“The only people for me are the mad ones, the ones who are mad to live, mad to talk, mad to be saved, desirous of everything at the same time, the ones who never yawn or say a commonplace thing, but burn, burn, burn, like fabulous yellow roman candles exploding like spiders across the stars.” -Jack Kerouac
Last week I took the only bus in Casper, (that looks like a resort shuttle,) to the dentist. It took an hour to get there, and an hour to get back. This means that with travel time, and dental work, I had about 3 1/2 hours all to my lonesome. I brought my favorite Ina May Gaskin books, but I couldn’t read because motion sickness got the best of me. So I sat, and I looked out the window, and I let my thoughts take over. Rarely do I get the opportunity to truly be alone, and revel in my thoughts. Sitting on a bus brought back sweet memories from some of the most formative years in my life. Taking public transit made me feel young, and alive, and ready to grab onto life again. Even in Casper, Wyoming, a silly little shuttle bus, with a bus driver who will stop in route, (at what appeared to be a random house,) for coffee creamer, has potential to flood my memory, and bring me back.
I remembered the time I was on a bus, in the middle of no man’s land, Croatia with Jasmine, while a chicken sat directly behind us. A chicken! I remembered many long days of dancing in NYC, followed by slightly, and sometimes not so slightly, boozy nights(usually margaritas), poetry, and real talk. I remembered convincing Jasmine and Adrienne to hold hands with me in the middle of union square, and scream at the top of our lungs, at the completion of our year-long professional program. I remembered my roommate and dear friend Jess, getting terribly annoyed at my constant theatrics, and inability to go to the bathroom with the door shut. Living life in a few hundred square feet with my complete opposite expanded my heart and mind to levels I never knew were possible. I remembered standing in gold sparkled Toms on the day I vowed forever. I remembered that just before Christopher got an unexpected job offer in Denver, I had started my own massage practice in NW Portland. I forgot that just a year before I met Christopher I was researching where I wanted to study chinese medicine, specifically acupuncture. I dreamed of China. I still do. I remembered standing on a mountain top in Italy, while I shaved my head, and cried tears of joy, because I had just faced one of the few things that scared me. I remembered improving to Ani Difranco’s “Joyful Girl,” on stage, and under the stars that night with my newly shaved head, exposed for all to see, and scared shitless about what I might just do next. I remembered taking a 34 hour train from Oslo to Budapest because I read in a European dance magazine about an audition that sounded like my dream opportunity. I arrived to find myself awkwardly placed between perfect hungarian ballerinas, the only one without ballet slippers, and a few extra traveling pounds. I was cut within minutes. I cried, I laughed, and I drank a lot of espresso. I missed Hannah so I flew to London. I missed Chandrae so I flew to Los Angeles. Then I ran out of money, so I flew home.
I remembered that living in the moment has always been my thing. Caution to the wind, was always my motto. So after all these flash backs I started to wonder where this woman went. I have a husband who fell fast, and hard for these qualities, and I have a daughter who shares a deep enthusiasm for life, and by her toddler nature, has no choice but to live in the moment. My closest companion, and dearest friends love me for exactly who I am, the spontaneity, the messiness, and all. So I’ve been asking myself, where did I go, and why?
I read this post, from a blogger I love, and admitted something about myself that I had not ever recognized, or perhaps have been too afraid to admit…
I love being a mama, but becoming one has not been natural for me. I didn’t always dream of having children. Not because I thought I didn’t want them, but I’ve always been so lost in the present that I hardly ever day dreamed about the future until a few seasons before my heart and mind were ready to embrace a big change. So while I adore this role more than any other role I’ve known, it has not been natural, and I have carried guilt for feeling this way. This guilt has quieted my intuition, and taken away my confidence. I have agreed with hundreds of other women who appear to have it together and seem to know more than me. I hear things like, children need rhythm, children need consistency, children need…fill in the blank. It’s all rather overwhelming, and so I’ve assumed that they were probably all right. Octave may or may not need consistency or these things people claim, that is not the point. The point is that I recently realized that I’ve projected my own needs on Octave. I am the one who has needed structure, and consistency, and this has been a fairly new need for me. When something doesn’t come natural, you have to work extra hard at it. With that hard work, and maybe out of survival, I’ve replaced spontaneity and freedom, two qualities I’ve known well, with structure and consistency, while all along telling myself this was good for Octave.
