08 . 25 . 13
Many years ago I was on a flight from Boston to Dallas after the funeral. My heart was swollen with grief, my head pounded with rage and questions about loss. Sick and lonely, I sat in an aisle near the front of the plane and stared blankly at two stewardesses gossiping and locking, unlocking, locking cabinets in preparation for takeoff. A little girl lept, literally, across the threshold of the plane behind them. We made eye contact and I smiled at her. She was four years old, maybe five, I never can tell the ages of children. Turning back to her mom, then back to me, she bounded toward the corner of my seat and placed her tiny hands on my crossed knees and shouted “You are the most beautiful princess I have EVER SEEEEEEENNNN!!!” I began sobbing, instantly. I don’t remember anyone looking at me, the hot, soggy mess that I was. I don’t remember being embarrassed. I only remember feeling more peace, anguish, and assurance than I had ever previously known, or have perhaps known since.
I share this with you, friend, because I know that little girl is looking for you right now. She is bounding down the aisles of your life to tell you, remind you, that despite your brokenness, you are a bright shining light in this world. You are worthy of joy and happiness. Despite your mistakes and wrong turns, you deserve the sun and the moon and all of the stars. The pain you feel, the questions that keep you up at night, the sadness you harbor, the wounds you hide for friends and colleagues — all of this, all of these things, will make sense one day. Not today. And that’s totally fine. It’s okay that things are not okay.
If you lived here, I would hope to find you sitting on my front porch tomorrow evening as I returned from errands. I would hold you. I would hold you so tight. Then I would make you a grilled cheese sandwich and we might drink the good wine straight from the bottle and I would tell you about the little girl and the plane and how wonderfully fucked up and outrageously mind-blowing the Universe seemed in that moment. Because that’s what there is, you know. Madness and wonder. Joy and agony. Fear and freedom. All at once, all the time.
Remember that night in Beijing after we had that god-awful duck and saw a show at the Peking Opera house and it was so cold in the theater that we could barely feel our toes? We found a bathroom in a bar down the street at intermission and the insides of the stalls were completely covered in mirrors. Everywhere. Head to toe mirrors in front of us behind us, above us. We laughed hysterically and you asked me from the stall next door, “have I been drugged?!!” I sat with my pants at my ankles and laughed, “well, if you’ve been drugged, so have I.”
We were in China. Sick and stuffed with duck and happiness. We were also in China, having no idea, really, where we were, and had found ourselves in a bathroom where it was impossible to NOT look at our tired, pale, puffy-faced, half-naked selves and wonder about the meaning of life. I remember blowing steam on the wall to my right and watching my reflection become hazy. I closed my eyes and prayed that we’d never forget who we were and how we felt in that moment. The magic. The hysteria. The total confrontation of self in the most bizarre and unknown circumstances. There was this feeling that the situation reflected upon how perfect and awkward and hilarious and terrifying the best and worst moments always are.
I mean this in all seriousness. For you and me, girl, there will be times in our lives that will somehow all boil down to one vulnerable minute, sitting on the John, and really seeing ourselves… seeing ourselves, and coming to terms with what’s looking back. I think you’re upon one of those times. What do you see?
Dear friend, I want you to know that you are the most beautiful princess I have ever seen. Your losses, regrets, sins, and secrets. Your exstacies, braveries, dreams, and triumphs. All of it, a masterpiece. Every last bit.
Breathe in, breathe out. Dig deep. I love you.
Caramelized Fig Ice Cream with Mascarpone and Honey Pecans
- 1 1/2 cups milk
- 1 1/2 cups heavy cream
- 1/2 cup mascarpone
- 1/3 granulated sugar
- 1/2 tsp pink salt
- 2 egg yolks
- 1 lb Black Mission Figs
- 1 lemon, juiced
- 1/2 cup brown sugar
- 2 tbsp butter
- 2-4 tbsp water
- 1 cup honey roasted pecans, roughly chopped
For the fig-swirl: Melt butter over medium heat in a saucepan. Add brown sugar and stir to dissolve. Halve all of the figs and toss in the saucepan with water and lemon juice. Cook over medium heat, stirring frequently, until you have a chunky-jammy mixture. Add salt with one or two stirs, set aside and let cool completely.
Ice cream: In a small pot over medium heat, combine milk, and granulated sugar until sugar is completely dissolved and the milk is just barely lukewarm. Whisk in the egg yolks. Set mixture in the fridge and wait until the fig mixture is cooled.
