05 . 13 . 13
In the past two weeks, I’ve dedicated a few hours each day to writing in a rotation of coffee shops around town and if you were to take a peek at my journal you will find mostly crossed out grocery lists, the start of a blog post on how to eat for day hikes at altitude, and instructions (for whom I have no idea) about how to not be a jerk-shopper at Whole Foods (put your cell phone away and take your sunglasses off, people). Mostly what happens during this designated writing time though is me, pretending to look busy, drinking five-buck pour-over, watching people come and go for three hours. Like right now, for instance. The girl who has been typing feverishly next to me with ombred purple hair just stepped outside to smoke a cigarette. She is wearing leg warmers and hiking boots and I’m pretty sure she’s the owner of the orange Vespa locked up to the tree on the corner of Broadway and West Ellsworth. How many cigarettes does she normally smoke? Is she a writer, too? Is she breaking up with her girlfriend who is researching peacebuilding in Bosnia? These are things I wonder about.
I feel like I slipped up a few weeks ago telling you all that I’m going to call myself a writer to strangers at the DMV, as if at 23 I have ARRIVED at my true calling. Writing, hopefully, will be the product of the many lives and many shoes I try on while I’m here on this planet. In fact, I think if I spent the rest of my life, let alone the next six months, sitting in cafes like this one, watching people, trying to beat words and wisdom out of my heart, I would be doing a massive disservice to the planet. Massive disservice insofar that my writing would be shallow and express only partial truths because I would not living a life (for me) interesting and/or challenging enough to know whole truths. I suppose we never really get at the whole of it, but I want to feel at least like I’m scratching back the wallpaper to find what lived underneath in a lifetime before me. I want to cannonball into environments and work that teaches me more about love and loss and integrity and hard work and passion and freedom and bliss. I want to see people, really see people. I want to come alongside and cry with them in their darkest hours, I want to balter with them drunk in the streets for no other reason than to celebrate that we have legs and arms and lungs that let us really move things in this world. I want to be around people who are bold enough to take me by the collar and set me straight when I’m being unreasonable. I want to be around people who are just blowing up with creativity and courage. These things, that work, those people will make me a writer.
Susan Sontag was quoted once describing that she became a writer because “what I really wanted was every kind of life, and the writer’s life seemed the most inclusive.” To me, this is poetry. It is poetry and permission to just buy the shoes and leap into every nook and cranny of the human experience you feel moved to explore. It looks at the multi-passionate person and says, “why yes, you may do and have it all, dear one.” I’m realizing more and more right now that I should stop asking questions like “what on earth do I want to really do with my life?” and start asking questions like “when are you going to start doing these great things with your life?” I’ve got the list. I’ve got the tools. I’m still idling. I just feel like I need a minute to let my engines cool before I make moves to conquer the world. I’d like to become a midwife. I’d like to buy a Westphalia, decorate it with prayer flags, and drive around Kansas with Shaun looking for tornados. I’d like to open a vegetarian cafe here in Denver. I’d like to move to Alaska and build a B&B between Homer and the Kenai Peninsula I’d like to work as a deck hand on a scientific expedition to Antarctica. I’d like to create backpacking food that is healthy AND filling. My degree in International Politics will be handy for one thing, and that is helping communicate and explain foreign affairs and the common thread of humanity to the people I meet in gas stations, airports, and diners along the way.
Anyway. My friend Rudy reminded me the other day that, no no, I’m anything but idling. I can’t really tell you where I’m going, but I can tell you who I am, and how I’m different than before, and that’s the best kind of start there may be. Over the next few months I will be zig-zagging across the country celebrating relationships in all shades and the kinetic energy surrounding around every wedding, brunch date, graduation, and genuine embrace is deepening my understanding of self and the world. Maybe there is no job more important for me right now than loving the ones I’m with. Life is short, but it’s also long. There’s no rush in choosing. Until then, I am a person who writes things. I am a person who sometimes sits in cafes in the afternoon daydreaming biographies of strangers. I like to set my goals out on a table like pretty and wacky Tarot cards, rearranging them in order to match the thump of my heart that day. I am a person who says no to publishers about writing a book because there is just way way WAY too much to do before engaging in any such activity. Sorry guys. You don’t want me yet. You think you do, but you don’t. I think I need to hang out with the purple-haired vespa-girl, deliver babies, climb K2, channel my inner Helen Hunt, and learn to like capers first.