Octave is intuitive, and she is smart. I believe she has sensed this all along, and she buts heads with me most when I work against myself and my better judgement. It’s as if she is trying to remind me of who I really am, and is asking for the real me to be her mama. She needs me, my inconsistency, and all. She needs my mess, and vulnerability. She needs that Mama who will sing, dance, laugh and cry, whenever the moment arises. She needs to see me admitting that I have no idea what I am doing. She needs to knows that most of the time I feel too young and immature to be telling someone else what to do. I want to guide her, and teach her, but I just can’t get behind being a super strong authoritarian, it is just not me. When I explain myself and reason with her, which contrary to popular belief TOTALLY WORKS for me, she responds really well. That may not work for others, but this is my style, it’s who I am, and Octave knows that. When I explain the who, what, when, where, and why, even to my almost two-year old, I see major progress. When I parent with my heart and guts, she believes me, I believe me, and we are both much better off.
I’ve doubted myself because I have not ever seen my ideals played out, because I don’t have an example for the type of mother I want to be. That probably sounds like I have a stressed relationship with my own mother, but that is quite the opposite. I have an incredible mother, who I have always been very close with. She has always given me room to be exactly who I am, without judgement. My mom was my biggest supporter for moving to NY at 18 and or following my wanderlust, learning about different religions, or whatever else I was curious about, and questioning social norms. She’s always supported me, even when I came home with a shaved head! Nothing was ever too much for her, or at least she did a good job at biting her tongue. With that said, I have many examples of great women, and mothers in my life, but I have danced to a different drum most of my life, and I always thought I would parent the same way. I have bits and pieces I can adopt from my own mother, but ultimately, I am still very different from her, and will do things very differently. Not out of spite, but simply because I am not her. And while paving a new path alone has always given me a high, I will admit that with another little human, it is kind of scary.
Deep down, I just want to just be me, a messy, inconsistent, confused, spontaneous, present, laid back mother who loves her daughter fiercely. It’s taken almost two years to realize that this is what Octave needs and wants too. In the last few weeks we’ve turned over a new leaf. Last week we wore helmets, and danced on wet pavement outside of Target, simply because she asked me to dance with her. She always asks “mama dance,” at the least opportune time, but for a feeler ready to smash her face back into life again, her timing is impeccable. Later, we laid down together right in the middle of the snowy sidewalk because there were squirrels to watch, and were we really in a hurry to just get home and sit? These are little things, and yet they are everything. No agenda is more important that what life brings when out eyes are open and our hearts are ready. These past few weeks, I’ve been available for what each moment may bring, and this is me to the core. I am finding my very own rhythm, and I am trying not to be afraid of my inconsistencies. I am trying not to parent in fear. Sigh(deep.)
This little lady of mine…I have so much to learn from her.
Maple Sugar Cookies
Makes 2 dozen (depends on size)
2 1/3 cup spelt flour*+ more for rolling out
1/2 tsp. sea salt
1/2 tsp. baking powder
1 stick unsalted butter, softened
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 cup maple syrup
1 egg, at room temperature
1 1/2 tsp. vanilla extract
Favorite cookie cutters
Maple Cream Cheese Frosting
8 ounces full fat cream cheese, at room temperature
4 tbsp. maple syrup
1 tsp. vanilla extract
* All purpose works fine too. I prefer using spelt in place of white flour and prefer its taste and texture over whole wheat, which tends to be super heavy.
Directions: In a medium size bowl, combine flour, baking powder, and salt. Set aside. In a stand mixer or large bowl, if using a hand mixer, cream butter and sugar together until light and fluffy. Add maple syrup, egg, and vanilla. Beat until smooth. Slowly add dry ingredients, and mix until just combined. Divide dough in half and place in a large piece of plastic wrap. The dough will be slightly sticky still but it will work well once it is refrigerated. Wrap in plastic, making sure dough is completely covered, using your hands press down to create a small square. Let rest in fridge for 2 hours, but overnight is best.
