Sunday, April 13, 2014

The Quote I'm Still Thinking About

“I'll never know, and neither will you, of the life you don't choose. We'll only know that whatever that sister life was, it was important and beautiful and not ours. It was the ghost ship that didn't carry us. There's nothing to do but salute it from the shore.” --Cheryl Strayed, Tiny Beautiful Things
If you have not read this book yet, you should read it. Today.

Next up: 

Bread & Wine
Carry On, Warrior
Blue Like Jazz
Through Painted Deserts
How The Light Gets In

What are you reading?

Tuesday, April 8, 2014

The Mountain Is You

"It is not the mountain we conquer, but ourselves." 
-Sir Edmund Hillary
It was a Tuesday afternoon late last May, and I was running one of my favorite trails, a meandering 3-mile loop at Boulder Valley Ranch, a rural open space just north of town. The trail started dusty and flat, winding its way through the valley for about three quarters of a mile. Vast expanses of sagebrush and yucca dotted the red earth, a modest mesa obscuring the mountains in a way that made the cloudless cerulean sky feel close enough to reach out and touch with my hand. The sun shone fiery and unfiltered on my skin, its heat melding with my own rising body temperature. I remember wishing I had brought more water with me.

As the trail took a sudden and sharp incline up the mesa, my thoughts turned to the previous week, during which I'd completed a grueling series of interviews for a fantastic job opportunity. The position seemed uncannily tailored to my strengths, and by Friday afternoon of that week--after multiple meetings with various members of the team--I wanted that job almost as much as anything I've wanted anything in my life. All day Saturday and Sunday, I fretted over whether I'd receive an offer. When Monday came and passed without any communication, I began steeling myself for a "no." Tuesday afternoon's trail run run, then, was therapy: an attempt to cope with the impending rejection I anticipated as inevitable.

I struggled up the steep slope of the hill, each step met with loose gravelly rock, the kind that gives way underfoot and makes you feel like you're putting forth immense effort yet getting nowhere. I felt the prickle of tears mix with the sweat already stinging my eyes. Keep going. Keep going. The familiar refrain. And then, something else:

You are stronger than you think. 

The revelation seemed to come from nowhere; or perhaps from somewhere very deep within, beyond the depths of my consciousness. With my lungs screaming and my muscles quaking from the exertion, I summoned a primal shot of momentum that carried me over the crest, revealing a stunning mountain vista gleaming gold in the late afternoon sun. Awed, I paused for a few seconds to take in the view.

You are stronger than you think. There it was again.

The sheer beauty of my surroundings--the sudden force of perspective--nearly brought me to my (already shaking) knees, and I knew suddenly and with startling clarity that I would be fine. With or without the job, I would be fine. The rejection would be disappointing, but there was a whole wonderful world to explore, so many ways to the summit and so many paths that would take me there. I am stronger than I think. The phrase continued on repeat in my mind, an impromptu mantra that stilled my thoughts, bringing me slowly back to equilibrium.

As I pulled out my phone to take a photo of the breathtaking scenery that lay before me, I saw that I had a new voicemail:

"...just wanted to let you know we're putting together an offer for you, and you can expect to receive it by the end of today..."

The rest of the run is a blur, but those few minutes remain in sharp relief. The point is not that I got and accepted the job, my dream job no less. The point is that I would have been okay if I didn't and that I knew it. That specific knowledge is as strong--and more important I think--as the jubilation I felt at getting the offer.

Tonight, I ran that same 3-mile loop with my husband. There was a point, just before the mesa incline, at which he turned to me. "Ready for the uphill?" he asked.

I was. And I will be. Not because I'm stronger than I think, but because I know how strong I am.

Monday, March 31, 2014

Read // Listened // Watched // Savored: March Edition

March is a funny month, isn't it? It feels so very transitional, so in-between.

Here's a little peek at what I read, watched, listened to, and savored this month.

I finished reading Anne Lamott's Help, Thanks, Wow this month, and enjoyed her refreshingly honest and more-spiritual-than-religious take on matters of faith. “But grace can be the experience of a second wind," she writes. "...when even though what you want is clarity and resolution, what you get is stamina and poignancy and the strength to hang on.” 

