Pretty Southern

What does it mean to be a Southerner in the 21st century?

February 2013 archive

Quite Keen Quinoa

In the kitchen, as in life, sometimes y’all have to take a bunch of goodness, throw it in a pot, boil, simmer, and pray for the best. That’s basically how this Pretty Southern recipe came to be; however, we had a bit of help from our pal: Chelsea Cook. As a girl on the go, Cook has to get creative with her cooking, and she came up with the brilliant creation of quinoa with cilantro, goat cheese, then a dash of sriracha. We’ve modified ours with a few extra ingredients. Most Southern kitchens (at least the healthy ones) should have these ingredients handy but if not this recipe will literally cost less than a few bucks at your local grocery store. We’re quite keen on this quinoa recipe and hope y’all will be too!

  • 1 & 3/4 cups  water
  • 1 teaspoon extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 box quinoa (we picked the roasted red pepper & basil flavor)
  • 1 cup chopped kale (buy a big bag of the pre-chopped then use the rest for smoothies!)
  • 1 cup fresh cilantro (leaves only)
  • 1 tablespoon minced garlic
  • 1 tablespoon lemon juice
  • 1/4 cup crumbled goat cheese (or to taste)

Bring the water, olive oil, and quinoa to a boil. Once boiling, add the seasoning packet from the box and reduce to medium heat. Keep a steady boil and DO NOT COVER. While the quinoa is cooking, rinse the kale and cilantro. We used a full bunch of cilantro but picked all the leaves off the stems for about a full cup of packed herbs.

After 10 minutes, add the kale. Keep it boiling for 4 more minutes then remove from heat. Add the lemon juice and garlic. Cover and let stand for 5 minutes, then fluff with a fork and mix in the cilantro. Do this quickly to keep the steam in the pot, as it will help release the flavor of the herbs. Let your pot stand for 3 more minutes then add the goat cheese. Serve immediately.

A heart healthy dinner of tilapia & quinoa

And if you like your quinoa spicy, add a dash of sriacha. We served ours with grilled tilapia marinated in Tex Blair’s BBQ Rub and topped with a bit of the fresh cilantro. It made enough for leftovers so we’re quite keen on having this quinoa again the next day!

Love Can Wait

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This is the fourth part of a daily series, “Five Things About Love (that are hard to understand)” by Miles McClellan. This series originally ran on McClellan’s blog and he was kind enough to share it with you, dear reader. So here’s to love – the good, bad, and all the nitty gritty (sometimes pretty) stuff in between.

That dreaded moment has come. It’s time for a little tough love. A while ago, I had a conversation with a young woman nearly ten years my junior. During the course of our talk, I asked if I could pose a deeply personal question.

“Are you afraid to be single?” I asked her.

“Yes,” she replied, without hesitating. The question was rhetorical, which is to say I was all but convinced of her response ahead of time. In my experience, this is not an insecurity that is isolated to the young. If we let it, it can plague us for our entire lives.

I was fortunate. I lacked self-confidence when I was her age, and younger. Regardless of whether others around me considered me an attractive person, I could not conceive of myself as an attractive person in my own mind. There was no way I could have been in a successful relationship when I was a younger man. I wasn’t ready, and I’m glad of it now.

I’m glad because I spent all of my teenage years, and have spent most of my twenties, as a single man. I know how it feels to be alone, at times to feel pitifully lonely, and to have no-one with whom to interact in the most intimate sense for which we all long. I know how it feels to be single, and as a happy consequence, it does not distress me.

Yet, for many, the thought of the single life is not only distressing, but terrifying. A boyfriend or girlfriend is something some have to have at all times in order to have self-confidence. I do not intend to mock or belittle these people, nor their struggles. Their insecurity is a natural, even forgivable symptom of the road toward love. It comes from not having learned the simple lesson that love can wait, that love is worth waiting for.

This may be a more plainspoken entry for this series, but I do not wish to be unkind. If you share this fear with that dear, young friend of mine, then yes, it is a blemish on your heart… but it is certainly not one which anyone can or should blame you for having.

You can only be blamed for every day you refuse to face it.