Preheat oven to 350. On a floured surface, roll out dough to be 1/8 inch thick. Cut dough into desired shapes, and place on a baking sheet with parchment paper. Bake for 10-12 minutes. This will vary depending on the size of your cookie cutters, so watch carefully. Let cookies cool before frosting.
For the frosting, beat together cream cheese, maple syrup, and vanilla. Store in the fridge until ready to use. Garnish with your favorite sprinkles.
Garlic mashed potatoes. broccoli salad with bacon and dried cranberries. deviled eggs(best ever). honey glazed yogurt biscuits. arugula salad with pomegranate, toasted hazelnuts, and shaved parmesan. ginger hibiscus kombucha(almost as good as wine!)
This year our thanksgiving menu is humble, as is our plans. The three, or four of us, have chosen to lay low and get some good quality family time. We went pretty untraditional, without a turkey, yams, and pumpkin pie, but even so, everything was delicious and still felt like Thanksgiving! Here are a just a few of our favorite sides we enjoyed this year. All of these are not exclusive to Thanksgiving, and can easily roll over into ideas for Christmas. I hope your day is filled with good food and people you love. Happy Thanksgiving!
Deviled Eggs With Creme Fraiche
Recipe from Local Milk
Makes 12 deviled eggs
6 hard-boiled eggs
3 tbsp. creme fraiche
3 tsp. high quality mayonnaise
1 tsp. Dijon mustard
1/4 tsp. sugar
1/4 tsp. apple cider vinegar
1/4 tsp. fresh ground pepper+ more for garnish
Large pinch of sea salt
Paprika for garnish
Slice hard boiled eggs in half. Remove yolk and set whites aside on a serving platter. Combine all ingredients in a large bowl and mix until smooth. Scoop or pipe yolk mixture back into the egg whites and garnish with fresh pepper, and paprika. Keep in fridge until you are ready to serve.
Broccoli Salad with Bacon and Dried Cranberries
Adapted from Dad’s recipe, that came from somewhere on the internet, years ago
3 heads of brocoli
1 small red onion, diced
1 cup dried cranberries
1 cup of sunflower seeds
1 package of apple smoked bacon
1 cup high quality mayonnaise
1/4 cup sugar
4 tbsp. red wine vinegar
Cook bacon in oven or pan until crispy. Meanwhile, wash and cut the stems off of broccoli, and cut into bite sized pieces. Add broccoli, cranberries, sunflower seeds, and onions in a large bowl. Chop bacon into bite sized pieces and add to bowl. Set aside. Whisk together mayonnaise, sugar, and red wine vinegar. Pour dressing over ingredients and mix thoroughly. Let rest in the fridge for 3-4 hours. It tastes best once the flavors have marinated. It can even be made the night before you want to serve it.
Our Favorite Yogurt Biscuits
Slightly Adapted from Super Natural Every Day
2 1/2 cup flour
1 tbsp. baking powder
1 1/2 tsp. sea salt
1/2 cup unsalted butter, chilled and cubed
1 1/3 cup greek yogurt
2 tbsp butter+ 2 tbsp. honey, melted for glaze
Pre-heat oven to 450. Place all dry ingredients in food processor. Blend until combined. Place chilled cubed butter on top of flour and pulse 15- 20 times until flour resembles small pebbles. Add yogurt and pulse 10-15 more times until just combined. Place dough on a lightly floured surface and shape into a small square. Dough should be fairly thick rather than thin and rolled out. Cut into 9 equal pieces, and place on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper. Generously spread honey and butter glaze on each biscuit, and bake for 15-17 minutes. Serve with more honey butter on the inside.
Nutella Raspberry Tart
I adapted it slightly from this favorite recipe.
