Broccoli cheddar and a book for the soul


There’s nothing like treating yourself to lunch.

I stopped for a while, mostly when I went full-force on Weight Watchers and knew that dining out each day was a surefire way to go over my daily points allowance. Lunches out went from commonplace status to special treat — and that wasn’t a bad thing! Not for my wallet, my waistline, my psyche.

When I stopped worrying about lunches every day, I became more productive at work and in my personal life. The time I once used to read over soup at Panera became a chance to run errands, get gas, swing by the grocery store for random items. All those little, annoying tasks we must fit in somewhere.

But I missed those relaxing breaks. A chance to step away from the desk and into the sunshine; an opportunity to reunite with characters, eat a hot meal and gather my thoughts. I don’t mind eating alone . . . it’s one of my favorite things to do, actually. And where I tend to go on my breaks, I’m just one of many sitting solo.

I’ve been spending an inordinate amount of time on Stephanie Perkins’ Isla and the Happily Ever After, a library book I’ve already renewed and will probably have to check out for a third time to make it through. It’s my “lunch read,” and I usually start debating where to take it that day by late morning.

Though I’m still following the basic tenets of Weight Watchers, I have eased up. I have not been tracking, but I feel okay about that. I’ve given myself permission to relax my strict eating — especially as dealing with recent health issues have meant I’m eating only what I can stomach and no more, no less. If that’s just a slice of bread? So be it. I’m not so far down the rabbit hole I can’t recognize that, first and foremost, I need to take care of myself.

Body and mind.

And that’s where the lunches can come in. As work and daily life can get stressful, I’ve returned to treating myself to meals out a few times a week — when I feel the pull to get up and out, soaking up the colors of fall and enjoying the last few warm days before the cold comes bustling in. Sometimes I meet my dad or my sister, but I often head out alone. Lately, with Isla.

And it’s good. Good for the soul.

Almost as good as Panera’s broccoli cheddar soup, you know.

The early-riser gets the squash

Fresh beans

If the early bird catches the worm, the early Meggie . . . buys all the produce?

(I’ll work on that one.)

When I moved in with Spencer last fall, many of his habits became my habits. I guess this is, you know, normal for couples? I don’t know. But if there’s one thing to know about my husband, it’s this: he appreciates time. Time for projects, professional and otherwise; time to maximize and time to waste. My guy works and plays in equal measure, and he accomplishes these things best by getting up early.

I didn’t function that way.

Growing up, my sister and I had an early-riser dad who would accomplish more before 8 a.m. than many folks would all day. He despises “lazy” behavior, and rarely let us sleep past 9 a.m. I admired his up-and-at-’em qualities, but the last thing a teenager wants is a parent busting in to break up their beauty sleep by imitating birdsong and flashing lights.

I once took after my mom, you see: a night owl. I thrived in the wee hours of the morning, staying up to write or read or study. I worked long shifts at the bookstore during my last two years of college, and the dark hours after midnight were sometimes the only ones I had to get stuff done. Especially when I was too busy running around with boyfriends to work on math problems during the day.

Lessons learned.

Now that I’m staring down age 29 (on Friday!), I sense a marked shift in my schedule these days. Spence likes to turn in early and rise with the sun, taking advantage of our weekends for projects and fun. This has increased exponentially since we bought the house, because there is always something to do. Like, always. Never mind that we’re only partly through several major changes, like installing hardwood floor upstairs; the base level of laundry/dishes/vacuuming is enough to keep us moving much of the day.

And we don’t even have children yet.

Somebody hold me.


Lately? With my mind churning, a huge to-do list, a new house to nail into and paint? I’m all too happy to oblige Spencer’s go-getter attitude. I’ve started waking up at 6:30 a.m. without an alarm clock, even on Saturdays, and feel most productive before lunchtime. I crank out emails, tear through work projects, make lists upon lists and color code them all. It’s pretty awesome, actually — and only partly attributable to caffeine. Though coffee is awesome.

Last weekend was crazy, and we had more than enough to keep ourselves occupied. We hosted the annual family birthday party for my dad, my sister and me on Sunday (our birthdays are within a week of each other), which meant Saturday had to be spent cleaning, organizing and de-boxing whatever we could de-box in an effort to make the place look somewhat less crazy. We succeeded, I think, and the party was great! So much food, great family, delicious pasta salad.

But before all that, we hit the farmers’ market.

I’m kind of obsessed with vegetables. Since starting Weight Watchers last year and getting serious about healthy eating, I’ve learned all kinds of ways to prepare them that are addictive. Finding fresh, local produce at a reasonable price is fantastic, and we’ve stopped by the local farmers’ market twice in the last few weeks for all kinds of goodies.

And I bought a fruit bowl — a big, white, gorgeous fruit bowl. I keep it overflowing . . . and it is glorious. One of the earliest WW tips we received was to surround yourself with good food — food that’s good for you, food you actually like — and to have it front and center, where your eyes will always gravitate to it. No candy dish, you know?

That’s my fruit bowl.

By 10 a.m. on Saturday, we had met friends for breakfast, gone for produce at the farmers’ market and gotten a full grocery order for party foods and beyond, then gone home to unload it all and start party prep. We did so much before noon (Spencer installed a toilet! I did all the laundry!) that I kind of want to slack off for the rest of the day, but I forced myself to quit the laziness.

Also, I drank a lot of Diet Coke.

In terms of our haul, we came home with squash and zucchini, red onion and sweet peppers, bright red cherry tomatoes and baby varieties in purple, yellow, pink. For less than $10, we had enough veggies to last us the week — though most were chopped for salads and sides before the day was out.

I feel impossibly grown-up when I’m chopping vegetables. On a real cutting board. With an actual knife. It’s very soothing.

