Blessed are the Flexible

02 . 12 . 12

Last week was a mess of skipped beats. I don’t know if there was something going on with the moon or if my tightrope is undergoing some growing pains, but man alive. Unanswered voicemail. Empty gas tank. Wrong books. Forgotten homework. Burned oatmeal. Molding oranges. Tardy client meetings. Parking tickets. Toothpaste explosions. I seriously was banging my head against the keys trying to write something wise, eloquent for the Beet Cake. Nothing.

When we threw Tex, our new foster in the tub this morning after a long, wet walk through the park I couldn’t help but laugh as I watched a million little hairs fling from his back and cling to the walls and fresh towels. Oh dear. In the next few days I’m sure I’ll spot some white wisps stuck on the mirror and chuckle again at the beautiful absurdity of it all. Pure goodness. Pure madness.

Weeks like these keep me humble. They keep me loose. Learning how to ride a bike with a rusty chain is the whole point of being young. You can’t really afford a new one but you make it work. You just keep peddling. Shaun and I have a pretzel shaped magnet on the fridge that reads: “blessed are the flexible, for they shall not be bent out of shape.” It’s especially appreciated in times like these. I love how we both try to hold each other up to this standard when the circus rolls into town, announced or otherwise. He dragged me out in yoga pants, NorthFace hoodie, top knot, and rubber wellies at 9 pm to hit a bucket of balls on the fairway Saturday night and I tell you what, I’ve never felt more silly and more perfectly human. It was great.

Embrace the skipped beats. Life is nothing, boring at best, without them.

This weekend we took Sprouted Kitchen’s mini calzones for a spin, adding butternut squash, and lemon zest. So, so good. The fact that on my calendar I have “meetup / Sara (SK)” marked for friday makes me think that I’m on track to one day do lunch with Oprah Winfrey. Sara has been a constant source of inspiration as I’ve built and grown into this space. Her grace and encouragement has meant more than I think she may ever really realize.

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For more Happyolks videos, see 1, 2, and 3

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Every Little Bit

12 . 16 . 11

I love this season. It’s cold. There are lights. There is hand holding. There is fellowship among strangers. Joy elevates the mundane, and cultivates memories to satiate and linger through the early months of another year, a new year. The blankets come down from the closet, there is ample excuse to bake, and we somehow find time, make time to connect.

For no particular reason, there are some days when I am shaken by the absurdity of my blessings. I learned at a young age that the holidays are not all gingerbread and champagne for everyone. I remember that when everyone seemed to be getting out of school and taking time off, my mom’s private practice was just ramping up. While the “other moms” were planning progressive dinners, she was helping the mourning, lonely, and lost to navigate the hardest part of their year.

There can be just as much sadness as there is joy associated with this season. I try to remember this everyday. While I indulge in the sweet embrace of loved ones next week, I know that someone, somewhere, is alone. Someone, somewhere, is piecing together a semblance of celebration after deep, confusing loss.

It’s startling, to witness your own luck. How mind-blowing it is to have so much, again, another year.

Of course there are moments throughout the season that frustrate. Our relatives can make us crazy. You’ll bump into that person from high school you really would have rather avoided. You’ll feel obligated to attend certain neighborhood functions. Your partner will exceed the 50lb baggage limit. You’ll be late to work. Someone will forget to change the roll in the guest room. There will be thousands of crazy, maddening moments and interactions this season.

Remember that someone, just like you, somewhere on this planet doesn’t get those crazy, maddening moments. They have no one to burn the biscuits for. They are trying to understand the meaning of tradition when there is now an empty seat at the table.

Here’s the thing… I want every single crazy moment that comes with this time of year. I know that one year, if I am not so lucky as I am now, that I will cling to the taste and the touch and the sounds of all these moments and how they made my life so rich and full. I want to do the things I don’t want to really do, I want to see the people I don’t really want to see, I want show, express, and appreciate every bit of it.