Using an ice cream machine, pour liquids into the frozen basin and process according to manufacturer instructions, i.e., let spin and thicken for 20 minutes before adding mascarpone, fig jam mixture, and the nuts. Continue to process for +/- 10 minutes. Pour semi-frozen mixture into a pyrex dish or glass tupperware. Freeze for at least two hours before serving.
No ice cream maker? The Kitchn can help with that.
07 . 24 . 13
“I’m not telling you to make the world better, because I don’t think that progress is necessarily part of the package. I’m just telling you to live in it. Not just to endure it, not just to suffer it, not just to pass through it, but to live in it. To look at it. To try to get the picture. To live recklessly. To take chances. To make your own work and take pride in it. To seize the moment. And if you ask me why you should bother to do that, I could tell you that the grave’s a fine and private place, but none I think do there embrace. Nor do they sing there, or write, or argue, or see the tidal bore on the Amazon, or touch their children. And that’s what there is to do and get it while you can and good luck at it.”
– Joan Didion
Pizza On The Grill
Dough adapted from Artisan Bread in 5
- 2 cups whole wheat flour
- 1 3/4 cups all purpose flour
- 1 1/2 cups + 2 Tbsp lukewarm water
- 2 teaspoons yeast
- 2 Tbsp olive oil
- 1/2 tsp salt
- 1 cup packed fresh parsley
- 1 cup packed fresh basil
- 1 clove garlic
- juice of 1/2 lemon
- 1/2 cup olive oil
- 1/4 cup pine nuts
- 3 or 4 pints assorted cherry tomatoes, halved
- 12 oz. fresh burrata
Using Zoe’s “dump and stir” method for the dough, first combine liquids, salt, and yeast in the basin of a large bowl. Give it a good whisk until the water is murky. Pour in flour and stir together, add a touch of oil if it feels too dry. Using your hands, form a large ball of dough and set back in the bowl. Cover and let rise for 1-2 hours.
Meanwhile, prepare the herb pesto in a food processor or blender simply by tossing all the ingredients together and pulsing until ingredients are liquified. Set near the grill with the burrata and sliced tomatoes for easy assembly.
Heat your grill on medium-high heat. Dip a towel in olive or other neutral oil and grease the grates. When the thermostat reaches 425′, it’s game time. Punch down dough after rising, divide into two pieces and knead in a bit of flour. Roll out one ball with a pin or press by using your hands. For a thinner crust, gently take dough into hands and, using the backs of your palm and knuckles, tug at the edges until dough thins.
Transfer dough to a cookie sheet for easy trasport (I learned on the second go). Quickly “fling” dough onto the hot grates and cover for 4-5 minutes, checking frequently to make sure the bottom is barely browning, not burning. Using the same cookie sheet, scoop up half cooked dough and flip. Reduce heat of the grill to low. Dress the pizza with generous amounts of pesto, tomatoes, and torn burrata. Cook for another 5 minutes until edges are browning and the cheese is melty.
With your second ball of dough, repeat with leftover toppings or give this or this recipe a whirl.
We’re heading to Alaska again in 12 days. Remember this? It is positively my most favorite place on earth.
Come and follow along on Instagram.
07 . 17 . 13
When I was in Vegas a few months ago for the Saveur Awards, I got a ride from the airport with a female cab driver with rose tinted aviators and a turquoise manicure. She sang along, shamelessly, to “I’ve Got You, Babe” as we zoomed along the desert highway and looked back just once in her rearview mirror to say “honey, if you can tell me who sings this… ride’s on me.” I drew a blank. She laughed. Really? I was so embarrassed. Sonny and Cher. I thought about that one year we went as Sonny and Cher to our Sadie Hawkins dance in 2005, I burned the song to a CD to play in the car and we sang it ourselves in the parking lot near the swimming pool at our High School.
The same song was playing yesterday when I stopped for breakfast at a cafe in San Luis Obispo. It was Saturday. Couples in workout gear moseyed in and woke up over coffee and acai bowls. Oh, California. A familiar scene and characters that Shaun and I could have lived out had we never left. I carry a Colorado driver’s license now and and am taking in the California coastline alone as a visitor. Campsites were full the two nights prior so I slept in the cab of my borrowed truck parked in a hotel lot away from the lights. This was a whole new level of vagabonding. I had a hard time falling asleep and my mind began racing with questions of the legality of my makeshift homestead. Squinting with one eye open on my side, I googled “is sleeping in your car legal?” on my phone which led to a series of other searches for murder records in Pismo Beach, the addresses and pictures of registered sex offenders within five miles of where I was parked. I closed my eyes, said a little prayer, and didn’t wake again until 5:54 am. I lunged over the console to the drivers seat and peeled out for the beach.