Shaun and I haven’t been home at the same time for a bit, so there isn’t a recipe or photo-set for you this week. I have, however enjoyed making and eating too much of the following: Strawberry Cornmeal Loaf (fan-freaking-tastic with creme fraiche), Avocado Asparagus Tartines, Vanilla Bean Roasted Rhubarb, this Cioppino with fresh loot brought home from Seattle, Fava Bean Toasts, Collards and Quinoa with Sorrel Sauce, and this Kentucky Bourbon Cake. Plus, how good does THIS look from Bon Appetempt? It’s next on the list.
Murr -Ma (verb) | to walk around in the water searching for something with your feet.
04 . 14 . 13
I saw your comment come through last week on my lunch break and I haven’t stopped thinking about you since. When asked, you shared that you intend stand in your truth this year by holding fast to the understanding that you don’t need to have your whole life after college completely planned out, that you can just take it step by step. Oh Sarah, I wish I could stand sideline giving high-fives and waving my pom-pom’s about to cheer you on through this phase and in this truth. A year ago I stood in some version of your shoes, looking ahead to the future with confidence and eagerness and a whole lot of WHOA, WHAT NOW swirling in my belly. As you begin to close this big chapter of your life, here is what I want you to know… you’re not alone. This month and every month henceforth there will be women graduating college, giving birth to their first children, changing jobs, moving to different countries, suffering great loss, celebrating small victories, and will be, in sum, simultaneously in the process of discovering the person they are meant to become, the work they are here to do on this planet, and what in the heck it’s all going to look like.
The truth is, plan or not, the next year of your life, and life after college at large, will look nothing and everything like you could possibly imagine. I had trouble sleeping the night before we started our trek in Patagonia last month so I got out of bed before dawn and sat on the floor in the powder-blue tiled bathroom of Maria’s Hostel, cutting my nails, counting and reflecting upon the memories and mistakes of the past year. I leaned against the door and stared at the fluorescent light overhead and wondered what God was thinking in that moment. Silence. Taped next to the sink a printed sign “no lave la ropa – do not wash the clothes.” I had to laugh. If someone would have told me a year ago that I would be sitting on the floor of a bathroom in Chile in the kind of mental, physical, spiritual state I found myself experiencing, I would have thought they were out of their freaking mind. This is to say, the next year will be more outrageously beautiful and thrilling and fulfilling than you could hope. It will also challenge you to dig in to the deepest, most sacred parts of your soul to stay true to who you are and to fight through all sorts of exhaustion, loneliness, and missed turns.
You will meet many teachers. Some of them will come to you carrying the light. They are the universe’s way of telling you that you are powerful and beautiful and full of so much potential. They will hold you up like buoys when you get tired during the big swim. They will usher and encourage you to see and take paths that will help you stretch and grow and develop into the woman you’re meant to become. Some teachers will come into your life throwing big punches, they are, what an old friend used to call “the darkies.” They will make you wrestle with your idea of right and wrong and good and bad and test you, persistently, to hold on to yourself. You will duck and miss the blows most days but sometimes you’ll forget about the hook shot and you’ll be on your back seeing stars. It’s okay. This is all part of it. The toughest teachers will be the ones that look like they’re carrying the light, but are carrying something else. They will present you with some pretty sweet sounding opportunities and lifestyles. There will be a split-second lightning bolt feeling you’ll get in your chest when you first meet these teachers that sets you at dis-ease. Latch on to that! Remember this feeling. It is your intuition whispering to stay centered, stay true. Dig into those deep reserves of strength and surround yourself with those who love you unconditionally. They’ll remind you to not take the bait.
