Keep moving forward. Plus Watermelon Labneh Bites.
The watermelon and labneh together with the cucumber in these watermelon labneh bites make a super-pleasurable tidbit, and practically guilt-free!
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?
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.
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.
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.
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 Labneh Bites
- 1 small, seedless watermelon
- 1 cup labneh
- 1 small pickling or Persian cucumber
- fine sea salt, to taste
- 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.
- Top each disk with a small dollop of labneh (about 1/2 teaspoon).
- Quarter the cucumber into spears lengthwise, and cut the spears into 1/4-inch wedges. Top each dollop of labneh with a cucumber wedge.
- 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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I'm so glad you're here! You'll find among these pages the fresh and classic Lebanese recipes we can't get enough of! My mission is to share my tried + true recipes -- and to help our Lebanese food-loving community keep these culinary traditions alive and on the table. What recipes are you looking for? Let me know!
Blessings on your new home and this new chapter in the adventure of your life, Maureen. This was another wonderful post–story, images (loved the pink hair bows), and recipes.
tears, and smiles, again!
Thank you Maureen for all your posts. Can you give me the recipe for the sfiha dough? Thank you
Essam, use the dough for fatayar for your sfeha–it’s here!
what a great place to live – don’t worry – it will always be there for you and you will find other new amazing things in your new and very happy home.
By the way – I completely understand feeling miffed and stunned by the fact that the slew of children never happened. I’m in the same boat. Neverthless, God provides “slews” and you’ll find them in your new home too. Best part is – you can send them back to their parents when they misbehave!!! 🙂 🙂 There are silver linings with all clouds in life!!!
Congrats to you and your husband and your new home.
Lovely little bites and beautiful post. So happy for you Maureen. The path is not always what we expect but you sure found your destination! Yippee! (And I’m happy to lend you my small “slew” anytime you want – one can never have too many fabulous Aunties!)
Maureen, you describe the moving process and all the feelings that go with it beautifully! I had mixing bowls and measuring cups that seemed to reproduce themselves every time I moved, just like your kebab skewers. Thanks for delivering a smile to me this morning!
I completely understand your feelings about moving. Like airports, they are both a source of excitement and of intense stress. And as such, your move has opened up the opportunity of meeting new neighbours, making new friends, and perhaps a whole new path in life. I’m excited for you!
Great story and beautiful pictures. It seems our lives don’t take us where we think it will but our journey is right for each of us wherever it may be!
I love your blog! You continue to inspire me, as you have for 37 years! Beautiful food, beautiful writing, beautiful you!