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Walking the downtown streets, I’d felt a little lost and a little lonely. I’m always good on my own, but for some reason I felt displaced this afternoon. Maybe it was because a friend had reached out to me earlier asking if I wanted to hang out, only to recant a couple of hours later because other friends made her a more compelling offer.

I hadn’t planned anything for the evening, but suddenly I felt as if I wanted to go out. So I got on the subway and decided to try a new restaurant I’d been reading about.

As I walked down the street, a little too early to walk in the restaurant, I looked down and the word “love” caught my eye on the curb. An odd, but welcome, aftermath of my August gratitude series is that love seems to follow me everywhere. I see it represented constantly: in street art, poetry, jewelry, in hearts that appear in random places.

It is a beautiful gift and a constant reminder to be present.

I saw the word love, which looked to be carved in the concrete, and then noticed that it was part of a phrase.

“Love is touch.”

An odd sentiment.

I’d just come from a manicure and my favorite part is always the hand massage. It makes me feel cared for. I live alone and am not in a relationship, so it reminds me how important human touch – and connection – is in life.

I noticed the phrase, and as bloggers do, I contemplated taking a picture. But I kept moving, more intent on quickly window shopping than on snapping a photo of a phrase that puzzled me.

As I walked down the street, I looked in the window of a beautiful jewelry store. In the store was a friend of mine, who was working. I opened the door and his face lit up, happy to see me. He reached out to me and gave me a big hug.

His hugs are tight, all-encompassing, long-lasting embraces.

I walked around the store, admired the breathtakingly beautiful jewelry, and said goodbye, promising to make plans to have a drink.

“Come here again,” he said, giving me another hug.

I didn’t want to end.

“You were a happy surprise in my day,” I said to him when we finally let go.

He replied, “The Universe put us in each other’s path today.” Indeed.

Love is touch.

In autumn, nature sets about letting go of everything it doesn’t need. I used to say that I hated fall because everything is on its way to dying – whereas spring is about birth! Life! Light! – but I’ve determined that it may be time to revisit that point of view.

Though I always know it’s coming, every year I find myself unprepared for the cooler temperatures, the trees that are ablaze with color in the parks, and the crunch of fallen leaves underneath my feet.

It’s all inevitable. The world turns and it gives us four seasons. Fall is beautiful and magical and romantic. And yet I fight it. Every year.

Perhaps it’s too close a reminder – a denial, even – of all the things that I hold onto in my own life that have overstayed their welcome. All the things that clutter my physical space. All the ideas of who I’m supposed to be that are outdated.

So this year, I’m embracing fall by clearing it all out. The seasons shift, and I suppose it may be time to surrender to that change. Nature is letting go, and so should I.

The most logical place to start is my home, which has morphed into a place where I lay my head at the end of the day, rather than my sanctuary. I’m hoping that cleaning out my closets will help me to release the mental clutter as well.

Years ago, when I first moved into my tiny studio apartment after a months-long renovation, the electrician put the finishing touches on the chandelier he’d just hung, he paused and looked around.

“This is a dream,” he said. “A small dream, but a beautiful dream.”

It’s time to reclaim the beauty and grace of that dream.

This week’s change of season was precipitated by a wave of changes in the lives of people around me.

One of my colleagues got engaged.  Over the last few months, she’s been trying to convert a very reluctant me to join the world of online dating, telling me tales of her friends who met their mates online.  Now she has her own happy-ending case study to prove her point.

Another co-worker worked her last day, off to start a new life with her fiancé in a new city.  We’d developed the kind of friendship where we could just look at each other and know what the other was thinking.  She offered a sense of belonging when I’d gotten used to not feeling part of the whole.  I already miss her.

My favorite manager at my favorite restaurant responded to an email of mine with the news that he’s moving on to another job in another restaurant.  He was a big reason why I’ve become a regular—often bringing my favorite drink before I’d ordered, remembering my love of truffles, and laughing in conversations where we caught up on each other’s lives.  All of it made the delicious food taste even better. I will continue to go, but I already know that something will be missing.

As for me, nothing dramatic happened.  (Though, I did buy— and wear—a pair of skinny jeans for the first time in my life.  And I looked good in them.  I suppose if there was ever a life-altering moment, that would be one.)

But, I feel that something is shifting in me.  Somehow I know I’m not at the crossroads any longer.  My footsteps are traveling down a new path, though I cannot see where the road is leading just yet.  As I wait for that shift to manifest itself in my life, I remain present and focused on following the joy.

First Fallen Leaf

Change is in the air.  I’m just going with it, with love in my heart, as I wait to see what’s on the other side.

These last few weeks as I’ve strolled through the streets of Manhattan, signs of love have popped up in odd places and in unusual ways.

I find myself taking comfort in them, as if they are a beacon of beautiful things on the horizon.

Today, love was on another downtown sidewalk, this time in SoHo on Prince Street.

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Love finds us in unexpected places.

I buy myself flowers regularly; they provide an instant infusion of beauty into my space.

Flowers are also one of those small luxuries that are easily accessible to anyone. So, I indulge.