Roasted Chestnut Spread 

  • 1 lb Chestnuts
  • 1 1/2 – 2 cups water
  • 1/2 cup + 2 tbsp sugar
  • 1 tsp vanilla

Roasting and shucking chestnuts is more fun with a partner, so grab a partner and tell them to set the oven to 425.’ As the oven preheats, begin working with the chestnuts by cutting a large x on the rounded side of each shell. Place flat side down on a pan. I cover mine with parchment because it’s a bit “seasoned” if you know what I mean. Pour a cup of water over the cross-hatched chestnuts and roast for about 22-25 minutes.

Remove from the oven, the skins should have peel back a bit by now. Let cool for about 10 minutes before getting started on the peeling process. You’ll need to discard the tough, dark brown shell as well as the thin brown skin that coats the actual soft nut. From all my research, each nut has a different story. Some shells and skins are a nuisance while others come off quite easily. It’s a tedious job, but definitely worth it. Toss naked chestnuts into small pot and cover with 1 1/2 – 2 cups of water, depending on how many nuts you ended up yielding. I usually come out with a few nasty moldy dudes and some that crumble apart when I’m trying to peel, so my best guess is that I have about 8-10 ounces of actual nut when it’s all said and done. Add sugar and vanilla. Bring to a boil and stir, allowing to simmer for about 15 minutes.

Remove from heat. Let sit in the pot for a bit before transferring to a food processer with the blade attachment. Process for about 5 minutes, adding a tiny bit of water or warm milk to the mixture to help things along. Transfer to a jar or serve immediately with crepes, toast, or apple slices.

Recipe adapted from Jennie. Cowl/Scarf made by Melissa. Find more music by the amazing (22 year-old!!) Ben Howard Here.

Let Them See You

10 . 20 . 11

I was seventeen, Shaun was closing in on nineteen when we went to the cabin. The idea wasn’t our own, rather a gentle nudge from a friend who knew we needed that trip more than we realized at the time. I’m thankful for his wisdom. Although we had been dating for nearly a year, I don’t think it was until that trip that we really saw each other. Saw each other’s heart; the joy and pain and the fear that lay tucked beneath the surface, the façade we for different reasons clung to.

There were swings at the cabin, up the hill from lakeshore. It was barely raining that day, and we sat on the swings and let the wind fill the silence between us. We were both confused. I remember starting to cry, feeling that nudge again coming with the rain.  Shaun turned to me and said “you’ve got to let me in.”

I attempted to start this post with a question, how many people in your life really see you? Following it with another, now how many people do you really see? I felt stuck — wanting to make a point about how often we go through the weeks and months surrounded by people believing we see them and know them, when in reality we don’t really at all. But that would be the obvious question.

I dropped Shaun off at the airport earlier in the morning and felt a pang of sadness that we will be spending another one of his birthdays apart. The morning was crisp when we hugged goodbye, and the clouds considered a bout of rain. I drove away and thought of the cabin. Five years. It felt like a long time ago. I thought about how far we’ve come as individuals, as a couple. I thought about what today would have been like if we had put off that trip to Alaska and his grandparents cabin.

The better question is this, who do you let see you? Why do you (we) hold back from allowing people to really see us for who we really are? We must work to be present and truly see others, but we must also work to trust that it’s okay to let others see our own true selves too. It’s scary. I know. But we may be seen when we let ourselves be seen. Maybe not always, but when we do, there will be opportunity and occasion for people who do want to see us, and we will not feel alone.

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Here and There, Surprises

09 . 13 . 11

You’re probably thinking, didn’t we just see a new post from this girl? Yes. Two posts in one week. They say the busier you get the more you get done, right? We created this video to help Megan at The Fresh Exchange celebrate the surprise announcement of her new creative venture (today! see more here).  Megan is awesome — someone I would like to call friend in real life sometime soon, she’s a young seeker too.

As I’ve shared in our “contact” drop down, before starting this blog I was admittedly anti social-media. People need people, not computers. Nothing replaces real human connection and relationships, but I’ve learned over the past year that social networks, blogs, and digital media actually do bring people closer together. This space has served as reinforcement to my fundamental belief that we are not alone; there are thousands of people who share similar passions, interests, and goals. Together, we can be better, do better, and inspire new ideas and new ways to look at the world.

