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this is 50

March 1st, 2014 | 5 Comments »

 Today is my 50th birthday.

happy birthday ~~ kate in the kitchen

It’s hard to wrap your head around 50 years of living. I’ve tried a lot in the last months to make sense of this journey, to see, in looking backwards, how the years past have shaped and formed the ‘Me’ that is celebrating a half century of life today. Sometimes it’s painful; other times, exhilarating, and always it’s a fascinating retrospect of a life that I am blessed to call my own. It isn’t perfect by any means. But it’s mine and I treasure it. Life lessons and all, the ‘A-ha!’ moments, the 20-20 hindsight, the path that spiraled and twisted until it led me straight to where I am right now, it’s all been one wild ride and I wouldn’t go back and change one bit of it.

So what has it shown me, this exploration of the past and this life? Here’s 50 meaningful insights I’ve come up with as I look back:

1. Pain is a necessary part of growth, but it doesn’t have to control you.
2. There will be many, many regrets. Let them go.
3. Therapy can vital to happiness and is never a sign of weakness.
4. Having pets in your home can change bad to good in one fuzzy and enthusiastic embrace.
5. Never, ever stop seeking whatever it is that will make you shine, inside and out.
6. Keep your brain and body active. Your life will be much better for it.
7. Try something new all the time, whether new foods, new experiences, new routes to drive, new magazines to read.
8. Let go of material goods as being what defines who you are. Because they don’t.
9. Allow yourself to let go of everything that ceases to work for you.
10. Get outside every day and breathe the air, feel the sunshine and move around.
11. Sleep when you’re tired. It’s not a sign that you’re old, it’s your body telling you it’s had enough for that day.
12. Seek the friendships that enhance your soul and well-being, not your image.
13. Mistakes are tools to learn by; figure out what each mistake taught you, and move on.
14. It’s perfectly all right to cry.
15. Laugh often, loudly and with others.
16. Good food makes for a healthy body, but don’t ever turn down a piece of cake.
17. Value the importance of staying physically strong as you age. Your body really does need to lift weights.
18. Kick through the leaves every Fall, make a Snow Angel in the Winter and seek out the first blooms each Spring.
19. Give more than you ever get.
20. Read real books.
21. Make your mantra ‘Never stop learning’
22. Marvel at the first snowfall every year.
23. Graciously release yourself of the need to be perfect. And right.
24. Believe that the world will keep spinning if you are sick and need to stay home and in bed.
25. Make your own traditions.
26. Learn how to care for your home, your car and other mechanical needs. Even if you aren’t alone now, you might be one day, and you’ll need those skills.
27. There is far more value placed on treasured memories, than on a dusty box of items you no longer need or use.
28. Love everyone unconditionally. How they live their life is none of your business.
29. Grace is the hardest thing to give that gives you the highest reward, but it is so worth offering to everyone you meet.
30. You don’t have to accept anything that someone else does, but it never gives you license to lecture or challenge them about it.
31. A hot shower does so much to help shift perspective.
32. Nothing we ever do, gain or achieve is because of luck. Luck is when you find money.
33. Celebrate the big and the little milestones in your life. Every day.
34. Schedule a ‘Do Nothing’ day at least once a month, or more.
35. Date your spouse or partner. Often.
36. Be gracious, patient, and kind to anyone working at a cash register, serving your food or stocking a shelf.
37. Buy the good towels that are thick and absorbent, and sheets with a high thread count. Your skin will always be happier for it.
38. Burn candles regularly. The flickering light is soothing beyond imagination.
39. No one benefits when you stretch yourself out too thin, least of all, you.
40. Understand that the more you say ‘No’ to what you don’t want or need, the better equipped you are at saying ‘Yes’ to what makes you happy.
41. Make a playlist of songs you love to sing along with. It’s an instant mood lifter.
42. Offer your skills to help others learn what they don’t know.
43. Be grateful every morning that you have another 24 hours.
44. If you haven’t used it, worn it or looked at it for a year or more, get rid of it.
45. Be kind to your feet; you can’t even imagine the miles they’ve taken you.
46. Build an impenetrable filter between your brain and your mouth. And use it constantly.
47. Grief of any kind, for any reason, happens on your own terms, not someone else’s.
48. Time alone is absolutely vital to your well-being, and is never a sign of selfishness.
49. Yes, it really does matter that you drink plenty of water.

50. Friendships will inevitably change over time. You will find the ones that mean the world to you, and learn to understand when it’s best to let go of those that don’t. Cherish, treasure and keep close those friends who walk with you during the darkest moments. You will know who they are by the hand that takes hold of yours when the lights go out.

Cheers, friends!!

winter white, and a colorful salad remedy

February 20th, 2014 | Comments Off

Winter feels like an endless slap to the face this year, doesn’t it? Arctic, brutal cold. Snowfall upon snowfall upon snowfall, and we’re running out of room to put it when clearing sidewalks and driveways. The mounds next to our driveway are so high that it’s becoming difficult to see down the street, and the winding curve of our road makes for challenging navigations as the piles block our sight lines, even after the city came through and plowed some of them back.

I get it. Really, I do.

