Five Why’s

As a follow up to yesterday’s post, the biggest help I had in building my list was asking myself 5 Why’s. For example, one of my personal goals is to learn the basics of Italian.

Why do I want to learn the basics of Italian?
So I can speak, read, and understand the language.

Why do I want to speak, read & understand the language?
I want to be a more considerate and safer traveler, of course, but also be better able to get off the tourist routes on my next visit to Italy.

Why do I want to get off the tourist routes?
I want a more authentic view of Italians, the Italian countryside and small towns, and their day-to-day lives.

Why do I want a more authentic view?
I want to get past the stereotypes perpetuated in tourist areas, get away from the crowds,  and interact with people in a more meaningful way.

Why do I want to get past the stereotypes, avoid crowds, and interact with people in a more meaningful way?
Because I hate crowds and don’t want to just confirm my biases, grab my souvenir tea towel, and go home. I want to come away feeling like I better understand Italians across the peninsula, the ways they see the world and their place in it. I also want to help dispell the stereotypes that people in other lands have about Americans by letting them get to know me a little.

With a deeper understanding of WHY I value the goal of learning the basics of Italian, I can ensure that it’s not an externally based goal (people-pleasing or societal norms-focused), and I think I’ll be more inclined to put the work in and set the distractions aside to reach it.

When I couldn’t get past two or three thoughtful why’s (and for some things I couldn’t), it quickly became clear that the stated goal wasn’t really something I was going to feel driven to maintain when motivation flagged or that didn’t add much to how I wanted to live my life.

Ten weeks

I don’t want to alarm anyone, but it’s only 10 weeks until the next year begins.

In general, I’m not someone that cares much about the shift from one calendar year to the next. I can’t remember ever making a personal New Year’s resolution, for example. If I think I ought to change something, I tend to go about considering, planning, and changing it. I’m not always successful at it, of course, but I do what I can to make the start vs giving myself time to ignore it or talk myself out of it.

But the realization today did make me stop to think about the direction my life is going, the things I’m happy about, the important things I’ve fallen away from, new (or renewed) things I’d like to turn towards, and the things that it might be best for me to turn away from–or handle in a different way.

So I drew up a simple list and drafted 3 priorities for each of the four categories I deemed most important to a well-lived life–personal, professional, social, and slippery slopes (aka wellness, financial, household). Then I thought about what I do on a day-to-day basis and what I get in return for each of them. It was humbling and even a bit embarrassing to really consider where I spend so much of my finite resources (time, attention, cash, effort, and energy). To admit how often I spend those resources on things that don’t enrich, support, or grow me in return. To see how one-sided things are in several categories. Frankly, it made me a bit ashamed. I know better, and I deserve better.

Then I thought about what I don’t do, what I put off, what I give lip-service to but always seem to find an excuse for not actually following through on, engaging in, or just half-assing. It’s an equally (un)impressive list. Again: frankly, it made me a bit ashamed. I know better, and I deserve better–and so do some of the things in my life.

So I’ve decided to take the bulk of my upcoming free time the next few weeks to think deeply about all of the above and to implement some much-needed changes.

(Yes, read things to include people. No, I don’t need a lecture on people vs things. I do, indeed, recognize the difference.)

Celeriac: Is this a joke? Where’s the camera?

The first time I pulled celeriac out of the CSA box a dozen years ago, I was pretty sure the farm was pulling a prank of us. I mean, really, have you seen this thing? But ever the trooper, I followed the owner’s instructions and whipped up a lovely soup and used the remainder pieces for some crunchy snacking.

It turns out, celeriac is a fantastic soup base because it breaks down well, making a silky smooth backdrop for almost anything else you want to throw in with it. Its mild celery undertones never overwhelm the finished soup, and conveniently, eliminate the need for that stringy vegetable. I’ve used celeriac now for carrot soup, beet soup, turnip soup, and probably a few more root vegetables that I can’t remember right now. When I find celeriac at the market, I buy it. I know it’ll get put to good use.

Per the recommendation in Three Good Things, I paired it today with another familiar fall veg: Brussels sprouts (and–optional–the last bit of bacon hiding out in the freezer). Good call, Hugh. Good call. Overall, it took about an hour from beginning to end and both of us enjoyed it quite a bit. I see this becoming a regular part of the fall-winter soup season around here.

Based on amounts I had on hand, I modified things a bit but the author would no doubt recognize the overall recipe.


Scary good soup (if somewhat ugly in this poor lighting)


Pat of butter
1 T olive oil
white onion, chopped
large celeriac bulb, peeled & cubed
1 quart vegetable stock
1/2 pound Brussels sprouts, trimmed, halved
1/4 pound streaky bacon, cut into strips (short-way)
1/2 C whipping cream
salt & pepper

Warm up the butter and olive oil in a large saucepan, add onion and sweat gently for 3-4 minutes.

Add the celeriac, stir, cover pot and let heat through for 10 minutes. Add the stock, heat to boil, and then drop hat back to a simmer until celeriac is clearly softening (5-10 minutes). Add the sprouts, stir well, cook for 5 minutes.

If using, fry up the bacon at this point and blot the fully-cooked bacon pieces on paper towels.

When sprouts are tender, puree with an immersion blender or CAREFULLY in a heat-resistant blender. (hot liquid + sudden motion = explosive force: physics works)

Back in the pot, off the heat, add the cream and stir to combine. Reheat gently, if needed. Stir in bacon pieces or use as a garnish, if using. Taste test, adding salt & pepper as needed.

If vegan, omit the butter and just use more olive oil in the beginning. The cookbook’s author recommends toasted, blanched almonds or crunchy garlic-bread croutons to give the soup some crunch and greater curb appeal.

NOTE: The Amazon link is for convenience only. I don’t receive any financial benefit from it. If possible, please buy from a local bookseller (or used).