new experiences

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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

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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.

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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.

8.22

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the past weeks have been full: the most wonderful woman’s birthday last friday (yes, she’s really that amazing, and finally the world is recognizing that fact and  giving her the good fortune she deserves) followed by a beautiful wedding for our dear friends at the old Johnson (of Johnson and Johnson) estate in princeton.

this august has gifted us with cool temperatures and I’ll admit I’m rather grateful despite the fact that the weather being so screwy can only mean our climate is suffering…I digress, back to summer. summer has been a bit of a let down, am I allowed to say that? I’ve kept myself pretty isolated in attempting to deal with the seemingly constant changes that come our way.

today is the last day at my corporate job. I feel a mix of emotions ranging from relief to excitement to premature nostalgia. it’s so odd, isn’t it? leaving a place you’ve spent more time than anywhere else over the past couple of years (speaking of which, why do we still have a 5 day work week?). people are kind, wishing me the best on new opportunities and our marriage and letting me know that my kindness towards them didn’t go unnoticed…but, it’s time.

a lot of excitement awaits this fall and i’m doing my best to be ready for it, but it’s near impossible to prepare for the unknown. how do I go about embracing the idea of having every option imaginable instead of fearing it? Dive in headfirst, I suppose…so that’s precisely what I’m going to do.

minimalist decor: life in every room

since moving into our little place five years back, things have changed, my style has changed, I have changed. We live much more simply and desire for not much more, but that doesn’t mean I don’t wish for our space to be welcoming and beautiful.

simple furnishings-close to bare walls playing off of rustic elements and barely there furniture- can rob a house of that feeling at times. practicing (relative) minimalism in your home denounces seasonal furnishings and plush extras and other conditions of comfort for a no-nonsense, no upkeep space, but in turn requires a little something in the way of thoughtfulness.

“I keep getting more and more minimal with our furnishings and instead decorate with flowers. every room has a floral accent—not a bouquet, just some sort of life,” I read in an interview with the owner of a beautiful beach cottage. a perfectly put description of the impact of a makeshift arrangement on a small, minimal space.

on sunday i set off to the farmer’s market down the street. sitting a few stalls in is longview flowers. the market opens at 10am and at that time you can have your pick of the rainbow of blooms. the farmers are kind and helpful. I settle on a simple white flower that of course I can’t remember the name of. the farmer gently pulls the stems from the bucket of water and wraps them gracefully in newspaper and sends me on my way.

I felt decidedly chic as I marched down the street with my unintentionally styled bouquet in tow. once home I cut the bottom of the stems and placed them in the largest receptacle (an old canister) I could find.

A little life in each room… I like that.