The Art & Science of Loving Where You Live

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Do you love where you live?

In an increasingly mobile world, so many of us leave the place in which we grew up for college, work, relationships, and a variety of other reasons. Author Melody Warnick moved 6 times in her adult life, and upon finding herself in Blacksburg, Virginia in her mid-thirties, she began to wonder what it would take to feel settled in one place.

The result is her book, This Is Where You Belong, which was my new book club‘s first selection to read as a group. We all agreed it was a quick, easy read with great information, interesting research and useful tips. Warnick describes a lot of actionable steps you can take to become more rooted in the city you live in. Some happen naturally, some simply take time. But others require effort.

One of her findings is that walking more can help you get to know a new place. I had already experienced this through my twice daily walks with Minjay. (I’d add that getting a dog can really help you feel rooted anywhere.)

Some of her suggestions can be done easily– find a great nature spot and go for a hike! Others may require you to come out of your shell, like inviting neighbors over for dinner.

My favorite chapter in the book was the “Buy Local” chapter. It’s filled with charming stories of real-person connections that can be made by using your dollars at a local small business. For example, Warnick tells the story of Stacy Mitchell (author of Big-Box Swindle: The True Cost of Mega-Retailers and the Fight for America’s Independent Businesses), whose brother bought her a book for Christmas from her favorite Portland, Maine bookstore. He made the purchase online, and then got a call a few minutes later from someone in the shop to let him know that his sister already had the book. (That story really tugged at my heartstrings).

I had never considered the “multiplier effect” of shopping local. Warnick explains that 14% of revenue from big-box retailers stays in the local economy, while 52% of the revenue of small businesses circulates locally. That seems like a really good investment in your community. Add that to the chance to make good connections and new friendships, and it’s seems so worth it.

I’d recommend this book to anyone who just moved to a new city, or anyone who feels like they want to belong more in a place they live, which would be a big contributor to work-life balance.

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At the end of each chapter, Warnick includes a simple “Love Your City Checklist.” I marked this one:

“Learn the names of the flora and fauna in your area. Check out a book on the subject, or connect with the Master Naturalists or Master Gardners in your town.”

After walks with Minjay in my neighborhood, I had already started to do this, for a children’s book I’m writing. For example, I found this fun map a couple of years ago. This was a great reminder that I’d like to (and should) do more.

Some other steps I’ll be taking after reading the book:

  • Seek out small businesses more and buy local as often as I can. Immediate changes I can make: the pet store and christmas gifts.
  • Go on more hikes nearby (Minjay will especially like this), and find more nature spots.
  • Search for more landmarks in my neighborhood. I had started to do this in Santa Monica, but after moving 3 months ago (just 10 minutes away), I need to do it again in my new immediate neighborhood.
  • Write my city councilman about our street corner, on which I’ve seen so many unnecessary accidents happen in just the last 3 months. It needs a stop sign, or at the very least a speed-limit sign with some more enforcement.
  • Learn more about Robyn Bomar’s “The Birthday Project,” and do it in January when I turn 30!

 

 

 


See also:

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California Fall (Superfood!) Salad Recipe — Easy & Quick

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“A recipe is a story that ends with a good meal.” ~Pat Conroy

When I came across this quote on Instagram a while back, it really resonated with me. Poetic. True. It puts into words the deep meaning food can have for so many people, be it related to our childhoods, places we’ve lived in, places we love, or good times with friends.

This past Saturday, all of these things came together. During a weekend trip to Silicon Valley, I visited an old friend from Boston. She had made a delicious meal, including roasted colorful carrots, delicious vegan eggplant patties, quinoa with sweet potatoes, and lemon chicken wings. But what really stood out to me was the salad she made. I couldn’t get enough of it.

First, it had pomegranate in it. I know that’s pretty common in the U.S., but when I was growing up in Lebanon, salads were decisively salty. As a result, I don’t usually like fruits in salads. This was definitely an exception, especially because the pomegranate was always a special fruit growing up. Of course, we only had it once a year when it was in season– and we usually got it from the garden of our old family home in the country that we went to on weekends. I still remember the tree and how delighted I would be when the fruits appeared on it when I was a kid.

Second, the salad had avocado in it, (which was a really nice contrast in both texture and flavor to the sharp pomegranate seeds). We had been laughing all evening about the particular foods we eat in California (avocado, kale, etc., etc.,), and how our loved ones who don’t live here tease us about our eating habits.

Third, a simple dressing of olive oil and vinegar complemented the ingredients perfectly.

I didn’t even think about what a healthy salad of “superfoods” it was until I recreated it yesterday for my book club. So, so good. So, so simple. And so, so easy. I had to share it on this blog.

Iram’s California Superfood Salad

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Ingredients

  • 1 pomegranate
  • 2 large avocados (3 small)
  • 10 oz spinach (I recommend buying bags of pre-washed baby leaves from places like Trader Joe’s. Makes it so much simpler).
  • 1 English cucumber
  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • 2 tbsp red vinegar
  • 1 tsp salt

Seed the pomegranate. Yesterday, convinced I had been doing it wrong all along because it felt too onerous and complicated, I Googled “easy way to seed pomegranate” and found this great video:

Peel and cut the avocados. Again, Instagram taught me a simple, quick way to do it that I’m very proud of:

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Wash the cucumber, slice it in half and then cut into small pieces.

Toss all the ingredients together. Add the olive oil, vinegar and salt. Ta-da.

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Bonus:

I also was inspired to roast multi-colored whole carrots like my friend did on Saturday:

  • Scrub the carrots well.
  • Toss in coconut oil, salt and pepper.
  • Roast at 400 F for around 40 minutes, turning them over halfway.

And I finally tried out this amazing, simple Pumpkin Alfredo recipe that I had found, again, on Instagram (which is clearly so good for food tips!), and highly recommend.

Book club fall dinner This Is Where You Belong Melody Warnick
All so simple to prepare, yet was such a great fall dinner.

Here’s to good seasonal food shared with friends!

 

 

P.S. Can we discuss for a moment how beautiful these carrots are? Our natural world is amazing.

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