6442755137_6aace6887d_b I can’t stop thinking about the article, The Life Reports II, that I recently read in the NY Times. (Thanks, Kasey for pointing me there). It really has nothing to do with this sandwich but we’ll get there. In the article the author asked people over the age of 70 to write on the things in their lives they have done poorly and what they’ve done well. Right there, he had me. I hang on the words of those who are lived decades longer than I. I find their perspectives and wisdom to be refreshing and incredibly insightful. Their lessons learned through years of experience save me a lot of wasted time and energy making some of the same mistakes – if I would just listen. There is one idea brought up in the article that I can’t shake. The paragraph begins with two words, Beware Rumination. David Brooks, the author of the article, says that those who excelled in the area of self-examination tend to lead lives that were often unhappy and not as fulfilling as others. He wisely suggests that their insistence on obsessing over a certain event in their lives only reinforced the very emotions and feelings they were trying to avoid. 6442756147_ed9027fbb0_b In contrast those who were able to strategically deceive themselves lived impressively, according to Brooks. When something bad happened or harsh words were spoken to them they simply forgot it, moved on, assumed the offender was having a bad day, or (and this is what amazes me the most) they were grateful for it. Thankful for the opportunity to grow, learn, and become a better person. Because at this point we all know that what doesn’t kill us makes us stronger. For someone who tends to ruminate as much as a cow I was struck with this idea. It seems so counter intuitive. I’ve spent years analyzing myself and situations I’m in for the purpose of learning from them so I could grow and move on. But what I often do is fail to move on. I realize now that so much of my own introspection only reiterates my own personal fears and puts more validity into my negative emotions. Having read the article it reminded me of where I’ve seen this in my own life. When Gabe and I were first married I was much more aware of the little things that I feared where eating away at our marriage. I was constantly nitpicking and trying to change so much of him and of us. Since having children I don’t have time to nitpick, as much. Something happens then I think, “we really need to work on that.” Suddenly a child starts screaming, milk spills everywhere, and a funny stench arises that demands my immediate attention. Thirty seconds later I’ve completely forgotten what I deemed a dire situation that needed to be addressed. This doesn’t mean that we no longer address issues in our marriage but if I managed to forget about what it was that I thought important after 30 seconds, I think it’s safe to say that it wasn’t so important after all. 6442757913_9ba271fce9_b So I’m heeding the wisdom of those lives that have lived longer than mine. I’m intentionally trying to train myself not to fanatically self-assess but rather to introduce more self-deception in my life. And more importantly use the time I normally would have used to over analyze myself I can not think more of others and focus on their needs rather than my own. More clearly I will be able to see those around me and love them better than I have before, which ultimately brings me the most happiness. As a way of thanking you for taking the time to read this I have your dinner plans arranged. You’re probably thinking, “Dinner? I don’t have time to make dinner, now.” Yes, you do. Fifteen minutes and dinner will be ready. And not just any dinner, one that will make your family happy and full. No deception needed there. 6442760435_f1e39b9fca_b
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Dinner in 15

 makes 4 sandwiches

1 large onion, thinly sliced

2 Tbl butter

1/4 teaspoon salt

2 Tbl balsamic vinegar

8 slices bread

1/2 lb roast beef, sliced

1/4 lb blue cheese (more or less depending on how much you like)

2 Tbl olive oil


Melt the butter in a large saute pan. Add the onion and salt and cook on medium until tender and golden in places, about 10 minutes. Reduce the heat to medium low and add the balsamic. Continue to cook for another 5 minutes to allow the balsamic to reduce. Drizzle one side of each bread slice with the olive oil and on the un-oiled side add a few slices of roast beef and a good amount of blue cheese, top with a bit of the onions. Cover with another piece of bread then cook on a grill pan or a hot skillet until golden on each side. Serve with a simple salad on the side.

58 Responses to “Dinner in Fifteen”

  1. Hannah

    Thank you for your wise words and for opening up in such an honest way. Never mind the 1 to 5 year rule (will this really matter in a year, 5 years?) – it’s the 5 minute rule… Great reminder to refocus, be positive and think about where to put our energy.

    Thanks for the fabulous sandwich, too!

  2. Holli

    This reminds me of some advice my Mom recently gave me that countered her actions when I was young and learned that I should keep a tidy home. She was a house-cleaner and owned her own cleaning business. Needless to say, I learned to clean quickly and frequently. After Baby Number Two arrived, it was such a struggle to keep up with the standard I had grown accustomed to living. It was especially bad when she visited, because I assumed she was holding me to her old standard. Then, during a visit where I was busy cleaning while she chatted with me in the kitchen, she said, “I’ve learned to be more like Mary than Martha (Bible Parable). You should not worry about the floor. Let’s just visit.”
    Her words changed my perspective. So, yes, listening to those who have a few decades more of life behind them is wonderful!
    Thank you for reminding me of that and my own tendency to worry about details!

