photo by Dave Beckerman
While there's a bit of a deep winter lull in sales, I've been turning my attention to other things. One is cooking dinners that involve more than three ingredients (two of which are usually from Trader Joe's, the third is wine...dang, also from Trader Joe's).
Some super nice friends of ours belong to a local organic CSA and their house is the pick up location, so when other members don't show up for their produce (or our friends lock their front gate and won't let them in) they can keep or distribute the leftovers to friends! Last week we were the lucky recipients of a huge box of lots of gangly green things that we've been faithfully plowing through as best we can. I've had spinach in my teeth ALL WEEK! And I kid you not, there was a head of lettuce in that box whose texture and flavor were transcendent, I tell you! Almost like steak, but better because it won't kill you. Seriously, it was so different from grocery store lettuce. Say what you want about organic but I'm a huge believer that the flavor and nutrient levels are superior to conventional vegetables. And I know I'm right.
Do you belong to a CSA? I would definitely consider doing it, or sharing a weekly box with a friend or neighbor if you think you can't use it all. Not only have we eaten WAY more greens and veggies this week than usual, but I feel like it's influenced our other food choices, too. You're just not going to follow a giant helping of kale with an In 'n Out hamburger! Unlesss you are, and then, at least using the spotty logic of my 14-year old, the kale cancels out the burger.
I've also been developing recipes for muffins. Not all technical and stuff, with test tubes and scales and calculators, but mostly by throwing flour all over the kitchen and putting everything healthy I can find plus some sugar into a muffin pan and baking it.
Our usual snacks are pretty healthy; edamame, hummus and pita, nuts, etc.. You know, the regular snacks of the privileged white minority. But these boys of mine are starving ALL THE FREAKING TIME and will mow through more processed stuff like cereal bars (gasp!) and Pirate Booty like no one's business. I know, because I find the bags and wrappers stuffed behind every cushion and pillow in our house! The act of sitting down over here is always accompanied by the sound of crinkling cellophane. I'm not a huge baker because I hate being tied to recipes, but muffins are quick and can survive my...experimentation.
I developed this recipe using ripe bananas to replace a lot of the fat and sugar, and stuffed them full of zucchini, whole wheat, and flax. They're ridiculously tasty, and I (almost never) find them stuffed behind cushions!
Whole Wheat Zucchini/Banana/Flax Muffins (plus chocolate chips if you're smart)
3 cups grated zucchini
1/4 c. oil
2 very ripe, large bananas mashed well
1/2 c. white sugar
1/3 c. brown sugar packed
2 1/2 tsp vanilla
in separate bowl mix:
1 1/2 tsp cinnamon
1 1/2 tsp baking powder
1 tsp soda
1/2 tsp salt
1 1/2 C whole wheat flour
1 1/2 C white flour
1/4 C ground flax (or more!)
Add dry ingredients to wet, mix gently until just combined, throw in a handful of chocolate chips (we did...so good)
Put in greased muffins tins
Bake at 350 for 20-25 minutes until wooden pick comes out clean
Makes about 30 medium muffins with zero calories and .0002 megahertz of fat
And now the biz stuff:
Speaking of sales lulls, I've been thinking a lot about business lately. I always believed that my business would grow organically...that more and more sales would lead to hiring employees, opening a bricks-and-mortar location, and that I would eventually be running the business instead of doing most of the work. Although I can't really claim to have had a real plan, as I started this business completely by accident and have been trying to catch up with it ever since!
The economic implosion certainly didn't help the natural business progression I had hoped for. I feel incredibly thankful that I was able to simply keep my business running and profitable during the worst of the worst. While people around us were losing their homes and jobs, I was nervously paying off every bill and saving money in anticipation of the slowdowns that did indeed come for both my, and the hub's, business. Even though business dropped off steeply at certain points, we were totally o.k., and even spent the past few years traveling around the world with our kids (albeit super cheaply!) So I can't claim to be a total failure at this.
The economy is only half the story, and I am the other half. I've lately come to realize that I'm not as motivated as I'd like to be, the creative juices don't flow as fast, because design and furniture don't seem like important, meaningful work. Fun, yes. But let's be honest; I'm not changing any lives here.
On the other hand, my creative juices are a gosh darn Niagara Falls when it comes to helping people and fixing things. This is when I'm at my best and most motivated, which shouldn't be surprising...those aptitude and personality tests we all take in high school and college consistently said I should be a missionary or social worker! I really need to grapple with the fact that sometimes business can just be business (a living, a means to an end) and doesn't have to change the world, but my idealism says everything you do should matter!
Another part of this equation is that I still have a hankering for a professional life. I really intended to be an English professor/academic writer, and I fritter away a lot of my energy being "torn" about what I do instead of really investing myself fully into it. Sometimes I have an "I'll do it, but I'm not going to care about it because it's not brainy" attitude.
And finally, working from home tricks everyone, including me, into thinking I'm a stay-at-home mom. Sure I'll volunteer for your field trip, sure I'll give you a ride, yes I can babysit, bake muffins, do the laundry, and pick up the drycleaning! The joy of self-employment is making your own schedule! Right? Wrong!
Again, because I place little importance on business and money, I tend to prioritize everything else over it and end up not investing the time necessary to make it truly successful. I put everyone else's stuff first and allow that to dictate my schedule, instead of the other way around. Sure, the flexibility is a godsend sometimes when it's truly needed (sick child, family emergency, a well-earned personal day), but really, the structure of a fixed schedule helps keep everything in its place!
It's been interesting this week to see a mom working through issues that are very opposite to mine (a rigid work schedule, necessary business travel, missing out on kids' things, the pressure to have a remarkable career), and all the time I'm thinking, "I'd like to have those problems right now!"
It reminds me that we all have doubts about what we do, and there is no single way to get this family/money/meaningful work thing just right.
Yet I think it's in the nature of femininity to constantly question the path we're on, analyze how meaningful our work is, and fret about the impact of everything we do on our family. I don't think we will ever stop. Nor should we. This self-analysis is not driven simply by perfectionism, as I may have erroneously suggested to this mother. It's also driven by idealism, which is the less-neurotic sister of perfectionism. Women are born improvers, and while we can and should learn to enjoy things as they are, we will always see the ways in which they can improve. That's not a flaw.
Our husbands can usually do the status quo/contentment/living in the moment thing quite well, while we constantly have our eye on the bigger picture, the end goal. And I think we should give ourselves some credit for that. We see the possibilities and we move our families, our communities, our world, forward towards them. Yes, it drives everyone crazy sometimes, but ours is the idealism behind progress and change. It's the reason things get done and are made better.
So, ladies, I want to ask you this question: Heaven only knows you'll take all the blame, but when's the last time you took some of the credit?