When we fear isolation in some way, be it deep or shallow, physical or emotional, we will stay with someone who does not make us happy, even someone who mistreats or abuses us, for months, years, even decades. Conversely, when we’re not worried about being single, lonely, or alone, we’ll end a harmful relationship without a second thought because the consequences of doing the right thing no longer make us anxious.

That’s why I’m happy I wasn’t confident when I was younger. To me, what is even more terrifying than being single is that, if you’re uncomfortable with being alone in some sense, this anxiety of yours can consume even the healthiest and most meaningful of relationships in its viciousness. Mark my words, it can destroy the love of your life.

Now that ought to be frightening you. And now you know why I’m being so forceful.

When you commit your heart to a relationship simply because you’re trying to relieve yourself of the discomfort of being single… or, when you remain in a relationship where your heart is no longer committed out of a desire for the same relief…

Then in the moment you find yourself without your partner, let alone for an extended period of time, such as when you are in a long-distance relationship (as my parents’ relationship was in its inception), you have made your own fate inevitable. Your sense of stability and sustenance will crumble beneath you. It can never compare, it can never even come close, to that of someone who is self-assured, who is more comfortable with going without that presence for a while.

Don’t get mad at me yet. Of course there is nothing wrong with missing someone. There is nothing wrong with the romantic notion of not being able to live without someone, either… but we all need to ask ourselves a simple question…

Are we really missing someone, or are we missing just having someone?

For the sake of love itself, there is a difference, and the recognition of this difference is foundational to our ability to make each other truly happy in the grand, oh-too-complex scheme of life and love.

So, if all of this is making you nervous, then it is essential that you come to understand, and soon, that your fear of loneliness, absence, or solitude will always be working directly against whatever confidence you have in that those you love will come home to you, a confidence that would normally be stabilizing and sustaining you.

And, much as I hate to say it, you are the one creating the conflict.

No matter how good they are, or good for you, if you count on someone else to hold you accountable—if you literally depend upon someone else’s presence, in one way or another, for your own sense of self-worth—if you have this fear and think you will be able to handle it, to suddenly think differently, when you find “the one”… please listen.

You will not.

Love does not work that way, at least not for those who see it as a singular commitment. No matter the strength or the serendipity of that eventual relationship, the brittle foundation you’ve built to go beneath it will be in peril of collapse during any time you spend apart, during every business trip, every tour of duty, and no matter how much you love one another. If a sustaining relationship is to be had, you can’t rely on the other person to be the strong one. You need to begin building yourself up, and that means you may need to be alone for a while.

Don’t put it off. Don’t waste any more of your life, nor anyone else’s. Do it now.

For if you fail in this, if you do not confront your qualms and your insecurities, then particularly during every fight, every moment of anger and stress inflicted upon a strained relationship, you will be in tumultuous danger, and for no other reason than because you have spent so much of yourself convincing your heart that it needs a sense of intimacy, some measure of another person’s closeness, in order to be contented and happy.

While this sort of mentality may work for those of you who have chosen to have open relationships, and though it may work for a time for people who are either very tenacious or stubborn, it works for no-one who wishes to find true love of the committed variety.

If you really want the right person, then their presence in your life is a responsibility you need to be ready for. You’re never going to get ready if you’re with the wrong person.

That’s all the tough love I’ve got. I promise I’m done being so direct.

It is such a tragedy, but all of what I’ve just written is just how fear can embed within our hearts one of the greatest lies of all, whether we even realize we’re thinking it or not: That love can’t wait. This is precisely what we’re telling ourselves… and it’s simply not true.

Love can wait.

God, can it wait. It can wait years, even lifetimes. It knows no boundaries. It has no limits. Love is patient. Love is kind. I know it may be hard to conceive of feeling this way, but there is nothing wrong with being single, and everything right with being patient. There’s nothing wrong with being apart from someone you truly love. We are all stronger than we give ourselves credit for.

None of us has to fear being isolated as much as we do. After all, if these things were really so scary, no-one would ever be single, or separated, and be content for very long. The bottom line is that the more comfortable you are in your own skin, and especially all by your lonesome, the more comfortable you will be making a promise you can keep.

