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A New Album


There are many reasons to make cake for breakfast. Especially if that cake is made from 100% whole-grains and uses ripe bananas, fragrant coconut and toasty walnuts with just a touch of natural sugar. The main reason, today, is that it’s time for a new album. Have a seat. Let me explain. We had a small dinner party in our backyard last week to celebrate a friend’s new business idea. She needed some photos for her website, so she offered to cook a summery spread if we’d host it and I’d snap a few shots. It was one of those ‘let’s plan it 6 weeks ahead to jive our Google calendar’ affairs, but at the end of the night — after too much wine and a rollicking game of Farkle — we were so happy to have had the company, the music, the Indian-spiced roast chicken and rosé. But most of all, the company, in what has felt like a summer that’s had too much work and not enough company.

2013-08-21 10.49.18If you’re anything like me, you may skim the very front pages of a magazine — the editorial letter. It can be a bit fluffy, and I’m always eager to get to the heart of the publication anyway. But late the other night, I was flipping through a few food magazines and began reading the Editorial Letter in Cook’s Illustrated. I have to say, it struck a chord more than the Pasta Puttanesca or Fresh Peach Pie that followed.


In it, Christopher Kimball discusses the project of organizing all of his old family photos: “Perhaps life can be judged by the number of family albums one has accumulated. Some lives are a straight line between birth and death; one album does the trick. Others live lives with many chapters, each one starting with a new photo placed on a crisp white page. Dr. Seuss wrote, ‘Everyone is just waiting, waiting for the fish to bite or waiting for wind to fly a kite, or a pot to boil, or a Better Break, or a string of pearls or a pair of pants or a wig with curls, or Another Chance.’ And so, we sometimes find ourselves at the point when we need to begin a new album.”
2013-08-21 19.10.11As I sit here at my too-tall desk writing to you today, I know it’s time to start a new album. This summer hasn’t been the most leisurely. Or the most spirited. Or the most fun, to be honest. It has brought about many new challenges with Marge, from hiring my first set of employees to finessing the farmers markets, new packaging projects and a shared commercial space downtown. I bit off more than I could chew. And I realize that now.
2013-08-22 20.26.51-2In George Saunder’s beautiful commencement speech that I know many of you have read, he says this about the constant focus on work: ”Accomplishment is unreliable. ‘Succeeding,’ whatever that might mean to you, is hard, and the need to do so constantly renews itself (success is like a mountain that keeps growing ahead of you as you hike it), and there’s the very real danger that ‘succeeding’ will take up your whole life, while the big questions go untended.” The problem with being blessed (cursed) with what Sam and I sort-of-lovingly call my “relentless, urgent ambition” is just that: it feels urgent. I have a difficult time recognizing a marker of success and celebrating it, instead always looking ahead to the next goal. The next big thing. And this month, it’s left me pretty exhausted.

As Christopher Kimball says in the close of his letter, “We don’t choose how many albums we fill during a lifetime, but we can decide how to fill them.” There are no summer do-overs, and that’s o.k. But I want to be very deliberate this fall about what will fill my album. I want it to have more play and less “relentless, urgent ambition.” I don’t think starting with breakfast cake is an awful idea, do you?

I developed this recipe for Attune Foods using their Raisin Bran cereal, along with ripe bananas and buttermilk, walnuts and coconut. It’s made with a mix of whole-wheat and barley flour and has a sweet fragrant quality (without too much sugar), making it a new morning favorite around here. It’s hearty, a touch crumbly, and season-less. Perfect for the next new album I’d say.

Get the Recipe on Attune Foods Blog: Banana-Bran Breakfast Cake

  1. Posted August 28, 2013 at 11:21 am

    Such a thoughtful post, Megan (as always). I have been thinking about this a lot, too. I wish I had a summer do-over. I would spend less time caring about the things that in the grand scheme of things, are not that important. Relentless, urgent ambition isn’t always the stuff those albums are made of. I’m starting to realize that, too.

  2. Posted August 28, 2013 at 11:42 am

    First of all, you are a really beautiful writer and I am constantly looking forward to reading what you have to say. Secondly, I completely relate to this post! It’s tough when you have this inner drive to keep doing and achieving but can’t stop long enough to appreciate your accomplishments.