But I confess, as you might have seen on social media, that I still love the snow as it falls. Recently, awaking from an afternoon nap on the sofa in our sunroom, the light was fading fast to that purple hue of late Winter, and snowflakes, big and fat, were gently sifting down. I sat up, reaching for my glasses and propped a pillow up behind me, pulling the fleece blanket closer. Sitting there, in the dim, waning light I watched the parade of flakes and felt a peace slip over me, soothed by the patterns. The snowfall hushes the world around us, silence like a blanket, a magic hand that tosses out a fresh white covering across the land. Yes, it’s piling up high. Is it excessive? Hardly. Current accumulation in the Twin Cities is 47″ for the season. The year I was a Senior in High School, and the subsequent year after that we had the two snowiest Winters on record in Minnesota, with total of near 100″ each year, and in January 1982 alone, 46.8 inches of snow fell.

So this? Is nothing. Really.

But I get it. And I think what gets us in a melancholy mind worst of all is not the lack of sunlight, as most believe, but the pervasive lack of vibrant color.

colorless feline ~~ Kate in the Kitchen

So, let’s make some color, shall we??

golden beet tartare

Back in June of 2012, I received an amazing cookbook, Herbivoracious, by Michael Natkin. Out of that book came this delicious Gold Beet Tartare salad, and I was hooked, making it just about every week until it wore out it’s welcome across my palate. It favors endless variations, and bursts with color, flavor and texture to awaken tired mouths, hinting at the abundant season ahead. One variation I thought was just splendid was to omit the English Cucumber, and sub in diced raw Fennel instead. Or? Roast that fennel if you prefer, with the Beets and Vidalia Onions. Does your local market carry the young and tender Spring Vidalias right now? Looking like an overgrown scallion, the young Vidalias are sweet and flavorful, making a perfect addition for this salad. Make it a warm option, because of that Winter white outside. Switch up the standard lemon for a Meyer Lemon to add a bit more intensity. What I love about this recipe, or really, any recipe, is the versatility that allows for one to make it solely your own. This is just a guide. You know your tastes best, so explore, imagine and chop for the color you crave, the flavor you need to pull you through these last weeks of cold, of white and snow and shoveling and those towering piles everywhere.

 

Gold Beet Salad

3 medium beets, tops trimmed (save them and eat them if it’s your thing)
1/2 an English Cucumber, peeled and finely diced
1/2 medium Vidalia onion, grilled but still somewhat crunchy, finely diced
1 T. capers, drained and minced
1/2 c. kale leaves, finely minced (recommend: lacinato)
3 T. olive oil
1 t. fresh lemon zest
1 T. fresh squeezed lemon juice
1 T. fresh chives, minced
2 T. fresh parsley, minced (I used flat leaf; curly would work just as well)
Sea salt and fresh ground black pepper

Heat oven to 400°. Place a square of foil in an 8×8 baking pan and put beets in the foil. Drizzle with a bit of olive oil and fold the foil over the beets. Roast the beets until a knife inserted in them slips out easily. The time will depend on the size of your beets, but plan for at least 45 minutes to an hour. Allow the beets to cool, then peel and dice them.

In a bowl, add the beets, cucumber, onion, capers, kale, lemon zest and juice, chives and parsley. Drizzle in the oil, add a few shakes of sea salt and grinds of pepper. Stir to combine and taste for seasoning. Allowing the salad to sit for a few hours, or overnight before serving will deepen the flavors. Adjust seasonings before serving.

these little things

February 14th, 2014 | 4 Comments »

I’m awakened by the familiar creak of the floorboard outside our bedroom door as Mike brings a steaming cup of coffee in to the room for me. He opens the blind to the morning light, kisses me lightly and leaves me to sip, awaken and stretch in the quiet. It’s one of our most beloved routines, and on the rare mornings that we aren’t in the same home, I miss the gentle easing out of sleep, the scent of the cup at my bedside, his tender kiss.

This year, we’ll celebrate 12 years of marriage, and rarely have we given Valentine’s Day much thought at all during that time. There have been flower bouquets on occasion, and a kiss each February 14th that says ‘You’ll always be my Valentine.’, but the truth is much sweeter than an entire box of chocolates; each day has elements of simple romance in them, and every day should be a reminder of why you fell in love.

Twelve years with a ring on my finger, and I’m still finding aspects of this man to fall in love with, especially the way he still can make me bust out laughing over the dumbest things. We’ve weathered tough years that wore us thin on one another and still, at night when we lay to sleep, we clasp hands and let the cares of the day slip away in moments for just us two. I joke about his wild eyebrow hairs, and he reaches behind me to scratch that one spot I can never reach. I press my toes to his. The day ends in drowsy eyes, murmurs of ‘I love you’ and then, sleep. The next day, there’s a cup of coffee, abundant grace, and still, a wedding ring.

I cook the foods I know he will love. He changes the oil in my car, and willingly drove it on the coldest days of this frigid Winter when we knew the battery was failing. I gladly do the laundry. He does the dishes. If there’s ice cream at the end of our day, he places my favorite spoon in my bowl, and knows exactly how much I want. He hides chocolate for me. I make sure there’s plenty of peanut butter for him. We know, with a simple glance at the end of our workday, how it panned out for the other- the tension around his eyes, the downturn of my mouth. He can see with the sunrise if I’ve slept well the night before. He leaps from bed in the middle of the night to run downstairs and see why our most vocal cat is howling at 2AM. I send him love texts from work. For each hour that passes, of every day, through a parade of seasons both outside our doors and inside our souls, we watch over each other carefully, protecting each other, loving each other, caring and soothing the barbs of living, holding hands while we walk at sundown, falling asleep after a kiss each night.