I will admit, though, that every year after peony season, I go into a mourning period.  Sunflowers begin appearing in abundance all over the city, all sunny and cheery, but to no avail.  No blossom can move me quite the way the peonies do.

But these last few weeks, my apartment has felt sad, so I decided it was time to open my heart to some other bloom.

Enter the deli selling two dozen roses for $10.

One of the things I love about New York City is that you can find flowers on almost every street corner inexpensively.  This particular deli had such a variety of vibrantly hued roses and a man working in the flower section that offered sunshine in his smile.  So I opened my wallet and bought these long stemmed roses.

Not only were they beautiful, but they were deeply perfumed in that rose scent that seems long forgotten, yet so familiar.

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This morning I woke up, my eyes opening and at first sight seeing these roses, and they made me happy.  The buds had burst open, as if they couldn’t contain themselves in all of their sensual voluptuousness.

My day began full of joy brought on by my rose colored moment.

When I’ve visited the Union Square Greenmarket these past few weeks, I’ve been greeted by bushels of tomatillos.  I have never cooked with them before, but I’m always captivated by them whenever I’m in a Mexican restaurant.  If there are three salsas in front of me, invariably I prefer the salsa verde made with tomatillos.

So I bought a bunch and decided to practice making my own salsa.

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It couldn’t be easier.

A relative of the tomato (though closer to the gooseberry), tomatillos are sheltered in husks.  Once they are removed, the tomatillo often has a sticky coating.  Don’t mind this.  It can be washed, though if a little remains it isn’t a big deal.

Out of their husks, they look like little green tomatoes.

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To begin making the salsa, cut the tomatillos into quarters.

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Chop an onion as well and add both to a baking sheet and drizzle with olive oil.

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Chop a jalapeño, if you’d like, to add in a little extra heat.  Salsa needs a little heat, in my humble opinion.

Next, broil the veggies for 3-5 minutes, until they are slightly charred.  The char adds an almost smoky flavor to the salsa.

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Put the broiled vegetables in to the blender, along with a healthy bunch of cilantro.  If you don’t like cilantro, just leave it out.  Though, it won’t be nearly as good, in my humble opinion.  (Are you over my humble opinion yet?)

In other thoughts, can we take a moment to talk about my love of my Vitamix?  It is the best appliance ever – always reliable, always versatile.  Almost anything you want to make you can: smoothies, sauces, soups, peanut butter, ice cream, and on and on.  I feel deep love for it.

I would marry it, but it has yet to put a ring on it.  But I digress.

Back to the salsa.

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Purée everything until the mixture is smooth.

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And then, it is ready to be eaten.

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There are an abundance of uses for tomatillo salsa.  Use it as a sauce over chicken or fish or even scrambled eggs.  Bake shrimp with the salsa and some crumbled queso fresco or cotija cheese.  Spoon it over chicken enchiladas with crema or sour cream.

Or, my preferred way to enjoy it: grab some tortilla chips and dip away.

Today, I saw love everywhere.

It was in the cab I took after my early morning workout.  Normally I take the bus home, but I’d forgotten to fill my MetroCard.  As I sat in my seat, the cabbie asked me to please pay in cash.  This can be an annoying conversation—cab drivers rarely want riders to use a credit card because they lose money on the transactions—but there was something joyful about him so I agreed.

He proceeded to ask about the details of my life, from where I lived to what I did for a living.  It was an unexpectedly lively and deeply personal conversation for 7am. When we reached my apartment, I paid him.  As I began to get out of the car, he turned around, looked me in the eye and said, “Sweetheart, I love you.”

It made me giggle.  It also made my day.

Love is joyful.

It was on the subway platform in the midst of the morning commute.  Two young women in their 20s were intertwined in a passionate encounter, oblivious to the passerby around them.  I laughed to myself thinking in front of me was the dream of so many men to witness such a dalliance, but almost no one seemed to notice. As I sat on my subway car waiting for the train’s door to close, I realized their fervor for each other didn’t seem at all sordid.

Rather, it was love in full bloom.  It was the kind of love we all hope finds us.

Love is exhilarating.

It across from Grand Central Terminal where two friends held each other held each other close.  Not knowing their story, I made it up as I walked by.  One had a broken heart; one offered loving support as only a very close friend can.

Love is comforting.

It was on the street on my walk home.  A family—a mother, a father, and an adult daughter—walked three across, all holding hands.  They didn’t converse, but their body language spoke volumes: a tight knit, close family unit who walked together, firmly bonded in the solidarity of love.

Love is enduring.

Love is everywhere.  Where was it for you today?

Work has always been such a big part of my life, though it hasn’t always loved me back.

Today I remembered how grateful I am to work with a group of people who are kind and fun and know how to laugh.

We spent the day in training (with Hospitality Quotient, which is a consulting group from restaurateur Danny Meyer’s company—they are awesome!), where we learned how to function better as a team.  The specifics of the day don’t matter as much as the fact that there was much talk about collaboration and support and empathy.  No matter how broad the skill set, no matter how big the corporation, no matter how much revenue is generated, it all comes down to very basic human interactions.

