small things in a great way


Today was one of those days where I never left the kitchen.

Sometimes, there are those days where I never leave but I accomplish so much, but today was not one of those. I cleaned up from pancakes. I made bread dough. I made granola. I did my dishes. I put snacks into bowls and filled glasses with water, and I eased frustrations that seemed to stem from not enough protein at breakfast. I did more dishes. I tried to get out of the kitchen to straighten the couch cushions, but I couldn’t get past the scrubbing of the counters, making of tea, the unloading of the dishwasher, and the warming up of lunch. Each one thing led to another, and the making of bread dough turned into the shaping of loaves, and the mixing of granola turned into the checking on it, the shuffling with a spatula, the transfer of finished granola to the jar. Each moment of clear counter seemed to invite someone else came in to make toast, tea, or just smear peanut butter around the kitchen. I felt at the same time happy for small victories, and frustrated that I would never, ever get out of the kitchen. I swept the floor. I searched for the dust pan. The phone rang, but I couldn’t find it. I opened the fridge over and over, took things out and put them back in, balanced jars like I was playing Jenga. I contemplated the mostly defrosted chicken and cursed at my lack of inspiration as to what to do with it. All along, I listened to the inauguration on the radio, I thought about how much I’d like to get out of my bathrobe, I wondered what Michelle Obama would wear tonight, I made tea.

My Martin Luther King Jr. quote for the day is this one: “If I cannot do great things, I can do small things in a great way.”

Last night, we had friends over for dinner. It started as a small thing, a replay of last week’s falafel for the sake of zhoug, but then one thing led to another and the group got bigger until we had the perfect number to squeeze around the table using every chair in the house. One of our friends was a full day over her due date, and the dinner, miraculously calm and organized for so many people and children and deep frying going on in the kitchen, was eaten in mellow excitement as it became clear that she would go straight from our house to the hospital. It turned an ordinary good Sunday night into a straight up celebration, and when I heard the little ding of a text message from my phone in the middle of the night, I knew the baby had come.

Sometimes I’m overwhelmed by the amount of courage around me. And today, listening to the inauguration, looking at more pictures of those delicious newborn cheeks of the sweet girl who came overnight, I thought about all of these little acts of bravery in ordinary places.

Midway through the afternoon, I finally got out of the kitchen. I felt grumpy and weighted down by the work I hadn’t done, and Sadie asked if I’d like to have a walk with her. Just like that, “Would you like to have a walk with me?”

We walked in the very beginning of snow, and we talked about Rosie’s birthday and big things. I thought about peace, and action, and Obama, and chicken and dumplings, and what I would make for the new baby and her family when they got home. And I came back  to unload the dishwasher, make tea, start dinner. Gather laundry, remind Rosie that it’s time to shower, think about what will go in tomorrow’s lunches. Answer without snapping. Bring Joey tea. Switch the laundry to the dryer. Take a few minutes to read good words (today, it’s Edith Wharton for my Berkshire winter). Small things in a great way. Small things in a great way. Small things in a great way.




  1. Luba says

    Thank you, Alana! Thank you, thank you. I will keep repeating it to myself…Small things in a great way. Small things in a great way.

  2. Jessica says

    Ethan Frome, by chance? I’ve been eying it on my shelf with growing intention of rereading it any day now during these cold, dark months.

    • alana says

      Oh, take it off the shelf! I read it all in one sitting last week- I hadn’t read it since high school. It’s perfect. Now, I’m on to The Age of Innocence.

  3. Jessica says

    its a fine balance, spending they day in the kitchen, accomplishing, but feeling like if you’re not in the rest of the house, you aren’t. I would like to say, look what you spent your day doing, nourishing, preparing, loving, and that you drink a lot of tea! I have days like this, where I wait to accomplish that last thing and then will reward myself with a shower and some (not pajama) clothes, but then you just do another and another… Enjoy your chicken, dumplings, granola and another cup of tea. Thank you for the graceful post.

  4. says

    “… or just smear peanut butter around the kitchen.”