And then I nearly cut off the tip of a finger and feel ridiculous again (“Who let me use this knife?!”), but . . . y’know, that’s okay.

I’m learning.

And I have squash — and Spence — to thank for it.

The long-standing books on my nightstand

I used to be a book monogamist. When I picked up a novel, I read it to completion; and when I was done with that single story, I moved on to the next one. Before blogging, my “to be read” stack was about three or four books. As my stash depleted, I’d pop over to Borders (RIP, old friend) and grab another novel from the three-for-two table.

Not anymore.

Books line most surfaces of my room, listing to one side in awkward stacks. I recently combed my bookcase and donated about 70 novels to the public library for their Saturday used book sales (so if you’re in Maryland, it could be your lucky day). My bookcase is neater, for sure, and no longer double- and triple-stacked. But I will never, ever run out of books.

Beside the bookcase is a green and pink table. In addition to my journals, cosmetics and old photographs are the novels on my proverbial nighstand. Four books are always ready to provide my pre-sleeping entertainment. Or, more specifically, my non-entertainment. These are my soothing books.

I’m a skittish reader. Suspenseful stories, emotional stories — these do not make for a pleasant sleeping environment. And as I have to read before bed every night (without fail), I have to carefully choose which books to peruse before it’s lights out. Anything high-stakes or high-drama will likely keep me up until the middle of the night, determined to finish, so I have to choose books that amble along at a gentle pace.

And I have a few of them. Julia Child’s My Life In France is my ultimate bedtime read. Lush, evocative and brimming with enough fabulous food to make your stomach ache, her memoir of living and cooking with her husband in and around Paris is fabulous. Sometimes it’s hard for me to believe she accurately recalled so many specific details of her time there (my own hang-up regarding memoirs), but I guess my time in France would be forever etched in my mind, too. I’m about 150 pages in and never want it to end, so I savor each morsel a page or two at a time. It’s been on my nighstand for about a year.

Flapper: A Madcap Story of Sex, Style, Celebrity, and the Women Who Made America Modern by Joshua Zeitz is a novel I’ve been reading off and on for years, too. In the mood to read more non-fiction, I bought it on a whim and was sucked into the world of F. Scott and Zelda Fitzgerald, who had a rather interesting love story. They’re not at the center of the book, though they are principle characters — and I’ve enjoyed reading more about an author I’ve loved so much.

At the Book Blogger Convention last May, I met Jim Higley at an author roundtable. There to discuss Bobblehead Dad: 25 Life Lessons I Forgot I Knew, his own memoir, I was fascinated by Higley’s story as a columnist-turned-author and peppered him with questions about the process (sorry, Jim!). Beyond my interest in his publication story, Higley is a fascinating man who embraced life — and parenthood — even more fully after a cancer diagnosis and major change in his family. He was such a warm person and hugged me after I talked with him about my own life, which meant so much to me. His vignettes are very poignant, and I’ve also savored them slowly.

And what nightstand of Meg’s would be complete without a book on Niagara Falls? Long fascinated with the area, my boyfriend actually had a copy of Ginger Strand’s Inventing Niagara: Beauty, Power and Lies that I pilfered years back. It’s not always the most compelling reading, being weighed down at points by an exhaustive history of the falls, but I’m still plugging away and hope to finish (and return it, Spence!) someday.

So there you have it — four books, all non-fiction. I’m actually more likely to savor and enjoy memoirs over a prolonged period than I am a novel; with fiction, either it grabs me or it doesn’t. I’m more forgiving with non-fiction. If it doesn’t capture my interest immediately, I don’t chuck it; the book is simply set aside for when I’m in more of a “mood” to enjoy such a thing. And I eventually do.


Do you have certain books you read before bed? Are you more forgiving with slightly boring non-fiction than fiction?

Bookmark love

bookmarksI’m a picky person. I don’t create a lot of drama about things — well, not usually — but I do prefer things to always go my way. Strict rules govern how I like to eat, write, work and, of course, read. And these same rules dictate to me what I can even use to mark my place in the books I read! It’s probably a little bit more than obsessive-compulsive, but I like to control everything . . . even down to bookmarks.

Yes — bookmarks.

If you flip open one of my paperbacks, you’re not going to find a receipt or magazine postcard wedged in the spine. Nor will you come across an old grocery list, a notecard or a photo. I use paper bookmarks exclusively — the flat, cardstock ones typically found for free by registers at Borders or the like. I don’t like plastic, and I don’t like metal. I can’t get into anything that makes the book bigger or doesn’t let the pages lie flat. I’m not into tassles hanging off the pages, and I don’t like anything that’s going to be longer than the actual book itself. I can occasionally get behind some ribbon — but it depends on the type.

Are you still reading? Do you think I’m totally nuts?

If your answer is a resounding “YES!”, I’m happy to share some of the creations others have made on Etsy . . . because I love them, but I just can’t imagine I’d ever use them. Because I’m just — meh. I have to do it my way! I have about 15 flat, cardstock bookmarks I just rotate from book to book, and I can’t see that changing anytime soon.

The only exception to this is a paperclip bookmark made by the lovely Kristine of beach cottage studio. With an awesome journal I purchased from her in the spring, she sent me one of her creations — and I do love it, and use it often! It was very sweet of her to include it, and I’m glad I gave it a chance.

Ready for some more bookmark love? Then cast aside your reservations and start clicking!

Ribbon bookmark by beachcottagestudio, $4.95

Ribbon bookmark by beachcottagestudio, $4.95

Murano glass heart bookmark by caldon98, $10

Murano glass heart bookmark by caldon98, $10

Minty the Happy Cupcake bookmark by littlegenschi, $6.50

Minty the Happy Cupcake bookmark by littlegenschi, $6.50


Set of three corner bookmarks by LilBitSassy, $2.50