Food Gems and Other Unexpected Gourmet Finds in Grand Rapids – Part 2

Oh Maru how I love you!

Screen Shot 2014-03-15 at 11.53.10 PMA couple weeks ago my Evil Twin Jacqui and I had a mommy night out, a night to reset and find balance away from the usual set of responsibilities. It started with a card for Valentine’s day, actually. Evil Twin found a card just for me that spoke to my core, my stomach. We realized the last time we saw each other sans kiddos was when she was still the parent of 1 child expecting her baby girl (her darling daughter will be 1 in July…. so if we use both hands and carry the 1 then divide by… yes, it’s been too long.)

It would only seem fair that when we finally agreed on a date and found ourselves on our own, we would need to enjoy some sushi! Cue the trip to Maru. We stepped into the quaint and inviting restaurant, filled to the brim with trendy  folk from all corners of our side of the Mitten. Huddled over in deep conversation while warm infused tea and saki was enjoyed.

One thing I wish I had realized is that Maru, unlike most of the restaurants in town, takes reservations. We were gifted with a 45 minute wait, but having waited for almost a year since this place opened, and 10 months since Evil Twin and I were out and about by ourselves, we chose the path of patience. Not easy when you are up against this team of Onlies. We passed the time window shopping on Cherry and popping into the few places still open. We didn’t last long and decided to stare down people while we waited for our table.

Pleasant surprise #1 – our wait went from 45 minutes to about 20. (Much more tolerable for an Only.)
Pleasant surprise #2 – you can get a drink while you wait (that’s nothing new), but you can also have them fresh brew some steamy fruit-infused tea (we chose one with strawberry, blueberry and a hint of pineapple.) What’s so special about tea? The experience made me feel like I was enjoying the Farmer’s Market. I was breathing in warm air, letting the sun hit my face. Like magic.Screen Shot 2014-03-16 at 12.58.43 AM

Pleasant surprise #3 – we were seated right at the bar. We watched the sushi masters construct the most perfect rolls I have ever seen. Some were as colorful and artistic as stained glass. We found a happy place.  I couldn’t help but feel like I was in a scene of The Holiday, sitting in the sushi bar. I would vote for being Kate Winslett but that would leave Jacqui being Jack Black, I don’t think she’d be okay with that.Screen shot 2014-03-09 at 11.25.05 PM

Anyway, we ended up ordering two different rolls, one was called crunchy shrimp and the other was lollipop. They were delicious, we could tell because our conversation disappeared and was replaced with yummy noises. And that’s okay sometimes you just need to appreciate what is right in front of you.

Though I will never be quite trendy enough to fit in with the perfect Maru regulars, I still embraced the whole experience and will make it a point to return. The atmosphere was inviting, yet intimate. The food was fresh and perfectly assembled, the flavors of our rolls were unique and original but familiar and perfectly balanced, just like our mommy night out.

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P.s. No leftovers survived the evening. Which only gives us reason to return.

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I am superhuman – my name is Mama

Ever feel like you should be wearing a superhero cape under the clothes? Yeah me too. We get up in the morning and take on the world. Whether we balance a life at home, at life at work, a life raising kids, a blend of all of those things or not, we try to be everything to everyone. I’d like to blame society, but I’m not entirely sure it’s the only thing to hold responsible. We want to be the best at everything, take on every challenge, conquer every challenge, but at what cost?

Because you see…   Screen Shot 2014-03-15 at 12.46.25 AM

We are the kissers of boo boos
We are the organizers of book clubs
We are the walkers of dogs
We are the groomers of pets and kids alike
We are the soccer team cheer team
We are Pinterest dreamers
We are artists/writers/gardeners/gourmet chefs
We are problem solvers
We are relationship expertsScreen Shot 2014-03-15 at 12.45.04 AM
We are workplace project wranglers
We are wives, mothers, daughters sisters…

We are invincible!

Yet we are spread too thin. Raised in a competitive society the encourages to be winners. Feeling inadequate when compared to peers, growing resentful of those who aren’t pulled in every direction at every moment of the day.  Meanwhile those “perfect nemeses” might be struggling with the same issues, but happen to be a bit better at camouflage. When we get busy to the point of being mediocre of all instead of expert of a few things. We may feel like we are losing sight of yourself, your true self, the one you are when nothing else is demanding focus and attention.

