Finding Calm – Read, Listen, Explore, Cook

Grey and yellow quilt that is basted together with black thread

It’s hard to write a post about making and creativity after the dark week we’ve just witnessed in Washington, D.C. It’s also been hard to keep my focus in the studio this week on anything that requires focused attention, like measuring, cutting and sewing.

Even though it might be hard to believe right now, as I’ve said before, art, nature and physical work (think shoveling snow or cleaning your home like never before) can help provide the space to process difficult events, manage anxiety, and find peace, if only for a few hours. And, these same outlets can help lead us back out to the world to do our work, advocate for positive change, etc.

This week I’m sharing a list of go-to’s that I’ve turned to over the last few weeks…

Read

I’ve been recommending Jane Smiley’s new book, Perestroika in Paris: A Novel, to all my friends in the last month. It’s a lovely story – the pacing is perfect for the times we are living through right now. No big drama, likable characters, and a great story. I borrowed it from my local library but if I had purchased, it would go on my shelf of all-time favorite books. Find it at your local library or bookstore, or check it out here.

Listen

  • “Appalachian Spring” by composer Aaron Copland premiered in 1944. Whether you are a classical music fan or not, this is a beautiful, uplifting piece. Learn more about it here and listen to it here.
  • A CD I’ve pulled from the shelf several times when I just really want to forget the outside world is “Elton John’s Greatest Hits.” Crank the volume and sing along! Check it out here or your favorite music streaming service.
  • Next up on my podcast playlist is Powerful Women: Let’s Talk about women doing good things in the world. There are only 27 episodes as of now so if you like it, it’s doable to go back and listen to all the episodes.

Explore

  • If you can, get outside and explore parks, hiking paths and other outdoor spaces in your area.
  • Online, many museums are offering virtual exhibits. Check out your favorite museums as well as ones you’ve yet to explore in person. One of my favorite museums in Chicago is the American Writers Museum. Opened in May 2017 after years of planning, it is deceptively small. While it has a small footprint relative to other museums, I spent several hours exploring the day I visited.

Cook

  • A big steaming bowl of soup, accompanied by a grilled cheese sandwich on occasion, is my go-to comfort food. And, holy cow, I’ve been making a lot lately – usually on Sunday afternoons for a simple evening meal that we can also have for lunch throughout the week. Make up your favorite recipe(s), then sit back and enjoy each and every bite.
  • If you’re looking for a new recipe, my husband and I are both crazy about the Simple Red Lentil Soup with Spinach, Lemon, and Pepper from At Home in the Whole Food Kitchen by Amy Chaplin. And, if you’re not sure about lentils, red lentils are wonderful – in this soup, they dissolve into a creamy, thick stock. Divine. Here’s a link to the recipe – and an interview with Amy Chaplin – on the Food Network site.

NOTE: The image at the top is from a small quilt that is in process. The working title keeps changing… Today, it is “Sun Peaking Through the Clouds.”

Cinnamon Quick Bread: A Dash of Comfort

Cinnamon Quick Bread Just out of Oven

Many years ago, I clipped a recipe for “Sweet Cinnamon Quick Bread” out of the coupon insert in the Chicago Tribune. We have made this bread many times in our family, sometimes to celebrate and sometimes just because. It’s perfect for welcoming kids home after school, a quick desert after an especially long week, breakfast on a snow day, sharing with neighbors. It has also made its way into many care packages shipped off to our kids, friends, and family.

In other words, it’s perfect – not just because of its flavor but because it is easy to whip up, fun to make with kids, smells delicious when baking, and ships great. Serve warm out of the oven, or pair with fresh berries or ice cream.

Cinnamon Quick Break Recipe

Pair with coffee, tea, or milk and enjoy!

Print a pdf of the recipe here.