Today is my birthday, and in honor of that I am posting this lovely, gluten-free cake (just the picture), baked for me by my particular friend’s daughter, unexpectedly.
You will notice that there is a divot in the top right corner. Yes, I ate some. Two forkfuls, to be precise, and they were large and delicious.
My friend Bonnie, the superhero, also made me a birthday dinner Saturday night, the first party thrown in my birthday honor since I was ten or eleven, I guess. A small gathering with delicious food and people I love.
As I enter my 46th year on the planet, it seems to me that the most important things have become distilled and clear in my mind.
As we are all still works in progress, there are things with which I still struggle, bonds I am in the process of strengthening, and those which are being carefully dissolved.
But I am grateful this early, early birthday morning for the wonderful people who have stayed with me through my life, and those who have recently become so important. For me, they are the only gift worth receiving.
So to the wonderful people who make up my small, beautiful, determined tribe, thank you so much for being the light and love in my life. My only hope is to be as good a friend to you all as you have been to me. I appreciate you more than you know, and I hope to share this appreciation of you in various ways this year.
“Instructions for living a life. Pay attention. Be astonished. Tell about it.”
As I emerge, blinking, into the March sun from the deepest recesses of the hell that is February and look around, I realize that my house is decidedly not in order.
It happens this way, sometimes.
When the earth begins its long march away from the sun, starting in June but accelerating in earnest as we move through November, I can feel myself retreating, hibernating. I may join humanity for a holiday party or three, but fuck it.
Bears don’t clean.
So the house gets a basic wipedown to prevent it from looking like a truckstop and to keep us in clean clothes and toilets – a whore’s bath of housecleaning, if you will – but other than that the baseboards grow furry, as do the underneath parts of nearly every surface in the house.
I was gifted a year’s worth of cleaning lady for Mother’s Day one year, and after the lady’s first visit she remarked, “It looked good until I started cleaning.”
This is nearly every winter of my life.
But the other side of this is that I cannot function well in a house that is filled with dirt. Metaphorical or otherwise.
Everywhere I look there is grime.
I feel like Punxatawney Phil (the only groundhog. #FuckOffGeneralLee). Of course he is going to see his shadow. They wake him up at the crack of dawn and shine lights on him, and all he can think about is whether or not he has crumbs on his chest from lying on his ass all winter, binge-watching Nurse Jackie while eating dry chocolate Chex because milk is superfluous and they are GLUTEN FREE now. He just wants to waddle back to his hole and go back to bed for six more weeks until someone comes in and cleans his house for him.
Or maybe it’s just me.
So here we are, early March.
It’s time to clean up our act. My act.
I feel a massive wave of cleaning energy coming on. It’s slow, to be sure, but I have finally thrown out the Galentine’s Day flowers and the Christmas tree is near the back fence, ready for a kindly neighbor who may or may not be heading to the dump sometime soon (#TrueStory).
I have changed my sheets and located new ones so they can be changed more frequently.
I bought glass shower cleaner and two rolls of paper towels.
I am getting ready to take various books to the Little Free Libraries located around Hampden, and I am ready to give away and reorganize many of the various things we have accumulated over the less-than-one-year we have been in this house.
It’s time to go top-to-bottom, left-to-right on this bitch.
Usually when I clean like this, I leave directly afterwards so I have the wonderful experience of walking into a house that looks and smells good.
But sometimes people suck and I just don’t feel like venturing out into the world beyond a long walk in the woods, where food is to be found but not easily and not in quantity.
I can’t order pizza in, and although my gluten-free variety is easy, still too much effort after a day collecting ALL THE DOG HAIR IN THE WORLD.
What the fuck, you say. Or WTF if you are a millennial and #JustCantEven.
Not just any salad.
This time of year the farmer’s marker basket is overrrun with hearty greens: arugula, kale, spinach et al. You can’t juice them fast enough. You can’t put them in soups fast enough. Your kids hate them sauteed, no matter how much you talk about Popeye who’s strong to the finish ’cause he eats his spinach.
Side note: My brother and I used to stuff wads of spinach in our cheeks, call them chew, and spit the juice out on the patio for hours after dinner was over, finally divesting out distended cheeks of the desiccated spinach remains when the novelty wore off. Maybe my mom thought we were absorbing nutrients through our cheeks, or maybe she was overrun with greens herself and didn’t give a rat’s ass at that point.
But back to salad.
This salad is delicious, easy, filling, and versatile as hell. The basics are there, waiting to be supplemented by what you have. Chickpeas leftover? Toss them in. Grilled chicken or steak? Yup. Other types of fruit? Have at it.
After hours of scrubbing walls, baseboards, and stainless steel, this salad makes very few dishes; I tend to eat it with my fingers out of the bowl I made it in.
Kale/Arugula Salad With Apple Cider Vinaigrette
Kale or arugula or whateverthefuck greens you have (but no iceberg. #KeepinItReal)
One small bulb of fennel, sliced (optional)
One crisp apple, sliced thin (optional)
One handful of blueberries (optional)
One handful of strawberries, sliced (optional. Are you sensing a trend? Do what you like)
Squeeze of lemon, if using apples
1/2 cup toasted pecans (or any other nut you like, or no nuts if they make you swell up)
1/2 cup apple cider
2 T apple cider vinegar
4 T olive oil (or other oil, whatever you have)
1 tsp. honey
grind of black pepper
squeeze of Dijon mustard (optional, but it helps the other ingredients emulsify and gives the dressing some heft)
pinch of salt
Place greens and other additions (apple, fennel, nuts, etc) in a large stainless steel bowl.
In a Mason jar, combine cider, vinegar, oil, mustard, salt, and pepper.
Shake like hell.
Wait until you are ready to eat, then shake the dressing and pour it on the salad. Eat it all up.
And hey…don’t wait all winter to clean your house.