Try new things. Put yourself in environments and situations that push on the tender spots of your heart. Look hard. Listen hard. Watch the way people live and love. Be an observer of everything around you and all that you feel. When you are paying attention, the right paths and the “plan” for which you were put here to charge will be revealed to you. Try to block out the noise of “shoulds” that society or your tribe has prescribed for you. It’s your journey. Write it in YOUR pretty colors. As for a career, you very well may find yourself graduating with a degree in International Politics or Advanced Mathematics and taking a job at a grocery store stuffing tortellini in plastic cups for ten bucks an hour. It’s okay. That phase will be part of your becoming. In those places you will learn the dignity of hard work, the true meaning of community, and expand the breadth of your compassion for all people and all things.
You will laugh a lot. There will be days when all it takes for the wind to blow across your face a certain way and you will be moved to tears with gratitude for all that is. You will cry a lot. There will be nights where the questions and the confusion and the unknown will completely swallow you whole. You will make great choices, you will make really shitty choices. They all matter. When you find yourself in situations or relationships or places that in your gut you know to be pulling you away from who you are, find the courage to leave them. When you find yourself in situations or relationships or places that you know in your gut to be right and whole, find the courage to stay. Even if you’re scared to death. Joan Didion says, “we have to choose the places we don’t walk away from.” Sometimes it will be easier to run than it is to stay. It’s up to you.
If you want to see the world, do it. Nothing is stopping you. Go out and hear the bells ring on steps of Spanish Cathedrals, meditate in a Shinto temple, offer flowers and your secrets to the River Ganges, ride a bike in the rain through the farms of central Vietnam. If you feel called to go then go. You must. Remember too, though, that you don’t need to fling yourself across the globe to shift your perspective. A new place doesn’t change your life. You change your life. You will, at every moment of the next year, have the extraordinary gift of choice to redirect your sails. I will not look back on the past year and see our pilgrimage to Patagonia as the catalyst for closing chapters and starting new ones. I will see a girl sitting in the shower, weeks before mountains and rivers and glaciars with no tears left to cry, letting the water rush over her shoulders and taking the responsibility, FINALLY holding herself accountable, and deciding that she wanted things to be different in her life. Once I truly believed myself capable, a million answers to the million questions I had asked for months on end seemed to appear on the tub ledge, mine for the taking and making. Patagonia didn’t give me that. I gave me that. And you can, and will, too.
I quit my grocery store gig when I got back from Chile, almost a year after leaving San Diego and playing my first hand. I am grateful for what was, but time that I set intentions in my heart and to the people I love to be a better partner, better friend, and to set free alllll the lessons and teachers and triumphs and setbacks to make space for new ones. My truth, today, is different than it was last year and I know it will be different in six months, a year, and every year for the rest of my life but like you, I know that I can take it all step by step. Today if I meet someone at a coffee shop or the lobby of the DMV and they ask me what I “do” I will say I am a writer. I have no idea what that means, really, at least in the tangible sense, but I know just saying it out loud will help manifest my truth. I know that when you are brave and you are honoring of yourself and others, the world gets all sneaky and wonderful on you, wrapping you up in it’s arms to celebrate and support you to keep on. Hold on to those moments. Lap them up. Roll around in them and know that YOUR plan, and the kind of earnestness and passion it will take to discover, is perfect.
Go get ‘em Sarah. You’re right, you don’t need your life planned out after college. Stand in your truth and know that I am here, we are ALL here, doing cartwheels for you and the journey ahead.
Roasted Spring Vegetable Quinoa Salad
- 1 ½ cups quinoa (dry)
- 6 small beets
- 6 radish bulbs
- 1 large head fennel, fronds reserved
- 1 bunch parsley, roughly chopped
- 1 small red onion, diced
- ¼ cup minced chives
- 4-6 cloves garlic, minced
- 3 plump lemons
- ½ cup + 3 tbsp olive oil
- salt & pepper to taste
Bring 3 cups and a few extra tablespoons of water to a boil. Cook quinoa over medium heat for 15-18 minutes or until water is absorbed and the seed has germinated. Set aside to cool.