It’s Friday, and our routine won’t change much today, over any other day; before I leave for work, I’ll draw him in to a close embrace and kiss him deeply before donning my coat and shoes, picking up my work bag and heading out the door. It’ll be dark when I return, a long day apart, and the moment we lay eyes on one another, there forms a softness around our eyes, a shot of warmth through us of how glad we are to see one another. Again, we embrace and share a kiss. “How was your day?” Dinner might be waiting, or we’ll warm up something in the fridge.

There might be flowers. And there’s always chocolate, hidden somewhere in the house for those moments when nothing else tastes right. But the days pass similar to this, always starting with that gentle kiss in the morning, a warm embrace and greeting when we part, and when we return. The little things, the daily gestures, the give and take, a back scratch or massaging a sore spot, a favorite spoon, a treasured meal. Ice cream in the freezer, peanut butter in the cupboard. A kiss, and proclamations of love before sleep on a cold February night, the first sweet Spring night when the windows are open, or the hottest of days in July.

No Valentine card can ever convey the importance and the grace behind the daily shuffle, hand in hand with this other soul.

Happy Valentine’s Day to my sweet love!

 

food bloggers unite: feeding south africa

February 10th, 2014 | 2 Comments »
“It is our moral obligation to give every child the very best education possible. In order to learn, children need to be nourished. The Lunchbox Fund ensures that ever child is equipped to embrace the future and change it for the better.”
— Archbishop Emeritus Desmond Tutu

This year’s event by The Giving Table focuses on South Africa, and The Lunchbox Fund, which “…..has been feeding impoverished and orphaned schoolchildren since 2005. It brings communities together with the help of small local businesses and entrepreneurs, and provides vulnerable students with healthy meals that nourish their bodies and minds.” 

  • The Lunchbox Fund identifies schools or forms partnerships with locally based NGOs or community organizations in order to evaluate and identify schools. It funds distributers to buy and deliver food, monitor the feeding scheme, implement a Project Manager, and deliver reports back to them for evaluation.


Maybe you were here last year when I told my own personal tale of being hungry, and the impact it had on me. Last year’s cause focused on children in the USA that went hungry every day, on families that struggled to make ends meet and provide enough food. But children go hungry all over the world. And we know they do. But what do we do about it?

What have YOU done about it? What are you WILLING you do about it?

While breakfast is one of my favorite meals ever, lunchtime is a treasured routine, a suspension in the middle of any day when all activity stops and we sit down to nourish ourselves for the rest of the day. As far back as I can recall, I have so many memories of lunchtime; from being able to come home for lunch when I was just a kid (do any school children actually do this anymore?? It was such a treat.) to a break in the action of high school to gather in the lunchroom and catch up with everyone. Then, we enter the workplace, and those moments when work ceases and we pick up our lunch totes, or head out for a quick fix. Weekend lunches of leisure and leftovers. It all resonates. I’ve always enjoyed lunchtime, no matter where I am, or how old I’ve become.

I cannot imagine being in school and not being able to eat lunch. When my boy was young, and when he allowed me to pack a lunch for him, I wanted it to be something special that he enjoyed and we worked together to make it fun, to be something he looked forward to and would eat when the time came. He would help me pack his tote, make sure that he had a napkin or the right utensil for his yogurt, a cup of dressing to dip his carrots in, an apple cut up just so. When he wasn’t looking, I would slip in a note just for him. Eventually, he wanted school lunch just like the other kids, and when he got home, we always talked about what he ate, why he liked it and what he didn’t. One day, I clearly recall when he told me how he and a few friends shared their lunch with a new boy in their class who had no food. When he asked me why that boy wasn’t given lunch, or didn’t bring any with him, I had no answer. We talked about how it was always a good idea to share if someone had none.

 

  • Lack of food can diminish concentration, erode willpower, and strip away a child’s potential; without food, a child’s attendance and performance at school is severely jeopardized. 
  • 65% of all South African children live in poverty. Receiving food encourages these children to stay in school and obtain their education.


We know, as adults, that being hungry makes it hard to concentrate. We know how it can affect our work, and most of us keep snacks at hand to ward off hunger if our meals don’t carry us through, but imagine being a child, in school and trying to concentrate while hunger gnaws at your belly. There are no snacks. Likely there’s little at home to even start the day. And there may even be no promise of food throughout the entire school day. No one should have to live like that.

Can you find it in your heart to donate even a small dollar amount to help? All you have to do is click on this link..….. it’s so easy, and so profound. We all spend money throughout our days that provides us with simple pleasures that we take solely for granted; our daily latte fix, that cup of yogurt with all the fancy toppings, a candy bar, a soda, the latest fashion or gossip magazine, even the money we spend on our own daily lunches. Where does that money go? Would you consider donating only $10 dollars? Most people spend that every day and rarely can recall on what, but $10 would help fill The Lunchbox Fund and provide 100 school children their only meal of the day for an entire year. Can you imagine the impact of that small of a donation?  Compare that to a cup of yogurt, or your fancy latte and I think you’d agree it’s money well spent.

