Recipes for a Beautiful Life: A Memoir in Stories

Recipes for a Beautiful Life: A Memoir in Stories

by Rebecca Barry

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Overview

Recipes for a Beautiful Life: A Memoir in Stories by Rebecca Barry

Writing with “a delicate, beautiful balance of wit and yearning” (#1 New York Times bestselling author Elizabeth Gilbert), Rebecca Barry’s poignant take on creativity, marriage, and motherhood will make you laugh and cry—sometimes at the same time.

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.”

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781416593362
Publisher: Simon & Schuster
Publication date: 04/07/2015
Pages: 320
Product dimensions: 5.80(w) x 8.40(h) x 1.10(d)

About the Author

Rebecca Barry is the bestselling author of Recipes for a Beautiful Life: A Memoir in Stories and Later, at the Bar: A Novel in Stories, which was a New York Times Notable Book. Her nonfiction has appeared in numerous publications, including The New York Times Book Review, The Washington Post Magazine, Seventeen, Real Simple, Food and Wine, Saveur, More, O, The Oprah Magazine, Hallmark, and The Best American Travel Writing 2003. Her fiction has appeared in Ploughshares, One Story, Tin House, Ecotone, The Mid-American Review, Best New American Voices 2005, and was shortlisted in Best American Short Stories 2000, 2004, and 2009. She is also a writing coach, and cofounder of the magazine Fresh Dirt.

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

Acknowledgments 295

Postscript 299

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