Thursday, October 31, 2013

With an Open Mind

I just turned 30.
When people asked me what I was doing to celebrate, I said, quite happily, that we hadn't planned a single thing. That I wanted nothing more than to do nothing. I felt like the day should reflect the calm that my life has become. A party just wouldn't fit.
I did get a little crazy, though, and decided to cut bangs.
The day before my birthday, we got together to celebrate the third birthday of my niece. We had so much fun icing her purple cake and admiring the babies in costume. In the middle of the party, my mother floored me by offering to take Eleanor overnight, rather than just for dinner like we'd planned. I hadn't been away from her for more than a few hours since she was born, let alone overnight, but we went for it. I teared up a couple times, but she completely understood and accepted what was going on and had no problem with it.
With no notice, all of a sudden I was alone with my husband for the night. We had so much fun going on a date, hanging out at home, sleeping through the night, and waking up late. Since we didn't have time to plan a super-special birthday celebration, it was just a fun evening. No pressure.
We met my parents with Ellie the next morning late for an early lunch. She slept in (which she never does here!) and was so happy to see us. Her first night away went flawlessly.  (The only hitch was my boobs. We're still nursing, apparently quite a bit, and I woke up at 7:30 a.m. after more than 12 hours of not nursing, painfully engorged.)
Lunch was great, and my generous parents picked up the bill. At the end of the meal, my mother handed me a small box. I knew it had to be something good because she said to me "Now don't you DARE lose it!"
Inside was a ring that she has worn every day, next to her wedding set. A solid gold band that belonged to my father's grandmother. I have always admired it and would take it from her ring finger and slide it onto mine. And here it was. Mine. I cried. I may size it down, but for now it looks so perfect next to my wedding rings, which have their own share of family history.
I never want to take it off.
I have learned before, often through hardship, the lesson of letting go. My life has taught me over and over that I need to let go of planning and control and to embrace uncertainty. It's easy to be controlled by fear of the unknown. I want to remember this day when I need that lesson again. I had no expectations for my 30th birthday, and it was the best one yet. I am so lucky and thankful to have my parents. Nana and Papa, I love you.

Guess who else has had a birthday since we last talked?
That birthday banner back there is made from clothing scraps from my mother-in-law. My bff's parents have always hung a similar banner on his birthday, even when he wasn't home, and I hope to keep a similar tradition with E.  
She's wearing her favorite overalls. They had gotten too short so I cut the legs off and made them into a dress.
She's holding her big gift from us, a Waldorf doll. I used a kit from Weir and it was actually a lot of fun.  Once I decided that she didn't have to be perfect, I just enjoyed the process. After a lot of shaping and stuffing, she went from this (creepy!)
 to this.
to this. (Her boucle hair was just too unruly not to have in braids.) 
The night before her party, we made chocolate cupcakes. (This recipe, including the frosting, and it was perfect.) 
The morning of, we rolled out dough for little apple tarts.
While she napped before the party, dolly (who seems to be named Nico, after a dear friend's baby) got dressed. She was supposed to match Ellie, but I'm not sure anyone noticed.
And I iced cupcakes. It's hard to tell, but there are both pig and cow sprinkles on some of these. Piggy sprinkles was pretty much the highlight of her birthday. Looking back at this photo, I see a little finger made its way into the frosting up front. 
The party was a success. Many relatives had asked me what she'd want. Since they knew she was getting a doll, they showered her with doll accessories. She has every possible accessory, including her favorite, the stroller. 
The days that followed included even more gifts. 
That coat and hat, among many other great gifts, came from the bff. (The other bff gave some fantastic gifts that I just didn't get to photograph. Love you, C.)
Her favorite book at age two.
I gave her her first Reggio-inspired provocation. She didn't learn that red and yellow make orange, but she still enjoyed the work.
She's been using tongs with beans, and playing around with pretend cooking.
I finished a nagging knitting project, this cowl. It was quite easy and fun to make. We went to the pumpkin patch with her grandpa and she found some corn. (I don't know where she learned to make this serious angel face.)
It works equally well when the hood is down, too. 
And tonight, we did the trick-or-treat thing. She has been practicing, and while she only actually managed to say it to one person, she got a lot of candy and had a ton of fun. 
I should have a photo to share with you tomorrow, and I'm sorry for holding on to all these for so long. 
How are you? What did you and yours dress up as for Halloween? Ellie was the cutest bumblebee. 
Thanks for sticking around. xo

Monday, September 16, 2013

On Running and Waffles

I can feel myself growing quieter.
It's not so much that I have less to say, but it's that I don't need, or even want, to say a lot of it.
I feel myself drawing inward a bit, becoming more still.
I think of this space daily.