My lunch now is always fairly simple. I like quick, nourishing salads for my midday meal, or simple foods like an apple and peanut butter, a handful of nuts, hummus and vegetables, a quick meal of leftovers from the previous night. I like the calm of a quiet half hour to eat, to taste and enjoy, to watch the sun out the window and just be.

This raw kale salad has been on repeat in my lunch repertoire since discovering it’s simple tastes, the crunch of pistachios and the dreamy, chewy dates that bounce off the tart dressing. It’s a breeze to prepare, and taste much better the next day, after the lime juice, miso and sesame oil have a chance to penetrate the kale, soften it fully and infuse it with flavor. Make it the night before and by lunchtime, it will be perfect.

Raw Kale Salad with Lime-Sesame Dressing,
Pistachios & Dates

For the salad:

One bunch Lacinato Kale, washed, stems removed and rough chopped
1/3 c. pistachios, roasted & salted (or raw, if you prefer)
2 Medjool dates, pits removed and minced
1 t. fresh squeezed lime juice
Pinch of sea salt

For the dressing:
2 T. toasted sesame oil
1 T. extra virgin olive oil
2 T. fresh squeezed lime juice
2 t. white or brown miso
2 t. honey
2 T. white or brown sesame seeds, crushed
Pinch of sea salt

Place kale in a bowl. Drizzle with the teaspoon of lime juice and the pinch of sea salt. With your hands, gently massage the lime juice and kale for a few minutes until it becomes soft. Set aside

In a measuring cup or small bowl, place the crushed sesame seeds and sea salt. Drizzle with the lime juice, sesame and olive oils and whisk gently to combine. Add the miso and honey and whisk together thoroughly. Taste for seasoning. It should have a nice balance of tangy, salty and sweet. Adjust with a bit more miso or honey, if desired. Drizzle half the dressing over the massaged kale and toss to combine. Add more dressing if needed, but you may not use all of it. Add the pistachios and minced dates, toss well and serve. Salad will deepen in flavor if allowed to sit for a few hours, or overnight.

just write {120}

January 28th, 2014 | 1 Comment »

The sunshine is deceitful, as it smothers us in warmth through the windowpane, the wind threatens to burn an icy finger through the glass and tear us in two. Another day of unbearable cold, a mysterious lethargy forms over me and I pick up the phone to call work and say that I’m not coming in.

Then I sit. No energy or resourcefulness. I catch up on reading, cuddling a purring cat to share the chilly sunshine spots. Clear and unbroken, the snow beckons, the cross-country skis lay forgotten in the arctic cold, the golden light outside playing strands of color across the floor and I resist opening the door to feel it’s light on my face. The cat burrows in to my chin, pressing his head to me as if to say ‘This is where you belong.’

I experiment in the kitchen, turn on the oven, roast a few potatoes and make a quick bread in my cast-iron skillet. It works, and it doesn’t, but I eat what cooked well and poke through the rest of it, sunshine warm on my back and the hum of the oven keeping time with the furnace exhaust that floats by the window. From the chimneys across the yard, white puffs billow, hang in the air close to the rooftops. A few tornados of snow kick across the blank white canvas. The ice on the edges of the windows hasn’t even melted yet and it’s after noon, now. I try not to think of the animals out there in this cold.

Brownies come together in a pan, thick, swirls of chocolate, butter and sugar spun together, dark chocolate chunks melting within, a blue flame coaxing flavor and magic alchemy. After their fragrant turn in the warm oven, the scent rises to the ceilings, filling the house and chasing off the chill of the day. The potatoes rest on the baking sheet, skins wrinkling as they cool. A memory flashes through my mind of sitting bathed in summer sunshine on the faded redwood steps outside, birdsong keeping company with the wind through the leaves, and me, dipping my fork in a bowl of fried potatoes, salient with smoked salt and grinds of sharp pepper. Once more, I watch the streams from my neighbors chimney, smoke clinging low in the sky.

The sky is a cold, icy and brilliant blue, and the furnace hums on, and on, and on.

Join us for the 120th version of Just Write, over at The Extraordinary Ordinary

lift, swim, eat, repeat

January 22nd, 2014 | 2 Comments »

It’s frigid outside, again, although nowhere near as cold as it was a week ago. In the pool room of the Y, the sun is making the water sparkle, when it’s able to peek out from the whirling dervishes of snow kicked up by the intense Northerly winds. The snow devils block the two story high windows, but even on this deeply cold day, the warmth in the pool is welcome. I slip in to the water and feel the shock of the cold over my entire body, shivering a little as I push off from the wall.

I’m sore this morning, as our Body Pump class has started a new release, changing the sequences and challenging our muscles all over again. This happens every six weeks, and I equally anticipate it, and dread it. And I love it. And hate it. Change is hard, and this physical change that I’ve been putting myself through for the last 14 months has forced me out of my comfort zone more times than I ever expected. Some mornings, just stretching, and rolling out of bed elicits groans and tender first steps. Going up and down stairs can hurt for the first treads after a good leg workout, and those first strokes in the pool, like today, felt tough, but freeing. Swimming takes the hurt out of muscles torn and battered, challenged through lifting, forced into re-building and growth. But the first 100 yards or so can almost bring tears to my eyes as the soreness abates, the tendons and ligaments stretch and recover. I swim to make it better, then, the next day I lift the bar, clip on the plates and tear myself up all over again.

