As I keep mentioning, the last few months have been an absolute whirlwind around here. For lots of reason, which I’m excited to keep telling you about, but the number one reason was my big move. [And by big move, I mean my move right around the corner.]
When Roommate and I made the decision to move out of the apartment we’ve shared for the last few years and get our own places, the first choice I had to make was where I wanted to live. I knew for sure that I wanted to stay within the city limits, but flip flopped back and forth quite a bit as to exactly what neighborhood I wanted to try. In the end, I decided to stay put and keep my roots planted in the little corner of the city that I’ve called home for the last four years. I found the perfect 1 bedroom apartment just around the corner from my previous space and ever since making the decision to stay a “manayunker,” it’s felt like the universe has reaffirmed my decision time and time again: A couple stories in the news about how this once ‘post-college stopover’ is transforming to a haven for Millenials looking to settle down; a hot new restaurant opening; some killer parties; you get the picture. And it seems that all of this affirmation I’ve been receiving comes back to the same word: community. Community. The reason I decided to stay.
The idea of living in community has become increasingly important to me with each passing year. I didn’t realize it at the time, but growing up in a small town, the value of community became deeply ingrained in me. I come from the kind of place where people don’t board their pets before going on vacation, they just give their house keys to a neighbor to care for the dog. I’m from a world where it seems like everyone goes to church on Sunday and youth group on Wednesday night. I’m from a place where we all go to high school sporting events on Friday nights and small town parades on Saturday morning. I was raised with an appreciation for community, as it’s something that comes easily and naturally in small town life. City life is a little bit trickier. Community is something you have to seek; it doesn’t fall into your lap the way it does in a ten stoplight town. City life requires you to be intentional about community, to be cognizant to not get lost in the shuffle, or swept up in a world of busyness that prevents us from making true connections. And here, in my little neighborhood, I’ve been able to find that kind of community.
Sometimes its the little things, like when I walk into Starbucks and Rita Marie already knows I want a grande Pike with room for milk. Or that when my friends and I meet up for happy hour margaritas, Anthony is the first one to greet us, and he doesn’t even have to ask before putting in our order of nachos. Its that when I show up to Pub Quiz on Thursday night, Shawn doesn’t bother checking my ID at the door because I’ve been there so many times. And that the server at Tavern is surprised when I order anything other than the Crab Grilled Cheese. I like that they know my voice at Greg’s when I call to place my breakfast order, and that they greet me by name when I come to pick it up. It’s my morning hello from the local barber as he opens up shop and seeing the same friendly faces each day on my evening run. I adore living in a neighborhood that has a free [yes, free] community pool, and that that’s the place where I met some of my closest friends. I love that I know my neighbors. I mean, really know them. I find comfort in the fact that if I ever lock myself out, lose power, or need help carrying something, I’ve got a long list of pals waiting to help. I love that my church is only 10 minutes away and that every single time my neighborhood has flooded, I’ve received a phone call from someone in my congregation asking if I need any help. I found a world that feels like a small town, plopped in the heart of one of the largest metropolitan areas in the country. I found my own little community.
I think we were created with a spirit that craves community. [I know I was!] A spirit that desires to engage with others, and to share lives and experiences, and to let our moments overlap. Now don’t get me wrong, I think it’s perfectly possible to create new community, people do it every day. I think it’s possible to stay a part of an old community, and begin forging a new one. I know that as life continues to unfold, the day will come when I have to begin searching for that new community. But that day is not today. Today is the day that I get to be grateful for the community that has found me, and welcomed me, and grown around me. The community that continues to grow, and continues to shape me.
This is a long post, so we’ll keep today’s recipe short. In celebration of my neighborhood, I’ve made three copy-cat recipes from my favorite local take-out spot, The Couch Tomato. Today we’re going to start with my take on their mango salsa. It’s a lot a bit sweet, a little bit spicy, and just tangy enough from that squeeze of lime juice. Mango salsa is perfect when scooped on a salty tortilla chip, but I also love it piled on a salad, or as a topping for fish tacos. The options are totally endless
- 1 mango, diced
- 1 jalapeno pepper, seeded and minced
- 1/2 c red pepper, diced
- 1/4 c green onion [the dark green part], sliced thinly
- 1/4 c cilantro, minced
- juice of 1 lime
Combine all of the ingredients in a bowl, top with lime juice and gently toss. I recommend taking a nibble of the jalapeno before thowing it all in, just to check how spicy it is. The first time I made this, it barely had any kick, but the second time, whoa! Just adjust the amount of pepper based on your personal preferences.
Check back over the next few days for some more stories from my move and move of my favorite Couch Tomato recipes!