  3. Danielle

    The point on rumination struck me as well when I read the piece. Just like you, I over-ruminate, which, depending on the situation, happens to my husband’s dismay and to the detriment of my own happiness. I think this tendency to over-analyze, this drive to really want to learn from and avoid costly mistakes is a reflection of a perfectionist personality that just needs to take a chill pill. Self deception – a mantra for 2012 😉

  4. Kasey

    Clearly, we were both very moved because I dedicated a whole post to this article as well! Your writing is so eloquent, Ashley. I, too, am a ruminator…I’m always analyzing myself, my relationships, and the world around me…but this article definitely hit me, hard. Learning from those that are older and wise, I’m trying to self-ruminate a little less, too. Happy weekend my friend! xoxo

  5. Anna

    Thanks for pointing this out. I self examine too much and worry about things too much. I am trying to be more joyful and I will definitely keep this advice in mind.

  6. Jen

    Hearing this has helped me, too. Thank you for opening up and reminding us that if it was a little thing–it will probably stay a little thing–so move along. And dinner in 15 minutes gives us more time for love.

  7. Jillian

    I ruminate myself into insomnia more often than I’d like to admit. I agree! My New Year’s Resolution is to “let it slide”.

  8. erin @ from city to farm

    Beautiful post…and I’m right there with you on the ruminating. Sometimes I’m so busy ruminating, I don’t even enjoy what’s in front of me! Strike that, OFTEN I’m so busy… Now if only I had some roast beef on hand. 🙂

  9. Snippets of Thyme

    This is something I have been grappling with ~ this sense of being too hypercritical and overly-evaluative. It probably comes with our food blogging/eating/cooking endeavors. I am part of that pack of women who are overly sensitive to the comments/looks/insinuations of others. My husband, however, happily skips through life believing in the good of everyone around him. In the long run, he will be the happier 70 year old person. I’m a work in progress, but as they say, awareness is half the battle!!

  10. Amanda@EasyPeasyOrganic

    Ashley, this is *awesome* – thanks! My biologist husband is starting to collaborate with a psychologist to study ‘self-deception’, so your phrase ‘strategically deceive themselves’ really jumped out. I actually made him pause the Aussie cricket on tv so I could read it aloud to him.


  11. Courtney @ Sunday Soup

    Wow, this resonated with me so much. I tend to analyze things so much that I am too often missing out on the present moment. I think these are such wise words and advice for living a more fulfilling life. I am just curious, when you find yourself ruminating on something, how do you pull yourself out and move forward as you mention? Just wondering if you have any good self-deception tips for those that want to practice too…

  12. Clara

    I just read the article and sent it to my entire family :). Thank you so much for bringing it attention, Ashley.

  13. Tarah

    Love your article. It was touching, eye opening and thought provoking. Plus the sandwich looked too good to not try. Made it with what I had in my fridge… would not replace the balsamic with red wine vinegar. It made a great midnight snack though.

  14. Meister @ The Nervous Cook

    A nitpicker myself, this hit solidly home with me. I too have been focusing on letting go of analysis in favor of simply living, and when I manage to remember to shrug and laugh in place of nag and whine, both my husband and my quality of life skyrockets. It’s so hard to shake that impulse, though — in the moment I am so concerned about doing everything “right” that it feels impossible to recognize how fleeting any of those so-called mistakes might be.

    Let go, and let good.

  15. Nicole Franzen

    I dont eat beef anymore, but seeing a gorgeous roast beef sandwich like above brings back a serious craving 🙂 Anything with Blue Cheese has my heart.

  16. Jackie

    I really appreciated you pointing me to the article in the NY times. I find it encouraging to hear that others feel as I do. It’s never late to get on track and focus on what we have that is great and wonderful! Thanks again.

  17. Lorene

    thank you thank you thank you. From the other side of those now blurry, spilt-milk, squalling years I’m afraid there’s once again time to ruminate. your lovely essay reminds me that – like always – there’s probably a happy medium that’s neither too self-absorbed or stretched too thin.

    And the sandwich looks totally grubbin’!!!

  18. Michele

    Thanks- I loved this article! The sandwich sounded, good, too…that’s what I like about your blog-sometimes I’m inspired by the recipes, but more often than not, I’m inspired by your words. Keep up the good work!

  19. j

    i loved this article, too. i find it’s so difficult to appreciate when someone hurts someone purposefully and repeatedly, as in a cycle of hurt…(i can tell you with confidence that i have seen the worst in people) but i would rather talk about the beauty in a perfectly ripe tomato or an exquisite macchiato, so i totally get it. and i’m grateful for being able to acknowledge that.