They say we’re young and we don’t know,
we won’t find out until we grow.
Well I don’t know if all that’s true,
You’ve got me and baby I’ve got you.
It’s funny how much has changed since we took turns with those lyrics in our costumes. Shaun and I started our relationship fighting the dogma that we were too young to “get it.” Truth is after all these years I don’t know if I’ve “gotten it” any more than I did then. We grow up. Time wears on our idealism, the ego plays its hand, we lose our perspective, we hurt each other intentionally and not. This is the human experience, in relationship, really. We try, we fail, we work, we regroup. I loved us then, I love us more now, despite the ways time has blemished our story. I’m sitting on a cliff watching the waves crash on the rocks in Half Moon Bay right now, journaling. A wise friend’s ashes were spread here many years ago… he was, and I think still probably is, Shaun’s and my fiercest cheerleader. I haven’t cried this hard in years. We haven’t always done it right, Hayden, but we’re still here. I wish you could see this love, now. I hope you’d be proud.
I drove to my brother’s place in silence later that night with the windows down. The sun was just beginning to retire and there was that sort of glow about the road that made my life feel oddly cinematic. I had gone back through When Women Were Birds over the course of the trip, transcribing passages to my journal and hashing them out in the mornings from my sleeping bag. It rested in the passenger seat atop musky beach towels, a half eaten loaf of bread, and a pile of seagull feathers I started collecting in Santa Monica. In the distance I could see a flight of birds moving up the coast along the road, I admired them for a few seconds until I realized they were flying straight toward me. Drifting. Drifting. Drifting. Yet was sudden. A single bird did not follow the the others and slammed into my windshield like a bullseye. I screamed and watched, horrified, in the rearview mirror as it bounced to the ground and other cars passed over her grave. I looked at the book and the feathers in the passenger seat and felt like I couldn’t breathe. WHAT DOES IT ALL MEAN??!!? I felt like in accidentally killing the bird, I had betrayed every intimacy with Terry Tempest Williams’ words and thoughts on women and birds over the past month. It was hard not to to feel auspicious or look for symbology. Why did the bird stray from her friends? I have so many questions. I should write Ms. Williams a letter. Maybe it’s not time for it all to make sense yet…
They say we’re young and we don’t know,
we won’t find out until we grow.
Well I don’t know if all that’s true,
You’ve got me and baby I’ve got you.
I’m finally home in Denver. It feels right and good, I’m finding out, as I grow.
Inspired by the menu of a swanky bar in Los Angeles that friends Mike and Mel took us to a few weeks ago. I like a cocktail that’s a real kick in the pants, this one takes first prize.
Recipe for a single cocktail. Increase quantities as necessary for your guests.
- 2 oz (1 shot) tequila reposado
- 4 oz (2 shots) ginger beer
- 4 oz guava juice
- 4-6 round slivers of fresh jalapeño
In a cocktail shaker combine liquids, a few slivers of jalapeño, and a few cubes of ice. Shake. Pour over glass filled with ice. Garnish with more jalapeño.
06 . 11 . 13
“If you are divided from your body, you are also divided from the body of the world. Which then appears to be other than you, separate from you, rather from the living continuum to which you belong.” — Eve Ensler
This theme, that of the body and women, and our constant attempts to correct or control what is lacking of our physical selves and in our lives has come up in too many conversations lately. With dear friends, young and old, wise our chats have led to, among many things, some variation of the question: why, when everything feels out of control, do we sometimes turn on our bodies? In some last ditch effort to keep things together, we, women, often become these punishing, masterful tyrants, who live secretly in the shadows of our self-consciousness and inadequacy and restrict and pinch and squeeze and shudder at all that our bodies lack. In the name of health, deprive ourselves of the joy we deserve and mask the deep disequilibrium in the vessel we inhabit. As Eve says, we are then divided. Our bodies become an object to fix, and then too does the world. The world is not an object. Your body is not an object.
I read something in an Oprah Magazine on a flight home from college a few years ago that still haunts me. There was this featurette on women in their 60′s and 70′s espousing the joys of finally coming into their own skin in their later decades. It featured a photo series of women, beautiful, eyes closed, laughing, wind blowing in their wavy grey hair. They all looked so happy, genuinely, finally, happy. I was happy for them, too. I also felt like I was going to throw up. The idea that I, and all women my age, might spend the next 40 years of our lives unhappy with and at war against our bodies was terrifying. I tore out the pages of the spread and stuffed them in a textbook tucked in the seat-back pouch, closed my eyes and thought, “I don’t want to wait that long… I can’t wait that long” What if I don’t even get that long? I mean, how dare I waste this time? No way, no how. Self-love is not a rite of passage,not something we are entitled to only after years of suffering.