  3. Posted August 28, 2013 at 1:02 pm

    I agree that it is always a struggle to not be waiting for something more or to conquer the next project and to just be in the moment or appreciate what you have. It is definitely something that I want to get better at, realizing that right now can be enough.

  4. Posted August 28, 2013 at 1:38 pm

    Cheers to this, Megan—the reflection, the honesty, and resolution. I have a good feeling about your fall.

  5. megang
    Posted August 28, 2013 at 3:03 pm

    Oh thanks so much, Jessica. I’m so glad you’re enjoying the blog … wish I’d been able to post a touch more frequently this summer. Enjoy the rest of your week, Megan

  6. megang
    Posted August 28, 2013 at 3:03 pm

    Thanks so much, Anna. Hope you’re doing well + enjoying the last stretch of summer. ~Megan

  7. megang
    Posted August 28, 2013 at 3:03 pm

    Thanks, Kristin!!!

  8. megang
    Posted August 28, 2013 at 3:04 pm

    Seriously, Kasey. Can we form an “Ambitious Women’s Anonymous” Group? We could all talk about our issues finding new web functionality and marketing ideas and how to use social media to the …. you get the picture :) We could both be co-founders. Miss you!

  9. Posted August 28, 2013 at 4:38 pm

    Yes. Yes to everything. I’ve been battling this concept a lot recently- I just put too much on my plate and I miss a lot of great moments. I tell myself I can tackle it all and I find myself saying, “well once this is over, I’ll have more time” (only, that continues indefinitely.) Lovely post, Megan and a couple gem quotes.

    (Also, for the record, I’d join the “Ambitious Women’s Anonymous” :)

  10. megang
    Posted August 28, 2013 at 5:14 pm

    Thanks so much, Erin! I now vote you Honorary Officer of AWA. Although, truthfully, anyone who could write a cookbook in the time you did might just deserve to graduate to President. So glad you liked the post … and glad to know there are others out there, too :) Happy rest of the week!

  11. Aunt V
    Posted August 28, 2013 at 5:18 pm

    Wonderful thoughts Megan.
    Grampa still works every day and he is
    85 and entrepreneurs run in the family.
    I think your relentless ambition may be in your genes but
    am confident that you will learn to co-exist.

  12. Posted August 28, 2013 at 8:00 pm

    Wow. This post rings frighteningly clear for me. Takes my breath away a little. But on the flip side, I’m excited to have just pre-ordered your book. I can’t wait to get it!

  13. Posted August 28, 2013 at 9:00 pm

    ah, I wish we could just hug right now. I am not feeling super writer-y lately, but you so beautifully put into words a similar feeling. I’ve spent the last few months trying and failing at being “productive” that I’ve missed the entire season. I didn’t even get much done! Luckily it sounds you have, but it’s nice to see a lesson in it either way. Take good care of yourself, miss.

  14. momgordon
    Posted August 29, 2013 at 3:56 am

    Beautifully written, Megan! George Saunders also noted, “…err in the direction of kindness”. And I think first to yourself so you can then pass it on to others. So be kind to yourself this fall…and any kind of cake always helps! I miss you!

  15. Posted August 29, 2013 at 5:59 am

    Oh, I really needed to read this post today. I’m juggling with how much of myself I need to give to ‘success’ and what kind of success I actually need/want and what I may end up sacrificing to get it. Such good words.

  16. Posted August 29, 2013 at 6:28 am

    I eat chocolate for breakfast sometimes. I have M &M’s at midnight maybe. The hour doesn’t matter, but I try to treat myself to something sweet and special everyday.You know Megan that my view and appreciation of life is very vivid, but I still can get caught up in my own web. The fact that you honestly share is refreshing and courageous. Your blog makes me smile and inspires me to try a new recipe, and sometimes that is my sweet treat for the day!

  17. megang
    Posted August 29, 2013 at 4:33 pm

    Thanks, Kim! I’m so glad you enjoy the blog — it’s nice to know people are getting a little bit of inspiration from it :) Hope you’re doing well (the school year begins, yes?!?!). Love, Megan

  18. Annie
    Posted September 2, 2013 at 8:02 am

    Your candor and warmth are always so refreshing, Megan. Thanks for this reflection (and for including us in the dinner. and farkle!) When Amber and I got home that evening, we looked at each other and said “We’re so lucky.” Also, I would like to submit an application to AWA. Please advise.

