Sunday, June 30, 2013

The Chaos Before Albuquerque


I was thinking to myself that three days between major trips is not nearly enough, but after a day of decent productivity, I recant my position.  Three days might be just about perfect.

Tomorrow morning Paul and I begin our journey west.  Hopefully by tomorrow evening, we will be soaking in the beauty of New Mexico, a place I have wanted to visit for years.  After New Mexico, we head up to Colorado for Denver, camping, and a night in Colorado Springs.  Maybe it sounds like a bit of an exaggeration, but this vacation is literally my Trip of a Lifetime.  Getting to see New Mexico and Colorado in person is a dream come true for me.  That I get to do it with my new favorite person, who happens to be a seasoned outdoorsman, an admirer of science, and a vegetarian—well, that part I never would have dared to dream.

I came up with the title for this post yesterday, when things felt decidedly more chaotic.  This evening, I’m actually feeling pretty calm about the trip, or more accurately, the length of my to-do list for the time between now and departure.  I’m mostly packed.  Letters and e-mails have been written.  Paul and I have conferred on who is bringing what (Rose-Anne, don’t forget the can opener!), and he’s made maps for our journey.  He even made an estimate of our gas consumption for this trip, which makes me feel like a terrible human being because the trip was my idea and I hate the size of the carbon footprint we are about to make.  But!  We will be eating at some pretty cool eco-conscious and vegetarian restaurants in Denver, so at least there’s that.

Amazingly, the kitchen isn’t even a complete disaster right now!  I’ve been busy shopping and baking to prep for our long drive tomorrow.  I am making or have made:

* Tahini-Free Hummus

* Small-batch Peanut Butter Cookies

* Coconut Flour Chocolate Chip Cookies

and a new twist on this granola recipe, which I’ll share with you below.  In addition, I bought tortillas, cheese, yogurt, two kinds of crackers, two cans of Amy’s Organics soup, carrots, and strawberries.  I’m also packing a huge bag of roasted almonds and some baby spinach.  We’ll be eating two meals on the road tomorrow; my rough meal sketch is soup with cheese and crackers for one meal, hummus with spinach and cheese in tortillas for the other meal.  It’s hard for me to gauge how much food we need for the road, but hopefully all the options will add up to enough for the two of us.

Last night I made some maple sesame pecan granola to take on the road with us.  The recipe started as a granola that I wanted to share with our vegan friends who live in Dallas, and when they commented on how great the pecans were, I decided to bump up the quantity.  Pecans always play well with maple syrup, plus they feel like a tribute to Texas since pecan trees grow here.  Sesame seeds add a lovely savory note to the maple-pecan-laced oats, and coconut sneaks into the mix in the form of some coconut flour and oil.  This is not a granola that knocks you over the head with flavor; rather it makes a satisfying backdrop for summer’s berries or maybe some sliced bananas.  If I’m feeling indulgent, I might consider bumping the maple syrup up  to half a cup, but it’s not necessary.  After a lot of indulgence over the past few weeks, I’m happy to eat simple, tasty food.  That’s the plan for tomorrow.

Maple Sesame Pecan Granola

See you in Albuquerque, friends.

Maple Sesame Pecan Granola for the Road

Adapted from this recipe

Makes about 5 1/2 cups

3 1/2 cups rolled oats

3/4 cup pecans

1/4 tsp. salt

2 tbsp. coconut flour

1/4 cup sesame seeds

6 tbsp. maple syrup

1/4 cup coconut oil

1)  Preheat the oven to 325 degrees F.  Line a large rimmed baking sheet with parchment paper.  I use my 10x15-inch pan for this.

2)  Mix together the dry ingredients (everything minus the maple syrup and coconut oil) in a big bowl.  Mix the wet ingredients into the dry until everything is thoroughly combined.

3)  Spoon the granola onto the prepared baking sheet.  Bake for 25 minutes, stirring everything around after 10 minutes of baking.  Allow the granola to cool on its baking sheet, then eat or store in an airtight container.

Friday, June 28, 2013

Then and Now, Plus a Milkshake

This was the view a few days ago, on the shores of Lake Huron.

Chairs Plus Lake

And this was the view this morning, in my bedroom in College Station.


Welcome home!

I arrived in College Station late yesterday afternoon.  Paul and I had a date, starting at the airport in Houston and ending (sadly) this morning when he left to go be productive.  Me?  I haven’t done much along the lines of being productive, though I have tamed that mess above somewhat.  Whenever possible, I like to be a bit lazy after a long day of travel and I do the following:

* catch up on the latest Facebook news

* finish tallying money stuff from my trip

* do a load of laundry

* write a blog post!

And eventually I take a shower and restart the business of everyday life.  But before I do that, I want to mention something delicious I threw together after lunch: a great chocolate milkshake.  It’s another take on the frozen-banana-as-ice-cream trick, but this one is particularly luxurious with a generous pour of coconut milk.  My sister-in-law Amanda is dairy-free these days, and she’s a huge fan of coconut milk.  This shake isn’t quite for her because of the milk chocolate cocoa mix I used (mostly out of convenience, to be honest), but I bet you could swap in a tablespoon each honey and plain cocoa powder for good dairy-free results.

