9.12

Panorama of Old City    Granada, Spain

Granada Source

today is just glorious. the bright sun, low temperature and cool breeze running through our little place make for a morning that begs for cup after cup of piping hot coffee, reflection and travel plans. I’m feeling rather grateful, as I should be.

this week was rich in so many ways. the ESL class I, along with three other women, am  teaching  started and it’s wonderful. our students are enthusiastic and dedicated and we’ve all admitted to being inspired to work harder to create lessons that are applicable to the challenges they face as English language learners. the language barrier is tough but we’re managing. I’ve used more spanish in the past 2 days than I did through 8 years of spanish class in school, I’m fairly certain.

and speaking of which, SPAIN! soon! this article made its rounds a couple years ago regarding the joy of planning competing with that of actually engaging in the activities that you’ve planned and you know what, I agree. that’s why I’m not so much a spontaneous traveler; each piece-booking the flight, securing places to stay and figuring out the itinerary- adds to the excitement and anticipation.

so far this trip has been a bit trickier than others. spain is filled with so many places to see and flying into madrid gives you access to any one of them without getting on another flight so  the options are endless. I think we’ve settled on an itinerary but of course I might change my mind. perhaps why I’m procrastinating buying the train tickets since once that’s done, it’s official. anyway…

Day 1: Arrive in Madrid early AM
Day 2:Madrid/Day trip to Segovia
Day 3: AVE train to Seville
Day 4: Seville/ Possible half-day trip
Day 5: Train to Granada
Day 6: Granada
Day 7: Day trip to Sierra Nevada Mountains or Other
Day 8: Back to Madrid
Day 9: Home!

lodging has been a bit difficult this time around as instead of being the off-season like it is in the rest of europe, these cities bulge since the heat is now tolerable. so rates are a bit higher than usual requiring a little bit of creativity. chances are we will use AirBnB for a couple of the cities and we have hotel points coming our way that we may be able to use (more on that later for those who are curious).

a lot of positive happenings around here. all this and it’s my birthday next saturday! in the way of gifts I’ve wished for bubbly and flowers from the Lancaster stand in Rittenhouse square. oh and treats from a bakery nearby of course! I have a lot to say about heading into 27, mostly because this is the golden age that my younger self craved to be and when presented with the question if you could be one age for the rest of your life, what would it be? this was it. did anyone else play that little game?

some interesting pieces from the week

this dean calls a dumpster home
college of the future that could just change the experience forever
my friend’s honest reflection on regret, including a strategy she taught me that I’ll never forget.

savoring the city

while sometimes you’ll find me cursing the very city that I brag about constantly, it really is incredible. any curiosity or opportunity you’re seeking out is there, save nature of course. and it’s when you take advantage of these opportunities that you wonder just exactly what you’ve been doing the past five years that you haven’t experienced any of it.

i met up with one of my co-teachers of the esl class on tuesday night and we got along instantly, talking about our class that starts next week. having worked with the program before, whether she realizes it or not, she put my mind at ease and got me really excited about working together and finding the strategies that best jive with our students’ needs.

i spent all day wednesday on the university of pennsylvania’s campus on the other side of town. in the morning i had my first legitimate (to me, anyway) lecture experience in years. a professor from harvard gave a guest lecture on linguistics, hip-hop and “the compliment as a social strategy”. it was so interesting to learn about a subject that i’ve never really considered and just enjoy the the experience without any expectations of it or myself for that matter. at lunch, the lecturer ended up sitting next to me and the last 20 minutes consisted of a balance of me picking her brain about her early experiences, talking about our shared love of food and her passing along valuable insight on interactions with other people, our differences and being kind to yourself as you navigate both and inevitably make mistakes. she is a really incredible person and it was a very special day. that and I really, really enjoy learning.

thursday brought a change of pace when after 3 years and 9 emmy awards, we finally got to see the book of mormon. oh my god was it was so damn creative and absolutely hysterical- i was grinning, laughing and clapping like a fool the entire time and i’m proud to admit it. i couldn’t help repeating the lines and singing the catchy tunes the entire walk home as well as this morning. do yourself a favor and go see it before it leaves town on september 14. but do a little research first, it’s undoubtedly not for everyone. a little taste…

Tickets here
Forrest Theater until September 14

new experiences

Source

on the second day of my birthday month, I feel qualified to say that 27 is going to be rich in new experiences and most importantly, those of my own choosing. the difference between now and say 25 is the confidence I’ve mustered to live in exactly the way I’d like and make rationalizations for it to make other people more comfortable or accepting-something we both believe in rather strongly. so there’s that. talk about freedom.

we spent the weekend on a whirlwind roadtrip to ohio and back for a family event. this was the first time I ever traveled across our adopted state and I have to say, the views were beautiful once you looked past the blockades of 18-wheelers. there were rolling hills and old barns and cows…and it was just so green, I couldn’t get over that. I suppose all this time in the city makes those formerly boring landscapes somewhat of a novelty. I cooked up a storm before we left and made a spread that we enjoyed on the roof of the car in the red lobster parking lot off of I-470 W. it was delicious…and hot.

back in the city and i’m granted a few days to gather my thoughts before beginning a new opportunity: teaching ESL (english as a second language) to adults. I sort of stumbled upon this by chance and everything just fell into place. I’ll be collaborating with several other teachers and together we’ll teach 15 spanish-speaking students who work in the restaurant community here in the city. my spanish is mediocre at best but i’m determined. [if anyone has experience and words of wisdom regarding effective adult education strategies, please send them my way!]

less than two months away, on our seventh anniversary, we take off for Spain! we’ll spend a couple of days in madrid followed by a week in the andalusia region- seville, granada, a couple of tiny towns in-between. a year since our last journey, we’re ready, excited and filled with so much gratitude. and no, we’re not getting married while we’re there. but i’ll admit the idea more than crossed our minds, more than once.

