About, Food

Making and Creating

Sourdough Bread, with concentric circles divided by an cross.

I think as humans we have an innate need to feel fulfilled and find purpose. One way I fill that need is by trying to create or make things. I find that at certain moments I am itching to produce. To create and see something to its completed state. I find joy from the product. I also though have noticed in myself the itching to produce for productions sake, the need to go, move, have a goal, and complete something that doesn’t come from a healthy place but of a place of lack and of seeking meaning. In some ways though, I think I end up putting too much stock in the product itself. I see creation as product driven, rather than recognizing the process and all that is learned along the way.

I think that often we always assume most people hate their jobs and this is far from the truth, but also even without jobs people I believe people would want to find intention. I am not one to dictate what this will look like, but I do know that the “dream” of sitting at home all day watching TV is not what it appears. I think that amount of time alone or with distractions helps us to see that those distractions are hollow and leads either to a depression or to seeking something else, finding a new distraction, or a real purpose that feels fulfilling.

For me, making and creating takes up numerous forms most notably cooking, baking, occasional crafting and writing. You may have noticed more writing from me this year than in the past. I am slowly and surely finding my way. Only when I stop and think do I realize what I have done. Only when I slow down can I start to see that my daily habits do seem to add up, five minutes here ten minutes there and what seems like a simple hobby really is a major part of my life. I do not know what your thing will be- art, music, ideas, technology just to name a few, but I want to encourage you to do it. Make the time, even if it is just a few moments. I started cooking one dish a week or possibly less, and then each new attempt I got more confident and better. To be honest, it will not and does not always feel like you are getting better, only in hindsight will you see it, but I would encourage you all the same. Do the things that make you feel alive, that you do more for the process than the product and enjoy the experience. I find it makes the daily so much more worthwhile.

Books and Reading

Book Hangover

I just finished Me Before You last Friday and experienced something I have never felt before, what can only be described as a book hangover. I felt hollow and lost and I had no desire to read anything else. I wanted to talk but I had no words. Nothing to say. I was absorbed and I saw the ending coming eventually but oh my gosh. I felt everything and nothing at once.

This feeling did end. A few days later I was willing to read something else. I even started the sequel (to almost immediately put down, because I do not want to tarnish my experience of the other book). I am in awe of the power of a good book. The power it has to make you feel things you never knew a book could make you feel. I am excited about my goal to ditch more books this year in the hopes that I can have moments like this where I find books that I will truly treasure.

Have you ever experienced a book hangover? If so which book? How have you worked through it?

About, Musings on Life

The History of Our Kitchen Table

I am not one who takes great stock in physical possessions. I am sure if we had to get rid of our kitchen table I would do so willingly. I just have come over the years to feel that this table is a part of me. I wanted to share the story of a table and the many memories and dinners that have taken place on it.

My kitchen table came to be mine in the fall of 2010. I was in my final year of college and was living off campus, a few minutes walk away. My roommate had done the hard work of finding a place and I had agreed sight unseen. I arrived early, before school started and I had no furniture and no car. I had assumed the shuttle from my college to town would be running, but that had not been the case. I had brought a sleeping bag and planned to sleep on it and live without furniture. I realize now how stubborn and silly that sounded. I wanted to prove to myself and everyone else that I could do it all on my own. My dad came up a few weeks into me living there, and had taken me to get real furniture. A small blue kids twin bed, lawn chairs and a butterfly chair from an estate sale, and the kitchen table. We found it at a small hipster consignment store. I am not sure back then I would have called it hipster, because I do not think that was a word I used. We passed it and it stood out, how could it not with the bright teal pattern on the top. My dad pointed it out and I loved it. It was the most expensive thing we bought for the apartment at $175.00. I loved it though. It felt unique and mine.

After that year was done, I left most of the furniture in the apartment, with the exception of the table. I removed the legs and wrapped it in boxes, taping the legs underneath. I then shipped it from Oregon to Connecticut. It stayed wrapped up there until we moved to Florida. We put it in the U-Haul and drove it down. When we unwrapped it, I noticed the tape and removed some of the fake wood bottom. I felt frustrated seeing it for what it was, not real wood. I am not sure who I was kidding, it was too light to be made out of wood, but I didn’t know that at the time. I was more snobby than I am now and I felt lied to and deceived. Although I do not remember it, I am sure I tried to get rid of it and replace it with something new and better, but we never did. It was small and fitting four people around it was a squeeze, but we kept it.

It was the table that we had our first guests over to dinner at. We had spent a day at the beach with another couple. We then came home, and got cleaned up. I cooked a roasted chicken with gravy, a salad and mashed potatoes. I hung out with the wife while my husband and her husband chatted elsewhere. I remember just doing what I had always done, and it worked. The chicken was delicious and I had fun spending time with a couple. I knew them so well that I wasn’t afraid if it did not work out. I did not have a back up plan but I didn’t mind.