It is a great irony that we can better prepare for lasting love with a decade of solitude than we can with ten years of broken, back-to-back relationships… and it’s not because we’ll gain more experience in relationships or get to know more people intimately. We won’t.

It is because we’ll adjust to what it feels like to live without dependency.

We’ll get to know ourselves.

And the next time we feel love’s pull, we’ll fall into it for only the best of reasons.

Editor’s Note: artwork by Heather McWilliams photography.

MilesMiles McClellan is the author behind the psychology, philosophy, and fiction blog How to Throw a Book. Already a graduate of the University of Georgia’s Grady College, he is a student of all things psychological and recently published his first book Vigil of the Ageless.

 

Love is a Gift

This is the third part of a daily series, “Five Things About Love (that are hard to understand)” by Miles McClellan. This series originally ran on McClellan’s blog and he was kind enough to share it with you, dear reader. So here’s to love – the good, bad, and all the nitty gritty (sometimes pretty) stuff in between.

The expectation of reciprocity is one of the most widespread misconceptions about true, abiding love that I have encountered. I feel fortunate to have recognized it at a young age.

The idea that, for what love you give to another, you are supposed to receive some love in return; that your gift of love entitles you to demand likewise… this is fundamentally false. It is a fabrication of the selfish. No one ever won over the love of their life with an ultimatum. While everyone should hold themselves to a standard in their treatment of others, love should never be used to force those we profess to love into giving us what we demand, no matter how justified we feel.

Love is not an exchange.

Love is a gift, given freely, given without expectations, and ultimately given without any regard whatsoever to what we have been given or how we have been treated ourselves.

Remember that the next time you give your girlfriend something nice and are tempted to feel slighted when you don’t get back what you expected, tempted to blame her for being selfish. Give in to that temptation, and the only one being selfish may be you.

For at that point, you haven’t “given” her anything at all.

We shouldn’t ever expect love as if we are entitled to it. With that attitude, we won’t appreciate it as much when we receive it, let alone from the right people. We have to learn how to truly give our hearts away before we can ever receive another’s properly.

If you love him and you’ve shown it, you have already done the right thing by giving him your love. If he loves you, he will do right by you in his own way and on his own time, and it will not be because of anything you did for him. It will be because he wants to.

It is for this very reason that couples who are truly in love with one another, who are together to stay, are so much the envy of the rest of us. Ask any of them why they love one another so much, and the answers will never seem self-interested. They won’t be able to nail down specifics, because the specifics are not the source. They just don’t matter.

The answer will be something more like “Because she inspires me.”

Or…“Because he makes me happy.” It will be because they simply want to.

Editor’s Note: “Five Things” is a series by Miles McClellan. Click here to read the first post, Love is not an easy thing and the second Love knows no boundaries. All images for the “Five Things About Love” series are courtesy of Blume Photography.

Editor’s Note: artwork by Phillip Blume Photography

MilesMiles McClellan is the author behind the psychology, philosophy, and fiction blog How to Throw a Book. Already a graduate of the University of Georgia’s Grady College, he is a student of all things psychological and recently published his first book Vigil of the Ageless.

 

Love Knows No Boundaries

This is the second part of a series, “Five Things About Love (that are hard to understand)” by Miles McClellan. This series originally ran on McClellan’s blog and he was kind enough to share it with you, dear reader. So here’s to love – the good, bad, and all the nitty gritty (sometimes pretty) stuff in between. The last entry was for the young at heart. Happily, I find love’s challenge is something that most couples figure out as they move away from their youth together. This one’s for everybody, though. I am still relatively young myself, yet I have a feeling I will need to remind myself of this as much when I am 60 as I will in a few short years when I turn 30.

For it is a much harder thing to learn, that love knows no boundaries.

When we envision what love should look like or what it should feel like, especially when we try to predict when we will be ready for love, we tend to ascribe certain boundaries to it. We create checklists, prerequisites, like a “sweet spot” we imagine for ourselves, or for the man or woman of our dreams.