 

doing less and doing it slowly

word.
source

mindful minimalism

slower days, taking my time and breathing through each one of these unpredictable hours is dreamlike, really. there is no rush. we talk of minimalism and most of the time we’re talking of belongings or decor…how to pare down. but really, like anything else, a way of living comes from within and transcends every part of you.

we embrace a minimalist lifestyle because less truly makes us happier people. I’ll speak for me, it makes me a happier woman and more enjoyable to be around. clutter in belongings, tasks, and activities distracts me from my relationships with others and myself . it makes me anxious instead of full. i’m in a constant state of what am I forgetting instead of being content.

doing less and doing it slowly

what if you elected to do less instead of taking on more? not only to do less, but take your time and dive into each and every task, resisting perfectionist tendencies and being kind to yourself…doing the task at hand to the best of your ability and absorbing what it gives back.  Is that even possible? Can we open ourselves up to experiencing versus achieving even if that means less to write on your list of accomplishments but more to your overall well-being and sense of self.

putting it in practice

this is an enrichment exercise following my six year recovery period of being a lifelong perfectionist. sometime in my last year of college, I realized that the high expectations, incessant planning and pressure on myself was hindering my progress towards what I identified then as success and that just wouldn’t do. now I have a different vision of success, wealth, happiness, beauty, everything, and it’s time to review and implement a new practice of acceptance and ultimately, mindfulness.

my vision for myself is to make mindful choices to cultivate a simple life centered around our collective priorities. this means such different things for every single person but it’s worth setting that vague intention, that mantra, here. it is my hope that approaching life in this way will keep us on track to resist the urge to succumb to outside pressures or  hell, the pressure we put on ourselves to fit some type of norm.
and i’m grateful for getting this far, being open to change and having the confidence (and support) to be a little bit different.

and that is really all you need to know about me.

++

inspiration

another epiphany, or so to speak

using the whole chicken: poaching and stock-making

I’ve mentioned before that we make the sometimes-joke that we’ve never had real food before. but honestly, we haven’t. there are so many times that I pick up a vegetable out of my CSA box and haven’t a clue what it is or else don’t recognize the taste. or else splurge on a piece of meat, much closer to the natural life cycle process than I’m used to, and find that it looks, feels and tastes, all together different than anything I’ve had before.

As the years tick on, we’ve tried to acknowledge meat for the luxury it is. We’ve learned a bit more about the physical, emotional, economical and environmental effort it takes to raise chickens for eggs and/or meat, and then made it a priority to source the best we can. I think once I recognized what a process it all was, the price tag was a little less shocking and more understandable. It’s a process of cutting back in other areas, spending a bit more and eating a bit less (I know, this is a bit nonsensical), in an effort to buy the most healthy, quality pieces you can afford. For me, this means using the whole bird to yield multiple meals and at least 10 quarts of stock.

White Oak Pastures is perhaps the best chicken we’ve ever add. They practice what’s called the “Serengeti Grazing Model…rotating complimentary animal species side-by-side through pastures. The cows graze the grass, the sheep eat the weeds, and the chickens peck at the grubs and insects.”

At first glance they’re so much smaller than the organic birds next to them…much more birdlike. Once I get it home and remove the packaging, it looks like a completely different animal: the legs and wings are huge and the breast meat minimal…sort of how you’d imagine a chicken to look, I suppose.

using the whole chicken is economical and so rewarding. I find I get the most out of it by first poaching it. One of my favorite new recipes is a one-pot dish from Jerusalem Cookbook, Poached Chicken with Sweet Spiced Freekeh.

the chicken is gently placed in a large dutch oven or pot,along with one onion, quartered, 2 carrots, skinned and chopped, a bunch of parsley, salt, pepper and a big pinch of cinnamon , covered with water, brought to a boil then reduced to a simmer, covered and cooked for 45 minutes or so. The rest of the recipe details the delightful grain (I used bulgur wheat) made with the broth from the chicken and a wonderful topping of sliced almonds quickly fried in butter.

I skim the fat off the top and strain the broth in a fine meshed sieve and store the stock in the fridge for a couple of days to use in a stew or soup. Ideally, it becomes incredibly gelatinous.

after carving the chicken I refrigerate the leftover bones to make yet another broth (less flavorful than the last but still delicious and very usable). Either overnight or while out for the day, I place the bones and carcass in the crock-pot, add in a few vegetables we have laying around (skins work, too), cover with water and cook on low for about 8 hours.

All told, dinner and lunch for two enthusiastic eaters, ~8-10 quarts of stock for the price of a chicken (in this case right around 10 dollars) and items like carrots and onions you likely have on hand.

all this to say, if I’m going to eat meat, i want it to be the best I can afford. and if I’m going to invest in the best I can afford, I’m going to make it worthwhile. that means using and reusing every bit of the animal and looking outside my comfort zone for inspiration and practical, perhaps lost methods. the investment in time makes us appreciate it much more, too, and become even just a bit more in touch with the process that affords us the opportunity to enjoy meals like this without raising animals ourselves. I think that’s incredibly important.