There is a mother at my daughter’s weekly dance class who sits and knits tiny baby booties while the girls have class. She’s pregnant, and it’ s one of those glowing earth mother pregnancies. Her long, thick hair is always pulled back in a gorgeously messy bun or braid, or a bun spun from braids. Her skin is clear and glowing. There are no pilled Target maternity tank tops for her (like the one I’m usually wearing at the dance class, even though I haven’t been pregnant since 2014), it’s all flowing summer dresses and embroidered tunics. And those booties, they are knit from the softest yarn I’ve ever seen.
While she knits, I chase my toddler around, trying to keep her from pulling the fire extinguisher off the wall and draining the entire water cooler. Just wait, the petty part of me thinks, when that second baby is born, you won’t have time to sit and knit for years. But the bigger part of me enjoys this woman’s lovely, peaceful presence. She inspires me to raise the bar a little, because let me tell you, the bar has sunk very, very low.
I’ve never been someone caught up with looking pretty or stylish. But after kids, it’s all too easy for a “natural” look to slide down into the realm of just plain sloppy. I just looked up the word “sloppy” right now and the definition is “excessively casual.” Yep. That would be the post-kids, working-from-home me. Excessively casual.
I’m not going to start wearing heels or anything crazy like that, but as my relatives in North Dakota say, “When you go into town, you put on some lipstick.” It’s good to take pride in your appearance and in the appearance of your home. It makes me feel good. And I think it makes my kids feel good, like their mother has a handle on things. But wanting to look good is a slippery slope, isn’t it, in this day of Instagram, the app I briefly loved and have come to loathe.
Some days, it’s inspiring to see other people’s lives. But lately, I can’t look at another picture of some other mom’s stylish life and gorgeous home. If the pictures they’re showing off are completely realistic, then their Instagram feed makes me feel unworthy, broke, pathetic and lazy. If it’s all a sham, a trick of photography, then they’re sending out a stream of lies and propaganda aimed at exhausted, vulnerable mothers. Well done ladies, well done.
Here’s a gorgeous picture of my home the other night, a picture that makes you think my children put themselves to bed while my husband and I mix artisanal cocktails made from lemons and herbs we picked from our garden:
And then I turned around and took another photo of my home. Which is what it really looks like in the last 25 minutes before I start herding the kids to bed (and this is what it looks like on a good night):
For awhile it was fun peering into other people’s windows on Instagram, seeing how they lived. Or at least seeing how they want people to think they are living. But lately it’s feeling really good not to care anymore. It feels good to live in the real world, not the Instagram world. Which isn’t to say that I never want to impress people or that I don’t enjoy occasionally pretending that I’m living a perfectly curated life. Which is why this little recipe is so perfect. It takes no effort, but sets the bar a little higher. Next time friends are over, casually set out a plate of warm, roasted feta decorated with fresh herbs and olive oil. Do it like it’s no big deal, like being hip and fun always comes easily to you.
Or, just make it for yourself, when the kids are napping or in bed. You, some cheese, a baguette, and something good to read. Does it get any better than that? No one needs to know. Don’t take a photo and post it on Instagram. Just enjoy the moment alone, without anyone else in the world watching.
Given the choice between flipping through Instagram and a cookbook, I’d choose a cookbook every time. I love finding an inspiring cookbook, like Anna Jones’ A Modern Way to Eat. At the moment, many of her recipes aren’t realistic for me. It’s not that they’re difficult, but new recipes always require more time and mental space, and I’m in short supply of both right now. But I do love her roasted feta. She puts olive oil and lemon zest on top before baking, and serves it with roasted tomatoes.
Roasting feta intensifies it’s saltiness, so you’ve got to be craving an intense hit of salt. The texture is less creamy than regular feta, but when it’s hot the feta has a molten, oozing quality that begs to be scooped up by a toasted slice of baguette.
- A square of feta, approximately 8-ounces and about 1-inch thick
- Olive Oil
- Chopped fresh herbs
Preheat oven to 425 F
Put the feta in a baking dish that you can also serve the feta in, or, put the feta on a parchment lined baking sheet. Drizzle the cheese with a tablespoon of extra virgin olive oil. Roast about 25 minutes, until the feta is bubbling and brown around the edges. Use a wide spatula to move the warm feta off the baking sheet.
Ideally, serve the feta warm, although it’s pretty good at room temperature too. Before serving, drizzle more olive oil on the feta and scatter your favorite fresh herbs on top. I often eat roasted feta with a baguette, but it’s also really good crumbled over quinoa or with a green salad or roasted vegetables.