In our own cases, we tell ourselves that we can’t fall in love unless we have something else fall into place first. In the case of our partner, we grow up teaching ourselves that true love is only possible within the boundaries we, ourselves, have created for them. We will only allow ourselves to fall for someone who is and has “x,” “y,” and “z.” Commonplace as these practices are, they are misguided.

We should not kid ourselves that love answers to us.

Love rarely shows up in the form we expect. It has its own placement and its own timing, and you are not the one in control. It is a mind-numbing, heartbreaking truth, a reality that we should be confronting every day, that we could encounter someone who hits within our self-manufactured boundaries, even in their complete, dead-on, bulls-eye center…

And feel nothing.

Just as we could encounter someone so far removed from that comfort zone that we have to struggle within ourselves just to recognize they are anything remotely like us at all… and yet fall harder, farther, and more deeply for them than we ever imagined possible.

There is no sin in keeping a standard, but we too often allow our standards to become strongholds. That said, I must acknowledge that two people within one another’s comfort zones can certainly fall in love. Of course they can. Having commonality always makes falling in love easier. Such a pair can stay in love just as well, but listen to me… he or she who sees falling within those boundaries as the cause, let alone a necessity, for the lasting of such a love is not looking closely enough.

Commonalities only help with the fall. Regardless of their similarities, those who stay in love have learned to confront its challenges, not only embrace its comforts.

In the long term, it is ultimately those who are more dissimilar—those who have more to conquer in love—who can stand a better chance to survive the test of time… and those people are more often waiting outside our comfort zones than they are within them.

Editor’s Note: “Five Things” is a daily series running until Feb. 15. The third thing about love, something that can be particularly difficult to explain, is coming tomorrow. Click here to read the first post, “Love is not an easy thing.” All images for the “Five Things About Love” series are courtesy of Blume Photography

MilesMiles McClellan is the author behind the psychology, philosophy, and fiction blog How to Throw a Book. Already a graduate of the University of Georgia’s Grady College, he is a student of all things psychological and recently published his first book Vigil of the Ageless.

 

Love Is Not An Easy Thing

In honor of Valentine’s Day, Pretty Southern is proud to present a series from the heart courtesy of our pal, Miles McClellan. This series originally ran on McClellan’s blog and he was kind enough to share it with you, dear reader. So here’s to love – the good, bad, and all the nitty gritty (sometimes pretty) stuff in between. We present to y’all the first part of a daily series, “Five Things About Love (That are hard to understand)” by Miles McClellan.

Let’s start with some softball. When we’re very young, we crave love for a plurality of reasons, some biological, some emotional, some spiritual, and some societal. Somewhere along the way, especially if we are particularly fortunate in the amount of attention we receive in the midst of our pursuit, we lose sight of one of love’s most obvious tenets.

We think that, when we fall in love, everything gets rosier, everything gets easier, and everything gets better because we have that special someone in our life.

No.

It does not, ever. You are talking about two people that, even if remarkably similar in personality, morality, spirituality, and wishes from life, are both still individuals who were brought up in separate homes and who have lived different lives.

This never paves a smooth road by default. Do some people get lucky? Of course.

But never allow yourself to believe that you have to be that lucky to be happy, or that the right person is the person beside whom you will never encounter discomfort, by whom you will never be challenged, and with whom you’ll never disagree on anything.

If you do, then you’ll be tempted to cut and run at the first sign of trouble. It’s this trap of misunderstanding that the young fall into most often, and it is often the reason for our first heartbreak: We simply were not prepared for the effort love requires.

Sadly, thanks to fear, conceit, or worse, some of us never even become interested in the effort.

Love is not about making life easy. It’s about learning to confront the hard things in life together, and recognizing that many of those difficulties will come from learning about one another throughout your lives, and it’s about realizing that this is something beautiful.

In that sense, it is always nobler to seek a love that challenges you rather than one that placates you.

MilesMiles McClellan is the author behind the psychology, philosophy, and fiction blog How to Throw a Book. Already a graduate of the University of Georgia’s Grady College, he is a student of all things psychological and recently published his first book Vigil of the Ageless.