When Rebecca Barry, writer, mother, cat lady, and aspiring meditator, and her husband moved to upstate New York to start their family, they were optimistic that they’d be able to build a life they’d love: one connected to nature and extended family, one where they could invest in their artistic dreams, spend time with their children, live cheaply, and eat well. Naturally, things didn’t turn out to be so simple: the lovely old house they bought to fix up needed lots of repair, their children wouldn’t sleep, and the novel Rebecca had dreamed of writing simply wouldn’t come to her.
“Anecdotal, funny, and telling, with the kinds of momentary glimpses of ordinary days that reflect something larger” (The New York Times), Recipes for a Beautiful Life is about reveling in the extraordinary moments in daily life while trying to balance marriage, children, extended family, and creative work. The book is an excellent companion for mothers with small children, but it also speaks to anyone trying to find meaning in their work or a life that is truer to the heart. Full of great dialogue, tongue-in-cheek recipes (Angry Mommy Tea), and tips on things like how to keep your house clean (“just don’t let anyone in”), Recipes captures the sweetness and beauty of answering your soul’s longing, as well as the difficulty, struggle, and humor that goes along with it. Mostly it is about the realization that a beautiful life, for this author, meant a rich, often chaotic, creative one. Or, as Redbook said when it featured the book in its “5 fabulous, even life-changing new reads” column: “Contentment isn’t about getting everything…but finding magic in the mess.”
|Publisher:||Simon & Schuster|
|Product dimensions:||5.50(w) x 8.30(h) x 1.00(d)|
About the Author
Read an Excerpt
Recipes for a Beautiful Life
How to Have a More Positive Outlook
October 4, 2007
Yesterday morning I was very pleased to see that my horoscope is great for October. My favorite astrologer is Susan Miller because not only does she seem uncannily accurate, she writes my horoscope as if she is looking out for me, personally. She’ll say things like “Dear Pisces” (and I read “Dear Rebecca”), “You may have been feeling like you’ve been working hard and getting small returns,” and I think, As a matter of fact, I do feel like I’ve been working extremely hard for small returns and I’m so glad someone finally noticed! Then she’ll say something like, “Don’t worry. That was because there was a quinzbykz in your something house”—my words not hers—”but now things are about to change in a big way!” And then I’ll think, Excellent! Maybe I’ll win an award. And I’ll be happy until I realize that the horoscope is for all Pisces, not just me, and since Pisces tend to be creative people, all of us are headed for a good month and not all of us can get a Pulitzer. Still, it makes me feel like I have something to look forward to, which in general is a pretty good way to live.
My husband thinks my addiction to astrology is especially funny because there was a time in my life when I edited the astrology column at one of the magazines I worked for, and half of my time was spent adding in lines like “This would be a perfect month to clean out your address book” or “Date whoever you want! The stars are all for it!”
“That doesn’t mean it was bad advice or that it wasn’t true,” I said.
My younger sister, Emily, a therapist and yoga teacher who lives in Oregon, agrees with me. She and her husband had their charts read to figure out what would be the most fortuitous time for their wedding. (“I’m hoping they’ll be told it’s at six o’clock,” said my father, who is a very literal person. “What if they’re told to have it at three in the morning? I’m not staying up that late.”) Luckily that did not happen, although the astrologer did get a little uncomfortable when she read their charts. “Are you sure you two want to get married?” she said. “Really? Okay. If you insist. Go for June.” June was beautiful, and they are still married, so obviously, the point is, horoscopes work.
Anyway, this month is supposed to be great. All kinds of special days and career leaps, etc. It’s perfect timing too, because I love October. I love the dip in temperature, the way you can smell apples, grapes, and turning leaves. The way the wind seems to pick up and excitement swirls through the town around Halloween.
“Things are going to be looking up around here,” I said to my husband. He was in the kitchen/playroom that is upstairs near the bathroom because we are still renovating and haven’t moved our kitchen downstairs. I was in the bathroom, trying to keep the boys, who were in the bath, from drinking the bathwater.
“Don’t drink that!” I said. Dawson, who is nineteen months old, just laughed and took another gulp.
Dawson is one of those alarming children who just doesn’t seem to care about winning adult approval. He’ll knock over his brother’s trains and then climb up on the naughty chair and sit there with a pout on his face he made up, wait about a minute, get down, and knock over Liam’s trains again. “Dawson!” I’ll say, and he’ll put himself back in the naughty chair and put on his fake contrite look. It has nothing to do with making us happy or being sorry. I think he just likes to sit in the naughty chair and pretend that he feels bad about it.
I pulled Dawson out of the tub. Then I said to Liam, age three, “Do you know what’s in the bathwater? Dawson’s pee.”
“What?” said Liam.
“Dawson pees in the water and that’s why you shouldn’t drink it.”
“What?” said Liam. This is what he does when I say something he doesn’t like. He just keeps saying “What?” until I say something different. It’s not a bad tactic, actually.
“You heard me.” I went into the playroom and handed my husband the baby.
“My horoscope says my career is going to explode this month,” I said.
“Great,” said Tommy. “Maybe you should start working on another book instead of sitting around reading your horoscope.”
But who wants to work when it’s so beautiful outside? When the leaves are turning and the air smells like wood smoke and apples, and people are canning tomatoes and the trees are so yellow and orange it’s almost as if they can’t contain their own light?
In the bathroom, I could hear water draining from the tub. “Are you ready to get out, Liam?” I said.