    I drink up your words like fine sipping chocolate tonight.
    Thank you. Again.

    (Our last batch of granola was to DIE for! You win, we love you the best.)

  5. isellelle says

    Unexpectedly that post made me cry. I could not identify with what you have written more. I have felt that way about the kitchen so very many times; like the ball in a pinball machine, bouncing and flinging myself from one task to the next until the day is over. However, I have never had the pleasure of a dinner party that finished with a new baby. Too sweet. I will keep your MLK quote close. Thank you.

    • alana says

      Ah, “like a ball in a pinball machine”– perfect. And the shared experience helps me at least- just to know it resonates, and that there are so many of us bouncing around, trying to do these good, small things. Thank you.

  6. anne says

    oh that too was my day!! it does feel good to not be alone in the day that seemed like it would end with me asleep on the kitchen floor =) granola, bread, pizza, yogurt and black bottom cupcakes!! the granola stuck a bit because I let it sit too long on the parchment paper, the bread was perfection, the pizza crust burned beyond repair so we scooped the toppings onto the fresh bread (no one but me thought this was a stupendous solution) yogurt finished at 3am but this morning was very soupy ( first attempt, need a good starter without sucrose, i used 2% greek yogurt as I would not find any whole milk yogurt anywhere) Black Bottom Cupcakes were amazing even though I didn’t have enough baking cocoa! A warm chocolatey end to my day in the kitchen! Yes small things in great ways… wonderful….thank you Alana.

    • alana says

      Oh Anne- what a day! Let me know how that next batch of yogurt goes–we’ll figure it out. And I think your pizza topping solution is totally STUPENDOUS. :)

  7. Erin says

    amen, i have had so many days like that and they are both frustrating and joyful. congrats to the friend with the new baby, i waited three weeks past due for my baby boy, but it’s worth every second!

  8. says

    So much truth – I hope the walk with Sadie gave you the space to see how much getting done actually does gets done, even when we feel we are getting nothing done … Small things in a great way, indeed.

  9. says

    I think I’m going to print this post and pin it up in my kitchen.
    (if you don’t mind)
    I feel like repeating all of the comments above.
    Your writting resonates.
    Joy and Frustration
    A metaphore of life.
    One thing leads to the next and in a blink draws us off course.
    Thoses walks in the snow are primordial to remind us…
    Small things in a great way.
    What an intuitive child, that Sadie of yours!

    • alana says

      Oh, Sarah- you know I am always honored to be in your kitchen, any way you want to let me in. Thank you for your wonderful words :)

  10. says

    I love you Alana, I just do. I spent the Monday in much the same way. Watching the inauguration and allowing the word’s of Blanco’s poem to sink under my skin. I want to learn it, memorize it and make it my own. I figure it will keep me company in the long cold days of winter. I think back to Monday and feel that I was lazy–sleeping, reading. But when I see your words and remember that I watched the event with my son, suddenly my perspective shift. sometimes you need quiet days to frame the rest of everything. Thank you again for being there when I needed you.

    • alana says

      Oh, thank you Beth. And yes, that poem makes such good company–I’ve gone back to it again after reading your comment, and I’m so glad I did, because I got to read again that stanza I loved when I heard it. Thank you for taking me back there:

      One sky, toward which we sometimes lift our eyes
      tired from work: some days guessing at the weather
      of our lives, some days giving thanks for a love
      that loves you back, sometimes praising a mother
      who knew how to give, or forgiving a father
      who couldn’t give what you wanted.

  11. melissa says

    Hi Alana..I love your blog and so often when I read I am nodding with a “YEP”. I have two young girls in school who love each other dearly and are different as night and day.. whose favored mode of getting from one place to another is by cartwheel…while yelling “watch mom!”…whose two most often used words are “Im hungry”.. My constant challenge is getting some protein in them before school and my total joy is making healthy whole foods for them…most of the time, and some days I seriously do. not. leave. the. kitchen. Anyway, thanks for your sweet thoughts, and inspiration and your wonderful recipes.

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