I'm now onto Tiny Beautiful Things, and oh my goodness. I used to read Cheryl Strayed's Dear Sugar column on The Rumpus, and was always incredibly moved by her ability to relate so intimately to her advice-seekers, her uncanny ability to make the personal universal and the universal so very personal. I'd held off on purchasing the book, feeling as if I'd probably already read the best of her material in her previous columns, but there is something so powerful about absorbing it in book form. It reads like a deliciously relatable memoir, and I can't get enough.

Black Coffee and Bacon. Love this.

Watching & Listening
Hunger Games Soundtrack // Hanging On // Maps (Cover) // So This Is Goodbye // Pale Sun Rose

I was fortunate enough to see the phenomenally talented Lake Street Dive live at Denver's Bluebird Theater last weekend. For a sample, check out their covers of I Want You Back and Rich Girl, plus You Go Down SmoothBad Self-Portraits, and Don't Make Me Hold Your Hand.

True Detective. Did you watch it? I can't get the haunting Louisiana bayou imagery (not to mention Matthew McConaughey's stunning performance) out of my mind. I'm so curious about the next season already.

I found this interview with Bobby McFerrin to be a beautiful meditation on the intersection of divinity and creativity.

On the topic of podcasts, I'm enjoying working my way through Caiti's recent roundup of her favorites. 

Smoothies from Whole Foods. My favorite is a combination of almond milk, almond butter, dates, and bananas. It's the perfect post-run fuel.

A sushi date night at Sushi Zanmei. (With our upcoming move, we've reined in our dining habits a bit for economic reasons, so this felt like a real indulgence.) We had yellowtail with jalapeño and ponzu, seared scallop, fresh salmon, and a spicy crunchy tuna roll with avocado and watercress.

All the citrus I can get my hands on. Tangelos, tangerines, Cara Cara oranges, blood oranges, plus lemon and lime in everything.

Rosewood and nag champa incense.

Water flavored with fresh mint.

Longer days and warmer temps.

And finally, this quote from Rumi:

“There is a candle in your heart, ready to be kindled.
There is a void in your soul, ready to be filled.
You feel it, don't you?” 

What are you reading, watching, listening to, and savoring right now?

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Transformative Cilantro Mint Cabbage Slaw

A case of respiratory flu and the ensuing bone-deep exhaustion combined with the change in seasons has my appetite all over the map. I've alternated between wanting nothing but mugs of steaming hot ginger-garlic chicken broth and feeling suddenly ravenous for all the lean protein and vegetables I can get my hands on. Eggs, kale, chicken, avocado, repeat.

I am so grateful for the clarity with which my body asks for what it needs to repair and restore, and I am trying to listen very closely right now. I have the sense that the only way to fully regain my strength is to pay very, very close attention to the cues of my physical self, as odd as they may be. There have been days that my body has asked me to run despite the illness, practically pleading with me for the fresh air, the sunlight, the circulation of blood, and the detoxification of sweat. So I ran. There have been days that my body very clearly needed rest. So I rested. Similarly, requests for hot showers, hot tea, eucalyptus oil diffused in a humidifier, canceled plans, and 10-hour sleeps have been granted. It's rough to be so run down, but also feels really good to take such good care of myself. It's as if I'm digging down deep into my reserves and re-building myself stronger than I existed before.

At the beginning of this week, I had a yen for something sharply tart and tangy, something crunchy with a zing to cut through the dull ache that seems to have set up camp in my head and lungs. This cabbage slaw recipe is one I've made before, but I decided, on a whim, to add some fresh mint and it was transformed from a zippy close slaw to a refreshingly zippy coleslaw.

Who knew a humble herb held such transformative powers?

2 cups green cabbage, finely shredded
2 cups purple cabbage, finely shredded
1/2 cup slivered almonds
1/4 cup scallions, diced
2 tbsp fresh cilantro, chopped
2 tbs fresh mint, chopped
Juice of half a lime
3 tsp tamari (or coconut aminos, for strict Paleo)
2 tbsp rice vinegar (or coconut vinegar, for strict Paleo)
2 tbsp toasted sesame oil
1 tsp fresh ginger, minced

To Make:
Combine cabbage, almonds, scallions, cilantro, mint, and lime juice in a large bowl and mix together with a fork. In a separate container, whisk the tamari, rice vinegar, toasted sesame oil, and ginger together until they are well-combined. Drizzle the dressing on top of the cabbage mixture, and stir again with the fork to make sure the dressing coats everything well. Taste, and adjust your ingredients as needed (tamari for saltiness, lime for acidity, etc.). 

