Wednesday, January 22, 2014

New Year's Goals, revisited

So remember my New Year's Goals which involved getting organized, writing my book, and throwing 14 dinner parties in 2014? In the interest of being accountable to myself, here's an update.

On the getting organized front, I've done something really, really amazing. One, I talked to a friend here in Shanghai whose recommendation was to do a little every single day. I'm such an all-or-nothing kind of girl. I either jump in over my head until I'm nearly consumed, or I don't participate. The idea of baby steps is foreign to me. We are used to moving every twelve months or so, and that is usually the only time I ever sit down to purge or assess my belongings. We're here for a couple more years at least, and I can't wait that long. So I've really embraced the idea of small changes leading to positive habits which become a lifestyle.

Every single day since January 1st I have picked a small (or large) item, space, or collection of things, and did some organizing. It's a bit of a challenge because some of the work is barely noticeable and therefore feels like I've done nothing! But knowing that I've made it a habit to do something, anything, every day gives me a great sense of accomplishment. Some examples of what I've done are to go through my entire stash of medicines (I have a small drugstore in my bedroom) to see what has expired, what I need more of, and make sure all the similar items are together. A "small" thing, but a necessary one as we'll be having a friend visit soon who can stock up on items we need from America and bring them over. There was also a local clothing drive to benefit victims of the Gansu earthquake here in China. I went through every item of clothing in the boys' room, pulling out everything which was too small but still wearable, and dropped off four large boxes of clothing. It feels good to have a new and healthy habit, and I'm excited to keep going, pacing myself.

As far as the book writing goes, I've not done any actual writing. But I have gone off to my corner coffee shop to read over my notes and outlines and get reacquainted with my characters. I haven't really "hung out" with them since we lived in Macau. As I continue to get organized (including clearing out a working space for me to write), I'll make more progress here.

And finally, the dinner party! I had the first one last night, and invited some people who are lucky enough to have regular business trips back to America or work for the airlines and are going that way anyway, and are always willing to bring us back a suitcase filled with socks and underwear or medicines and school books for the boys. I have no way to repay their efforts in kind, so showering them with gratitude expressed through culinary creativity had to do. I made every bite of food on the table from scratch, and it took two days to prepare. It was shocking to see it all consumed within an hour! I think I need to focus on simplicity for next month's dinner party (see second paragraph above about jumping in over my head)! I didn't do anything fancy with decorations or table setting, it was all about the food this time.

The menu was lasagna Bolognese, a huge green salad, garlic bread, and lemon tarts for dessert. For the Bolognese sauce, I followed this recipe, using my own roasted tomatoes in place of the jarred/canned kind. I doubled the recipe and froze 2/3 of the sauce for future use. So good! For the actual lasagna, I used this recipe for everything except the Bolognese sauce (I'd made the sauce before looking for lasagna recipes). For the salad, I did my usual potluck offering, loads of chopped romaine lettuce, a diced apple or two, a couple handfuls of roasted sunflower seeds, lots of crumbled blue cheese, and a light drizzle of ranch dressing. Perfect blend of salty, sweet, and tart, all in a single bite. And finally, the lemon tarts. Please go and make these at your earliest convenience. I'm sad to say they were a little crumbly and not incredibly gorgeous (my oven was protesting I think). BUT! The flavor! Oh the flavor... Absolute perfection. Especially in the middle of winter after a heavy meal of lasagna. I'm sad to say I didn't snap my usual dozen photographs of the food. I was exhausted after two days of cooking. But you can use your imagination... beautiful and delicious!

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