Preheat the oven to 400.’ Rigorously wash the beets and radishes, as you will not be peeling them before roasting. Remove grimy tops and cut beets and radishes into fourths, then sixths or 8ths. You want large-ish, yet bit sized wedges. Cut fennel bulb in a similar fashion, top to bottom. Toss wedges of radish, beets, and fennel together with olive oil and salt in a parchment lined sheet pan. Roast in the oven for 20-30 minutes, turning veggies over to brown and soften on all sides.
In a large mixing bowl, combine chopped parsley, chives, diced red onion with cooled quinoa. In a small jar prepare the dressing by combining ½ cup olive oil, juice of 3 whole lemons, salt, pepper, and minced garlic cloves. Shake to combine.
Add roasted vegetables to the quinoa mixture. Stir in dressing to coat. Garnish with sprinkling of fennel fronds to finish.
To my complete amazement, Happyolks has been selected this year as a finalist in Saveur Magazine’s Food Blog Awards in the Best Cooking Blog category. It is humbling, thrilling, and outrageously affirming to stand next to friends and mentors in this. Truly. If you like an underdog story, head over and cast your vote for us by Friday, April 19.
04 . 09 . 13
“Everything is so alive, that I can be alive. Without moving I can see it all. In your life I see everything that lives.”
― Pablo Neruda
These puppies are adapted slightly from The Longevity Kitchen, the latest release from Rebecca Katz — one of the kindest, most authoritative voices in health and wellness I know. You’ve seen me cook from The Cancer Fighting Kitchen and One Bite at a Time over the years, and I’m just thrilled to share her third nourishing gift to the world. The Longevity Kitchen is packed with healthful, accesible recipes to help readers combat chronic disease and lead healthier, happier lives. It may not get the blogger pony-show like Vegetable Literacy (which is amazing, too), but it is of equal importance and measure in our conversations on cherishing the good things growing and how they heal us inside and out.
Rebecca wrote “stand in your truth, Kelsey” in the front pages of the copy she sent me while I was away in Chile. It is a prayer that has permeated and punctuated my days lately as I begin to make significant changes in my life. With that… I’m giving away one copy of The Longevity Kitchen to a reader who can tell me how they plan to stand in their truth this week, this month, or this year.
Nori Rolls with Edamame Wasabi Spread
- 8 sheets toasted nori
- 1 peeled daikon radish
- 1 cucumber
- 1 cup sunflower sprouts
- 1 small mango
- 2 small avocados
- 24 sprigs mint
- handful cilantro
- (optional) 6 oz smoked wild salmon OR tofu
- 2 cups edamame
- 2 + teaspoons wasabi powder
- 2-4 limes
- 8 sprigs of cilantro
- 4 tbsp olive oil
- dash of water
- sea salt
To start, prep all of your veggies and working ingredients. Julienne the cucumbers and radish. Thinly slice the avocados and mango. Peel apart salmon, or cut tofu into 1 inch by 2 cm strips if you’re making these vegan. Create an assembly line of the proteins, veggies, and herbs then begin to prep the edamame wasabi spread.
In the bowl of a food processer blitz together the edamame, wasabi powder (adjust measurements to match your affinity), lime juice, olive oil, water, and sea salt. Mixture should be just barely chunky, but not a total paste.
Place nori sheet on a clean work surface. Spread 1/4 cup of the edamame spread onto the sheet leaving a bit of uncovered nori for grip while wrapping. At the bottom edge of the spread facing you, begin to build your roll, filling it with strips of cucumber, radish, mango, salmon or tofu, avocado, and topping with bits of sprouts, mint, and fresh cilantro. Wrap with your hands from the bottom around the filling until completely sealed. If you use an excessive amount of spread, like me, you won’t need to seal the edge shut with water and your finger. Cut each roll into 8 pieces with a super sharp knife. Repeat.
03 . 28 . 13
I have started one thousand sentences in my mind telling you what I have seen and felt and tasted in Patagonia. Nothing is working. The Andes whispered to me potent, precious secrets that helped me remember my human aliveness and mended my exasperated spirit. It occured to me just now that they are secrets that still need keeping. Secrets to hold fast in my belly and pray on, to take out and set on the counter to look at and ponder, to play with and practice and live in the best way I know how. In the 140k we hiked and climbed and cried upon I said thank-you a million times, prostrated on my knees to glaciers, rivers, forests, the sun, the moon, the stars and knew that those million thank-you’s would never be enough for what the place and time were giving.