A few years later, we moved to Iowa and the table came with us. Our apartment was smaller than our house in Florida, but the kitchen table fit right in. The plastic cover ripped while there, and I had placed a hot pan on it and melted the plastic in some places. This was the table where we started hosting Thanksgiving dinner, first with just my mom and the next year with my dad and sister. I found it comforting to be around my own table with food that I loved gathering family. I genuinely love cooking and I find Thanksgiving to be a holiday that I enjoy more than I ever thought, the hardest part for me is the turkey and gravy. Usually I make all the pies and some of the sides in advance so I assume if everything is wrong the day of no one could possibly starve. I almost always make at least 4 pies no matter the amount of people. Two pecan, one apple and one pumpkin. I feel like Thanksgiving is the pie holiday and there is no better time to celebrate. Each year I test new things, and cook many things that are tried and true. I am even learning what to do with the leftover turkey. This table was the location where that all happened. On my second Thanksgiving, we found that if we moved the table away from the wall everyone could fit comfortably. In spite of disaster/poor planning about the turkey, everything worked out.

I know for a fact that in Iowa we tried to get rid of the table, I felt it was too broken and I did not want it to get further damaged. I thought we should toss it and move on. Andy suggested instead we try and fix it. I assumed this would be a last ditch effort because there were areas where the fabric had ripped exposing the fake wood underneath. This was part of my efforts to fix all our furniture before we moved. Yes, for some reason even though we were filled with the emotion of moving and all the details, I felt adding to the burden would help. Some of the things I am glad we did, because I was kept busy enough to stop from completely falling apart. The table was on that list. We went to JoAnn’s and bought a new vinyl sheet to cover the top. We bought an industrial stapler to attach it with and I stood back. I have learned that when it comes to furniture and building, my hovering and making suggestions is not actually helpful. I trust Andy completely with those tasks. I know he can do them and this ended up more wonderful than I could have imagined. He creatively placed the fabric so you could not see the hole unless you were looking for it and replaced the vinyl. At this moment I knew the kitchen table was here to stay, it might not always be our kitchen table, but it can be easily recovered and in an odd way it reminds me of where I have been and where I came from.

The kitchen table works perfectly here in New Hampshire. It feels like it was meant to be here. After a week of waiting for our furniture to come and eating off of plastic crates, sitting at a real table is special. This table has come with us and probably will be with us for the long haul. I have grown to have some sentimental attachment to it, and like I stated before I would get rid of it if absolutely necessary, but I do not want to in this moment. I feel like it is a small piece of me.

Books and Reading

What I’ve Been Reading Recently

I have not posted in a couple months so this will probably be one of the longer posts I do, sharing books I have enjoyed reading in the past two months.

Organized Simplicity by Tsh Oxenrider

I have read quite a number of minimalism/organization books, but this one asks you to be slightly more extreme. Basically you remove every item from each room in your home and determine whether or not to put it back. I loved her message of the idea of making sure your stuff was serving you as opposed to the other way around. Book Rating: 4/5

Being Mortal by Atul Gawande

I loved the way this book approached aging and dying. The author explores how to die with dignity by keeping our humanity in mind and those things that makes each of us feel like ourselves. Book Rating: 5/5

The Murder on the Links by Agatha Christie

This is a murder mystery, that my husband and I listened to on our road trip out to New Hampshire. There is a murder of a man who wrote to as for Hercule Poirot’s help. The mystery takes Poirot far and wide to figure out what has occurred. I love the way Hercule Poirot is a character and how the mystery for me is never possible to guess. I also like that the author tried to challenge the stereotypes of women in that time. Book Rating: 5/5

Mindset by Carol Dweck

I think this was a case of the right book at the right time. I felt like reading this most of what it contains is ideology I am familiar with and partly the way I think. I found this book encouraging me to keep on keeping on, which is what I needed to hear. This is a nonfiction book that examines our underlying belief systems, either growth or fixed mindset and detailing how that belief system influences behaviors. Book Rating: 4/5

The Wizard of Oz by L. Frank Baum

I read this book as a child, but did not remember it. As we have moved I have been reading books I own, as I have not yet gotten a library card (hopefully I will soon). This I had on my kindle and I was surprised by how different the book and the film are from each other. I loved this book it felt like a warm hug and I found reading it comforting. This is a story about a girl trying to find her way home. Book Rating: 5/5