I’ve always been active, but in previous years, most of that activity was in warmer months, saving my nordic ski habit for Winter. As much as I love the skinny skis, it wasn’t enough, and I knew I needed more; more weight training as I age to help ward off osteoporosis and keep good skeletal health. More cardio to keep my lungs healthy, in a family with history of asthma. And more movement to keep me from languishing through a Winter, sinking in to a soft chair, one eye on the calendar, waiting for Spring, for my bike to come down from the rafters in the garage so I can spin the tires once more. Starting was difficult, keeping at it to make it a habit was even more difficult, but one day I awoke and felt excitement at the thought of another Body Pump class, in realizing it was a swim day and anticipating how good I would feel when it was all over. The rewards were reinforced even further when clothing began to loosen, my shoulders strengthened and those bike rides didn’t feel so strenuous any longer. In 14 months, I haven’t lost a single pound, but everything looks different, and pants that were snug before I started can now be pulled over my hips without even being unbuttoned.

I love this article … stop a moment and go read it, as I think you’ll find it fascinating, too. I was a skeptic, and at one point would have scoffed at the information, but now, I’m a believer, and a convert and gladly head to the YMCA six days a week for one more Body Pump class, or to slip through the water, admiring the sparkling sunbeams on the pool floor as I swim. All the aches, the hurt and fatigue, the sore muscles and mind-numbing but uplifting after-burn combines to motivate me every day, to be better, and stronger.

Soups and hearty warm stews are a constant these days. Nowhere in your kitchen repertoire can you find a dish that is so versatile and so accepting of the varied means to an end. Minestrone is designed to take in the leftovers lurking in the fridge, the odds and ends of vegetables that don’t have a place otherwise, to steep together, to create something that fills you up after a cold day has taken the last of your coping skills away, or a good workout has drained your energy. I love that a good soup or stew tastes better in subsequent days, that the flavors meld and deepen, almost, like continual exercise does with our bodies, becoming something else altogether.

Perfect Minestrone

1 large onion, diced
3 carrots, peeled and diced
3 celery stalks, with leaves, diced
4 cloves garlic, minced (adjust to taste, I am a garlic lover)
2 small zucchini, peeled and diced
1/2# fresh green beans, cut to 1/2″ pieces
1 bunch fresh kale, rough stems removed and chopped (sub chard, collards, or spinach)
1 32-oz container Pomi* Tomatoes (use equivalent of your choice)
1/4 c. quinoa (optional, but I like the heft and nutrition it adds)
1/4 c. fresh chopped parsley and oregano (basil and thyme are also good)
Parm-Reggiano shavings

In a large stockpot, heat a small amount of oil and add the onions. Cook over medium heat, stirring occasionally, for about 5 minutes, or until the onions are opaque. Add the carrots, celery and green beans and cook, stirring, until the vegetables begin to brown a little, maybe 10-15 minutes. Moderate the heat to prevent them from scorching.

Add the garlic and a pinch of kosher salt. Stir to incorporate and cook for a few minutes until it’s wonderfully fragrant. Add the  zucchini and the tomatoes and a quart of broth or water. Bring to a simmer and cook until the vegetables are tender enough to pierce with a fork, but not completely soft.

Add the kale, the pasta and the quinoa, if using. Depending on what pasta shape you use, cook until the pasta is al dente. Taste the soup and season with salt and pepper. Make sure the pasta is cooked, but also remember that it will continue to absorb liquid as the soup sits.

Ladle soup into bowls and top with a sprinkling of the fresh herbs and some shavings of cheese. Serve with a good bread, if desired.

*- Pomi Tomatoes are a packaged brand of tomatoes available in most grocers. The container is aseptic, with no BPA and the taste is phenomenal, fresh and clean. It’s one of my favorite brands of canned tomatoes on the market.

NOTE: The original version of this recipe called for pasta, as most Minestrone soups do. I subbed in quinoa for a GF option but you can use any small pasta shape of your choice if you wish. The photo shows Orzo pasta.

 

KATE’S NOTES: A good Minestrone is designed to use up vegetable odds and ends. While these make for a delicious soup, use whatever you have available to make your Minestrone unique, and to use up what’s in your refrigerator.

renovation

January 14th, 2014 | 2 Comments »

We’re renovating our Master bathroom, and it’s just as fun and exciting as it sounds. Mike is pretty handy, and I have some skills of my own, so we’re doing all the work ourselves. Obviously, we aren’t casting and pouring our new countertop and sink, and we’re not molding the tile for the floor one by one, but we’ll be tearing it all out, pulling off the enormous mirror that covers one entire wall (which I am THRILLED to be rid of, thank goodness), ripping up old linoleum, breaking off the gad-awful frosted shower door and throwing away every single piece of brass fixture in the room. When it’s done, the new tile floor will contrast nicely with Antique Blue paint,(formerly dark {DARK} teal green wallpaper <— [ugh] ), the Hollywood light fixture will be in the trash and a much smaller mirror will grace the wall. Plated nickel fixtures will soften the whole room.

