2.28.2015

for the feeling of floating.


Things were a bit better last week. Even though plans have shifted and stirred up new concerns. still. I'm tired from it all. from weighing things. From wondering what is the right thing, and rearranging plans in my head in order to accommodate different possibilities. Even though there are not many choices, they are huge. we have to consider the ramifications of the options. Enough already, right?

Rilke said to “love the questions themselves, like locked rooms and like books that are written in a very foreign tongue.” But what about the times when it all feels like questions? When I yearn for certainty? and the correct answer.  I used to like the unknown, the unplanned, the what-may-be. And I suppose I still flirt with it and give it my number sometimes. But while I know that nothing is certain and I can’t know what will happen one day to the next, I’ve been feeling that, for once, it would be nice to feel like I've settled in. To say, “Here. This is where I belong and I feel safe here.”

So to be almost sure of what I'm going to do feels like (at the least) I’m coming home to stay.

But guess what? I let that all go last night. A whole hour or two unspooled without those worries invading my mind.

I let myself float away. I went off by myself.

I sat by the window, in the dark, relaxed and weightless. outside, above me, the Big Dipper scooped its share of the sky. My thoughts swept through the air, drawn to the stars in the heavens. The moon sank by small degrees toward the horizon. I decided that my troubles could just fit into the curve of it, so I settled them there and watched the moon fall beneath the line of trees.

For long minutes, I floated, looking at the sky. It’s something I don’t do enough, not at night. Our days here are like banners of blue, as long as you don’t look toward the fuzzy cloud that hangs over us. And at night, I'm far enough out that I can see a decent batch of stars. The sky isn’t crowded with them, but I can at times find the constellations, and even see the occasional shooting star.

The night sky is a thing I need. I can’t explain, and don’t really need to, I suppose – if you get it, you get it. You know. We all have something that soothes us, and for me it’s this. and the ocean.

That’s it, in simple words. And if I write about these odd things I do to level myself, it’s because I can’t always tell you what drives me to the edge, but at least I can say what pulls me back.

Last night, when I first looked out, I leaned back so my head fell back over the edge of the chair and the sky looked upside down. By then, I had let go of some of the ache, of some of the tears that came from whatever deep place tears wait and rest until we can’t keep them in anymore.

How do you separate the new pain from the old, the heavy from the light, the close from the far? You can’t tell, looking at the sky, the distance between you and stars, or look at a river and know how deep it is.

This ache, I can’t tell you much at all about it. It’s a mash of fear, waiting, love, of all the small pains. Of feeling like there aren’t any answers for the questions I have, and the questions aren’t even questions. They just are. It’s the struggle to turn those things into something solid, a rope to pull myself up by, a ladder to climb to a place where I can see and breathe and feel for one minute like I’m above it all. To stop feeling like the only thing between me and happiness is a pane of glass. To stop the voice in my head that tells me I’m alone. 

To climb high enough to see that it’s beautiful, this life, if you look at it from end to end, from one horizon to the other. To navigate through the fear hand over hand, never looking down, on this ladder made of starshine.

This morning, the sky was quiet.

If you want to know how I feel about the moon and the night sky, this quote kinda sums it up...
Watching the moon at midnight, solitary, mid-sky, I knew myself completely, no part left out. –Izumi Shikubu
They are simple words, and true. True for me, at least. I’ve always gone weak-kneed at the come-ons of blinking stars and a slow moonrise, though my true love is a moonset. over the ocean. So maybe I’m a liar, after all. As much as I cry after wanting roots, my soul seems to sing for things that are suspended, for things that orbit the planet or shoot through the sky. For birds that swoop and feast in midair. For the feeling of floating, as though the next current could change things.

Those feelings are self-indulgent and not the least bit practical. I know it. They’re a splurge, and I know that, too. But they cost nothing, and there’s no show-off to them at all. If I didn’t write this down just now, it would never come up in a conversation between us, these prizes I take for myself. (We all have things like that, small joys that seem too much, our naked hunger for beauty too embarrassing when said out loud.) But there’s enough for everyone when we keep it simple. When all it takes is to step outside and to let the sky take over.

Maybe all I need is a tether. A long bright shiny thread that holds me to my place and lets me wander as far as I need to, with the sound of laughter coming from those I love as my compass. I’ll plant the stake and tie myself to it, with lots of slack. My roots will sink deep. When I need to feel light, I will step outside. But I won’t go far, I think. I won’t need to.