I am turing 30 in a few weeks, and a few months ago I made myself a short list of manageable things I'd like to accomplish before I move to the next decade.
I started with the race because I had toyed with running for years.
And I did it. I ran a 10k in pretty solid time
and completed the big one that I was shooting for: 
It turns out I love running.
I'm proud of myself for completing the training, and the half marathon itself was a spiritual experience. It was hard (so hot. What was I thinking running a Labor Day race?!)  but I had the tools to do it because I'd trained well. The experience of running a race versus running alone was incredible. I need them both, and think I'll need them for the rest of my life.
Running has much in common with meditation. At its best, it is self-actualizing. There was a moment at the beginning of my half, which I'd trained for for three solid months, when the shoulders of the runners before me seemed to be bobbing along with mine and my music. It was magical. I looked over the water, at the birds and the trees, felt my legs strong and steady, and I felt myself as a part of all things. Around mile six, a train came past us. I felt it speed, its inevitability, and borrowed some of it.  After the train passed, I looked to my left and saw a young girl, atop a horse bareback, next to the family dairy cow and some chickens, her younger siblings at her feet.
At its worst, both running and meditation can be torturous. In the last few miles, the clouds opened up and I felt the heat, and my stomach, and I was so ready for it to be over. I'd never run more than 10 miles in my training, so I reminded myself to quiet my thoughts and just feel my body. I tried to remember that every step was one step beyond anything I'd ever done before, and soon it would all be over. And I was right. Eventually it was over and I went about my day, tired, but very happy and thankful for my amazing body and all that it has done for me.
Ever since I saw it, I think of this photo often: (If you aren't already following HONY, please do yourself a favor and get over there.)
This sticks with me:
"If you could give one piece of advice to a large group of people, what would it be?"
"Try your best to deal with life without medicating yourself."
"You mean drugs?"
"I mean drugs, food, shopping, money, whatever. I ain’t judging anybody, either. I was hooked on heroin for years. But now I’ve learned that every feeling will pass if you give it time. And if you learn to deal with your feelings, they’ll pass by faster each time. So don’t rush to cover them up by medicating them. You’ve got to deal with them."

I've been listening to podcasts more often than music, though I'm thinking about quitting both all together and listening to my head. I think you might find these two interesting:
  • A wonderful little Radiolab short about an ultrarunner with a brain injury. The key to her success is not knowing about TIME. Fascinating. 
  • An episode of a minimalism podcast about positive psychology and flow. I listened to this during my first ten mile run and had another moment where I felt one with the universe and teared up. I realized that I am in flow when I am teaching and running, and feel so lucky to be able to do both. 
I'm going to stop talking about running now or I'd be doing it all day.
My point is, a lot of things have been going on in my head, and very few of them have made it on to this page. I'm sorry.
But guess what? I found a perfect waffle recipe. It's crispy and not too sweet. I threw in some apples that a colleague gave me since it's been such an incredible year for apples.
We went out to her farm to pick some ourselves. She was a processing machine:
DSC01139 DSC01150 DSC01151
I took to Joy of Cooking to find a basic recipe and, as usual, it delivered. It recommends trying this with your waffle iron (that's bacon), which I'm going to have to do someday:
My happy place. 
I doubled the Joy recipe because waffles freeze beautifully. Reheat them in the oven.

Apple Cinnamon Waffles
adapted from Joy of Cooking
makes approximately eight large waffles

3.5 c. flour (I do 2 c. unbleached all purpose and 1.5 c. whole wheat)
4 tsp. baking powder (aluminum-free)
1 tsp. salt
2 tbsp. sugar
2 tbsp. good cinnamon
6 eggs (divided)
6 tbsp. coconut oil/melted butter/bacon fat
3 c. milk (could sub. non-dairy milk)
1 tbsp. vanilla
1 c. apples, peeled, cored, and thinly sliced

Sift the dry ingredients (flour, baking powder, salt, sugar, cinnamon)
Separate the eggs.
I always seem to break one.
Put the whites in the bowl of your stand mixer. 
Beat the yolks a bit and add the wet ingredients(melted fat, milk, vanilla).
Meanwhile, peel/slice your apples. We used this tool and two small apples. 
Add the wet to the dry and the apples to the liquids.
Beat the egg whites until they're stiff. I stopped at peaks that were just barely firm.
Gently fold the whites into your wet mix.
Just until combined.
Ladle into your preheated waffle iron.
Other things we've been up to:
Friday is homemade pizza night.
OMG Thai food!!!
Wheat gluten with garlic and black pepper. 
New books.
I wrote a blog post for New Pioneer's food blog that used some cheese from the Mexican grocery store. I also picked these up, and we said goodbye to summer. 
I hope you're doing well out there. I miss you. 
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