Simplicious

A few very simple eats:

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Tomato with mozzarella cheese & olive oil

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wouldn’t be complete without this fresh basil -in-a-jar from our daughter, owner of the Purple Canvas http://www.thepurplecanvas.com/

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A favorite of my husband’s, smoked salmon on a bagel with cream cheese, and tabouli

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Snack in a jar: yogurt, chia seeds, blueberries and walnuts

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Or put the snack through a blender

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A dessert I found on Pinterest and just couldn’t resist making: lemon meringue pie in a jar

When you think you’ve simplified, simplify some more

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We need much less than we think we need. – Maya Angelou

A few months ago I overheard the mother of a bride telling someone that the month before the wedding was insane. It scared me a little because my daughter is getting married very soon, but I determined I would not let it get to the point of insanity. And it really hasn’t, but I see clearly how it could.

We are a consumer society and there is a huge market for weddings. Each vendor wants to schedule multiple meetings and sell their wares, preferably to an eager and demanding bride-to-be who thinks she is the only gal in town that ever married. The wedding cake vendor who requires two meetings to order a cake, and dismisses the groom in hopes of selling to an exuberant and frivolous bride. The makeup artist whose idea of a natural look is $250 worth of makeup. The bridal shop that doesn’t bring out the sought after simpler dresses because they are less expensive than the frilly ones. It’s sales, people. Wedding planning can and should be a joyful time, but without perspective, it has the potential to wreak havoc on one’s peace of mind.

Marketing schemes and Bridezillas aside though, there are things that must be tended to, and every now and then one of life’s details grabs me by the neck and has me in a chokehold. The current detail is wedding centerpieces.

The bride-to-be is, shall we say, the antithesis of Bridezilla. Her preference for her bouquet was literally limited to this: Let’s keep it small. I don’t want to be lugging anything huge thing down the aisle. She is in fact overwhelmed if she has to meet with one more vendor. So with the intention of simplifying, we decided to eliminate the florist by ordering dried flowers and arranging the centerpieces ourselves. I ordered lots of flowers and when they arrived we filled mason jars with dried larkspur in three colors, and then added ribbon. Lovely. In fact it gave me an all is well and I have simplified the decorations and am on top of my mother-of –the-bride duties moment.

And then it hit me. The centerpieces are too big. Guests will not be able to see across the table! How can they talk to someone they cannot even see? I pictured the dried flower arrangement looming too big in the center of the table. It was no longer a simple, pretty centerpiece. It was an obstruction. An intrustion. My nemesis. Worse than a task undone, it was an un-task, something done perfectly wrong that might require starting over.

I looked up images of the venue. I saw a picture of the rustic reception room looking lovely and inviting. In the center of each table was a number set inside a pretty stand. And nothing else. It looked good. Simple! Fabulous! Why hadn’t I noticed this before? There was room for the wine bottles, and open space to see across the table.

Suddenly, our simple centerpieces were too much. I had a box the size of a casket full of larkspur in my basement and what I wanted was to have almost nothing at all. The solution? Either fill the vases more sparsely, or only use the centerpieces to decorate the non-dining tables, such as the place card and gift tables. The lesson I learned? When you think you’ve simplified, simplify some more. When you think you have just enough of something, consider that you may actually have more than enough.

Simple things that I love

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Mason jars have made a comeback, partly due to the resurgence of canning.  These jars have been around forever, yet have become a new shabby chic trend. Now they are wedding centerpieces, candle holders, Christmas gifts filled with muffin mix or soup or crafts. I love them, not just because they are BPA-free and dishwasher safe, but because they are clear and unfussy. I am a sucker for anything polished- rustic, so I am on board for this trend. They are the “where have you been all my life?” containers, and I am in love. They match any decor and can be bought inexpensively, by the case. They come in many sizes, and are easily replaced, given away, and stored. I use them to hold grains, and to make chocolate and vanilla chia pudding. I fill them with a breakfast mix that can be stored in the fridge the night before, shaken, and eaten or brought on the go in the morning. Mostly, I just love how simple they look and feel.

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I’m not real big on accessories, especially if they are big, cumbersome or complicated. But I am a fan of the Infinity scarf.  I find most scarves to be too long for me, and I struggle with how to tie them so they don’t take me over. But I like the idea of using a simple piece to add a splash of color to a basic black or white blouse. So when the infinity scarf was born, I embraced the trend. They fall obediently over a t-shirt and can be easily and prettily tucked into a jacket.  When it comes to accessorizing, my love goes to infinity.

Lists. Nothing trendy here, just pen and paper. I am not sure I could ever give up my lists. I have them going all the time- grocery lists, to do lists, to write lists, books I want to read lists, and then there is the never changing list, such as whose birthday is when. I like to have sticky notes readily available to jot things down on, then add them to my lists. Songs, items, things I want to google, podcasts I want to hear, authors I want to be.  I recently started keeping my lists in a small binder. I’ve divided it into “to do” “to write” and “to buy”.  I love knowing all my lists are in one place, and can be torn out, added to, or rewritten. A new blog post or essay idea? Ran out of yogurt? Came across the name of a book I must read? I simply must list it.

Olive oil.  I’ve liked cooking with olive oil for as long as I’ve been cooking. I also love drizzling it over avocado and tomato salads. But I have a new use for olive oil which has  reignited my appreciation for it. Hair. Yup, I recently learned, thanks to chef Giada De Laurentiis, that this oil is great for the hair. I guess it’s not surprising that Giada would get her beauty products from the kitchen. But after years of trying many products on my sometimes unruly, curly hair, I never would have thought of this one on my own. Thanks, Giada. I love it.