Goodbye, Tomato Time

For the first time in my adult memory, I am happy to report that I am bidding tomato season farewell with a smile on my face.

I have not developed an aversion to tomatoes; on the contrary, I’m a big fan of their versatility and their fresh way of signaling the heart of the summer season. But 2018 marked a departure in my perspective on tomatoes: I enjoyed my tomatoes a hell of a lot more this year than I did in years past because I didn’t spend half of August and September longing for my favorite CSA crop, sweet potatoes. (If you’re curious about what makes second place, it’d be a tie between beets and butternut squash, both of which show up around the same time.) I’m certainly glad they’ve finally arrived, and hope very much to post a recipe for sweet potato gnocchi with sage and brown butter soon, but I didn’t let any tomatoes go to waste in the back of the fridge this year while dreaming up autumnal dinners. Continue reading

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A New Year, A New Leaf

I really thought 2015 was going to be my year. Truly. Genuinely. I really believed 2015 would be the culmination of all that I’ve learned so far about finding balance between enjoying the good parts of life and enduring the not so great parts as well. To be fair, 2015 was actually an excellent year for me, M, our mastiff, and the sweet new puppy we adopted over the summer: we started new jobs, we started in a new town, and we finally started making time for fun again.

It was with enthusiasm for all these new beginnings that I started this blog early last year. Life was so busy, though, and then so awesome that I barely paid any attention to my page at all. I’d jot ideas down, but then get distracted by hanging out with friends or catching up on sleep. I didn’t post again until two of our best friends made the move back to Italy, a change that left a big gap in a previously active social life. And then there was The Purchase.

Any hopes I had for additional posts last fall flew out the window when we decided to spend finance a purchase for a ridiculous amount of money–money that we obviously didn’t have in hand given that we signed on for several years to pay off The Purchase. First I felt panic–what had we done!? and in the same year we bought a house!?–but that quickly turned to disgust. How could I claim to be living the good life on a budget when I’d clearly spent way beyond my means to buy something that wasn’t actually adding to my day-to-day happiness?  I lost faith in myself and my priorities, and I shamefully let my blog fall by the wayside.

But after some time to really process it, I’ve made my peace with what’s been done. If given the chance to go back in time, I’d probably find some way to avoid spending so much in 2015, but I don’t think I could have come into 2016 so strong in my belief that money can’t buy happiness without any hiccups. And now that there are four months of distance between me and my big mistake, I can see that by sharing a little bit about what makes my days wonderful, maybe I can help someone else make the mistake of confusing the power to buy with the power to find happiness. If anything, at least writing about all the ways we find happiness will remind me not to confuse the two or make the same mistakes this year!

An Epicurean Summer

I’ve ignored this blog for far too long! I could say that I’ve been busy–and I have, really–but that wouldn’t be a completely honest answer. The problem with making time to blog here hasn’t been one of time management, but rather a problem unique to lifestyle blogging: If you’re truly enjoying your lifestyle, blogging might not be the most enjoyable use of your leisure time. Luckily, I’ve come to realize that, to fulfill and live out my personal philosophy, it isn’t enough for me to just enjoy life and be happy–I have to help others do the same.

If I’m going to live this philosophy, though, I should first give some introduction and explanation of a certain philosopherBut Briella, I just want to live the “vita bella,” what should I care about dusty old philosophers? You should care a lot! Philosophy can teach us a great deal about happiness, not least of all when we consider the words of Epicurus. Now, Epicurus doesn’t have anything to do with that recipe website, or with the gluttony a lot of people think of when someone is said to be “epicurean.” No, Epicurus was a Greek philosopher who lived from 341 to 270 BC, and he–being the genius that he was–determined that there are only 3 keys to real happiness. He posited that one could attain peace and tranquility with only the following:

  1. Freedom, as in the freedom to make decisions for yourself without being constantly bossed around
  2. Time to think and analyze your feelings
  3. Friends, and the time to enjoy them often, not just occasionally

Now, I can’t say for myself that these are the only things you need, but if you have these three then you’re further on your way to happiness than I believe many people these days are, or could ever hope to be in our ultra materialistic culture. That’s why I decided this year to dedicate these few warm months to living an epicurean summer. What has this mean for me and my family? It means that we’ve taken jobs closer to home and with kinder bosses so that we have more flexibility to make decisions about how we spend our days. It means that I’ve committed to some brief time daily for meditation, prayer, yoga, or just some quiet time alone with a book. It means we’ve made time to eat dinner with our friends at least twice a week, laughing and talking late into the evening.

Thinking about it now, I certainly couldn’t have imagined a year ago that I’d spend a summer so full of relaxation and joy without ever leaving the state for a vacation, let alone my own neighborhood. Yet here we are. Aside from a few hiccups (well, one tremendous hiccup involving a flooded, mold-covered basement and the loss of $10,000 in personal property) this summer has been so fantastic I’m a little sad to watch it begin to fade. We’ve had a few rough moments–bad or rushed workdays, surprise dog poo on the carpet–but I would say living my Epicurus’s 3 rules this summer has dramatically improved our quality of life. For the first time in years, I fall asleep in minutes, no longer doomed to toss and turn against the insomnia of anxiety. But, then again, how could I sleep badly before a new day, when the one before it ended as happily as this?:

Carbonara Dinner
Just a night with friends around a big bowl of carbonara 🙂

What have you done to make yours a memorable summer? And what do you think about Epicurus and his philosophy of happiness?