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August 2012 (129 posts)
Of course, they are missing the subtext, which is that for some strange reason grown-ups seem to stop liking their birthdays. How to explain to a child? That you start to put pressure on yourself, or the world does, to do certain things and certain times; that you are supposed to have achieved This and That and The Other by This Age, so that if you haven't you greet your birthday with glum recognition. Oh, and the nearing specter of old age and death. But whatever -- cupcakes!
Blogger Abby Try Again has a lovely solution for again malaise: the birthday list. Of her thirtieth birthday she wrote, "It felt special but not, big and little, insignificant and significant. I'm a believer in recognizing the power of each day—not just focusing on milestones...but I couldn't help but be reflective." So she created a list of 30 Things to do Before Turning 31. I love the idea of making every birthday a kind of a milestone birthday (and by doing so, taking pressure off the Big Ones), and I love the list itself. "Make 3 new friends." "Go roller skating." "Do something completely out of my comfort zone." (Hey, those might just all be the same thing!)
Read (And Make) More:
A Mighty Life List
An "I Want" List
A Bliss List
For the eco-minded eater, sushi can feel like a guilty pleasure: Much of the fish is imported from overseas or farmed unsustainably, and a study by the International Union for Conservation of Nature found that more than 40 species of fish could vanish in the next few years, due largely to overfishing.
The next time you're seated at the sushi counter, you can check Monterey Bay Aquarium's handy mobile app for the best seafood choices (domestic Yellowfin tuna gets a green light, while Bluefin tuna is best avoided, both for the planet's sake and because of mercury concerns). Or you can skip the fish (and guilt) entirely and feast on vegetarian sushi. Guy Vaknin, the executive chef at Beyond Sushi, goes beyond the usual avocado-and-cucumber roll at his new restaurant, with creative combinations like asparagus and basil or kiwi and cucumber. We asked the former Hell's Kitchen contestant for tips on spotting worthy rolls at our local sushi joint or making your own at home (it's easier than you think!).
"Like any dish, you eat with your eyes first," Vaknin says. "Green on green can look boring, but picking a roll that has layers of color gets you more excited to eat." The rest, he says, is all about balance: Every soft texture, like avocado, should be paired with something crunchy, like carrots or daikon radishes. And sweet ingredients work well with a bit of spice (Beyond Sushi's mango and pickled jalapeno roll is too tasty to share—sorry, tablemates). And like most green tips, there's no need to think of it as an all-or-nothing proposition: Swapping one of your standard rolls for a vegetarian option each time you're out can add up to a big, happy impact on our oceans.
Finn was rescued by Harnden 14 years ago, and since had become the journalist's go-to friend and companion; accompanying him on road trips and jobs, watching him write his articles and books from the cozy dog bed in the corner of Harnden's office. Finn provided cover when Harnden was traveling and didn't want to be recognized as a journalist, helping him to blend in at bomb scenes and marches, waiting outside while Harnden interviewed, for example, an IRA godfather. Harnden writes, "We had travelled a long way together, from Belfast to Washington to Israel to London and ultimately to the suburbs of northern Virginia but it was clear his journey was over."
Lately the dog had been sick, transformed from his energetic, adventurous self; Harnden writes heartbreakingly of carrying Finn up and down stairs and listening to him yelp with pain. When the time came, Harnden had his vet put Finn to sleep, as he held him in his arms: "I had anticipated the day Finn died being one of the worst of my life. What I hadn't anticipated was the utter grimness of the next day, the first one without him."
This story comes from the City of Big Shoulders itself, Chicago, where a visitor from Alabama made the mistake every rider of public transit fears, and accidentally left her purse on the train. Take a moment to make sure you know where your purse is. I know I had to after reading this, form the Press-Register: "Minutes after exiting Chicago’s elevated train, known as the "L," Nancy Pierce was in a panic. She realized that she’d left her purse with her cash, credit cards, iPhone, even her favorite dangly silver earrings, on the train. " SHUDDER. After a complex ordeal, including some creative ID work to be able to fly home, Pierce settled into her daily life back in Oakleigh, Alabama. Two weeks later, a mysterious UPS package arrived. Yes, it was her purse, sent by the good Samaritan who found it. (Read the whole article for the sender's sweet apology for taking so long to return it.) Pierce said, "I was so excited, and so touched that this woman would do this. It certainly restored my faith in people, and made it even stronger. I know there are really good people in this world." She says she'll visit Chicago again, and even ride the L.
Kind of warms even a city-dweller's crusty polluted heart.
The Ripple Effect of Kindness
Modern Tales of Good Deeds
The Card Game that Encourages Generosity
My thoughts drifted back to that cookbook last week, when I saw NPR's piece on the history of community-based cookbooks. The writer, Jessica Stoller-Conrad, pointed to The Woman's Suffrage Cookbook and 1904 Bluegrass Cookbook from Kentucky. Like me, she recognized their outdated references belonged to a time when women didn't have a lot of personal or professional choices. But she also felt the books were social outlets that "were so much more than just a catalog of recipes—they were fundraisers, political pamphlets, and historical accounts of the communities they served."
They were memoirs too, I suddenly realized. Every gravy stain and little handwritten comment ("add extra salt!" or "need more clam juice") tells a story. My cookbook, however, is wonderfully blank. My mother did not cook. She was a social worker in the 1970s. She did not have the time, interest or energy. Her lack of comment was a comment: There's a big world beyond the kitchen, honey. The silence of stains on each page may just have resulted in my being a working mother too (though I do love cooking, especially when it's something like "Mooseburger Meatloaf.").
Now that we live in the age of round-the-clock blogging, any lack of commentary (of any kind) seems harder and harder to find. I see these kinds of tell-all-say-nothing moments occasionally when a friend restrains herself from making a political point over dinner or someone shows you a photo but fails to tell the story behind it. I wish there were more of them. These omissions aren't nothing. They're windows into our choices: to cook or not cook, to explain or not explain, to show and see if anybody is ready to understand instead of just lecture and opine.
Tune out the World, Find Your Voice
Do You Trust Yourself?
So it was with only hypothetical interest that I viewed a "Viva Snail Mail!" event held recently at our local playground encouraging kids to write and send - gasp - actual snail mail. (Warning: this had nothing to do with actual snails. I know, we were momentarily disappointed too.) The event, and the Viva Snail Mail blog, which compiles notable postcards, postal history, and a fun idea for a postcard-sending challenge (scroll down), reminded me of the tiny and imminently attainable joy that is the postcard.
The postcard! Prettier than an email, easier than an entire letter, and somehow just so summery. What a delight, to receive a postcard from a sunny vacation, preferably with exotic stamps! What a noble-and-yet-doable goal, to send your own postcard to far-flung friends around the world or across town! Peruse Viva Snail Mail for some inspiration, and then get thee to a post office (or print some postcard stamps online—you can even design them yourself). You'll help someone you know combat their own mail box depression, and perhaps, just perhaps, they will return the favor.
Music to Write Letters By
Write a Letter to Know Yourself Better
Got a question about haircare, skincare or makeup for O's beauty director, Val Monroe? Now's your chance! During the month of August, Val is answering your burning beauty questions!
Our guest user asked: What's the best foundation/powder that gives a less made up look?
See Val's video response:
Do you have a question for O's beauty director Val Monroe or O's creative director Adam Glassman? Ask away here!