Here is the BEFORE shot:
The walls had the same dark teal green of the countertop, which made the room feel so small and closed off. I should have taken a shot of that before we ripped it all off. That brass….. ugh. See that mirror that extends along the entire wall to the shower? That’s going away.   I don’t like that there isn’t a single spot in the bathroom to stand where you can’t see yourself in that mirror.

January is like that. There is renovation everywhere. Changing your life is hard. And it’s forever. The wellness journey I began when I was 33 is now nearly 17 years in process. I’ll never be finished with it. Each year that goes by adds another challenge, or change, to the equation. I’m OK with it. For you, in your process, please be OK that it will take time and a lot of effort, and don’t think that it will be easy. I’ve been often kicking and screaming my way to well-being, burrowing down in my bed making a million excuses why I don’t need to get up and go swimming at 8:00am on a Monday morning. But I only hurt myself when I do that. So I shake out the cobwebs and gather my swim bag. After I’m finished, I’m always, always glad I went.

I made a few decisions about my little space here on the web, too. There are a lot of words inside of me that are clamoring to be heard, and in past years, I’ve been focusing this space on just the foods that pass through my life, and not connecting the food with the thoughts, the life and the faith that also feeds my soul. Everything is entangled in one big web, and all of it is important, and if you come here for the food, you’ll still get that. But there will be so much more, pieces of me that, up until now I’ve pushed aside as irrelevant. There is so much more to feeding ourselves than just putting food in our mouths, and I want to be able to explore all of that.

One last aspect of blogging that I’m completely turning my back on is sponsored posts and product reviews. It seems that every PR company out there wants to send you a pitch for you to post to your blog [for free. Right.]  Why this is considered appropriate, I’ll never know. I’m not a successful blogger by any means, so I don’t get many product offers any longer, and a few that I agreed to try recently ended up being awful, and there was no way I could post about that. I received several wonderful cookbooks at the end of 2013, but never found the time to offer up even a minor review, and that just seems wrong to accept something for free and not give back.  So I’m done. I might talk about a product I love, but it won’t be due to anyone’s urging other than my own. I recall, with a deep sense of disappointment, that there used to be a time when blogging was fun, when it wasn’t all just pitches for products and sidebars jammed with anointed badges trumpeting accomplishment and I really long for that simplicity again.

It may never happen, but it doesn’t hurt to try. I’ve never been one to jump on the blogging bandwagon and be like everyone else. I hope that’s why you continue to come here, for a different, or refreshing perspective. I hope you continue to stop by for a chat.

 

 

cold weather coping, with soup

January 8th, 2014 | 2 Comments »

We’re on the upswing of some pretty intensely cold weather. Thankfully it was brief, only a few days, but the deep freeze shut down the state in ways that I haven’t seen in almost 20 years.

I’m old enough to well recall the last two deep freeze spells that came through Minnesota; the last one, in 1996 caught me inside a superbly drafty, old house and my poor baby, barely even 2 years old, was wrapped up so tight in layers that he could barely toddle around. We spent a lot of time snuggled in blankets watching PBS and reading books.  And prior to that, in 1994, I was carrying him around on my insides, and so toasty warm with extra weight and hormones that I walked to the bus stop in -20 temperatures, with a cruel wind to boot, in an open winter coat that flapped in that vicious breeze. And I was still too warm. I didn’t get any frostbite, but I sure got some weird looks.

And here’s the thing; yes, by golly, it’s cold. But that just means more layers, more awareness when going out. I was outside on both of our recent cold days and although I could certainly vouch for the bone-chilling wind, I was dressed properly and felt just fine. Not fine enough for being out very long, taking a walk or getting out the nordic skis, but there was no fear in running errands and going about my business. Working in a grocery store led me to witness some pretty bizarre behaviors in people buying up supplies like an apocalypse was upon us, but quite frankly, I’m more fearful of being out in a blizzard than I am of dealing with a polar vortex. Cold is not so bad if you aren’t afraid of it.

We did have a big hiccup with Mike’s car, though, as he willingly allowed Griffin to park his car in our garage overnight so that when he had to leave for work at 4:30am, his car might start a bit easier. Which it did. But, as you can imagine, Mike’s car wouldn’t start after being out overnight in -50 wind chills. After multiple attempts to get the engine running, he disconnected the battery and brought it inside to warm up, keeping it connected to an electric charger. The next morning, the car roared to life as it should. Bottom line: if your car has to be outside, try taking the battery inside on those brutal nights. It’s a little extra work that might save you from a dead vehicle. And an electric charger should be in everyone’s arsenal.

Our fireplace got a lot of use over the past week, too. It’s gas, which isn’t our favorite, but you can’t beat it for ease and for incredible warmth. The fireplace has a blower that sends the warm, heated air out in to the room, and I curl up on the sofa in front of it, cats draped across my lap, my knitting in hand and a movie or TV show on Netflix and can pretty much forget that’s it’s not a fit night for anyone outside our windows.

