in its first iteration (likely to change over time): Larksome Goods grocery list. Suggestions and feedback encouraged, if you print and use it.
Also: some fun custom illustrations for custom stationery.
And in honor of Anne Lamott’s wedding, I finished and printed and started marking up the shitty first draft of The Solace of a Southern Kitchen, stories and essays by yours truly, six years in the making (and probably another six years in the figuring out what to do with it next).
You’ve read all of it, mostly, (you helped me write it, in fact). It’s edited and put together differently, now, like a t-shirt quilt that eventually, I hope, will come together as one unified, cohesive quilt.
Despite being slow moving, I am cooking, too, inspired to use what’s already in the pantry and freezer so I don’t have to make a trip to the grocery. And I’m reading (of course), and daily sending a card or two in the mail for national card and letter writing month (for inspiration, visit the Write_on campaign HQ).
There are two e-mail newsletters (do we call them that, still?) that I read with regularity: Sam Sifton’s What to Cook, and Bill Murphy Jr.’s Inc. This Morning. They are both well-written and easy to read – conversational in tone, informative in nature. I still read The Skimm and The Hustle, but less faithfully than these other two, which I find to be kinder and gentler, especially first thing in the morning.
- How writing about your life can boost your self-esteem (see, I’m not the only one who references Erik Erikson)
- A user’s manual for knees (wish I had read this sooner…)
- Why facts don’t change our minds (from 2017 but worth reading again)
- How a trio of bald eagles re-defines family
- The dark side of empathy
- The Boeing 737 Max scandal, explained (note: this explanation matches exactly what two pilot friends told me, independent of one another and unrelated to this article)
- All the world’s religions, in one map (because infographics are helpful)
- The Gourmet recipes Ruth Reichl cooks over and over again (RIP, Gourmet; I will always miss you)
We’re in farmers market season, but I haven’t yet ventured out (because, hobbling). I’ve been trying to stay creative with the things we already have on hand – cans of beans and tuna, frozen vegetables, pasta and lots of chicken breasts – and the short list of fresh staples we replenish weekly: potatoes, parsley, lemon, lime, garlic, arugula, cilantro, Parmesan cheese, and apples. We are strange, I know.
White bean fritters never fail to delight everyone in our house. The recipe I usually use comes from bon appétit.
At book group last month, our hostess made Blond Puttanesca, and if I can remember to add capers to the shopping list (that’s what those extra lines are for…), then I’m going to give it a try.
Grilled cheese with Jacko’s Pepper Jelly. Just do it.
Sausage, Egg & Kale Casserole: trying so I don’t throw away the bag of kale that I bought when I misunderstood something my daughter said.
And I can’t share the link, because they make it so damned hard, but I made an enormous batch of scrambled eggs using olive oil instead of butter after watching an episode of Milk Street. The eggs were for my son and his friends who spent the night at our house after prom. One of the boys said, “Mrs. Balink, these eggs are SPECTACULAR!” And, honestly, they were – exactly as the show promised they would be. Who knew?
In the past year I have enjoyed learning how many people enjoy writing notes. In particular, I’ve enjoyed learning how many YOUNG people enjoy writing notes.
For April, national card and letter writing month (again – so you won’t forget), I encourage you to write just one note. It doesn’t have to be fancy, long, or formal. It doesn’t have to include much of anything, other than “hello.” It doesn’t matter to whom you send it. Just write one and mail it. You might be surprised how good you feel afterward.
I love your list. Mine would have to include bleach😊
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Ha! Just sent Bernard to the store – trial run. And then he had to go back to the store because we needed bleach, but it wasn’t on the list!!
Now I have to go to Mississippi to get Jackos. Gee, thanks. Or, I can become a wholesaler. Oh sure.
Try Buster’s or Cordelia’s in Memphis.
Long drive from New Orleans to Busters, I’m afraid. But it’s possible, Ray, that a surprise shipment could show up in your mailbox. Happens I know a gal….
Lisa’s getting her second knee replacement in mid May. Me? I suffer from osteoporosis arthritis in both knees. Having had ACL way back in ‘85, Surgery and rehab is something I never wanna face again so, prior to doing my thing at the gym I always start out with, like Dennis Rodman, 8 minutes on the bike to warm up.
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hotchile… what a perfect screen name for you, Campbell.
Brava! You been creatively productive without writing. I haven’t written much other than a few essays that remain on my computer. However, I’ve been knitting and crocheting a lot. Baking and reading, too. I think these are diversions from writing but hope they will inspire writing soon.
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First of all, THANK you so much for the card and note!! I used it almost immediately to send a note to my friend’s son who is deployed in a tiny little village outside of Anchorage. He is a TSA for Southwest and is really having a tough time being so far from home. Fortunately, his deployment is over next month and he will be home on May 14. UNfortunately, he is taking a month off so he can deal with the big issues for a 25 year old. Love that kid, but he has some stuff to go through he is too young to deal with but life isn’t fair. 😦
Second.. I am so sorry for your knee. I hope you are all better soon. Getting old sux doesn’t it?? 😀
LOVE the grocery list. I have already printed it! I use an app on my phone but it is just a “Note” app and I keep all kinds of things in there. I use it a lot lately because my brain has decided to take a vacation, apparently *groan*
I know I said it before, but Happy Easter…
Get well soon but enjoy your time to get things caught up! ❤
Oh, your knee! Maybe this explains the pile of gorgeous unread blogposts from you filling my inbox, like gifts waiting to be unwrapped. I adore your illustrations and your voice here. And I want to hear more about the book! (I’m first in line for a copy…)
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