  19. Posted September 2, 2013 at 12:41 pm

    Well, this is going to sound very much like a nagging-mum comment, which is kind of funny considering I’m a) one of your blog readers and b) 22 years old. BUT! I did think you seemed like you were doing too much- because you can do a lot but that doesn’t mean you have to do it. You seemed to have a key theme being busy and hurried in your posts. Probably since starting Marge, but more so in the last year with writing your book. From one type-A to another, maybe you could write a plan of attack for tackling your ‘relentless, urgent ambition’ into a more reasonable level. Looking forward to reading about your better Autumn!

  20. megang
    Posted September 2, 2013 at 4:38 pm

    Annie: You are formally invited into AWA as our first officer :) Hope you had a RESTFUL long weekend. xox

  21. megang
    Posted September 2, 2013 at 4:39 pm

    Thanks, Hope. You are absolutely right and I appreciate your persepctive. I look forward to writing about my better Autumn! Hope you enjoyed the last bit of August, Megan

  22. Posted September 5, 2013 at 8:10 pm

    This post struck a chord with me, Megan. I’m constantly redefining my idea of success, and always wanting more of it. I left Alt Summit this January feeling all sorts of less-than. After that, I thought hard about what it means to be successful (millions of page views? marble-topped kitchen counters? yadda yadda) and eventually settled on success as being “loved, creatively satisfied and well-fed.” I try to check myself with that definition from time to time.

  23. megang
    Posted September 6, 2013 at 7:23 am

    Well YOUR comment struck a chord with me, K. I love the idea of sitting down and forming kind of a mission statement for yourself or how you see success. I think yours is quite perfect and such a good reminder when things start spinning and it’s so easy to lose perspective. I went to a similar conference in the spring where many writers all have corporate sponsorships to fly around the world and do tv snippets etc. and I left wondering how the heck I get a corporate sponsorship and feeling really lost. Thanks for sharing your thoughts on what it means to be successful — and happy Friday! ~Megan

  24. Posted September 7, 2013 at 9:16 am

    Megan, I can totally, 100% relate. Last summer I wanted a total do-over, so this summer I made the commitment to making Time For Fun the #1 priority. It mostly worked, but was so, so painful at times, to have to say no to opportunities that might lead somewhere great.

    I kept reminding myself that okay, I might be passing up on something possibly rewarding, but I knew FOR SURE that taking on too much would make me miserable. Still hard, but that made it a little easier to say no. And I don’t regret it.

    Anyway, good luck with your more relaxing season ahead! I hope it is fortifying and lots of fun.

  25. megang
    Posted September 7, 2013 at 8:51 pm

    Thanks, Anjali!I’ve seen evidence of some of this fun on your site this summer (i.e. hellllooo, backyard movie party — that looked awesome). Yes, I think I always equated too much time off / fun as = slacker but, really, I’m starting to see that it actually means = happy, balanced human being. So I’m working on the latter :) Hope you’re enjoying the start of your weekend + nice to see you around the blog :) ~Megan

  26. Posted September 12, 2013 at 9:20 am

    You really nailed it. (As you so often do.) Every time that I go away to Montana, I think about these things. How much more filled up I am by activities that gratify me – how much more meaningful my life feels – but how that’s tempered by that same, frustrating urgency around ambition. Thanks for this.

  27. megang
    Posted September 13, 2013 at 7:14 am

    Welcome home, Kimberly! At least you’re being welcomed to what I hear is finally summer in San Francisco. Hooray! And yes: you’re formally invited into the urgently ambitious club :) Enjoy the weekend!

  28. Posted September 26, 2013 at 8:43 pm

    I just turned 30, and my initial urge at this milestone year was to start cramming more projects/goals/ambitions. Somehow in the depths of my panic or urgent mode, I realized that it would never be enough. I’ve begun to start asking “why?” and wonder if I’m pursuing things from a place of fear or true fulfillment. I have given myself permission to slow down and enjoy where the hard work has led me. Thank you for the post; I hope you find joy and purpose in where you are now!

  29. megang
    Posted September 26, 2013 at 10:38 pm

    Thanks so much, Pauline + happiest of birthdays to you. It takes time to figure it all out, doesn’t it? I hope you enjoy the rest of the week, ~Megan

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