“I’m just letting Dawson’s pee out of the tub,” he said, and took another swig of bathwater.
“Fine,” I said. “Fine. If you want to drink pee, that’s okay with me.”
“Did you just say what I thought you said?” said my husband. “To our child?”
Yes, I’m afraid I did. If you want to drink pee, that’s okay with me.
So. This is going to be a great month.
I can’t wait.
Table of Contents
Introduction: How to Get a Life xi
Part 1 In Pursuit of a Beautiful Life
How to Have a More Positive Outlook 3
Recipe: Butternut Squash Soup 5
How to Get the Romance Back into Your Marriage 7
How to Unleash Your Inner Superwoman 11
How to Teach Your Children to Clean Up 14
How to Manage Small Children When Your Spouse Is Traveling 17
How to Simplify Your Workload 18
How to Stop Worrying So Much 21
Recipe: Worried Mother Cure 25
How to Get the Help You Need 27
How to Quit Your Job 30
How to Get Along with Your In-Laws 34
How to Lose Your Baby Weight 37
How to Silence Your Inner Critic 41
How to Work with Your Spouse 44
How to Celebrate Your Success 45
How to Civilize a Two -Year- Old 47
How to Tame Spring Fever 50
How to Get the Job You Want 53
How to Be the Life of the Party 56
How to Manage Sleep Deprivation 60
Recipe: Soothing Mommy Face Mask 61
How to Be a Dilettante 63
How to Get Your Children to Go to Bed, Part 1 65
How to Fall Back in Love with Your Life 69
Recipe: Vegetable Biryani 71
How to Organize Your Bathroom 73
Mow to Make Your Kitchen as Chic as Your Wardrobe (or How to Decorate an Old House) 75
Recipe: A Lost Day Platter 79
How to Teach a Child to Let Go 80
How to Plan the Perfect Family Vacation 83
Recipe: A Good Family Vacation 88
How to Make a Creative Workspace 89
How to Succeed in Business 91
Part 2 Into the Woods
How to Do More with Less 97
Recipe: Depression Cooking Use-Up-Your-Farm-Share Root Vegetable Soup 99
How to Get Your Children, to Go to Bed, Part 2 101
Recipe: Just- Eat-Your-!@#$!-Dinner Kale Chips 103
How to Be a Good Sister 105
How to Send a Clear Message 108
How to Say What You Really Think 111
How to Be a Good Caretaker 115
How to Give the Perfect Gift 120
How to Know When to Move On 122
How to Talk to Your Children about Santa 125
How to Organize Your Home Office 129
How to Let Go of a Dream 133
How to Multitask Like a Champion 135
How to Enjoy a Snow Day 138
How to Relax 141
How to Ask for a Miracle 143
Recipe: Heal Your Heart 145
How to Balance Your Home Life with Your Career 147
How to Sleep Better at Night 150
How to Know What You Want 152
How to Celebrate Mother'S Day 156
Recipe: My Mother's Carrot Ginger Soup 159
How to Teach Your Child to Ride a Two-Wheeler 160
Recipe: Angry Mommy Tea 162
How to Get inspired 163
How to Streamline Your Work Habits 165
Recipe: Scape and Olive Oil Paste 166
Recipe: Warm, Almost Poached Egg Salad with Great Escape Salad Dressing 167
How to Finish a Project 169
How to Reenter the World 172
Recipe: Chicken Garlic Broth 174
How to Apologize When You Don't Really Feel Like It 176
How to Enjoy the Night 179
How Not to Yell at Your Children 180
Recipe: Get Children to Listen to You 183
How to Handle Bad News 185
How to Make the Most of the Holidays 188
How to Find Your Dream Career 191
How to Keep Your House Clean When You Have Small Children 194
Recipe: Maria's Margaritas (a.k.a. Maria-ritas) 196
How to Deal with Rejection, Part 1 197
How to Manage Sibling Rivalry 200
Recipe: Midsummer Cooling-Down Tea (from My Acupuncturist) 201
How to Have a Simple Christmas 202
Part 3 Down the Rabbit Hole
How to Be a Complete Disorganized Mess 207
How to Behave When No One Understands You 210
How to Have a Nervous Breakdown 213
How to Get Your Needs Met, Part 1 217
How to Break That Leaving-the-House Inertia That Sets In Every Time You Want to Go Somewhere 218
Recipe: Simplify Your Life Quaker Tzatziki 221
How to Enjoy Your Work Again 223
How to Get Your Needs Met, Part 2 225
How to Get What You Want 228
How to Save Your Marriage 232
How to Deal with Rejection, Part 2 236
How to Quit Everything 238
How to Soothe an Upset Child 241
How to Know What Your Heart Wants 245
Part 4 Crawling Out of the Rubble
How to Transform Your Anxiety into Excitement 249
How to Quit Your Ambition 252
Recipe: Awakening Your Creativity 253
How to Really Irritate a Husband 259
How to Write a New Story 259
How to Have a Long-Distance Relationship 261
How to Find Your Way Back to Brightness 263
How to Simplify Your Life 265
Recipe: Hard-Boiled Jack-O'-Lanterns and Mummy Heads 269
How to Create a Healthy Home Work Environment 271
How to Manifest Your Dream 274
How to Enjoy Your Family Vacation 277
How to Turn Your Bitterness into Something Sweet 285
Epilogue: How to (Finally) Get Your Children to Go to Bed 289