Sunday, March 23, 2014

Spring Cravings: A Few Things I'm Loving

Though we seem to be teetering somewhere between winter's last gasp and spring's first real hurrah, the brief taste of newness has whet my appetite for some equally fresh worldly pleasures.

Something about warmer weather and longer days just feels easier, and ease sounds like a beautiful soul-nourishing intention for the season, given the winter I've had. 

Just for fun, I put together a little collection of things that feel right--things that feel like ease--right now.

Clockwise, from upper-left:

Juniper Ridge Campfire Incense Set
To me, spring's arrival in Colorado is all about the pleasures of the great outdoors, captured gorgeously by these wildcrafted incense sticks. Imagine a mellow Saturday evening on the patio, the dusty sweet pine scent of Desert Pinon in the air, or a morning of spring cleaning accompanied by the brisk, energy-clearing properties of White Sage. The collection also includes Douglas Fir, Siskiyou, Death Valley, and Sweetgrass. 

Rosy Rings Honey Tobacco Beeswax Blend Votive
A new season begs for a fresh candle burning on my coffee table. While Honey Tobacco may not seem an especially spring-like scent--with its mix of almond, honey flower, crushed tobacco, patchouli, warm amber, sandalwood, and tonka bean--its exactly the kind of warm and earthy fragrance I love year-round. Hand-poured in Denver, this candle will pair well with the bourbon cocktails I have planned for patio season (we'll talk about that in a minute).

TOMS Blue Chambray Correa Sandals

As if I needed more fuel for my TOMS obsession, their spring line of sandals is perfectly versatile with the brand's signature blend of simplicity and detail. This chambray pair will work just as well with a breezy sundress for weekend trips to the farmers' market as it will with tailored black skinnies, a crisp tee, and a blazer for work. Plus, an excuse for a pedicure? Yes, please.

Bulleit Bourbon Frontier Whiskey

Spring is for gathering out-of-doors with friends. Watching the sun slip behind the mountains, casting the last of its rosy glow across the deck. Something good on the grill. A little music playing in the background, perhaps bluegrass or some gypsy jazz. Laughter, stories, fireflies, and an inch or two of this, on the rocks or in a cocktail if you prefer. 

Poetry Fashion Tees
*Note the tee itself is no longer available on the site*
Easy and breezy is the name of the game when it comes to my spring style. Neutral pieces like these slouchy tees can be dressed up or down, and layered under anything to accommodate the season's sometimes-fickle weather patterns. I'd wear 'em with leggings, a denim jacket, a pendant necklace, and the aforementioned TOMS. 

Other Spring Cravings (Not Pictured):
Picnics, freshly shelled peas, asparagus, Meyer lemon-flavored everything, citrus in general, post-work trail runs, live music, fresh herbs from the garden, some pretty ceramic planters, wildflowers, honeysuckle, sunny mornings, rainy afternoons, and a good book to dive into. (What's everyone reading right now?)

Saturday, March 15, 2014

Southwest Sweet Potatoes With Poached Eggs

“If we were taught to cook as we are taught to walk, encouraged first to feel for pebbles with our toes, then to wobble forward and fall, then had our hands firmly tugged on so we would try again, we would learn that being good at it relies on something deeply rooted, akin to walking, to get good at which we need only guidance, senses, and a little faith...Instinct, whether on the ground or in the kitchen, is not a destination but a path.” ― Tamar Adler, An Everlasting Meal: Cooking with Economy and Grace
How are you, friends? I will admit that, amidst this busy season of my life, I am finding myself massively run down. Last night, I canceled all my weekend plans, went to bed at 8pm, and slept until almost 10am this morning. 