If you’re a creative, blogger, or just looking for new friends, hop on over to The Fresh Exchange  for a bit of inspiration and the recipe to these sweet and spicy macaroons adapted from Rebecca Katz in the Cancer Fighting Kitchen.

It’s Good to Be Three

04 . 11 . 11

During times of inordinate stress, pressure, or change, I find that more than any amount of yoga or breathing, the best meditative practice is simply the act of remembering. Remembering is an act of the heart. It gathers the images and energy of the people we associate with the past experience, and we cannot help to feel a pang of gratitude that we were there to share that specific moment in time together. It’s a practice we can do anywhere, anytime. Driving home from work, checking out books from the library, making the bed… you get the idea. We bring these memories into focus and suddenly the many worries and preoccupations of our day fade to the background. The wisdom of friends, family, and strangers who occupy these memories should remind us that the love and admiration we feel for them is reciprocal – they love and believe in us just the same.

Some of the most powerful memories we can access, especially during times of self-doubt or criticism, are the ones of our younger and enthusiastic selves. As children, we were not buried deep in worry, restraint, or stress. Our full time jobs were to explore a world in its limitless intricacies. We were constantly seeking, questioning, creating, laughing, and enjoying.

When I think of myself at three or four years old I see a little girl who was uninhibited, and free. She beamed with light and exuberance, and felt blissfully content to be who she was. The words “you can’t” were not in her vocabulary yet and she was assured that the entire world was at her fingertips.

I remember that girl. She was amazing. I remember her smile, her confidence, and certainty. But then I realize… hey, that girl is me! That same spirit and lightheartedness still lives inside of me. I can still be free like her; and so can you. We should remember the energy and lightness of our childhood and give ourselves permission to cultivate it in our seemingly constrained lives. Conjuring the memory of such a lightness and warmth can even be enough to push you up the hill on a hard day.

Carrot cake is a dessert that brings together the best memories of my both my childhood and of my mother. All twenty-one of my birthdays  (which is actually in December) have been celebrated with an original carrot cake recipe that she has saved from the 80s. When I emailed her asking for the recipe last week I think she was probably expecting me to completely transform it into a fat-free sugar-free relative. But I couldn’t – memories associated with this keepsake are of an auspicious nature, and I needed to (mostly) maintain its integrity if for no ones sake but my own. A few tweaks to the icing and oils, but otherwise pretty darn accurate. For me, carrot cake celebrates life, love, remembrance, and the many more memories to be made in the future. May it bring you a moment of lightness and tenderness in the way it did for me this weekend.

For the cake:

  • 3/4 cups turbinado sugar
  • 2 cups pastry flour (gluten free optional)
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp sea salt
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • 2/3 cup melted coconut oil
  • 3 eggs
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 2 1/2 heaping cups grated carrots
  • 1 cup chopped walnuts
  • 1 1/2 heaping cups crushed pineapple, strained
  • (optional) 1 cup of raisins

glaze: (adapted from Roost blog)

cream cheese frosting (like mom made it)

  • 2 cups cream cheese
  • 1/2 cup powdered sugar
  • juice of 2 lemons
  • 1 tsp vanilla

Preheat the oven to 350′. In a medium bowl, combine flour, baking soda, baking powder, salt, and cinnamon. Set aside. In a larger bowl, beat the eggs and add the sugar. Slowly beat in the coconut oil, vanilla, and pineapple. Add the flower mixture and stir gently with a rubber spatula until just incorporated. Finally, stir in the carrots and walnuts. I decided to make these in mini loaf molds, but it would also work in large loaf or round pans. Depending on your preference, grease your pan(s) and fill to 3/4 full with cake batter. Bake for 25-30 minutes.Remove from oven and let cool before drizzling with coconut glaze

For the cream cheese frosting, beat together ingredients in a stand mixer until completely combined. Test for taste. You might prefer it sweeter or with more acid, add sugar and lemon and vanilla accordingly.

Let's get in Touch

I wish I could make coffee dates with you all. In the meantime, feel free to drop me a line with questions, comments, concerns, or just to say Hi. I like that. There is nothing more uplifting than an email from a a fresh contact or kindred spirit.

I can be reached through this contact form and at happyolks [at] gmail [dot] com.