I’m not entirely sure where I’m going with all of this, but I’m not trying to stand on a soap box to convince you to love your body — there are women leading that call-to-action with much greater poeticism and punch than I ever could. Of course, if I were sitting on the back porch with you tomorrow night, I’d promise you and plead, with deep conviction and sincerity, that you are the most powerful and beautiful creature on the planet. Yet I do want to tell you one thing: go outside. Get out in the sunshine and warm air and away from the noise of the city and your routine and let your limbs take you places and show you parts of the earth and the living continuum to which you belong. The closer you get to nature, the harder it will be to hate your body. You belong to these places. They will remind you of your goodness and beauty and strength that you may have forgotten lives in you. It takes nearly four hours to summit 3,800 feet of a mountain like one we filmed above. As the altitude increases, our pace tempers and at each pause for oxygen, I stand filled with so much gratitude for what my body is, for what it does, for how hard it works to bring me to these places. Here, in the wildest parts of the earth, I know in my heart I lack nothing. Every maddening, dark thought or ill will I have felt towards myself in the past is dismissed and deep love and care fills the vacuum it left behind. You may not need to climb to 14,000 feet to find this peace. Maybe you’d like to learn to hula hoop, swim backstroke in a lake, train for a 5k fun run. I don’t care. Something. Move. Breathe. Look out and look in. Watch how much your body allows you to do and feel. Give thanks. Be kind. Let’s not wait until we’re 70 to feel good about the vessel we landed to change the world from. There is freedom in appreciation given.
Adapted from Nicole Spiridakis, for NPR Kitchen Window
Folks, this is killer. For what this cobbler lacks in beauty it makes up ten-fold in taste, especially after a full day on the move. Not much mise en place when it comes to camp cooking, and I wouldn’t want it any other way. Any summer fruit combination will do. I had strawberries and rhubarb on hand for this trip. I imagine peaches, plums, cherries, or blackberries will be fantastic as they come into season this summer.
- 2 lbs strawberries, hulled and halved
- 2 stalks rhubarb, sliced
- 1/2 cup sugar
- 3 cups flour (I used pastry)
- 2 teaspoons baking powder
- 1 teaspoon baking soda
- 2 tablespoons sugar
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 8 tablespoons (1 stick) unsalted butter, cut into small pieces
- 2 cups buttermilk
At home: Mix together the dry ingredients, except sugar, and place in a bag or tupperware. Pack sugar separately. Measure out the buttermilk and transfer to a small container.
In camp: Set up the fire and place a grill about 4 inches above the flame. If you forget a grate (oops) create a rock formation to protect the iron from direct flame. Cut the fruit into chunks and toss with the sugar. Add the fruit to a heavy, cast-iron 5-quart Dutch oven or a deep cast-iron skillet.
For the biscuits, place the pre-mixed dry ingredients in a bowl. Cut the butter into the flour mixture until the butter is the size of small peas. Stir in the buttermilk, just until the batter comes together.
Drop dollops of the dough in an even layer over the fruit. Cover the Dutch oven and put the cobbler over the fire pit. Cook until the biscuits are cooked all the way through, about 30 minutes.
05 . 23 . 13
We need more storms. The garden loves it and so does my spirit. When dark clouds build out West over the mountains I put a kettle on for afternoon coffee, throw open all the downstairs windows, and ready my reading chair with a book. Elizabeth Gilbert shared once in a TED talk how early cultures believed they had a genius, “a divine spirit that came from a distant and unknowable source,” that waited to pounce on people with “moments of brilliance… showing them new ways of doing things, bestowing new songs to their ears.” Gilbert described how the poet Ruth Stone often could look out, standing on the farm, and see a poem come barreling toward her over the landscape. It was chasing her, and she had to get up and run, as fast as she could, back to the house before it passed through her, blowing onward to find another poet. Ideas don’t always come sweeping over me with genius or brilliance or poetry, but I have found that if I sit and be present to a good storm, the thunder can shake loose new perspective in my heart that I usually need urgently, badly. Like Ruth, I have to be diligent and be waiting in the ready to capture that perspective fully.
