I’ve had a word document open on my desktop for the past month. The ticker at the footer reads 6,201 words. Oy. Everyday for the past week I’ve tried to sit down, stand up, walk around with the laptop getting things sorted out. Music, no music. Pants, no pants. Wine, more wine. You know when you throw out your back and you find yourself inventing new yoga poses to get that darn thing to pop back into place? Yeah, that’s how I feel about writing right now. Just. Can’t. Quite. Get. There. The stuff sorta hurts to get out and then ends up looking like a mess on the page.
Then I sat down with a friend. She’s a writer. She gets it. She also has a 13 month old daughter and pumps out about twice the content I can in a week and I think to myself: Jesus, Kels, SHE HAS TO TAKE CARE OF ANOTHER LIVING CREATURE AND YOU CAN’T GET YOUR SHIT TOGETHER. Anyway, we had this great chat about vulnerability, where it fits with the business of writing (and sharing that writing online) and how the word and concept makes us recoil a bit when we hear it tossed around so casually over coffee and cocktails. She said this, which I love: some secrets are worth keeping. Sometimes none of the words and thoughts and feelings we wrestle with need to see the light, and that’s okay. It takes guts to get vulnerable, i.e. share parts of ourselves that we fear will result in rejection. But guts for the sake of guts feels totally… disingenuous? It shows security, confidence to pump the brakes a bit, and decide, on our own terms, how and when and for whom we’ll strip down for.
I worry, sometimes, that my generation falsely associates vulnerability with sharing every moment tasted, every hurt suffered, every little nugget of wisdom that comes to us while washing our hair or taking out the trash. I feel like we relinquish a bit of our agency in doing so. We give up sacredness for the rush of affirmation –– I divulge, therefore I exist. We don’t get a chance to ever really feel something in a totally pure state without those feelings being tampered by the onlookers we willingly, or unwillingly, called to table. There is enough of that look-at-me-see-me-feel-my-heart-beat-but-don’t-actually-judge-me-or-tell-me-something-I-don’t-want-to-hear sorta thing on the internet and in the “real” world that we have to deal with.
So instead of trying to contort the ever-living crap of that diabolical mess of thoughts, I’m going to bank on what I know for sure: loosening the grip reveals new truths, and that space and distance do help us heal and sort through the things that weigh heavy on our hearts. It’s okay to let some things just be our own to ponder and wrestle.
Instead! Life update:
We’re moving. To the mountains. It feels right. We’ve grappled quietly with getting out of dodge leaving Denver since late spring, and upon our return from Bali it felt like all lights were flashing GREEN GREEN GREEN to manifest on that tug for migration. Seattle and Portland, Maine made the shortlist, but we’re not quite ready to say sayonara to these Rocky Mountains yet. We’re under contract on a little place west of Boulder that backs up onto a bit of woods –– we’ll sign and get the keys on Shaun’s 26th birthday. Wish us luck.
Concord Grape & Mint Sorbet
I finagled a few shortcuts to this killer recipe from Kimberley Hasselbrink’s recent release, Vibrant Food. After watching the food blog community reproduce the summer chapter online when the book first came out, I felt like I should wait to share this number when the leaves started changing and remind you that the fall, winter, and spring chapters of this book are equally impressive. I had the huge honor of recipe testing for Kimberley as Vibrant Food came together and I’m telling you, she, and these recipes, are total keepers. Oh, and, the recipe for harissa, on page 97, needs to be bottled and sold around the world. It’s the best I’ve ever had.
2 lbs fresh Concord grapes, stems removed
12 mint leaves
1/4 cup sugar
juice of 1 lime
Remove stems from grapes. Rinse. In the basin of a blender or food processor, combine grapes, mint leaves, sugar, and the juice of 1 lime. Puree the the mixture until all but a few specks of grape skin remain visible. Kimberly suggests straining the mixture through a fine mesh sieve or strainer, but I’m into the pulp. It’s up to you.
Churn the blended grapes in an ice cream maker for 25-30 minutes, until slightly frozen. The sorbet will still be soft. Pour into a freezer-safe container and freeze for three more hours to solidify.
Inspired by the flavors of Bali, Indonesia. Images captured in our temporary Penestanan, Ubud home + kitchen. We’re home, now.
