November 2020 Newsletter

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More Positive Than My Pup

It is a bright, warm day in my smallish backyard. The sun is shining, new grass has sprouted, squirrels and birds flit over and between bare tree branches.

This is a wonderful place to while away a few hours — especially if you are a five-month-old puppy. There are sticks to chew on, a big, full bowl of water, even a couple of chickens to watch from the corner of your eye.

But what is our mostly cheerful rescue pup doing? Lying as close to the back door as she can, whining. Sometimes she takes a break to bark and paw at the handle.

It’s not like she was any happier inside. She was done sniffing the kitchen floor, sick of napping in her crate, bored with her chew toys.

Outside, there’s dirt and smells and leaves to chase. But Bailey cannot embrace any of the good that surrounds her. Because she is worried that her humans won’t return. Because she is lonely. Because she wishes her day were going differently than it is.

Which I totally get. Since I have pretty much spent the last eight months whining, too.

For sure, there’s been plenty to mourn in 2020. I don’t want to minimize that. The worry. The lives lost. The paychecks gone in a blink.

But if I think honestly about how I spend much of my day, there is plenty of positive, too.

Just like Bailey, I have sunshine and grass (and trails to hike and stars to watch and a fire pit to gather ’round). I have my humans (even if I have to connect via phone or computer rather than in person). I have books — and more time to read them. I have fresh food from the farmers market and a world of recipes at my fingertips. My kids are moving forward — not as we had imagined, but forward nonetheless.

So in this month that has been set aside for giving thanks, I am striving to be more aware of the little things that bring me joy — the hour or so of quiet I’m finding in my day to recharge, the feeling of satisfaction when my work of stitching words together turns out well, the fiery pineapple sage flowers blooming beside my patio.

And I am trying to be the kind of puppy that, when my human takes me outside and leaves me there, I move past my disappointment and loneliness. Instead of whimpering pitifully, I want to run in the open space and jump at the moth darting by. Even though I’d rather this moment included my favorite people and lots of laughter, I’m working to stop my dreaming and focus on what is.

Right here, right now, what is good?

Because soon enough, someone will walk to the back door to let Bailey know it’s time for her beloved walk through the neighborhood and a tasty dinner and snuggles on the couch. Her hours of waiting will be over.

I just want to be the puppy that finds a way to embrace the time I can’t control, not the puppy that whines it away.

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If you follow me here, on social media, or in real life, you know of my love of ballet. I studied it and now my daughter does (she’s way more talented than I ever was). As the holidays begin, ballet fans would typically be gearing up for our biggest show of the year: The Nutcracker. I wrote an essay about what this performance means — to dancers and their audiences. If you’d like to see my Sugar Plum Fairy in a once-in-a-lifetime production, you can stream it here from Dec. 11-13. This filmed version of the ballet classic will showcase not only the amazing dancers from Southwest Virginia Ballet, but also beloved icons of the city of Roanoke — places you might want to visit someday.

I’ve begun a new gig reviewing food and drink books for Publishers Weekly.The reviews are anonymous, so I won’t link them here. But I can let you know when I come across a book I think you might enjoy. The Tahini Table is an intriguing concept: 100 recipes from appetizers to desserts, all featuring the incredibly versatile and nutritious ingredient of ground sesame seeds, or tahini. Check out the No-Cheese Queso Dip recipe below for a sneak peek.

Writer Liz Barrett Foster has created a fun new website called Eat Like a Writer. It’s a collection of author interviews and recipes (she recently published a soup recipe of mine). Head here to see what interesting people and tasty dishes she’s serving up.

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Much has been written about how the restaurant industry is striving to survive in 2020. Here’s my magazine feature looking at three resourceful eateries in Roanoke.

I wrote a short piece about a Virginia nonprofit choosing a new name. But what stuck with me was the organization’s dedication to serving the most vulnerable among us.

In this trying year, maintaining friendships has been particularly hard. This piece about what it takes to keep a friendship strong and this podcast about the value of a true friend really resonated.

Stretching your Thanksgiving repertoire? Try these recipes from local food champion, beloved chef, (and long-ago friend) Evan Mallett of Black Trumpet in Portsmouth, NH.

This time-lapse video of mushrooms is simply mesmerizing.

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Last month, a subscriber reached out and asked: What would you think of getting some Nourishing Stories readers together for a chat? I responded: Of course! Building community is at the root of what I’m hoping for this newsletter. So, in the works at this very moment, are plans for the first-ever Nourishing Stories Conversation. This gathering will be a group of six, based in Roanoke, folks who know each other a little and would like to get better acquainted. Moving forward, I’m picturing a rotating cast of small groups, joined by common interests, either in-person or virtually. We could plan a conversation centered around recipes or food or favorite books or simply to share and connect. If this sounds like something you’d like to be a part of, reach out with an email, and I’ll work to make it happen. Other great ideas about ways to create community among Nourishing Stories readers? Let me know. I’d love to hear them.

Also, thanks to all who participated in the Nourishing Stories Book Giveaway. It was so fun to hear from you — and to meet some new readers!