Not when there are moments like last night. Not when I can find a way to float.

just sayin'.

 avocado hummus

1 (15-ounce) can chickpeas, drained
2 ripe avocados, cut into chunks
1/2 cup olive oil
1/4 cup fresh lemon juice
1 1/2 tablespoons tahini
1 clove garlic
salt and pepper to taste
red, yellow or orange bell pepper, sliced for serving
cucumber, sliced for serving
pita chips, for serving


In the bowl of a food processor, combine chickpeas, avocado chunks, olive oil, lemon juice, tahini, and garlic.  Add a good pinch of salt and pepper.  Blend until combined and smooth.  I blended my hummus for about 3 minutes.  Stop the food processor and taste.  Add more salt and pepper and lemon if necessary.  Blend for another 5 minutes until light and smooth.  Serve topped with a bit of olive oil, salt and pepper.  Serve with fresh vegetables and pita chips. 

2.21.2015

there you are.


Maybe it's a winter thing. Or a long slog thing? Or just being human. Anyway. Sometimes you just need to gather all the good things, together, in one place. To bask, a little. Sit in their glow. Lay them out in a line, like little boys and Hot Wheels. Or little girls and their dollies. Or grown-ups and their gratefuls.

Call it ballast for the last month (or three), and for the weeks to come. Well alright then, let's be off...

The way the sky went so brilliant this morning almost made me weep. a cherished play list on my iPod, steaming coffee and my favorite spot perched on the windowsill by the fireplace waiting for a certain Deer that I know lingers around the house to make an appearance.


While loveliness and prettification have long been my schtick, I kinda hate that the summary of my morning sounds like an Eddie Bauer catalog. life last week did not feel good. I definitely didn’t know how it would change when I said goodbye, but I knew it would, and I prayed for the best. They say “wherever you go, there you are,” which is true. Still, we bring our same soggy hearts and issues and questions with us, but… yeah… HERE we are, choosing the front row to our own lives and experiences, away from that which no longer serves us. I think the “there” can hold more water than we care to admit. It’s impossible to not step outside, breathe deep, and get hit with this rush of perspective. For the first time in a very long time, I think I recognize the sound of my heartbeat again.

I planned to tell you a whole different story today, but I'm just not feeling it. It's been another bad week. I've been emotional and jittery and stressed out to the max. Plus I picked up a nasty stomach virus that knocked me to my knees. I fear a full on break down may be coming, and that's no big surprise.

The trials of the week are not notable or specific just to me. They are regular life stuff that happens to all of us every now and then. Problem is, my problems didn't confer with one another...they didn't bother checking to see if I was already booked. They all showed up together and just when I thought I'd gotten them all situated, another one arrived, fashionably late.

On top of my new-found anxiety, I've been walking around feeling very perplexed by how I feel. I'm not used to feeling this kind of stress and worry. I'm not used to crying multiple times a day without warning. It's foreign to me, and I'd just as soon keep it that way. This is not a chair I want to get comfy in. you know what I mean.

What I've come to realize is that while I have had my fair share in the past, these recent years have been pretty smooth sailing. And I know I just need to walk through this. I need to constantly remind myself that it's on my own strength, and that I am generally happy and carefree.

I think it's ok to feel the sting of the hard things in life. It's ok to acknowledge that bad days come, and that sometimes they stretch out on the couch and stay for a few months. Or longer.

I knew that I could very easily show you the happy and no one would be the wiser. But I'm not good at pretending. And much as I panic about people worrying too much about me, or thinking that I'm not as strong as I may seem, the truth is, sometimes I'm not as strong as I may seem. I'm not sure when I decided that people shouldn't know that, but I'm ready to lay that one down.

Years ago, when we found out that Dad was sick, I learned the value of asking for and accepting help. I learned first-hand about love and the ways in which to use those around me to show me this love. I learned that though celebration may be a kind of relational super glue, despair is cement.

In sharing all of this, I want to encourage those of you wandering through grey days. I want you to feel not alone, not weak. I want you to feel strong.

And when my clouds break, as they always do, I want to share that with you, too.


just sayin'.



hot chocolate

 Adapted from Dorie Greenspan’s Paris Sweets and LadurĂ©e


My favorite chocolate for this is Scharffen Berger 70%. Use any bittersweet chocolate you like, but keep in mind that it should be one you love, since its flavor takes center stage.

1 ½ cups whole milk
2 ½ Tbsp. water
2 ½ Tbsp. granulated sugar
3 oz. bittersweet chocolate, finely chopped

In a medium saucepan, combine the milk, water, and sugar. Place over medium heat and whisk occasionally until the sugar is dissolved. Increase the heat to medium-high and bring the mixture just to a boil. Remove the pan from the heat and whisk in the chocolate. At this point, blend the mixture. If you have an immersion blender, you can do this directly in the saucepan; if not, you’ll need to transfer it to a traditional blender. Either way, blend for 1 minute (on high speed, if using a traditional blender - and take care(!), as hot liquids expand when blended). The finished mixture should be very smooth and frothy.

Serve immediately.

Note: Should you have any leftover hot chocolate - wishful thinking, I know - you can store in the refrigerator for 2 days. Reheat it gently over low heat, stirring occasionally, until hot. Blend for 1 minute; then serve immediately.

