I live in a pretty awesome one bedroom in Harlem. And yes, I pay exactly $110 dollars less than the rent of the WHOLE three bedroom I lived in for 18 years in Long Island City, Queens that I shared with roommates! It’s a staggering detail when I think about it for too long...
I’m a big fan of the phrase “You get what you pay for.” I save my money in order to seek out and buy quality clothing, exceptional experiences, and really tasty food. Don’t get me wrong, I love a bargain and I’m a master at cutting corners. But I find that if I buy something cheap, oftentimes it’s disposable. There’s no lasting quality woven into its threads, no durability in its construction, and I end up throwing it away. No bueno.
So when I moved from Queens back into Manhattan after 22 years and added nearly $1K to my rent bill for 2/3 less of the space - one would question am I really getting what I’m paying for? I am happy to tell you, yes! And then some!
When my real estate agent and friend, Patrick Frankfort, found this apartment for me, he forgot to show me a secret room. I’ve lived here a little over a year and I’ve only just discovered it. I bet your living space has one of these secret rooms too. It’s the Room For Improvement!
That may sound corny, but I’m being completely serious. I live my life at a level of high accomplishment. I push myself. I work really hard, I reward myself and play really hard. I’m at the gym nearly every single day. I’m generous and thoughtful, my job is all about serving others, my collection of friends and family are shiny gold pieces that live in the bank of my heart. I mean, I write a blog called All Good Things!
You know what, all of those things ARE good. My life is lovely. But once I discovered my secret little Room For Improvement, I’m determined to improve on all of it! My health and wellness, my relationships, my habits, my spending and saving, the work I do for others. There’s room for all of that to up the game, get better results, and try harder.
I recently made a new friend that actually handed me the keys to my Room For Improvement. Gina DiNapoli is a fitness instructor who is young enough to be my daughter, and if I was a mom, man, I’d be proud for her to be my kid! (Shout out to all the moms - I hope you had a stellar Mother’s Day!)
Gina says something in her classes that I’ve always known to be true, but somewhere down the line I got complacent and stopped living the truth of those words. To paraphrase: “If you’re not giving your all, you’re cheating yourself. You’re cheating those around you. If you’re half-assing in here, you’re taking up space from someone that wants to be in here with their whole 100%.” (And then she throws a bucket of love on you by saying, “I believe in you. Keep going. You can do this!”)
This philosophy goes way beyond an amazing kickboxing/dance class. We need to apply this in everything we do. Search your metaphorical attics and basements, garages and storage spaces. Find your room for improvement and go there every day. (I believe in you. Keep going. You can do this.)
In the kitchen, I find there is always room for improvement too. I read so many cookbooks and food magazines, and most cooks are working to find the best version of a recipe or the most efficient and trustworthy kitchen technique. A little more of this, a little less of that could be the winning combination to improve your favorite dish.
This week I had a client ask for a strawberry rhubarb crisp. What a treat, after last week using rhubarb in a savory recipe, to have the task of combining the traditional flavors of strawberry and rhubarb in a dessert! I love fruit pies and crisps because they really are just showcase vehicles for the fruit. Their ingredient lists are simple and the recipes are so forgiving, you can’t really screw things up.
adapted from Food and Wine Magazine 2006
2 pounds rhubarb stalks, sliced 1/2 inch thick
3/4 cup sugar
3/4 cup honey
1 and 1/2 pound strawberries, hulled and quartered
3 tablespoons cornstarch
2 teaspoons fresh lemon juice
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1 and 1/2 sticks salted butter, softened
1 1/2 cups light brown sugar
1 1/2 cups whole wheat flour
1 1/4 cups quick-cooking rolled oats
1 1/2 teaspoons cinnamon
3/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper
How to Make It
Preheat the oven to 375°. In a bowl, toss the rhubarb with 3/4 cup of the sugar and let stand for 15 minutes, stirring occasionally. In another bowl, toss the strawberries with 3/4 cup honey and let stand for 10 minutes, stirring occasionally. Using a slotted spoon, transfer the rhubarb to the strawberries; discard any rhubarb juice. (Don’t discard, put it in a glass with seltzer or drizzle it over ice cream, or eat it with a spoon as a cook’s treat. Don’t throw it away. It’s liquid goodness!) Add the cornstarch, lemon juice and vanilla to the fruit and stir well. Transfer the mixture to a 9-by-13-inch glass baking dish.
Combine all of the ingredients in a medium bowl. Using a pastry blender or your fingers, mix the ingredients together until large crumbs form.
Sprinkle the topping evenly over the filling and bake for 30 minutes. Reduce the oven temperature to 325° and continue baking for about 30 minutes longer, until the fruit filling is bubbling and the topping is nicely browned. Let the crisp rest for 10 to 20 minutes before serving.