The past weeks have been composed of more visitors, busy days at work, simple meals featuring pretty green produce and a flurry of end-of-year activities for Ben, including such events as a middle school production of Peter Pan that made me laugh less for the plot than for, shall we say, other aspects of the performance. Lively springtime chaos, all good, but a bit exhausting nonetheless.
It’s my aim to live a balanced, meaningful life, even in the busy seasons. I want my relationships to be mutually fulfilling, to counter my tendency toward obsessing over silly little details like the cleanliness of my apartment, to worry less, to work hard, to love more. I am more than happy to push out whatever gets in the way. But that’s felt harder lately, due to the sudden normalcy of this season we are in, I think, and also to the particular stresses of a job firmly rooted in customer service. For the most part, we have really lovely customers, but even they are human, and I think that’s all I need to say.
I’ve been reading The Happiness Advantage (abandoned briefly this weekend so that I could start and finish Molly Wizenberg‘s gorgeous, heartfelt new book Delancey—more on that soon). In an approachable, psychology-for-the-masses style, Shawn Achor suggests that while society has long held that success leads to happiness, in reality it is the opposite—that when we are happy, we are more creative, hardworking, fulfilled and, ultimately, successful. There’s also this idea of the negativity bias, our tendency to value negative experiences over positive ones. We can’t control the impulse, but we can control whether or not we linger on the negativity, as I am wont to do. And we can counter it simply by identifying the good things already around us, like wildflowers and small positive interactions and kind people.
It’s a good exercise for me. As much as people sometimes assume the opposite, I’m actually a glass-half-empty kind of gal. I can slip right into the depths of my overthinking brain and get lost there, in my worries and fears and frustrations and projections, and I needed the reminder that I actually have control over that.
My team at work recently went on a retreat to the beach. It actually involved working, I swear, but we also surfed. It was my first time, and it was amazing. I am now totally obsessed. I finally understand how it is that someone can stand up on a flimsy board on a wave—it somehow makes sense when a wave sweeps up behind you that you could get up and go with it. Riding a wave is a glorious sensation, but so is sitting out there in the middle of the ocean waiting for one to come, with seals and cormorants playing nearby. I didn’t think about anything else for the two hours we were in the water. I was focused on learning a new skill that required all of my attention, and whatever focus escaped went toward marveling at the view. This doesn’t happen all that often for me, and I relished it. Life is so beautiful! I found myself thinking, like it was a revelation.
A few amazing dinners of late have convinced me to make sure the next months include as much time as possible on rooftops and in backyards eating good food with friends, and Lillet on ice with a twist of citrus is poised to be my summer drink of choice. I am currently enamored with fava beans and English peas and strawberries and sheep’s milk ricotta, so I am eating plenty of them. I think I’ll take Ben surfing this summer. I am seeking out the good things, and the truth is, there is no shortage.
Simple Strawberry Ice Cream
Adapted from Nigel Slater’s Ripe
This magical ice cream requires very few ingredients, very little work and no ice cream maker. The simplicity is just the right thing for ripe strawberries. The ice cream melts while you eat it, giving you the pleasant sense that you’re eating your ice cream with a nice dollop of whipped cream. I think it would be amazing with a drizzle of dark chocolate sauce as well.
I froze mine in a rectangular box and think I’ll try a loaf pan next time. I imagine it would scoop out well enough after a rest, but I liked the presentation when sliced, as pictured.
Serves 6 to 8
1 pound strawberries
1/2 cup cane sugar
1 1/4 cup heavy cream
Rinse the berries and remove their leaves. Slice each berry into three or four slices, then put them in a bowl, sprinkle with the sugar and set aside for an hour, stirring occasionally.
Lightly whip the cream. It should be thick enough to lie in folds, but not so stiff that it stands in peaks. Put the berries, sugar and any juice from the bottom of the dish into a food processor and whiz until smooth, then gently stir the mixture into the cream. You can blend the two as thoroughly as you like. I left a few thick swirls of the strawberry mixture in the cream.
Transfer to a freezer-safe box or loaf pan, level the top, cover with a lid or a piece of plastic wrap or parchment paper and freeze for at least three to four hours. If convenient, occasionally stir the ice as it freezes.
Remove the ice from the freezer about 15 to 20 minutes before serving to bring it up to temperature. Scoop or slice and enjoy!