Writing Day In and Day Out by Andi Cumbo-Floyd

I have been thinking about writing quite a bit this year. As I tried to write a novel in November, I stopped because I realized for right now novel writing is not for me. I do not enjoy it. I think my genre is more nonfiction or memoir. I found this book demystified writing and helped bring it down to concrete. I found myself agreeing with the author’s point of view and I loved how she made the topic approachable. Book Rating: 5/5

Minnie and Moo Go to the Moon by Denys Cazet

I read this book as my picture book to round out the year, but I found it to be a fun children’s book. I liked the way the cows think and that it uses simpler words for kids just learning how to read. Book Rating: 4/5

Predictably Irrational by Dan Ariely

This book is more of my typical psychology related book. In this book the author discusses how we act in irrational ways and why we do so and how we can work to change those behaviors. I found this book had a good mix of statistics and studies and stories. I found it to be more relatable than some and I appreciated his writing style, that being said I listened to this on audio and the narrator was great. Book Rating: 4/5

Your Best Year Ever by Michael Hyatt

This is a self-help book about goal setting. I found it an encouraging and practical resource. I listened to it on audio, but I would suggest for others to read it. I found it hard to absorb all the material in an audio form. Book Rating: 4/5

Outlander by Diana Gabaldon

I feel fairly late to the game on this book. I read it because it was on my kindle, but I loved it. There were times where it felt repetitive in writing style and this book has more mature themes, but I was so swept up in the story that none of that detracted. I wanted to know what happened and basically could not put this book down. I eventually made time to finish it because it was affecting my sleep. I look forward to being able to read more. Book Rating: 5/5

Me Before You by Jojo Moyes

I devoured this book. I could not put it down. I listened to it on audiobook. I am not sure how to describe this book. I felt everything, amazed, awed, and devastated. I laughed and I cried. Moyes is handling a complicated subject matter and at the end of reading it I just felt this growing hollow. I would still highly recommend it, but at least for me it made me feel things I was not sure I could feel while reading. Book Rating: 5/5

What have you been reading lately? Any suggestions?

Books and Reading

Housekeeping Books

As I have gotten older, I realize that one area I did not know much about what keeping a house. I sought to remedy that and bought numerous books on the topic. In reality though, I found them to be too large and daunting. Some of them I have not read and still sit on my shelf today. I may at some point remedy that but for now they sit there reminding me of what I thought I needed to know. What I am sharing with you today are smaller books on the topic that helped shape the way I think about cleaning, organizing and running a “house” (in my case it is actually apartment, but the basic principles remain).

Organized Simplicity by Tsh Oxenrider

This book is a good one for theories of thinking about your house in a minimalist way. Also I found it helpful for decluttering and deep cleaning in a way that makes your house feel organized and clean and gives you a fresh start. I also appreciated her ideas on green cleaners.

The Pie Life by Samantha Ettus

This book is more of a mindset book. I found it interesting, but to be honest I did not find it was the book for me, but it may be the book for you. The author addressing ways of trying to “do it all” and not lose your mind in the process. I am more of a less is more gal myself but if you really do want to try to do it all this book may give you strategies to help.

Simple Matters by Erin Boyle

I found this book to be wonderful. I love her ode to minimalism and her advice for ways to do it practically. I appreciated her ideas to start where you are and make small steps. She also addresses cleaning and acquiring possessions in a way that they will have staying power and will last the long haul.

Bloom by Éstee Lalonde

This book is more a way to think about how to think about decorating your home. I found it an book that encourages you to be yourself and to find your own way. She shows you how she found her path as an example to help you find your own.

Notes on a Blue Bike by Tsh Oxenrider

This book is a memoir book, where the author expounds on her ideas for how to live a life that is more intentional. She discusses her thoughts around changing her life in ways that are meaningful. I found it to be a wonderful read and I enjoyed her thoughts on meal planning and making small steps in the right direction (which is whatever direction you decide matters to you).

The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up by Marie Kondō

This was the first book I read that made me want to take action and have less. I found this to be a useful book to a degree. After the fact I did not follow it completely and I take some of it with a grain of salt, but I did find it to be a helpful starting point. Once we had less stuff we were able to continue decluttering on our own, this just set us down the path.

About, Food

Cooking from Scratch

I love to cook. I find the chopping and cutting methodical. I am finding my ability to identify flavors and create tastes is becoming more and more natural. I find there is peace in the steps, gathering, chopping, cooking, and eating. The entire process calms me and thrills me at the same time. I love everything about it. I love that it is a way to care for others, I love that it is a way to care for myself. I love trying out the new and experiencing all the world has to offer in terms of flavors and dishes. I love that food never gets boring. I find peace in sitting around the table talking and enjoying together. There is a magic to it for sure. I found this is one of the places I do not feel I have to try, I do not have to stress (in most cases, if I am attempting to deep fry something you may want to steer clear of that situation). I find my zen in the creation. As I have continued to cook, I have started to trust myself, to trust my instincts and to learn that I know what I am doing when it comes to cooking. I actually can alter recipes to make them more enjoyable and to ensure I will have a better chance to like them. I love documenting my permutations and new creations.