At the top of every coping mechanism, however, is the food we love to consume when the weather bottoms out. You all know that I love soup, almost beyond words, and for one of our bitterly cold night, I made a simple pot of simmered beet greens, chickpeas and red-skinned potatoes from our Fall Storage CSA share. Simmered in turmeric-laced coconut milk, spiked with red curry paste, it was enough to cut through even the most bone-rattling cold, warming us right to our toes. Beet greens {and all hearty greens, like kale, mustard greens, collard greens, and chard) become silky smooth, nearly melting in your mouth when simmered slowly, and this method has made me a huge fan of just about any dark, leafy green, loaded with the iron our bodies need. This soup is pretty similar to my popular Braised Kale & Chickpeas recipe, with a few tweaks here and there. The addition of turmeric adds lovely color, and the wonderful anti-inflammatory properties that turmeric offers.

We’re expected to warm up in to the low 30′s by the weekend, and I can’t even imagine how delightful that’s going to feel after this last blast of arctic air, but, sadly, weather patterns hint at the brutal cold returning all too soon. There’s lots of Winter left. Plenty of soup to be made, I imagine.

Greens, Potatoes & Chickpeas in Coconut Milk

1 large bunch dark, leafy greens such as Beet, Collard, Chard or Kale, washed, de-stemmed & rough chopped
1/2# red-skinned potatoes, scrubbed and cut to 1/2″ {leave the peels on}
2 c. cooked chickpeas {equal to 1 15-oz can, rinsed well}
1 15-oz can coconut milk {use full fat for best flavor}
1 c. water
2 T. ground turmeric
2 T. red curry paste {optional, but you’ll love how it warms you from the inside}
1 large shallot, minced
3 cloves garlic, minced {use less, or more, to taste}

In a deep skillet, warm oil of choice and sauté the shallot and garlic with a big pinch of salt until softened, about 5 minutes.

Add in the greens by the handful, stirring to help them wilt slightly. When all the greens are added, pour in the coconut milk and water, and stir to combine. You won’t have a ton of broth, and you don’t need a lot. Add the curry paste and whisk to incorporate, then sprinkle the turmeric over everything and stir until combined. Bring to a simmer, add the potatoes and chickpeas, then cover and cook over low heat until the potatoes are just fork tender, stirring occasionally. Don’t cook them to the point of falling apart. The greens should be silky smooth.

Season to your taste with salt and pepper, then ladle in to bowls.

 

#oneword365

January 1st, 2014 | 1 Comment »

Two years ago, without even knowing why, the word ‘mindful’ came to me on a cold January morning in 2012, and sank like a stone in to my heart. It stayed there for the next 12 months, sprouting upwards in consciousness through interactions at work, with my friends, my family and with my actions. I stopped and paid attention whenever ‘mindful’ crossed my life and by the end of the year, it was ingrained as a part of me in everything I did.

Last year, the same thing happened, and ‘growth’ became the word that I focused on each day. But it wasn’t until far in to 2013 that I discovered this #oneword365 movement of mindfulness and focus, on choosing a single word to sift through your life for a year and make lasting changes. I was floored at the thought that somewhere, my mind had received this information without even knowing the source and used it to enact a fitting change to my daily interactions. Once again, it was clear that the hand of God was working in me beyond my understanding.

And there was a lot of growth this past year, much of it in very subtle ways. I took on a great deal of physical growth in the way I cared for body through weight-training and exercise, working up to attending three Body Pump classes a week, biking to the Y as much as possible, getting out for walks with Mike; there was a lot of growth throughout the year in my job, far too much detail to get in to here, but I saw three General Managers cross my path in 2013, highly unusual no doubt, and chaotic, too. I like consistency in my job (and my life, really) and the ups and downs of that made this past year difficult at work. I’m hoping that 2014 evens out in that area, now that we have a permanent leader there. As always, there is growth in relationships as well, both at home and with friends. It became clear to me this past year that some friendships and connections had to be released, that they were no longer bringing anything positive to my life, that even their words seemed to grate against my heart. It’s hard when that happens, but I recognize deeply that I need to surround myself with people that bring the good to my life, that show up when needed, that celebrate joy with you and are there to lean on when the ground trembles.

There was a lot of personal growth, too, as I felt myself moving closer to realizing that there is a deep potential in me that I have yet to allow to break loose. As I look back, I can see clearly that I need to stretch myself and reach out towards that potential, that mulling it over in my head was a way to accept that this growth is necessary.

For 2014, my one word came early, many weeks ago as I sat, wrapped in a blanket against the cold December day and gave thought to where I wanted life to take me in the coming year.

Like a meteor from the sky, simplify settled in deep.

I didn’t need any more prompting, because I now know that God has for me more ideas, plans and beauty than I can possibly comprehend. Simplify is perfect, after a year of growth, after a year of mindful. In making life easier, it will require letting go of what is holding me back and moving in to a deeper sense of self. I’m not kidding myself that my life will be easier, or simpler in this transition, but the gain and reward will be far greater than the journey.

And settling in to what I am truly called to be WILL simplify my life. 

cold weather coping, with Vegetable Shepherds Pie

December 31st, 2013 | Comments Off

There’s no shortage of weather folklore to be found, in which the rhythm of the seasons can be a harbinger for predicting coming temperatures. This one seemed particularly fitting to our current weather in Minnesota.

When leaves fall early, Fall and Winter will be mild;
When leaves fall late, Winter will be severe.

Our whole theater of seasons in Minnesota was far, far behind the norm this year, with snow falling on May 1st, the growing season extended to near the end of October, and Autumn leaves peaking weeks behind schedule. Is it all an indication that our Winter will continue to be caught in a deep freeze? Stick around.