Sitting at the kitchen table weeks later to write you, thousands of miles traveled to and from this spot in the interem, I sense that everything is the same and yet everything is different. My soul works from the same physical body, I drink my coffee from the same chipped cup. In between what I can see and what I can feel though, life is changing. Memories and mistakes sit together on the mantle now next to the old California license plates and the empty vase that I’d like to fill with daffodils this afternoon. They are invisible masterpieces cherished, forgiven, and understood only by we who know the brokenness and beauty it took to create them.
I urge you to go out, far from home, and find the secrets waiting for you too. They are, as Walt Whitman says, more divine and beautiful than words can tell.
Pisco Sour, three ways
Pisco is a (typically) colorless grape brandy produced in Chile and Peru. It is the star of what both countries claim as their national cocktail, the Pisco Sour. In Puerto Natales, the closest township to Torres del Paine where we trekked, we met a young man who when asked about the Pisco Sour closed his eyes, touched his chest and said, “Ah, my Pisco, when you drink it you will feel a light your soul.” I happen to think he’s right, but the time and place seemed to have unusually persuasive powers. I have three takes on the Pisco Sour for you here today. The original, the de Campo with honey and ginger, and one to bookmark for summer with fresh mango and Seranno peppers. Each recipe serves one. Blend ingredients together until the ice is completely crushed and the mixture frothy. Serve in an old-fashioned glass with friends. Can be doubled, tripled, etc. and served family style.
- 2 fl oz (8 parts) Pisco
- 1 fl oz (4 parts) Lime juice
- 3/4 fl oz (3 part) Simple syrup (sugar and water)
- 1 Egg white
- 4 large ice cubes
Sour de Campo
- 2 fl oz (8 parts) Pisco
- 1 fl oz (4 parts) Lime juice
- 1 fl oz (4 parts) honey
- 1/2 flz oz (2 parts) grated fresh ginger
- 1 Egg white
- 4 large ice cubes
- 2 fl oz (8 parts) Pisco
- 1 fl oz (4 parts) Lime juice
- 1 fl oz (4 parts) Simple syrup (sugar and water)
- 1/2 cup sliced fresh mango
- 1 tsp (small sliver) seranno pepper
- 1 Egg white
- 4 large ice cubes
Extra credit: Shaun’s got a few photos of Torres del Paine up on the Boyte Creative journal today.
02 . 27 . 13
I sat in an immaculate hall of baubeled, eager bloggers pimping business cards and SEO tips at conference last month as an alien creature. Jeans, flannel, blistered fingers, burned palms, unattended hair. A seeming “nobody” in this menagerie of women spreading glitter and glean. Panelists taught what made a blog “popular” or “successful” through steps and systems, how to reel in the best sponsorhip deals, follow trends, and network while still “telling your story” through authentic narrative. I was drawing sandcastles in my notebook when it hit me. I was bored. Out of my mind. Not above any of it, just completely disinterested. 48 hours earlier I sat in the walk-in freezer at work, smelling of curry and deli meat, with a dear friend who is losing her mother. My two lives felt so starkly contrasted and conflicting. As a way to compartmentalize it all I decided that I wasn’t a blogger. The title felt like an epithet in my stomach with all the peacocking about, the fake humility, the who’s whoing. It wasn’t not real, it just wasn’t real for me. The lanyard around my neck read “blog like a boss,” which made me think that on some level I was a total and complete crasher of this party; a lady with a blog, who is not a boss, and tries to take her online life as seriously as she does her laundry detergent: all-natural, highly concentrated, and effective for a diversity of loads. I reveled in my outsider status, treating the conference as a gift and privelege to observe a beautiful and interesting club I will never really (nor need to) fit into. Here’s what I walked away with and want you to know: don’t subscribe to any dogma or outlook that has set out guidelines for you on how to get it right (life, relationships, your blog, etc). It just don’t work like that sista. Do away with the presets for happiness, success, beauty, etc. that influence your decisions, punctuate your thoughts, and shape the way you experience your life or the world. Be nutty. Be different. Don’t fit in. Be an Erin Brockovich.