I simply added homemade nutella on top of the date nut crust, followed by the coconut whipped cream, and raspberries. AMA-ZING! I let the nutella layer sit in the freezer for about 20 minutes before I added the whipped cream, and berries. I can’t decided if I prefer the nutella version over the plain coconut whipped cream. I decided that I don’t have to choose, they are both fantastic.
Sometimes there is nothing really innovative or special about the every day things we eat, and yet still we eat them, because they are practical, easy, and tasty. Curry, and vegetables over coconut rice, sweet potato tacos, chili and cornbread, or my favorite go-to salad with homemade naan are the meals we eat most often, and now this baked sweet potato with chili fixings just joined the collection of go-to winter meals. I decided to share this recipe, which doesn’t really feel like a recipe at all, because simplicity is attractive, and is something most everyone I know desires and craves, especially come dinner time.
If given the opportunity, I could, and would spend uncomfortable amounts of money on food. Some women have retail therapy, I have grocery therapy. It’s my thing. I’ve accepted it, but I’ve also grown a new enthusiasm to save up before baby #2 is born. So, it’s my mission to reinvent beans, and rice, potatoes, and eggs. I’m confident, and committed until I make my way to the cheese section. I can’t walk near it without being lured in, and tempted by all the lovely varieties, hence why I caved and bought my favorite sharp cheddar. It’s a deal breaker on this potato though, and since my dairy intolerance is slim to none while I am pregnant, I’ve decided to just indulge.
I love you.
Baked Sweet Potatoes & Chili Fixings
4 medium sweet potatoes
1, 15 oz. can of black beans
1, 15 oz. can of fire roasted diced tomatoes
2 cloves of garlic, minced
2 tsp. chili powder
1/2 tsp. sea salt
3 tbsp. chopped cilantro
1 red onion, thinly sliced
1 tbsp. olive oil
2 cups sharp cheddar cheese, shredded
4 green onions, thinly sliced
Sour cream or plain yogurt to taste
Wrap sweet potatoes in foil and bake at 375 for 40-45 minutes, or until tender. About 20 minutes before you want to eat, combine black beans, diced tomatoes, chili powder, salt, and cilantro in a small saucepan. Bring to a boil and reduce heat to low. In another pan, saute red onions in olive oil, on medium heat, until translucent and tender, (about 6-8 minutes.) Grate cheese, cut avocado, and set aside.
When potatoes are baked, remove from oven and slice down the middle, lengthwise. If you desire, spread a tbsp. of butter on each. Build your potato starting with the red onions, black beans/tomatoes, cheese, avocado, sour cream/yogurt, and green onions.
A dear friend has given me permission to simply admit that in this season, life is not easy. I share my emotional and physical burdens, and she is the one who takes the liberty of saying it for me… ”Sister, your life is not easy right now.” For a few weeks I’ve feared that admitting this somehow means I am ungrateful, when really, there is not a day that goes by that I am not grateful. Even in the trenches, I love my life. And then sometimes I feel silly thinking those words, not easy, when I am aware that my struggles are relative to my culture of convenience, and circumstances. I may not have a car, a washer and dryer or dishwasher, but as sure as do have a roof over my head, food in belly, and an incredible husband and daughter. And while I can’t say the same about a dishwasher or washer/dryer, I really do love living without a car. Sometimes it is just really damn hard, and being pregnant, heading into winter, we are in the thick of it. It’s no longer some cute casual affair, it is to the very core, who we are. It’s one thing to ride your bike for exercise or while wearing braids and a cute dress. It is another to gain 15 pounds, and pedal a 75 lb. bike, with a 26 lb. pound baby, with $150 worth of groceries, in 35 degrees, with 40 mile hour winds. I absolutely stand by our choice, and think it is one of the best decisions we have ever made together, but it is just not always easy. The practical challenges of the present are easier to talk about, but really they just skim the surface of the emotional growing pains that stir inside our walls. There is a lot of love, and there is a lot of heartache. This is our season.
I find comfort in the inevitable. I find comfort knowing that nothing ever stays the same. Whether we change or not, seasons and circumstances will. This may be one of the few things I know, and so I hold on to this truth tight, keeping it in the most sacred and quiet place I can find.
