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.
01 . 20 . 13
The mouse is dead. I repeat, the mouse that has occupied my kitchen for the past four months has finally cycled into another existence, hopefully as a squirrel or more savory varmint far away from this address. A few nights ago Shaun and I were laying in bed, almost asleep, when we were startled by the sound of crinkling, crackling, and nibbling in the office. The office, I’m telling you, which is upstairs and about a million Shaun-sized paces from the kitchen. I jumped out of bed and barreled down the hall in my underwear, shaking my hands in the air hollering “Mark my words, this is it! (expletives) This is your last night!” I reloaded and repositioned every trap in the living room, dining room, and kitchen with gobs of peanut butter and brie (as it was suggested, a Happyolks mouse might have advanced taste). At work the next day I got a two word text message from Shaun around 3 pm, “Got him,” two glorious day-making words, and I proceeded to gloat to every co-worker who had been following my persistent rodent woes since October. Do not cross a girl chasing a mouse in her underwear. She means business.
You see, it’s finally a new year now. 2013 started on January 17th here in Denver. I have conquered the mouse and I am quite certain that I will now be able to conquer anything that the year has in store. Broke as as joke? Psh, What else is new. Pimples and wrinkles? BRING IT. Stolen bike? These legs are good to walk, skip, and run. I went to bed that night, in a mouse-less house, struck with sudden desires to learn to drive a stick shift, take a self defense class, ask to be compensated for my work, and generally be more spontaneous and kick-butt. Heck, I thought, if I can kill the smartest mouse in the history of mice, I can probably take a stab at croissants, tamales, mole, merengue, kombucha, and other seemingly terrifying cooking projects with style.
So… in the three days since the mouse was evicted I got a nose ring, dropped three grand on airfare to Chile, and made tamales, with kale and apples, which, for the record, are totally not hard and you should try immediately. You will feel like Joan of Arc and go on to make crazy-wonderful and empowered decisions in your day and year.
Kale, Apple, Ancho Chili Tamales
- 4 cups Masa Harina
- 2 tsp baking powder
- 1 tbsp mexican oregano
- 1 tsp sea salt
- 3 cups warm water
- 1 cup melted coconut oil
- 2 bunches lacinato (dinasaur) kale
- 3 cups shredded mixed mexican cheese
- 1 fuji apple, small dice
- 1 large sweet onion, chopped
- 1 cup cilantro, chopped
- 1 fresh jalapeno, minced
- 2 cloves garlic, minced
- 2-4 tbsp olive oil
- 2 tbsp ancho chili powder
- 1 tsp chipotle powder
- 1 tsp sea salt
- Juice of one lime
- 20 dried corn husks
- Sauce from here.
First thing is first, submerge corn husks in a deep bowl with boiling water and allow to soften for 30 minutes to 1 hour. I use a heavy jar of coconut oil to keep the husks from floating. In a large bowl combine masa, baking powder, oregano, and salt. Mix together warm water and melted coconut oil and pour over masa mixture, stirring until a dough forms. Set aside and cover.
In a large cast iron or heavy skillet, saute onions and garlic in olive oil until translucent but not browned. Add the ancho and chipotle powders and the juice of the lime. Stir and let simmer. Remove spines of the kale and roughly tear leaves into the onion mixture on the stove. Stir in apples, fresh jalapeno and salt. Cook until the kale is wilted and apples are tender. Remove from heat, mix in cheese to melt.
For the assembly of the tamales, create an assembly line of bowls with the masa, husks, and filling. Place one softened husk on the cutting board or counter and fill with dough. I didn’t measure, but I’d estimate I used +/- a 1/2 cup of masa mixture per tamale. Press dough into the face of the husk leaving an inch or so dead space around the perimeter. It doesn’t have to be pretty. Don’t sweat it. Spoon a bit of the cheesy kale mixture into the center of the masa platform you’ve created. I think I used more like 1/3 cup of filling per tamale. None of them are the same size or shape, just go with it. Wrap like you would a book-shaped gift, fold over the right side then the left, overlapping the edges. Flip up the bottom tail and place seam-side down on a plate. Repeat until you have filled 15-20 tamales, depending on how full you stuff them.