  20. Michelle W.

    I really enjoyed reading this post, and I applaud you for your willingness to listen to your elders and learn from them. I too have enjoyed listening to and learning from those older than myself. I have gained a lot of wisdom from them. I am getting (much) older now, and unfortunately, my experience is that many younger people totally disregard their elders. They don’t want to hear what I have to say, they don’t care if my experience can help them or not. This is very disconcerting. I tried to push pass this for years and still offered a gentle word of experience when certain topics were discussed; but I have finally learned to keep silent rather than be ignored or insulted, or worse, laughed at. But, again, I applaud you for your willingness to listen and learn. May there be those who will gather around you to listen and learn as you gain wisdom through age and experience. May they be many.

  21. Nicola @ unhip squirrel

    I really love this post. I too suffer from a little too much self-assessment. Sometimes – like we all do – I judge others too. It’s not healthy. My boyfriend is the king of self-deception, but not in a bad way. He’s able to just forget about bad things and move on. He is one of the happiest people I know in the sense that he never really feels stress about anything unless it’s warranted. And even still, 9 times out of 10, he can put it behind him. So much of it is just positive thinking.

  22. Kenya

    This blog came at such a perfect time in my life. Thank you for sharing your thoughts on the article! I could really identify with what you said in the 5th paragraph. I’ve been known to have analysis-paralysis, but this message – “those who excelled in the area of self-examination tend to lead lives that were often unhappy and not as fulfilling as others” – couldn’t have rang more true for me. I waste too much of my life worrying about all the things I did wrong and worrying about if I’m good enough for myself and everyone else. I need to learn to just be. I know I have good intentions, but nobody’s perfect, so why beat myself up over things that happened yesterday? Thank you for sharing! I’m looking forward to reading the article!

  23. percentblog

    Wise words, even if I was slightly distracted by the delicious looking photos in between. I also greatly enjoyed the article and am glad that you wrote about it and reminded me to reflect more on it.

  24. Scott

    If he’s the same David Brooks that writes on the Op/Ed pages, he is a smart guy, always has the most readable opinion esays.

  25. Tiffany {A Clove of Garlic}

    True words of wisdom. It is often hard to follow, but I like what a coworker told me one time: “What others think/say about me is none of my business.” True. My business is making sure I am moving forward, doing the best I can, accepting grace from others when I mess up and extending that grace back. That being said, yummy sandwiches! Blue cheese makes everything great!

  26. Kathryn O

    This was such a great article and I loved reading your thoughts on it! I, too, am guilty of rumination and have really been trying to work on that lately. It’s never helpful or productive, and I find doing rather than dwelling makes me much, much happier. It’s just a matter of forcing yourself out of that rut and over time, re-programing your habits. Speaking of which, I could get very used to dinner in 15 minutes, especially when it looks this good!!! 🙂

  27. Javi

    Just added this to my “dinner list” for the week. I love love love how open and honest you are about your approach to cooking and life in general. A huge inspiration!

  28. jihun

    I can’t just pass this post without commenting! I was born and rasied in here South Korea where competitin is going up to sky. Therefore I needed to be too hard on myself. I am trying to change. Beware rumination!

  29. Stephanie

    Oh Ashley, this speaks to me. I need to read the article in full…you’ve completely piqued my interest. I really needed to hear this…here’s to a little more self deception then? 🙂


  30. Gayle

    I’m a ruminator too! I feel you. I hold grudges too long. I let small things derail my entire day. I’m learning to be better. To let go. Good luck with your ruminating!

  31. Mairi @ Toast

    Wise words & perfect timing…post a little incident yesterday that I was having trouble leaving behind! I love how often I come across a blog that just happens to pop up at the exactly right time to help put things in a little clearer perspective….so I am off to move on from one of life’s minor (possible irrelevant!) little irritances 🙂

  32. shanna

    FASCINATING read. Certain parts of what you said were like looking in a mirror. A freaky one. I really do pray I become more and more quick to move on, quick to be gracious, quick to forget someone else’s wrongs rather than keep thinking about them—and maybe not as much because I’m deceiving myself as because I see those things, really do see them the way my mind does, and lay them down, placing those burdens on The One who can take them from me.

    Thanks for posting this.

  33. Torrie @ a place to share...

    wow… I needed to read this (hence my last comment in reference to almost forcing myself to LAYER ;))… and this is an area that I want to help my son with as well. Thank you for sharing… and I’m off to get started on that hot chocolate now!

  34. Jo

    I seem to always come back to your blog when you share your thoughts and so very honestly too. 🙂 I found your blog last yr when you wrote about your post natal emotions. It resonated with me, the struggles I was having as a mom too. Time has gone by and we have grown, and recently I was thinking too about what matters to God and how one can lead a happy, fruitful (not delusional! Heh) life. This article is helpful. Blessed Christmas to you and your family, Ashley. 🙂


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