How Adding Serendipity to a Plan Brings the Best Surprises

Serendipity is a welcome guest. At least that’s the way I look at it. “Serendipity” means “fortunate circumstance” or “pleasant surprise.” You can read the story of how the word was coined here. This word came to my mind because we have some friends going to New York. I love New York. And I love the way my wife and I see New York every time we visit. It’s serendipitous. So I love to show others the way we let serendipity happen when we visit the greatest city in the world.

We do it by making a plan but allowing serendipity to happen. The plan comes every morning when we get out our deck of New York City Walk cards. We pick two or three cards that guide us on neighborhood walks. Then we head out to the subway and make our way to that part of the city.

The great part about it is that the cards are only a guideline. We never fail to have something serendipitous happen when we use the cards and walk the neighborhoods. In New York City there are pleasant surprises all along the way. We find restaurants, or shops, or street performers, or any other of a myriad of things that New York has to offer. The walking plan is great. But the surprises in New York’s wonderful neighborhoods are even greater.

Isn’t this all part of what makes life so grand? We have a plan, but then there are surprises. Sometimes those surprises are trying or difficult. But other times they are filled with the best kind of fortunate circumstances we could ever imagine. Either way, a plan that is deviated makes life fascinating, creative, and interesting. If everything went according to plan life would be so humdrum.

Why not try it today? Make a plan for the day. Try this one. Then watch for the surprises that come along. More often than not they will teach you an important lesson or fascinate you with a new idea.

What serendipitous experience have you had today?

How to Make Grocery Shopping a Work of Art

Now that we have a new Trader Joe’s grocery store near us, I have discovered that grocery shopping can be a work of art. Creativity and art happen when random things come together to make a cohesive, beautiful, and sometimes tasty whole. I’m certain this would work at other grocery stores, but Trader Joe’s seems to me to be especially conducive to culinary art.

Trader Joe's

I have a couple of Trader Joe’s cookbooks at home, and I use them as inspiration for my grocery shopping, but I don’t rely on them completely. Instead, I use “art” to create meals that are both fun to cook and delicious to eat. Here’s how I do it:

  1. I don’t take a list. Yes, I know that goes against every budgetary guide and every tip from people like Martha Stewart and her home economics colleagues. Instead, I create meals in my mind and from the inspiration of the items in the store. You may know that Trader Joe’s continuously adds new items and discontinues others. That’s what makes a trip to Trader Joe’s exciting. I see what’s in stock, what items are and are not available, and I begin to create meals.
  2. I criss-cross the store. I like to start in the meat section and pick a few things that will be the centerpiece of a meal. Since most Trader Joe’s stores are relatively small, I then criss-cross the store to pick up the things that will complement the meat, poultry, or pasta. This is where creativity and art really begin to take shape. At Trader Joe’s you can mix cuisines, you can add fresh produce, or you can pick a specialty cheese to add some creamy flavor to your dish. The possibilities are almost limitless.
  3. I create meals. At Trader Joe’s you can come home with a weeks worth of meals for far less than you might at a traditional grocery store. And the items are much more varied and fun. It’s so fun to put groceries away and see a pantry and refrigerator full of meals that will please both your family and your own taste buds. Once the week’s meals are planned the fun begins. Each night I get to bring ingredients together to make a culinary masterpiece (well…it’s a work of art in my own mind, if nowhere else).

Grocery shopping and cooking doesn’t have to be a chore. It can be fun and exciting when you look at it as a work of art, an opportunity to exercise creativity. Give it try…especially if you have a nearby Trader Joe’s.

How do you make grocery shopping or cooking a work of art?

Tom’s Creamy Chicken Farfalle

Monday is my “day off.” It means that I get a chance to recoup after a week filled with busy days, and a Sunday that calls for me to expend a great deal of energy. Since our kids have both gone to college, one of our Monday traditions is for me to prepare a meal and have it ready by the time Tammy gets home from school. In the warmer weather I enjoyed cooking out. Now that the weather is cooler, I’m ready to take over the kitchen again. 

Creativity means more than words on a page or paint on a canvas. Creativity happens in the kitchen, as well. Just ask my niece who writes a fantastic food blog. At the risk of looking like an amateur next to my gifted niece, here’s a recipe that I created just tonight. Tammy and I both enjoyed it so much that I thought I would share it with you.

I call it Tom’s Creamy Chicken Farfalle.

  • 4 T. Olive Oil
  • 2 Garlic Cloves, minced
  • 2 Boneless, Skinless Chicken Breasts (thinly sliced)
  • 4 Roma Tomatoes, Diced
  • 1 1/2 Cups Sliced Mushrooms
  • Fresh Basil, Chopped
  • 3/4 Cup Chicken Stock
  • 1/2 Cup White Wine
  • 1/2 Cup Heavy Cream (Whipping Cream)
  • 16 oz. Farfalle Pasta
  • Crushed Red Pepper to Taste
  • Salt to Taste

Heat olive oil; briefly saute the garlic to release the fragrance. Cook chicken in the oil and garlic until juices run clear.  Add mushrooms and tomatoes and cook until the mushrooms are slightly brown. Add chicken stock and wine.  Simmer for 10 minutes. Add Cream, fresh basil, and crushed red pepper and salt to taste. Simmer until sauce thickens.  Meanwhile, cook farfalle until al dente. 

Ladle sauce over pasta and top with freshly grated parmesan cheese.

Give it a try and let me know what you think!