I returned home in late January and put “it” all on the shelf. I was stimulated, concerned, excited, and without a real clue as to what it all meant or how I needed to move forward. Not just with the blog, but, oh, you know, just my entire life. Although I’d like to say the distance I put between me and this space was based on intuition, deliberate mindfulness practice, or some sort of Chris McAndless ”let’s blow this popsicle stand” mentaility, it was more a product of real life demanding that I dedicate all of my emotional and physical resources to being a touching, tasting, hugging, cheerleading, apologizing, crying on the kitchen floor with a cookie and IPA sort of human. The kind of friend/daughter/partner that really was in the weeds asking tough questions, listening hard, and falling flat on her ass trying to comprehend what it is people seek and understand about love, loss, and their place in this world. I guess it was convenenient how time and the omniscient universe swept me away from the blog and the stirrings of the conference and into the crevices of my soul. There I found new truths and difficult realities that challenge everything I thought I knew about myself and others. The further away being “busy” and exhausted took me from Happyolks though, the more afraid I was to come back. How do I come back to an entity that forms so much of my identity, my passion, my deep and incessant desire to teach and learn that somehow now also terrifies me in it’s wonderful-ness? Honestly it’s the potential. In some way Happyolks represents the island where all the best parts of who I am and where I’m going live, and, right now, I’m treading water off the coast of that island looking at it and making sense of how I want to return and rearrange the furniture. Furniture… on an island. Yeah. Let’s go with it.
I was talking to my Dad on the phone the other day, trying to sort through so much of what has been flowing in and out of my life, so much of what I’m still just sitting in, waiting on, not ready to breech with you all here yet, and I told him that I felt like there was just too much. Too much of everything. Too much to say, but no real way to put it all together. No bows. No pretty message yet. Then I realized, with Dad’s help, that this unfinished business, this non-pretty writing and thinking is kinda what I’m after in the first place. Living a life interesting and challenging enough to write about, no matter how regularly or coherently that sort of life can be expressed. More bow-less, real life. Something that the majority of people can sink their teeth into. Not the promotion of some pinterestified version of living where we’re all regularly enjoying farm-to-table dinners in the middle of an open field in upstate New York with the sort of friends who look like they stepped out of an Anthropologie catalog. No. Not that life. Quite frankly I am suspicious of any person or entity that sells this hyper-kinfolked idea of honest living or community or happiness. It’s pretty, sure, but does it make you feel whole, does it light a fire in your belly, does it make you feel less alone? Doubtful. We are so much more than that. It glosses and reduces our realities to the easy, flowy, wind in your hair parts. That’s important, needed, but I want the big picture for you and for me. The tethered bits of the big picture and how, in that big picture, there are stretches when we don’t have time to shave our legs or take out the trash in the bathroom and, more than a trendy new speakeasy-style bar downtown, we rather enjoy a quiet night at home in our college sweatpants with carry-out Saag Paneer because the week nearly knocked us off our feet.
Shaun left for Chile this afternoon. I leave in 11 days and we will meet again to hike the 52-mile Torres Del Paine Circuit (see training photo above). Did you hear that giant sigh I just let out? It’s bringing me back closer to the island, I can already feel it teaching me how to swim forward again. We went out to dinner last night and considered squeezing in a shoot for ricotta scones and blood orange curd between one last trip to REI and the bank this morning before his flight. It has been the conversation of the past six weeks. Can we post? No. Not enough time. Too much. Best not rush it. Have faith. The build-up and the lack of emotional and physical resources to commit to you and this space is 150 percent reflective of the imbalance that is nearing treacherous levels in all aspects of my life these days. And that, my friends, is real. For so many of us. It is the tethered bits. It is the big picture. We lose our balance. We get lost. We laugh and we cry and we try and we do, eventually, figure it out. I’m here to tell you that it won’t be until the end of March that you hear from me again. When I return, I promise you this: it will be good. In the meantime, go live out and cherish the tethered and worn out bits of your life. You’re my hero for them and you don’t even know it.