I have always loved cooking, but I did not always take the time for it. Before we moved to Iowa, most of the time my husband and I ate food that was takeout. When we moved, I used that as the impetus for change, and decided we would only eat out once per week and everything else we consumed I would make or would come from a grocery store. I am not yet the most fabulous cook and I still buy store bought mayonnaise and bagels for their convenience.  I think it is interesting how a new setting can be the impetus for change. When you experience a big change in life it is easier to change the small things, no habits are yet it place. There is nothing that needs to be broken in order to be replaced. As we have moved to a new place, as we start again there are no habits, we have not even found our go to grocery store. We are starting from scratch both in our food and in our life.

Babka, my challenging recipe

There is something magical about taking nothing and turning it into something. Starting with a bunch of diverse ingredients and melding them into one, still distinct but part of something greater. Cooking from scratch can really be seen as what we do with life. We connect the dots through our existence. We start somewhere and make connections, strengthen them or break them over time. We start with what seems like nothing and turn it into something. At the beginning there is a daunting nature of trying to find our way. To create in a space where we don’t know the rules, where we wonder where to start and fear mistakes. The reality is until we try we won’t know the rules, each attempt makes us better, each attempt is an opportunity to learn. We can start again and try again. Each go gives us a chance for something new, a chance to create. In the kitchen I now attempt things that are daunting, for the sheer fact that the task will be daunting. I take up challenges, I try difficult things. There are still days where things do not turn out as I want them to, or where something I thought I liked, I no longer do. I evolve and change and grow and my tastes do as well. While the beginning things always appear scary, I would encourage you to just start. It does not have to be cooking, but take stock of the surroundings and make a step. You can usually backtrack if you need to and if not, you can adjust the product. We sometimes feel like our lives are so static that we must stay where we are for fear of change. Change is coming whether we want it to or not, each step gives us a bit of confidence, a chance to move to try again. So start where you are, take one step and see where it leads

Food, Recipe Roundup

Favorite Breakfast Recipes

I have become someone who simplifies breakfast. I will occasionally make something new and exciting, but for now my breakfast is typically cereal. I prefer to not have to think when it comes to breakfast. I am looking for something that tastes good, will keep me full for a while and that energizes me.

When breakfast comes around and I am looking at other people’s recipes the ones I keep tend to be few and far between. I test out quite a lot but am usually disappointed with the results.  I am picky when it comes to breakfast and I am also quite hungry at breakfast time, typically I have exercised beforehand and am ready for some food.

I enjoy both savory and sweet breakfasts, and I expect my breakfasts to stand the test of time. I want them to be recipes I enjoy again and again.

Wow, I really love this meal!

The first standout is Quinoa Breakfast Eggs. I have found this recipe to be quite filling which is surprising based on the size of the portion. I also have served it to others who have also enjoyed it. I appreciate the variety in texture and taste. This breakfast is well seasoned and one I return to again and again. Also if you make the quinoa the night before this is a quick breakfast option.

These make me look forward to breakfast.

The second make ahead meal I love to make are No-Bake Almond Granola Bars. I like these because you can make them ahead of time, they feel decadent, but still have some nuts to keep you full. The one suggestion I would make is use regular oats rather than quick oats, the texture is chewier that way and I prefer that.

Granola bars, before being cut

Along similar lines, another breakfast I love to make are Healthy Homemade PB Energy Bars. This is one recipe my husband disagrees with me, basically because he does not like coconut and I do. These can be made the night before and I have also served them to people, who aren’t my husband and these were devoured quite quickly.

Oh, large delicious popovers!

Another recipe I love are popovers, these are not necessarily quick, but I thoroughly enjoy them and they are a nice decadent treat. Growing up we ate at Jordan Pond House, for tea once each summer and these were a staple. After learning to make them at home, you will never want to go elsewhere. I typically serve these with butter and strawberry jam, but any kind will do. These CANNOT be made ahead, you want to eat them warm almost right out of the oven.

This caramel-pecan roll makes me excited for breakfast

My final addition is a recent favorite. On Christmas I typically test out new recipes. I loved this Twisted Sticky Caramel-Pecan Roll. Two notes, one soften cream cheese way ahead of time, second the recipe repeats ingredients so disregard the second half. I used my go to pizza dough recipe the night before and then made it in the morning. I enjoyed it. Only time will tell if this lasts the test of time, but it tasted like a delicious cinnamon bun that had been slightly flattened.

What are your go-to breakfasts? Any suggestions of recipes to try?