So much about this past year has felt guided by instinct, instead of logic. I left a great job that no longer felt right, took another that felt like (and has turned out to be) a great fit, and have made more decisions based on gut feeling than ever before. Since moving to Colorado really, I've had the sensation of being propelled forward by some unseen momentum, self-contained and yet decidedly not in control.

Now I wobble forward toward a new set of adventures--moving into my first real house, among others--feeling my way, relying on my senses and a little bit of grace. It's halfway between a paralyzing stress and a stunning exhilaration, and I'm trying to stay present.

Perhaps relatedly, my appetite's betrayed me lately. Whether it's the stress or the change in seasons, I've had a harder time identifying foods that sound good. Today, the simple rootedness of sweet potato held appeal, so I went with it. Very few things feel in my control right now, but making a healthy and wholesome brunch is one of them.

Half a sweet potato
1/3 cup freshly made pico de gallo (homemade or store-bought)
1/3 cup shredded cotija
1 slice of bacon, cooked and crumbled
2 eggs, poached 
1 tbsp scallions, chopped
Pat of fresh grass-fed butter or ghee
Cilantro, chopped

To Make:
Heat oven to 400 degrees. Make your sweet potato by poking it a few times with the tines of a fork, then baking it in the oven for 40 minutes or until it's done. Once it's done, cut about half of it into slices or cubes. (Save the other half for another meal.) Top the sweet potato with a pat of butter or ghee, the pico de gallo, crumbled bacon, and shredded cotija. Meanwhile, poach two eggs and, when done, add them to the top of the other ingredients. Sprinkle the whole thing with a bit of chopped scallion, and, optionally, some chopped cilantro. Douse liberally with Cholula hot sauce, as desired.

Sunday, March 9, 2014

Fuel for Life: My Weekly Meal Plan

Yesterday's breakfast: poached local eggs, smoked salmon, cherry tomatoes, red onion, cucumber, squeeze of lemon.

Between our upcoming move, preparing for my PHR certification exam, and some forthcoming travel, life's about to get busy. Really busy. When things speed up, it's tempting to take shortcuts in other areas of life, like my commitment to clean eating and daily runs. However, I know it's precisely when things feel chaotic that I most need the sustenance of true nourishment. It's pretty simple, really. Clean fuel = the best and most productive output. Here's what that looks like this week.

Monday: Paleo Meatloaf with sautéed garlicky kale
I'll be prepping this tonight so that I can enjoy a quick yet hearty meal tomorrow night. The weather's supposed to be gorgeous again tomorrow (70's and sunny), so with the extra hour of daylight, I'll definitely be hitting the trails for a post-work run. It will be nice to have dinner ready to go when I get home.

Tuesday: Salmon, Zucchini, and Lemon Skewers with salad greens
This looks like a delicious and slightly different take on your typical baked salmon dish and will make good use of the extra zucchini and lemons I happen to have from last week's grocery haul.

Wednesday: Loaded Sweet Potato with a toppings bar
This is a fun and economical way to turn a humble baked sweet potato into an entire meal. Just bake your sweet potato, then top with whatever your heart desires! My personal favorites include diced avocado, pico de gallo, chopped cilantro, chopped scallions, and a little bit of crumbled queso fresco. Crispy pieces of bacon are always a welcome addition.

Thursday: Leftover Meatloaf and sautéed garlicky kale
By the time Thursday rolls around, ease is the name of the game. Leftover meatloaf and kale sounds about right.

Friday: Out to eat!

Saturday: Roasted Red Pepper and Goat Cheese Stuffed Chicken
I have been really into roasted red peppers lately, and our Whole Foods carries them fresh at the salad bar, marinated in only olive oil. The savory red pepper combines with the creamy tang of goat cheese to create an elegant meal that tastes like it takes way more effort than it actually does. (My secret for moist and flavorful baked chicken? Throw a splash of white wine in the pan before you put it in the oven! I'll serve this chicken with a side of steamed broccoli topped with olive oil and sea salt.

Sunday: Leftover Red Pepper and Goat Cheese Stuffed Chicken
I like to add variety to leftovers by mixing up the side dishes, so on Sunday I'll serve this with wilted spinach over grain-free almond flour fettucine

What are you cooking and eating this week?

Check out past meal plans here for more inspiration.