2.13.2015

valentine

I really love Valentine's Day.
There's no rhyme or reason.

Even though my history with V-Day hasn't even been particularly note-worthy or positive.

My tissue-wrapped Valentine box in 3rd grade wasn't honored as the true piece of art it was.

Eugene Six gave me a plastic ring when I was in 1st grade and I ran straight to my room and put it in a spot of honor in my jewelry box...... and never saw it again.

I never had secret admirers sending me carnations or homemade poetry.
 
When we were contemplating divorce, my ex gave me a V-day card covered in neon smiley faces and took great pains to not use the word "love" in his salutation.

 Still, somewhere along the way, Cupid snagged me.

If I'm being honest, I probably just like an excuse to string paper heart garlands up everywhere.

And yes, sometimes I feel like I'm one short breath away from becoming the old lady who strings plastic toys from her fruit trees.

This stuff has cheered me up over thirteen days in February alone and that's not nothing.

But I sit and take stock now and then and decide all over again that I'll take my new kind of nuts. It leaves me sort of exhausted and soul-bruised sometimes, but this is my life right now, but probably not forever, because if there's one thing I know for sure it's that as soon as things start to seem normal, a shake-down happens.

Sometimes it's even good, so I'm fine with that. It lends a certain air of adventure to life. Even if it does interfere with my seasonal decor of smooshed garlands from Valentines of yesteryear.

Here's to tired eyes and waxy hearts, circa 2002.

Here's to days that are easily blown away and the sheer, magical gift of being.

Also adding to this year's excitement, there's another snowstorm brewing and no plans to go anywhere all day tomorrow. I'll do my pajama pants-wearing thing. I'll make a pot of soup. and heart shaped cookies. and it will never be more timely.

Old Man Winter pffft!!! you've got some nerve doing this again. Lucky for you, I'll be too covered in frosting, sprinkles, and paper hearts to pay you any mind. Here's to hot dates scheduled for the weekend.

Here's to a full night's sleep. (Please, God.)

Life sure can be swoony, when it wants to be.

Even if I do have the early-makings of another cold.

Even if......

I hope to high heaven that every last one of you takes the time to slap some hearts across your kitchen window. I promise, it will cure what ills you. Or at least part of it. At least for today.

It can help you forget that you just went through the worst few weeks of your life. six doctor's appointments in one week? But a distant memory. The worst dinner you've ever made in the history of your culinary life? Fuggetaboutit.

String 'em up. Tell me I'm wrong.

if nothing else, the love inside will split your heart at the seams.

just sayin'.

chocolate hazelnut linzer hearts

1 cup whole hazelnuts toasted
2 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
3/4 teaspoon baking powder
3/4 teaspoon kosher salt
1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter room temperature
3/4 cup packed light brown sugar
1/2 cup granulated sugar
2 large egg yolks room temperature
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1/2 cup chocolate-hazelnut spread



Add the nuts to the bowl of a small food processor fitted with a blade and pulse until finely ground (it should look like meal and be powdery). Set aside.
Tip: Don't overprocess the nuts or they will become hazelnut butter!
Combine the ground hazelnuts, flour, cinnamon, baking powder, and salt in a large bowl and whisk until aerated and any lumps are broken up.

Combine the butter and sugars in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a paddle and mix on medium speed until airy and light, about 3 minutes. Add the egg yolks and vanilla and mix until well combined.
Turn off mixer, scrape down the sides, and add the flour mixture. Mix on low until just combined. Divide the dough in two pieces, place each in a square of plastic wrap or parchment, pat into a square that's 1-inch thick, and wrap tightly. Place in the refrigerator to chill, at least 1 hour.


Tip: The dough can be made up to 1 month in advance and stored in an airtight plastic bag or container in the freezer.
When ready to bake, heat the oven to 350°F and arrange racks in the upper and lower thirds. Remove the dough from the refrigerator and let warm up until easy to roll and pliable, at least 10 minutes.
Place half the dough on a lightly floured piece of parchment or wax paper, and, using a lightly floured rolling pin, roll to a 1/4-inch thickness. Using a 2-inch heart shaped cookie cutter, stamp out cookies. Using a second smaller cookie cutter, stamp out the centers of half of the cookies.
Arrange cookies on a parchment-lined baking sheet and freeze briefly, at least 5 minutes, before baking. Gather dough scraps into a ball and refrigerate until ready to use.

Bake 2 sheets of cookies at a time until the undersides are golden and the tops are set, switching the sheets halfway through baking, about 12 to 15 minutes total. Transfer cookies to a cooling rack then repeat with remaining dough to bake off all the cookies.

To assemble, spread 1 teaspoon of the chocolate-hazelnut spread on the solid cookie then top it with heart-shaped cookie. Repeat to assemble all the linzer cookie sandwiches.