It is time to reclaim this Self. Bit by bit, until a healthy balance is reached. It is time to reset.

For me it’s “alone” time (as an only child I revel in this). But alone time frequently results in chores, errands, and fixing things up while someone takes a nap or is at practice. What I am referring to is healing/reset time. Be it a mommy night out (more on this in my next post) or a couple of hours with a book at some point in the week. It’s time away from chores, obligations, or promises to others. We feel guilty taking time away from our various roles and we feel badly for being so selfish, but we need to STOP. It’s not healthy and it’s clouding the joys we normally experience in life.

I need to take my own advice:

What makes me happy?

What do I enjoy doing that I haven’t been able to do lately?

What can I reasonably accomplish during that mandatory “me” time?

Sometimes I have to schedule this precious time away, spontaneity goes out the window as responsibility grows. Don’t worry I won’t always be expected to take on the world. Life will balance out, but in the mean time I need to find balance by scheduling some time to reset. I will just make sure to pack my cape before I leave the house.

Lent – How Hard Could it Be?

Oh very hard indeed…Each year I’d try to come up with something to test myself with during Lent. Ten years ago I tried to keep up with seven things I “gave up” yeah four of those never made it. Eight years ago I guaranteed that I would have 40 days dedicated to Lent, even if I have to extend a day – Lent lasted 53 days that year. Five years ago I gave up swearing. With disastrous results. I lasted three days (you are thinking how lame) in truth by the third day my heart began to hurt when I’d get annoyed and didn’t let off some verbal steam, slowly I realized I wouldn’t make it to my 30th birthday at that rate. So swearing was back on and I haven’t made that mistake.

Now fast forward to this year. Lent did sneak up on me. I barely gave it much thought, but I decided to do the following: stop checking my social media when I am hanging out with Henry by myself. I try my best to put away the phone and focus on the mini. It’s hard and I am getting better, I hope this one sticks post Lent. The other was simply to stop buying myself material things for the next 40 days. I didn’t give up Starbucks, I didn’t give up sushi, I am not going to stop going out to dinner. But I am not going to buy myself any clothing, books, accessories, or tchotckies. Seems like a good thing to challenge myself, with some monetary benefits. I will still buy gifts for others (I couldn’t possibly skip four March birthdays, that wouldn’t benefit the celebrants in the slightest.)

Little did I know how much it would challenge me. And when I noticed it the most was this weekend. It started on Friday. I’ve had a horrible work week and was desperately clinging to something fun and weekend related.

So it began:

YAY! Old navy has my favorite jeans on sale. Boo, I cannot buy them.

Oh yay! World Market has all of their Bohemian clothing on sale, totally befitting my love of Bohemian springwear. Booo, I can’t buy this either.Screen shot 2014-03-09 at 11.05.01 PM

The theme continued on my Mama’s night out which ended up at Barnes and Noble (happy place.) I spied a lovely crafty magazine that I know I’d absolutely love, I nearly drooled over it while sipping coffee in silence. Mollie Makes. Perfect projects, perfect quirk, perfect for me. I put it back.

Follow this up with the next day’s adventures at the mall play area (the breakfast food happy place I recently spoke about.) We cut through Barnes and Noble (where I visited my crafty magazine again – we shall meet again in 40 days.) Then we made the mistake of weaving through the discount section. Where I spotted the book, the one I have hunted for a year, considered buying put back on the shelf, considered for book club… and here it stood, The Dove Keepers mine for just $5.99.Screen shot 2014-03-09 at 11.03.28 PM YOU HAVE GOT TO BE KIDDING ME. I didn’t even touch the book. Cursing at my stupidity, I walked away. Hoping to reunite with it in 40 days.

One thing I am learning is that I am strong, I can withhold purchasing things for myself over these 40 days and I understand and appreciate the reasons why we keep on with tradition for sacrificing something for Lent.

But I’d be lying if I didn’t say that the next 40 days will go at a snail’s pace.

p.s. I can accept gifts…. hint, hint, hint, hint, hint.