Kindness and respect matter.

We ended the day with a fun night at the spa, where we had treatments, nibbled on hors d’oeuvres and just hung out and enjoyed each other’s company.  How lucky I am.

Since today is September 11, I was grateful to spend the day with my work colleagues, far away from the news coverage and the melancholy feelings it always stirs up.  On this day of sad memories, it was heartwarming to spend it making new ones with people I enjoy being around.

The beautiful thing about New York City is that there are inspirational surprises everywhere, such as this gem found on the streets of SoHo:

Sidewalk Love

Embrace the love, wherever you are.  xo

Sometimes you frequent a place and it becomes like a home away from home, with friendly faces who are happy to see you and are genuinely interested in how you are doing.

That’s what Perilla feels like for me.

I hadn’t been for the better part of this year, but today I returned to the restaurant in the West Village of Manhattan.  And it felt like going back home.

I happily anticipated my favorite dish for brunch, the Creamy White Grits.  When I first tried it, I was brunching alone and as I ate I audibly repeated, “mmmm” like a person possessed.  It’s that good.

Along with shrimp, peppers and bites of tasso ham, the grits are normally accompanied by a deep fried poached egg, crunchy and runny all at once – and a must try. The kitchen kindly substituted a perfectly fried egg in its place to accommodate my gluten issues.

It was as delectable as ever.

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Of course, when it’s served up with conversation reminiscent of old friends, food tastes even better.

There’s no place like home.

Perilla, 9 Jones Street, New York, NY 10014; 212.929.6868; perillanyc.com.

There are days when it feels like grace won’t find you.

These are days when it feels like good things are happening for everyone but you. When everyone has exactly what you want, even though you never knew you wanted them before they showed up in front of you, taunting you with their charm. When there’s a hunger so deep that it seems like nothing will ever satisfy it.

There is a squirrel playing high above the ground in the tree next to me as I sit writing from a park bench; he’s probably searching for acorns that he’ll stow away. Fall is approaching on the tail end of each breeze, its presence almost insistent even though the calendar still reads as summer. The lamp posts are already on, even though they lit up a full hour later just a few weeks ago.

Transitions come, naturally occurring miracles in each day. Possibly, it’s the transitions we need to trust, in all of their natural glory, instead of relying on what we think we need. Maybe, it’s the natural flow that we should allow in our lives, instead of fighting what is right in front of us. Likely, what we have is exactly what we need.

Perhaps that is grace.

When my month of Grace & Gratitude ended, I felt a little lost without a means to share what moved me regularly.  There was a magnificent rhythm to living the day with eyes, heart, and mind open to the possibility of grace appearing.  As I published the last post of the series, I already missed it.

Grace of the Day (or Grub or Goodness of the Day) posts will allow me to keep the fire of presence alive.  I’ll still share Goodness, Grace and Grub posts, but these will allow me to concisely share what fills me with awe, maybe not daily, but more frequently.

For example.

Today I was having one of those conversations where I was trying to understand something.  I was in the space of why:  why did this unfold this way, why did I feel that way?  Why, why, why.

The very wise person I was talking to had been intently listening to me.  She stopped and took a breath before answering.  Then she very clearly and succinctly gave me an answer that brilliantly answered my whys.  Her answer gave me a perspective that I wouldn’t have thought of, and she answered in such a way that told me she fully understood me.

It was a moment where I felt completely connected, wholly tethered by the moment.

Moments of connection, where you are understood implicitly, are the epitome of grace.

Yesterday I wrote about my love of peaches.  Today, I used the rest of the bounty I purchased at the farmer’s market this weekend.  I made peach cobbler in celebration of Labor Day.

Using this easy recipe, I substituted Cup 4 Cup flour to make it gluten-free.  It worked beautifully, with virtually no difference in the texture (or taste…shhhh) in the batter.

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The cake-like topping was light and tender, and it posed a perfect complement to the summery vibrance of the peaches.

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Summer may be waning, but dishes like this allow us to hold on a little longer. That is the goodness of food.

We’re blessed with beautiful farmers’ markets in New York City, rich with local and in-season produce.  Though I don’t often have time to hit up the markets, this time of year, I’m haunted by memories of peaches.  Some people have a fear of missing out on life; I have a FOMO on peach season.

So I went to the Union Square Greenmarket yesterday and was happily greeted by an abundance of succulent, fuzzy, juicy peaches, just waiting to be eaten.

Peaches

I greeted the morning with knowledge that I had a handful of peaches on my kitchen counter just waiting to be enjoyed.  My plan was to use them in my favorite recipe, but the creme fraiche in the refrigerator had gone bad.  Such a sad story.

Instead I improvised with ingredients I had on hand:  fresh ricotta cheese with a sprinkling of brown sugar and a splash of vanilla extract all whipped together, which I then dolloped over one perfectly ripe chopped peach.  The mixture tasted like a pillowy cheesecake infused with juicy, sunshine-y peachiness.

I love when things turn out well.

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