All right kids, ye olde update is back. Why the radio silence since December? Why the crickets? Well, many of you know me (and to those of you don’t, thank you for dropping by). In which case you also know that Steve and I have been on an epic trip to study Spanish in South America. I’ll post more about that in days to come.
Oh, and we went here:
That’s Iguazu Falls. It’s not one big horseshoe of falls like Niagara, but a system of more than 200 falls (or cataratas in Spanish, isn’t that pretty?) in 2 beautiful parks, one in Brazil, the bigger one in Argentina. We went to both. You walk along paths, and every time you turn a corner there are more falls. In a fortunate lifetime of seeing many beautiful places, this is the one that blew both of away the most.
But more than anything that we saw or did, the trip helped me with some “what the hell am I doing here?” issues that I’ve been trying to cut my way through like so much shrubbery for a few years. Ever since Steve said, “Honey, quit your job. Just write and make videos,” I’ve struggled. Since college I’ve worked. After my first husband died and ever since, I’ve been my primary breadwinner. Not to discount the tremendous help from family and four awesome siblings over the years, nor the contributions of my kids’ fathers.
That was the purpose: to support my family. Along the way, I had some wonderful times working for the Criterion Collection and for Enlighten. But I always felt like most of what I produced in that setting was for the company, not for me. I never amassed a slammin’ portfolio because I always felt that I was kind of treading water, waiting to create some big personal statement, like a book, or a movie.
Well, when you get up every morning and go to school for four hours and then come home and study, you have a sense of purpose. And I was freaking out a little, saying, look, we get home and I don’t know what my purpose is. At this point, I don’t have to keep the wolf from the door or even a yippy chihuahua. But I realized that, because I’d been in that mode for so much of my life, ever since it stopped, I’ve frankly been a little lost.
Why Routine Rocks
A while ago I had been thinking about the joy of routine. There is something wonderful to knowing what you’re going to be doing at specific times in your day, in your week, in your year. I’ve tried to establish one, sort of, but I haven’t been successful.
Then yesterday, in a chance encounter, I mentioned routine to a friend, and she immediately added, “And rhythm.”
Whoa. Yes! Of course I can’t get traction, because not only have I not bothered with a routine, the rhythm to my days is utterly jagged. On some levels, the so-called Free Spirit in me says, no, Coyote! You cannot be contained. You must run, run like the wind, you wild, impetuous creature.
But….well, let’s get real. I DO want to leave tracks. I want people to find me, and I want, after I’ve slipped the surly bonds, a record. Yes, it’s one of millions, probably billions at this point, so all the more reason it should be coherent.
I don’t like to make promises or predictions. But I can say that it’s become vital to me to stay in better touch with the world via Le Chou Fou. Feel free to hold me to this statement.
Ok, on to the links.
LCF Update 18 March 2019: Food
I’ve wanted to do a meatball/meatloaf post forever, and it’s finally up. Also, there’s a nice paleo zoodle recipe. Paleo is typically not my thing. But I’m also finding that, especially after being in very carb-heavy places—when Argentines aren’t eating meat, they’re eating a lot of pasta and bread— veggies are where it’s at. I know, this is a weird place for me to go, but as I told my Spanish teacher, it’s important to be open because then life can take you to more interesting places. BTW, I have also gone on the record rhapsodizing about South American salads. Here’s one, which cost something like 5 dollars US. The vegetables are amazing down there.
Of paramount importance in establishing this routine, I didn’t want to have to think too much when I got home. So I made a shopping list based on Tieghan Gerard’s weekly “Nine Favorite Things” post over at Half Baked Harvest, a blog that I tend to follow a bit slavishly. In it, she lists the dinners she plans to make during the week. Besides getting some inspiration from her Szechuan Noodle recipe (though it’s pasta and mine ended up different enough that I recorded the changes in the zoodle recipe mentioned above), I basically just outright followed her recipes for her Vibrant Spring Buddha Bowl, a vegan wonder….
…and this outstanding Cobb Salad. I did brine the chicken for this, because I can’t eat chicken if it hasn’t been brined. Additionally, I increased the marinade time to an hour, as well as searing off the chicken before baking it. Becky, my sister, always bakes bacon in the oven, and I did it for the first time, and it rocks.
Honestly, it was kind of a heavy meat eating week for me, probably 7 ounces. For me, that’s a ton. So I had a ball at the new Fresh Forage in Ann Arbor, which my son discovered while I was gone. You can make your own bowl, but I had the teriyaki tofu one, and it rocked.
Meanwhile, my son happened to perfectly capture this tiny tree-shaped sprout on his fork. Also, he found an orange sweatshirt while cleaning his closet.
LCF Update 18 March 2019: Brain Food
Said son and I had, prior to this fine dinner, seen Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse. While Steve and I were gone, he texted me: Mom, we HAVE to see this together. Sure enough, I loved it. The wit and thrills and imagination of this absolutely delightful movie had me smiling in a big way. I avoid a lot of genre stuff, particularly chick flicks and rom-coms. But man, do I love a good action movie. This one is great and so, so pretty. Also, tons of mini-tributes. When I pointed out to my son that a scientist in the movie looks like the Magic Schoolbus lady, he gave a little man scream. “Yes!! Miss Frizzle!! That’s been driving me crazy.” Truly inspired.
For a shortish read, I loved this article on the Inuit philosophy of raising kids. When you live in a harsh environment, you don’t really have time for anger and temper tantrums. You have to just stop being an ass and fix stuff. This article’s beautifully written by Michaeleen Doucleff, as well as illustrated with the tender photos of Johan Hailberg-Campbell. Doucleff went to the Inuit community after reading anthropoligist Jean Briggs’ book on her experience in the community. It’s about a 20-minute read, and well worth it. Even better, it’s part of series “The Other Side of Anger,” introduced with the very truthful statement, “we live in angry times.”
On the plane, I watched Boy Erased. The fact that the Oscars completely ignored it tells me everything I ever needed to know about the Oscars. Oh, I used to love them, seeing every nominated movie for a few years. This year…..basta. Meanwhile, the acting and shooting in this movie defines excellence, and I loved the script by Joel Edgerton, who also plays the main converter in the conversion therapy camp that Lucas Hedges’ character is subjected to. I don’t always get Hedges, but after this movie…wow. Kidman and Crowe are, as usual, superb.
I started reading The Path Between the Seas: The Creation of the Panama Canal while still in South America. This is my year to slow down and actually absorb what I read, rather than rack up a ton of book points and then not remember what the hell I just finished. So I’m taking my time with this one, and it will be a while before I finish because it’s hella long. David McCullough always finds the humanity in his historical figures and has a great eye for the odd and telling incident. Right now, I’m in the process of learning about Ferdinand deLesseps ego as grand as the Panama Canal is ambitious, and what that meant for his French investors. No spoilers, please! They finished it, right?
I also started Isabel Allende’s memoir My Invented Country while headed to Chile, then abandoned it in Argentina, then picked it up again once back in Chile, and will likely finish it this week. Allende writes so effortlessly, or at least seems to, and her exploration of what it means to be Chilean, as well as an exile and now an immigrant who lives in San Francisco is a beautiful read. She’s elegant without being starchy, elegiac without getting melodramatic, and at times wryly and gently funny.
All right, that’s enough. Please tell me your discoveries this week in the comments. Subscribe if you haven’t yet, and I’d be grateful if you follow me on instagram, twitter, or pinterest @nanlechou. Have a lovely week.