To steam the tamales I used a large pot with the pasta-colander attachment, although I have read and heard about steaming racks that can be placed in caserole dishes and the like. I imagine you could easily use a pop-out vegetable steamer in a deep pot or even a rice cooker, too. Place all the tamales in the basin of the vessel with the seam sides down. Cook for 45 minutes.
01 . 05 . 13
We lounged on the couch all day on the first. No crisp morning run and green juice to follow. No, we just laid there, me curled in tie-dye and yoga pants, you in the flannel with the pink stain on the pocket from where your sharpie exploded in the spring. We ordered bad pizza and watched the new Bourne flick until it got dark and the streetlights out front turned on. You looked at me and reached for my hand at one point with a new look, one I haven’t seen you wear before, it said holy-shit-what-a-freaking-year. I felt the same thing but didn’t say anything. I took your hand and smiled. What a freaking year was right.
This picture has been the screen saver on my phone since it was taken in January of last year. We were home for my holiday break and everything that stood before us seemed bursting and bright, albeit completely undefined. I had one semester of school left and we intended to foster a few more dogs, run a few triathalons, and move. Move somewhere. Anywhere. Away from California, preferably, but we weren’t picky yet. You wanted snow, and I wanted interesting people. We were both undaunted by any of it until the spring. Crap. You mean we actually have to decide, now? New York, Denver, DC? I interviewed in Brooklyn while you filmed Sprout and we crunched the numbers. I wanted the job, but hated the city. Flying home I remember trying to summon every ounce of wisdom Paulo Coelho or Mary Oliver or Oprah would promise me I had inside to turn our sails the right way.
May came quick. I didn’t get the job in Brooklyn, thankfully, and DC got put on the shelf for later. I passed French 3 and marched to Pomp and Circumstance wearing a cap without a tassel or permanent address. We said goodbye to the ocean the next morning and hit the road. Alaska first. Big fish. Deep introspection. Hours of Mexican train dominos and the very best company. I didn’t know I could love so much outside of my own kin until your grandparents. I sold my car and we camped along I-80 until a flat tire parked us in front of the duplex in Denver that we now call home. You built me a garden, I learned about marmots and bears, mountains and altitude became our new addiction. We made fast friends. You traveled a lot for work, I missed you terribly.
At the end of the summer I got a “real” job and things changed, again, as they do. For the first time in my life I understood what exhaustion looked and felt like — you saw it in my eyes and in my distance. In the bowels of it all I met people, saw things, felt things that I didn’t even know myself capable. Things were hard. It felt like someone took our little snow globe and glued it to the ceiling, everything looked misshaped and backwards and we held each other upside down like that, so tight, shocked, stunned by it all. We were both free and trapped. Happy, but terrified. Bright eyed and blistered. There were mornings like the one after the first snow, we ran far and fast, in silence, our legs red and tingly from the cold, or that night of the Ben Howard show where I wondered if I was getting closer to or even further from myself, closer to or further away from you. It was a free fall. We made questionable choices, spoke important truths, and held on for dear life as the time and place tested all that we were, are, and will be.
I looked at the picture of us today, the one on my screen saver of you and me and Buddy, a whole year later, a year older and stronger, and see the best parts of it all. We were so happy. So darn certain that despite the hardship, heartache, and the dramatic changes that lay before us, our love would kick it all in the pants. I look at that picture and I want to go back and tell those two kids that, yeah, it’s gonna be a crazy road, CRAZY TOWN, but keep believing, keep going, because your love will kick life in the pants and guess what, IT TOTALLY DID. Sitting on the yellow couch with you eating pizza a year later, seven years later, really, I’m so glad we postponed our resolutions a day to just give thanks. We made it. It was our hardest and best year. For all the obvious and secret reasons I love you. I love you so much. I love what we do, I love what we believe, I love how fucking hard we work to make this relationship right. Here’s to you and to 2013. Here’s to the mountains we’ve climbed and the many more before us. We’ve got this.