I keep on pedaling, because it is the only choice I have. After hundreds of rotations, something in me stirs, something in me shifts. The tight space inside my chest opens with ease, and I let myself drown in the smell of burning firewood. This smell is so wonderful that it brings me to tears. Five miles later, I arrive at the grocery store, out of breath, and a little more content. A woman and her two children stop to tell me how brave I am. Me, brave? I couldn’t respond, I just stared back confused. How did she know I needed to hear that, how did she know that in that moment, I might just actually believe her? Am I really brave?
I keep washing each and every dish, because if I don’t we will not have dishes to eat with. I ponder just letting things hit rock bottom. What does a kitchen that has not been cleaned for 48 hours really look like? My curiosity begs me to just give it a shot, but I decide it’s best to just keep washing. Something in me stirs, and something in me shifts. I arrive to my last dish, smitten and pleased. We are going to be okay. All of four of us. Maybe not today or next week, but in time, we will be more than okay. This is just another truth, I bury deep inside and save for when my emotions get the best of me.
Baked Berry Oatmeal
Slightly adapted from Super Natural Every Day
2 cups rolled oats
1 cup chopped walnuts
1/3 cup dark brown sugar or maple syrup*
1/4 cup flax seeds
1 tsp. cinnamon
1/2 tsp. sea salt
1 tsp. baking powder
1 cup blueberries
1 cup blackberries
2 cups whole milk or milk of choice
3 tbsp. melted butter
2 tsp. vanilla extract
Preheat oven to 375. In a large bowl combine oats, walnuts, flax seeds, brown sugar, salt, cinnamon, baking powder. Mix well. Add berries. Put all dry ingredients in an oiled 8×8 pan. Melt butter in a small saucepan. Remove from heat. Whisk together milk, egg, vanilla, into the sauce pan with melted butter. Slowly and evenly pour liquid mixture over oats in than pan. Bake for 35-40 minutes.
*If using maple syrup, you will not mix that in with the dry ingredients, like you do with brown sugar. Rather, whisk syrup in with the wet ingredients. Both brown sugar and maple syrup taste great, and maple syrup is a healthier option, it is usually just a matter of what is on hand.
I’ve been brewing for weeks, with nothing to say, only much to feel. Melancholy has always been good for my creative soul, and yet it seems in this season it paralyzes, rather than moves me. Each day I am lead on a melodramatic voyage, by which I see everything through the impossible lense of the present. I am left right back where I started, but with nothing tangible to hold, write, or at the very least, eat. It’s exhausting really, and I am left feeling robbed of the beautiful mundane that I was once so good at savoring, and celebrating.
Somehow, remembering that it’s November magically takes me out of this less than desirable state of mind, if only for the brief moments I reminisce about family tradition. Every November I bake my first batch of cinnamon rolls in preparation for the big bake on Christmas Eve. Maybe I like the excuse to eat them twice a year, or maybe my body and mind need to be reminded of this domestic rhythm that helps connect me to the women I never knew, but the blood that is always running through me. It’s as if these cinnamon rolls are my access to wisdom from my grandmothers. It’s as if this process of mixing, kneading, rising, baking, cooling, and frosting, whispers truth back into the gray. This morning I needed to be shaken abruptly, and held fiercely. I need to walk myself to tears, borrow brown sugar from a neighbor, and bake my way back into bliss. I needed to smother Octave in kisses, and eat three cinnamon rolls with her. Sometimes the little things can solve big things.
Makes 18 rolls
1 cup whole milk
3 tbsp. unsalted butter
2 1/2 tsp. yeast(or 1 package)
3 1/2 cup flour, divided
1/2 cup sugar
1 tsp. sea salt
3/4 cup dark brown sugar
2 1/2 tbsp. cinnamon
1/8 tsp. nutmeg
1/8 tsp. cloves
1/8 tsp. sea salt
1 stick unsalted butter, at room temperature
8 oz. cream cheese, softened
1 cup powdered sugar
1 tsp. vanilla extract
Melt butter in a small saucepan. Add milk and heat until it is slightly hot to the touch. Transfer butter and milk to a stand mixer with a paddle attachment. Add egg and beat on low until combined. Add 1 1/2 cup flour, salt, yeast, and sugar. Beat on medium speed until combined well, scrapping sides of bowl if necessary. Add the rest of the flour and mix for 3-4 minutes until a ball of dough forms. You may need to add a few more tablespoons of flour if the dough is still sticking to the sides of the bowl. Transfer dough to a floured surface, and knead by hand for 5 minutes.