It’s good to be home, but I already miss Amanda and her coconut milk shakes.

Chocolate Coconut Shake

The Creamiest Chocolate Banana Shake

Serves 1 generously

1 frozen banana (“There’s always money in the banana stand!”)

1 cup almond milk

1/3 cup full-fat coconut milk

1 tbsp. Godiva hot cocoa mix, milk chocolate flavor

Place all the ingredients in a blender.  Blend until smooth.

Thursday, June 20, 2013

Field Notes from Michigan: Summertime Edition

I’m having a wonderful time up here in the Mitten.  The weather has been amazing, with warm days and cool nights.  My family is doing well—everyone seems pretty happy and healthy.  My niece has been busy finishing up her last days of first grade, while my nephew has learned how to let himself out, so now he plays in the backyard while we keep an eye on him from the house.  I feel like I’ve had just the right amount of busy-ness this time: enough plans to keep things interesting, with plenty of downtime and Arrested Development to stay relaxed.

I liked Chrissy’s “Disappearance and Three Lists” post, so I thought I’d borrow her template to tell you about the happenings around here.

List One: What We’ve Been Doing and Eating

* Amanda, Devin, and I met up with some friends at the Detroit Zoo for a few hours of animal-admiring.  All the kids were so patient with each other!  We had a lovely picnic lunch, too.

* My sister Theresa and I went wedding-dress shopping in Plymouth, where she found three beautiful options.  Then we grabbed frozen yogurt and enjoyed the sunshine and pretty downtown Plymouth.

Theresa and Me_Frozen Yogurt Time!_cropped

* I had lunch with my parents at their place.  We shopped for ingredients to make pizza and salad; for dessert we had buttery shortbread cookies and fresh strawberries.  I went walking with both of them, then I chased the cat around the yard.  She tolerated me and my camera, but just barely!

I Am Tolerating You Human{I am tolerating you, human.}

* On Father’s Day, I ran a 10K with my friend JD.  Then his family had me over for brunch (yum!).  In the afternoon, my family had a potluck at my brother John’s place.  His roommate Gary fired up the grill for veggie kebabs and fresh pineapple, and we nibbled on deviled eggs, fruit salad, potato salad, ribs (no ribs for me, though), and cheesecake.  It was a relaxed, chatty day.

* We’ve been spending lots of time outside.  The kids frolic in the backyard, the grown-ups snip things out of the garden, and we’ve been eating dinner on the deck.  My nephew is hilarious here: he’ll take a bite or two of dinner, run around a little bit, then come back for another bite.  Outside dinners are perfect for him.   

List Two: What We’ve Been Reading and Watching

* Magic Schoolbus!  As a scientist, I’ve been pretty impressed with this show.  I love the fact-checking segment at the end of the show.

* Anything with Thomas the Tank Engine.  Both the kids love Thomas.

* Arrested Development“Here, take my business card...”  (Hee hee!)

* Selective Potential.  I love Tieka’s color combinations and have been pinning my favorites.  I think her style is a bit on the young side for me, but her photos are stunning and who doesn’t love pretty dresses?  Plus: Michigan.

* Unf*ck Your Habitat.  I’m a pretty neat person at home, so I’m not quite sure how to explain my fascination with this site.  But I love order!  I love neat spaces! 

List Three: What I’m Learning

* When it comes to raising kids, every child and every family is different.  My brother and sister-in-law practice attachment parenting, and it works well for them.  But for other families, a different approach is better.  Can we all agree that there is more than one way to raise a child?

* Helpful kitchen tip from Amanda: use an ice cream scoop for batters of all kinds!  I want to try this the next time I make pancakes.  And I’ve been meaning to try it with cookie dough…

* I just love the way the air smells here in summertime. It smells like grass and gardens and sunshine. So lovely!

Almost-Summertime Dusk in Michigan 

How are things with you, dear reader?  Happy almost-solstice!  (It’s tomorrow!)

PS  More field notes from Michigan: summertime, wintertime.

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

A Few Thoughts on Consumerism While on Vacation

I’ve noticed that whenever I come up to Michigan, I inevitably experience the urge to buy things.  More things!  Need more things!  I also experience junk food cravings, which I think is another symptom of the same phenomenon.  Which is this: when I’m up here, my wings are clipped.

Wow, that sounds so negative, right?  As though I’m some bird itching to take flight, but I’m caged, flapping around angrily and biting at people’s watches.  It’s not like that at all.  My family is wonderful about my visits.  We like spending time together, and they’re so good about taking care of me when I’m visiting.  But there’s something very powerful about going places by yourself and living the day by your own agenda, not by other people’s.  I feel independent when I run errands by myself, free to take my time and listen to my own thoughts.  When I’m with family in Michigan, I just don’t have the means (read: bike or car) to come and go as I please.  And what’s more, I’m not sure I need that freedom since they take such good care of me.  But I do find myself feeling different about cravings for stuff.  As best I can tell, buying things is a proxy for the independence that I give up temporarily.

