Monday, April 28, 2014

Fuel for Life: My Weekly Meal Plan

Portobello pizza caps from a few weeks ago: hollowed out caps with tomato sauce, red onion, bits of chopped portobello stem, and fresh basil leaves, drizzled with olive oil and baked till the sauce is bubbly and hot.

I don't have a witty introduction this week, just a bone-tired yet resolute commitment to get back in the swing of meal planning now that we've somewhat settled into our new place.

Monday: Easy Fish Tacos

I don't have a recipe for these, because there's really nothing to making them other than picking out whatever fish looks good at the store, and sautéing it up with a little olive oil, cayenne, garlic powder, and lime juice. I flake the fish, then portion it into soft white corn tortillas heated up slightly under the broiler and top them off with whatever I have on-hand: sometimes cabbage and crème fraîche; sometimes avocado, scallions, and cilantro; sometimes a crumble of cheese (goat or feta or queso fresco) and some pickled onions or fresh salsa. The whole production comes together in about 15 minutes, and it's a meal on its own, so no need to worry about side dishes.

Tuesday: Baked Lemon Chicken with Asparagus
I love being able to throw stuff in a pan and let it bake while I get something else accomplished. The 30 to 40-minute window always feels like a golden little pocket of time, enough for a quick run, a tidying up of the house, or a phone call to my mom, made all the more sweet with the knowledge that a wonderful dinner awaits. The linked recipe doesn't include asparagus, but I'll just combine it in the same pan with a little extra olive oil, garlic, or lemon.

Wednesday: Roasted Red Pepper and Tomato Soup and Grilled Cheese Sandwiches
I rarely eat grains anymore, but I have had a serious craving for a grilled cheese sandwich lately, so I decided I'm going to indulge my craving in the cleanest way possible: gluten-free bread with grass-fed cheddar grilled up in some ghee and a side of organic roasted red pepper and tomato soup. It's definitely not Paleo, but it's also not the end of the world. I'm going to enjoy every bite!

Thursday: Leftover Baked Chicken with Kale Salad
I'll have leftover chicken from Tuesday's meal (I always make extra chicken), so I'll mix things up by serving it with a quick kale salad (kale, shredded carrot, scallions, avocado, slivered almonds, coconut aminos, and toasted sesame oil). It'll be quick, healthy, and delicious, which means it meets all three elements of my weeknight meal criteria.

Friday: Dinner out with friends

Saturday: TBD, with my friend Mira
My best friend Mira is coming over on Saturday to spend the day helping me get my new patio in order. We plan to get some veggies and herbs planted, put furniture together, and perhaps, if we're feeling especially ambitious, tackle a few other DIY decor projects. (That Mira is the kind of person to willingly and enthusiastically volunteer for this kind of thing is one reason among many why she is my best friend.) A light yet satisfying meal sounds just right after a long day's work outdoors. I'm looking forward to enjoying just that on my new patio. A cheese, charcuterie, and fruit platter perhaps? Rosé sounds like a good idea too.

What are you cooking and eating this week?

Check out past meal plans here for more inspiration. 

Saturday, April 26, 2014

Enough (Saturday)

Today, we said enough.

Enough unpacking. Enough fretting over furniture arrangements. Enough transferring utility services and solidifying the details of our sublease agreement.

The endless checklist of moving-related logistics would be there tomorrow. What wouldn't be? This particular Saturday, the sort of sublime blue-skied Boulder day that, while not a rarity here, seduces me senseless nonetheless. So my husband and I drank our coffee and made an intentional decision to set aside our stress for the day.

We said enough. And then we played.

An early morning walk to the farmers' market for armfuls full of locally produced bounty: three dozen delicately-hued eggs (we eat a lot of them in this household), sage-infused breakfast sausage, slabs of rich pork belly, a tangle of green garlic, a bushel of gem-like radishes, a spearmint plant, a potted Colorado Blue Columbine, and a white sage smudge stick (to burn as an energy-clearing ritual in our new space).

Breakfast of aforementioned eggs and sausage sautéed with green garlic.

A long run along South Boulder's Mesa Trail, which climbs a meandering mesa up toward Eldorado Canyon. Lungs filled with the scent of sun-baked pine. Unobstructed views for miles in every direction. Anne Lamott's description of awe as a "reverberating wowowowowow" echoing in my head with every step.

Back to the farmers' market for a lunch of pupusas made with organic white corn masa and chicken with vinegar-spiked cabbage slaw and guacamole.

An afternoon of moodling around the new house with the windows open to let in fresh air. Alternating between re-reading a favorite book and drifting in and out of a nap. A lazy walk through the neighborhood, during which we laughed hard at our dog's bird-obsessed antics and admired the nearby community garden.

Dinner cooked slowly. Pulled pork, kale sautéed with green garlic, radishes with lemon, sea salt, and a pat of butter.

A quiet evening at home, windows still open to enjoy the drama of a thunderstorm rolling in over the mountains.

It was not the productive Saturday I'd imagined. And thank goodness for that.

Sunday, April 20, 2014

A Space With A Soul: Thoughts On Moving

I'm sitting in a folding chair in the living room of my new home. The chair is the sole piece of furniture in the house. The rest of our possessions await in our old apartment, soon to be loaded into the U-Haul that my husband is currently picking up from across town. To my right, a large window overlooks the sun porch, which overlooks an already budding tree between whose branches mountains are visible, presiding in their humble way. We're always here, they shrug, aware of their beauty, yet nonchalant.

I first visited Boulder as a freshman in college, eleven years ago. I remember walking down Pearl Street, soaking in the sunshine and vibrancy of this community. I hiked Mt. Sanitas and wandered through the surrounding Mapleton Hill neighborhood, with its trim bungalows and sprawling Victorians with their lush vegetable gardens in shades of gleaming emerald that seemed to glow with some kind of magic in the thin, bright Colorado air. I was staying with my best friend's grandparents, and their house had a deck with panoramic views of the town of Boulder beneath the mountains. I would wake early in the morning to slip out onto the deck, paying no need to the morning chill, and imagining that someday it would be my own porch and my own house with a view.

My new house is a 1920's cottage bungalow with all of the charm (read: "quirks") you might expect in a house built a century ago, including inexplicable directional changes in the wood floors and a gothic-looking brass light fixture that wouldn't look out-of-place in a Tim Burton film. While the views aren't exactly panoramic, I can see the mountains very well. The feeling of being at home here--the sense of ease--is so strong I feel a lump form in my throat whenever I think about it. The particulars of the space, even the quirks, feel familiar to me, like some amalgamation of my childhood home (a similarly styled bungalow on a similarly tree-lined street) and houses I've seen or visited throughout my life.

Moving is an illuminating experience, in ways that are obvious yet also unexpected. Past moves (and there have been 9 in the past 10 years) have seen me anxious and stressed. Granted, several of those times involved moving to a new city or state, a challenging ordeal in the best of circumstances. This time around has been defined, however, by an almost preternatural calm, an assuredness that not only am I in the right geographical location, I am also now in the right space.

One that has a story. One that has a soul.

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.