And so, last week, I found myself wrapped in an old blanket in my reading nook, and tried surrendering to the energy of the storm. I was distracted about an earlier email from a reader that had left me unsettled and self-conscious about where I find myself pivoting from in this point of life. I know she meant well, truly, but her advice was somewhat bruising. I acknowledge and accept that by publishing parts of my life for the world to read, I make myself open to judgement and critique — both of which happen so rarely I feel silly even bringing it up — but it does reflect on the tricky business of having a blog. We, as writers, may feel a distinct and coherent story building month to month, year to year, but most often what our readers experience are “al a carte” moments, snippets of this phase and that. We, me, you, don’t always get the full picture. We can’t. And that’s okay. It’s not supposed to work like that. All that we are and all we believe cannot be packaged and delivered consistently in 1,000 words or less, so we chapter it all out, and continue, in earnest, to practice non-attachment and patience with those we invite into our lives (and living online spaces) — lives that are very much in-progress and under construction. This experience, of course, is magnified 10x in the flesh with strangers and friends and those we share toothpaste. But anyway…
My point in sharing this singular, harmless experience with a reader is to spotlight how, gulp, I too sometimes walk dangerously into the book of someone elses life, mid-chapter, and assume a level of authority or perspective based on the information I think I’m bearing witness to. Por ejemplo… Shaun and I have friends who have recently separated after a year of marriage and honestly I’ve been terribly hung up about it. Not about the divorce at large — as I don’t believe destinies or soulmates to be fixed things — but just about the loss on an energetic level for all of us young folk in love, angsty, and in becoming. There is a sense of sadness and realization on the whole, in life, not all good fights can be won… and it kinda blows. I look at these friends falling apart and see ALL of us falling apart, as we do, as we grow as individuals and in partnership and community. “No!!!” This was my knee-jerk reaction. ”Don’t let it break! WORK like fucking hell, friends! Relationships are hard!” It wasn’t until shaking the dust of that earlier email that I really realized how my consternation about the situation is entirely related to my own heart, my own struggles, and how when I look at these two beautiful people, wishing so desperately that “it all” could be fixed, I’m really just seeing the ways I want to fix myself. A bit of nemesism, really. And we do this, as humans, so often. We try to fix people as we would like to fix ourselves. We see our own lives mirrored back to us in the lives and choices and pain of others. We want them to be okay, we NEED them to be okay so we can be okay, too.
We see only what we see. Every day we get the opportunity to observe and take part in the lives of others, in the middle of their perfect and un-perfect chapters, with our opinions, often well-intentioned, knowing only what we know. I think it’s important, every single day, to try and step back and ask ourselves how much of our experiences with others are projections of our own desires, expectations, attachments. We have to remember that nothing needs fixing. We were put here to love, and that’s pretty much it.
So here’s what I’m thinking. Let’s all make a pact and try, really hard, to check our attachments at the door when experiencing the journey of another. It’s going to be hard. I know. Especially because half the time we don’t even know we’re caught up in the first place. Let’s try not to fill in the gaps for them. Not try to play out the before and after. Let’s just be with people, where they are, and love them, without judgement. Let’s be real with ourselves and recognize when and how and why we get caught up in the compulsion to mend. That’s where the genius is, people. Storm or not. Let it barrel on.
Grilled Carrots over Lentils with Horseradish Yogurt Sauce
- 2 bunches spring carrots, stems reserved for garnish
- 1 1/2 cups french lentils
- 1/2 cup carrot greens, chopped
- 1 large handful baby spinach
- 1 handful parsley, chopped
- 1/2 cup chives, minced
- 1 shallot, minced
- 3 tbsp olive oil
- salt/pepper to taste
Horseradish Yogurt Sauce
- 1 1/2 cup full fat yogurt
- juice of 1/2 lemon
- 2 cloves garlic, minced
- 3 tbsp (or more) grated fresh horseradish
- dash of salt
Bring 3 cups of water to a boil. Cook lentils until al dente, nearly 20 minutes. Rinse and set aside.
Rinse the carrots and remove stems. Toss with olive oil and salt. Roast on the grill or under the broiler until blackened and soft through the center (10-20 minutes, depending). Set aside.
In a medium bowl, stir together yogurt and lemon juice. Grate garlic and peeled horseradish root on a microplane grater over the yogurt. Add a dash of salt then taste. Do you need more horseradish? If you’re like me, you like the kick and will need to add more. Cover and keep in the fridge until you’re ready to serve.
In a large mixing bowl, toss together cooled lentils, olive oil, spinach, parsley, chives, carrot greens, shallot, and salt/pepper. Distribute the lentil salad on a serving platter and top with grilled carrots. Fetch sauce from the fridge and drizzle yogurt generously over the carrots. Garnish with carrot greens.
(Serves a crowd)