Made a little money playing in the bars
With two beat up drums and two old guitars
From the Crescent City to the Great Salt Lake
It ain’t what you got, it’s what you make
When the road got rough and the wheels all broke
Couldn’t take more then we could tow
Making something out of nothing with a scratcher and our hope
With two old guitars like a shovel and a rope
Rock of Ages, cleave for me
Let me hide myself in Thee
Now I understand
On better terms since Birmingham
Shovels and Rope
Shaved Cauliflower Salad
Adapted slightly from Bon Appetit, 2012
- 1/2 head of a large cauliflower
- 1 medium sized radicchio, cored
- 6 inner celery stalks with leaves
- 1/4 cup chives
- 1/4 cup flat-leaf parsley leaves
- 1/2 cup honey glazed walnuts
- 2 teaspoons Dijon mustard
- 1/4 cup olive oil
- Juice of 2 lemons
- Juice of 1 orange
- 1 tsp water
- 4-5 medjool dates, pitted
Break out your mandoline and shave the cauliflower as thin as the setting allows. Shave the radicchio by hand with a sharp knife. Place in a mixing bowl. Remove celery leaves and toss into the bowl. Cut the remaining stalks into thin matchsticks and add to the mix. Add parsley leaves and chopped chives.
For the dressing, combine all ingredients in a high-powered blender and puree until smooth. Mix with the veggies and add lemon zest or more citrus juice and salt to your liking.
For the walnuts, preheat the oven to 350.’ Massage walnuts with honey and sprinkle with salt. Bake for 10 + minutes or until just toasty. Comine with salad mixture and serve at room temperature.
12 . 15 . 12
My favorite view in Colorado can be seen through our North-facing upstairs bathroom window. In the morning, when it has snowed overnight, I sit on the counter and press my left cheek against the cold pane to watch the colors change to the East as the sun rises over white roofs and lawns. Snow, I have discovered recently, has the same sort of reverent, sweeping effect on my spirit that the ocean once had. It is snowing now as I write this from the bathroom and if I’m lucky it will stick through the morning. Shaun is on a work trip for a few days and seeing that I have the day off tomorrow, and to myself, I will make a pilgrammage to the park and make snow angels again along the running path for the walkers and runners and lovers. They are strangers whose lives I will never know yet somehow always know. For the beautiful, radiant young souls who were taken from this earthplane too soon, I will lay my head back in the snow, next to my angels, your sweet too young angels, and look to the sky to say thank-you a million times for my full and undeserving life. I will blow out my candles for each of you next week with tears in my eyes for every painful, awkward, surprising, perfect moment I have been given and you have been robbed.
“I closed the box and put it in a closet.
There is no real way to deal with everything we lose.”
― Joan Didion, Where I Was From
Persimmon Oatmeal Cookies
From Margie, the mother of my childhood friend, Kelly, who grew persimmons and made the most marvelous and memorable cookies. Thank you, Margie, for graciously sharing this recipe with me and the world. Adapted from “Use and Enjoy the California Persimmon” University of California Cooperative Extension, El Dorado County.
1 ½ cups Whole Wheat Flour
1 cup Brown Sugar
½ Teaspoon Baking soda
1 Teaspoon Salt
¼ Teaspoon Nutmeg
¾ Teaspoon Cinnamon
½ Teaspoon Cloves
¾ cup butter
1 Cup Hachiya Persimmon chunks
1 ¾ cup Rolled Oats
½ cup chopped pecans
Sift together flour, sugar, soda, salt, nutmeg, cloves, and cinnamon into mixing bowl. Cut in butter. Add egg, persimmon pulp, rolled oats, and nuts. Beat until thoroughly blended.Drop by teaspoonfuls, about 1 ½ inches apart on ungreased cookie pans. Bake in a moderately hot oven (350F) about 15 minutes.