1 cup brown rice
1 cup celery leaves (or) cilantro
1 cup mint
1 cup basil
1 cup flat-leaf parsley
1 cup green onion
3 leaves kaffir lime leaves
3 stalks fresh lemongrass
2-3 chilies of choice
1/4 cup coconut oil
salt to taste
In a medium saucepan bring 2 cups water and 1/4 teaspoon salt to boiling. Slowly add 1 cup long grain rice and return to a boil. Reduce the heat and cover with a tight-fitting lid. Cook about 45 minutes or until rice is tender and water is absorbed. Remove pan from heat and let stand, covered for 5 minutes. Fluff rice with a fork before serving.
Segment mango into bite sized pieces. Set aside in a bowl or prep plate. Julienne celery, mint, basil, and parsley or keep leaves whole – however you prefer. For this variation I kept the herbs whole. Set aside. Cut green onion AND chili(es) of choice at a bias, add to prepped herbs and mango that you’ve set aside.
Chop shallots and fry in a small saucepan over medium heat in coconut oil for 5-10 minutes. While the shallots sizzle, prepare fresh lemon grass stalks. You will need a very sharp knife, as the stalks are quite firm. Remove the lower bulb and shed any tough outer leaves. Slice into thin rounds and pound the pieces with a pestle & mortar until softened and fragrant. Add to the shallots. Cut kaffir lime leaves into thin strips with scissors, add to shallots and lemongrass. Let simmer for another 5 minutes or until slightly browned and fragrant. Add a bit of coconut oil if the mix starts to dry out.
Toss together cooled rice and the prepped herbs, mango, etc. Pour fried shallot mixture over the salad and toss again. Add salt and juice of several limes as desired.
Autumn. FINALLY. My bones have ached for this season. I do believe the leaves on the trees that line our street now match the hues of my heart, and for a few brief, palpable moments over the past few days, I’ve been reminded that I belong in this human skin, this temporal world.
Offline life owns any and all coherent bits of my lexicon right now, so today I give you a film, doughnuts from Ashley’ssuper fun new cookbook, and a few notes from the field, as follows:
(1) Tell people you love them while they can still hear you (2) Get over yourself. Self-consciousness robs us of being fully present to others (3) Pay attention and everyone is the guru — especially the 6 year old boy next door (4) Celebrate the people who keep you company. Thank them, daily, for their grace, patience, and wisdom (5) Beautiful things don’t just happen, you make them happen. Work hard. Keep your chin up (6) We belong to the earth. Lie in the leaves on the ground and pray like hell you’ll learn how to burst and bless and move on like they do (7) Change your toothbrush more often and buy new underwear. It’s the little things (8) “Nobody looks stupid when they’re having fun” – Amy Poehler (9) Date pits do not go in the garbage disposal (10) Sparklers in place of birthday candles make a mess, but are always a good idea.
Gluten-Free Apple Fritter Doughnuts
1 cup oat flour
1 cup rice flour
2/3 cup cane sugar
6 tbsp almond meal
2 tsp baking powder
2 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp sea salt
4 large eggs
1/2 cup + 4 tbsp buttermilk
1/2 cup apple sauce
4 tbsp coconut oil
3 tsp vanilla
1 cup peeled, diced honeycrisp apples
1 1/2 cup sugar + 2 tsp cinnamon for coating
1/4 cup butter or coconut oil, melted
Preheat the oven to 350.’ Combine dry ingredients in a large bowl, and mix well. In another bowl, whisk together liquid ingredients and eggs. Pour wet mixture into the dry and stir gently with a wooden spoon until just combined and there are no more flour streaks. Fold in the diced apples gently.
Spoon batter into standard doughnut molds, before the top of the basin. As you can see in the video, I struggled with this. If they look wonky and overflowing they still turn out good, I promise. Bake for 15-18 minutes until lightly golden brown around the edges. Let cool before tackling the cinnamon sugar coating.
Ashley’s instructions for the fritter effect are for stoves with a broiler situated at the top of the oven, mine are for a lower oven/drawer-style broiler and instructions are shared accordingly. In an assembly line, place bowl of melted oil/butter in the middle between the cooled rack of donuts and a bowl of cinnamon sugar mixture. Dip tops of baked and cooled doughnuts in the oil/butter for a millisecond, then roll around in the sugar mix. Place on a baking sheet, cast iron pan, or sheet of tin foil beneath the broiler to caramelize the sugar for 2-3 minutes, careful not to burn. Repeat until doughnuts are coated. Serve warm.
** Leave a comment with your field notes of late and I’ll pick one winner to receive a copy of Baked Doughnuts for Everyone by October 29, 2013. Winner will be announced on facebook and via email! Cheers!
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.