Decembers as of late have been all across the board for weather; we’ve had monster blizzards (December ’10) that dumped nearly 2-1/2 feet of snow on us, and Christmas weeks that have had nothing but hard rain (December ’12).

This December, it’s been the season of sub-zero temperatures.

It’s a languid post-Christmas week (languid for me as I took 9 days off after Christmas), and we’re already experiencing a second round of deep cold and unpleasant wind chills, of complaining and groaning over why one lives in such a place, running through Instagram photos of island vacations past, to dream of warm sand and sunshine and forget that exposed skin could acquire frostbite in just 10 minutes exposure outside. We bake to ward off the chill, simmer kettles of soup or slowly braise a comforting pot, cuddle under blankets, binge-watch Netflix and Hulu or movie catalogs, or just plain deal with it when the temperatures plummet and the wind bites with gnashing teeth at our skin. But one thing remains; we’re all in this together.

Cold weather isn’t much of an issue with me. I’ll add another layer, pull out the thick, warm wool mittens, tug on some leg warmers and keep my head down from the wind. Inside, I slip on wooly hand warmers, sheepskin slippers and invite the cats for a snuggle. Cranking up the oven helps too, as adding warm, cozy foods to the menu is the best way to keep warm from the inside.

This Vegetable Shepherd’s Pie was created as a vegetarian entree I was designated to bring for a Christmas gathering with my in-laws. I wanted something that would be universally accepted across the board by all the various dietary needs of our extended family; the Primal eaters, the wheat-free, the dairy-free and the meatless. It covers all those bases with it’s lush pile of heavenly roasted vegetables bathed in a balsamic glaze and a simple shower of salt and pepper. I chose not to use a binder to hold it all together, and instead of rich, buttery potatoes coating the top, I used roasted sweet potatoes, spun to a silken mass with a hand-mixer, touched only with good seasonings. The result was remarkable in flavor, eye-catching in presentation. I was thankful that it was so well-received, and grateful to have still a large portion to bring home and consume, post Christmas, as the deep cold set in.

Don’t be put off by the long recipe; you roast most of the vegetables, which can be accomplished while the sweet potatoes and beets do their thing in a hot oven. You’ll spend some time prepping those veggies, but putting it all together happens quickly. You can make the recipe in two 8×8 pans, saving one in the freezer for another time. Another elegant presentation would be to portion out ramekins for individual servings, an ultimate dinner party delight. The recipe makes plenty of filling to do with as your creativity leads you.

Best of all, when the temperatures drop and your belly growls it’s hunger at you, this feeds you with warmth, good health and well-being. For the upcoming winter, you’ll love having this in your repertoire.

Vegetable Shepherd’s Pie

3 Parsnips, peeled, cut to 1/2” chunks
4 medium carrots, peeled, cut to 1/2” chunks
2 stalks celery, cut to 1/2” pieces
2 8-oz pkgs whole baby portabella mushrooms, quartered
1 medium onion, halved, sliced thin
4 cloves garlic, peeled and rough chopped
3 cups Brussels Sprouts, trimmed and halved
4 small to medium gold beets (from one bunch) scrubbed, greens removed if needed
5 medium sweet potatoes, scrubbed well
1/3 c. mixed fresh herbs, minced (oregano, parsley and thyme are delicious)
olive oil
salt and pepper
balsamic vinegar

Heat oven to 400 degrees. You will be roasting all of the vegetables except for the celery, onion, mushroom and garlic. They will all take different amounts of time to finish, so start with the ones that will take the longest: poke the sweet potatoes a few times with a sharp knife and place on a foil lined baking sheet. Wrap beets well in foil. Place both in hot oven and roast until tender. A fork should slip easily in to the beets when they are done. Set aside to cool.

In a bowl, toss parsnips with a bit of olive oil and salt and scrape onto one side of a baking sheet. Repeat with carrots, and place on the other side of the baking sheet. Roast in hot oven until just tender. Place back in bowl and set aside. Repeat with Brussels sprouts, roasting until just tender. Scrape from pan in to bowl with parsnips and carrots.

Meanwhile, in a large, deep skillet, warm 2 tablespoons of olive oil and 2 tablespoons butter. When bubbling, add mushrooms, and sauté over medium-high heat, stirring regularly, until they release their liquid. Add onion and celery and continue to cook, stirring often, until they soften, about 5 minutes. Reduce heat slightly, and cook for about 10 minutes, allowing the mushrooms to brown in spots and become very fragrant. Stir in garlic and sauté for about a minute, then add about 1/3 cup of balsamic vinegar. Scrape up any browned bits in the skillet, and simmer until the vinegar is absorbed. Add in the parsnips, carrots, and brussels sprouts and 1/4 cup balsamic vinegar. Stir to combine and allow to simmer over low heat for a few minutes. Turn off the heat. Peel the beets, chop in to bite sized pieces and stir in to vegetable mix with the fresh herbs. Scrape entire pan in to a 9×13 baking dish.

Peel sweet potatoes and place in a bowl. Mash with a fork, or potato masher until smooth and creamy, season with salt and pepper. Spread evenly over vegetables. Place back in the oven for 15-20 minutes to heat through.