Let dough rise for 3-4 hours and doubled in size.
Rolls dough out into a 15×11 inch rectangle. Spread softened butter on dough and sprinkle with brown sugar, cinnamon, nutmeg, and cloves. Using the longer side of the dough, start rolling dough into the sugar and cinnamon and pinch dough as necessary. Leaving the seam side down, and with a serrated knife, cut dough into 3/4 inch rolls.
Place rolls in a buttered pan, leaving room for them to rise. Cover with towel and place in the oven with the light on for 2 hours, or until doubled in size. My mom would always let them rise a second time over night and bake them fresh in the morning. You can do that, or 2 hours is fine as well.
Preheat oven to 375. Bake cinnamon rolls for 20-24 minutes. Make your frosting while the rolls cool for 10-15 minutes. Frost to your hearts content.
Last year around the holidays, I tried this salsa at a party. I must have stayed close to the plate the entire night. A year later I am still thinking about it! So, I contacted Deidre, the genius who made this awesome salsa, and got her recipe. Then slowly, and lethargically, I pedaled to the store to get the ingredients. It’s amazing what two weeks away from my bike, plus a growing belly, (that is already showing,) can do to me. It was not the most fun I’ve ever had on a bike, but surprisingly my bike is the only place I don’t feel nauseous. So I may be out of breath, but at least I don’t feel like I am going to be sick.
Finding foods that I like for more than a day has been challenging. I am managing to eat plenty, but each day I wake up to find that an ingredient I once loved the day before is suddenly hard to even look at. This never happened with Octave, so this is all pretty new to me. Especially the feeling sick part. In any case, this salsa has been on my mind for months, and it may be the only thing I’ve eaten for lunch the last few days. I’m kinda of okay with.
Cranberry Jalapeno Salsa
Recipe slightly adapted from Deidre Franklin
10 oz. bag of cranberries*
2 jalapenos, stems removed
1 bunch of green onions, green parts too, roughly chopped
1 whole bunch of cilantro
3/4 cup sugar
1 tbsp. olive oil
Pinch of sea salt
Place everything in a food processor or blender, and blend until you like the consistency. For me, this was about 8-10 seconds. Serve alone, or on top of cream cheese, with your favorite tortilla chips. I think it would also be great on a turkey sandwich or smeared on top of baguette with cream cheese.
*If using frozen cranberries, let them sit at room temperature for 30-45 minutes before you use them.
Home is not always where the heart is. You see, my heart is intricately woven into time and space with my husband and daughter, and yet still we are not home. Home is where my bones know peace, and where my mind effortlessly follows. It’s where desire, and nostalgia dissolve into the present, leaving nothing more than deep sighs of content, and belly laughs exchangeable for an abdominal workout. It’s where cousins kiss repetitively, leaving their mamas swooning over a family bond that runs deeper than I can seem to wrap my head around. Home is where green things grow, and where mountains hold secrets, and symbols that I acknowledge, and inquire about daily. It’s where beauty begs to be praised, and where my heart is open enough to sing such praises without much effort or intention. It’s where coffee runs like water, but still, I savor its aroma like I may not get the privilege to smell it tomorrow. It’s where I move across chilled wood floors, and am known by the most beautiful dance community I have ever found. It’s where that space inside my chest swells with purpose, and meaning, and where the little things become my every-thing’s. It’s where I am so connected and present that I forget about my camera, except to capture my little Lorax. It’s the place I want to give octave, and the new bambino, growing, and dwelling inside the most creative part of my being. It’s the place I can’t resist much longer. My suitcase heart is finally asking to come home…