The watermelon and labneh together with the cucumber in these watermelon labneh bites make a super-pleasurable tidbit, and practically guilt-free!

Watermelon bites with melon, Maureen Abood

The enterprise of moving—the packing, the unpacking, the where-to-put-it-all—has taken up a good amount of space in my brain the last several years. I just counted out on my fingers (because that somehow makes it so much more dramatic) that I’ve moved six times in about as many years.

As a move is happening, I daydream about people who move all of the time; my old neighbor Elaine Bowersox moved every year with her husband and family. How organized she must have been, I’ve thought, and at some point do you just stop unpacking certain things (who really needs to have that fondue set handy?), knowing they’ll be packed back up soon enough?

Watermelon cutouts, Maureen Abood

Luckily, my moves have not all been massive. I figure the big ones, like moving my mother out of Wagon Wheel Lane after 40 years, the two of us doing it single-handedly, and another move, one of many in Chicago, in which I had 12 hours to exit from a condo where the most uninspired and out-of-whack months of my life had passed—those make up for the other types of moves where you can do it slowly, over time, without one big fell swoop to crush your being.

The great thing about the last few years is that my stuff (which is really just stuff…yet we have attachments…) has been boxed up in various storage units (including a mother’s basement and a sister’s garage). The liberation of that experience can’t be underestimated: I’ve been free, quite literally, to walk, or skip as the case may be, down any path I’ve seen fit (namely, to go to San Francisco and cook or head up north to write and think, for as long as the situation called for), without the weight of stuff to haul along with me.

Pot luck buffet, Maureen Abood

Little girl with pigtails, Maureen Abood

Dessert table, Maureen Abood

Even though our wedding was months ago, it wasn’t until the last couple of weeks that I started to reign in all of my far-flung stuff to unpack and put it to use at home with Dan and our families. Life in northern Michigan will continue to be a focal point for us and for my work, but Dan’s work is downstate, so that’s where I’ll be much of the time too (so if you notice a different kitchen-scape in my photos sometimes, that’s why!).

As I’ve anticipated this shift the last few years, I’ve wondered and worried a bit about letting go of the cozy nook I’d been curled up in at my parents’ place on Main Street up north—even as I’ve cursed moments when I know I already have, say, a set of shish-kebab skewers but have no idea which box they’re in, or where, so I have to go buy another.

Red wagon, Maureen Abood

Bikes front lawn, Maureen Abood

But downstate here, there’s a whole new world opening up. Yes, this is home, the place where I was raised. But there’s this remarkable sense for me of connecting with where I’ve been while also tapping into something entirely new. We live in a neighborhood where our mamas are blocks away, and my brother and nephew even closer than that. Every day I open the front door around 3:00 in hopes that boy will come zooming up on his bike with his posse of friends. They all call me Aunt Maureen, and I like to have something good for them to snack on at the ready.

For a girl who didn’t, for reasons she remains miffed and stunned by, have the slew of children she dreamed she’d have, you can imagine my satisfaction. Moreso: the joy.

Dessert table Alexis, Maureen Abood

Chocolate berries, Maureen Abood

Things go on here like neighborhood pot-lucks where everyone is invited to come, and they do, to the home where a mom with ten kids of her own finds the time and a way to bring the people all around her together. I’ve never seen her without a big smile on her face.

And then right across the street, another dear, special neighbor threw a welcome-to-the-neighborhood gathering for me—a welcome party! Ladies of three generations came and we visited and sipped a little wine and ate creative treats from a crazy-pretty buffet while I learned where each one lives and who they are. I received little notes with phone numbers and big hugs and scented candles that all said: you’re home.

All those years of city living, and then the solitude of up north living, were so far removed from this kind of life, a life that at a certain point I figured was just not meant for me. But now that I’ve brought all of the boxes of things back together and unpacked them, and started to settle into a new rhythm for my days, I realize that what’s being pulled together is not just stuff for a move-in, but a life, and a self, for a move-forward.

Watermelon bites, Maureen Abood

 

Watermelon Labneh Bites

Prep Time: 10 minutes
Servings: 8
Recipe by: Maureen Abood

Perfect for a neighborhood gathering or a pretty buffet. The watermelon and labneh together with the cucumber make a super-pleasurable bite, and practically guilt-free! Assemble the bites just before serving.

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Ingredients

  • 1 small, seedless watermelon
  • 1 cup labneh
  • 1 small pickling or Persian cucumber
  • fine sea salt, to taste

Instructions

  1. Cut the watermelon crosswise into slices about 1-inch thick. Use a small cutter, about 1 1/2 to 2 inches, to cut out bite-sized disks from the watermelon.

  2. Top each disk with a small dollop of labneh (about 1/2 teaspoon).

  3. Quarter the cucumber into spears lengthwise, and cut the spears into 1/4-inch wedges. Top each dollop of labneh with a cucumber wedge.

  4. Sprinkle the bites with sea salt just before serving (to avoid too much water coming out of the melon and the labneh). Serve the bites chilled.

 

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