As someone who is deeply interested in consumerism and our relationship with it, I’m fascinated by the independence-shopping axis.  I recognize that my cravings are not needs; they are wants—and not even wants for anything specific!  I want to enjoy browsing at Trader Joe’s (seriously, I spent at least five minutes ogling the body care goods yesterday).  I want to ooh and ah over the pretty clothes at Target.  I want to buy a smoothie…just because.  Even though I need none of these things!  And I know that it’s better to not shop frivolously here just for the sake of shopping when Paul and I have our trip to New Mexico and Colorado coming up very soon.

So what have I concluded after all of this navel-gazing?  That I enjoy spending my own money, and I’m kind of at a loss when I have nothing to buy!  So I bought lunch today for three of us while we were in Royal Oak.  My sister-in-law offered to pay, but here I am, sleeping in her house, eating her food, and generally mooching off of her family.  (I know they don’t see it as mooching, but I like to look for ways to contribute.)  It was a nice lunch, too, at a grown-up place (Bastone Brewery), where we ate crispy Belgian fries and nibbled on salads.  My nephew loved the fries, too!

Being up here reminds me that what we’re really doing together is making memories.  That for me, money is a tool to help me do things, not buy things.  Don’t get me wrong: I love creature comforts and pretty things, and I believe that smart spending is critical for a healthy relationship with money.  But I’m here, now, and we have everything we need.  That should be enough.  And I know it is; I’m just trying to remind myself whenever my inner wanty monster1 starts getting all googly-eyed about shopping. 

Last night was pretty great.  Four of us ate ice cream cones on the deck in the warm evening air.  Later, the kids ran around in the backyard.  Or rather, my nephew Devin ran around while his sister stuck her nose in a new book.  Amanda and I stood on the deck, watching the kids play as the light slowly faded on us.  It was such a sweet after-dinner winding down. 

Devin and an Ice Cream Cone

Bookworm Reading a New Book

1 I stole the word “wanty” from Phoebe, who stole it from Kei.

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Advice from the Cat

Following the Cat's Lead

Do not follow where the path may lead.  Go instead where there is no path and leave a trail.” ~Robert Frost

Or, you know, don’t leave a trail.  Just disappear into your adventure and come out when you’re ready to return to civilization.

Sunday, June 16, 2013


If you need directions at the Detroit Zoo, ask any of the volunteers.  They’ll be sure to help you out.

Detroit Zoo Volunteers

Saturday, June 15, 2013

The Most Important Word

Lights on at Dusk

My new friend Amber said something very interesting the other day.  We’d been discussing Ayn Rand’s philosophy and The Virtues of Selfishness, and Amber said, “To say ‘I love you,’ one must first be able to say the ‘I.’"  Which, it turns out, is an Ayn Rand quote.

Intriguing!  It got me thinking: for me, what’s the most important word in that phrase?  And if I can even pick a single word, why?  Why is one word more important than the others?

I like Rand’s take on the issue.  I do.  It reminds me of something I heard on a podcast in regard to polyamory, but I think it’s true in most, if not all, romantic relationships.  50% of your relationship’s success depends on you: you gotta get your act together.  Know thyself.  Understand what you need, what you want, and how to ask for those things.  40% of your relationship is choosing a good partner.  That person has to have his or her act together.  And maybe 5-10% is structure, logistics, and circumstances.  The idea that you have so much to say about your own happiness in love and life is tremendously empowering.  I like it!

I’m not an Ayn Rand scholar, so I’m using her work as a jumping off point here.  Her statement about love fits well with her description of selfishness as rational self-interest, which is to say that we do things for our own sake, not solely for the benefit of others.  And if we do do things to please others, we ought to do so because it pleases us to please others.  Therefore, in love, the sum total of our experience should make us happy.  And if it doesn’t, there’s something wrong.

I think when I was younger, I struggled more with the “I.”  I let myself get sucked into my boyfriend’s orbit, while he showed little interest in mine.  But now, at 31 and with adult responsibilities, I have no desire to get swept up in someone else’s life.  I’m interested in partnership, not losing myself in romance.

I’ve never had a problem with the “you” part of “I love you.”  I’ve always dated good men, even if they were less-than-ideal partners for me.  So that leaves me with the middle: “love.”  That, I think, is the most important word for me right now.

Years ago, my sister-in-law said something very wise about love.  She said that we have to learn how to love people.  She meant it in the romantic sense of the word, and I think I’ve made big strides toward a healthier, more fulfilling approach toward love.  Here I thought I’d share a few of the lessons I’ve learned.

* Only date people who have a strong sense of empathy.  Empathy is the key to compassion, which in turn allows for healthy attachment.

* Trust your initial impressions.  Thinking back on the men I’ve dated, I can remember most of those first impressions, and they were spot-on.

* Cultivate your ability to hold on and let go.  It’s a beautiful thing, being able to set off on an adventure and come back to the one(s) you love.

* Be honest.  Even if it’s scary.  I cannot stress this enough.  BE HONEST.

* But beware of radical honesty.  Do you know what radical honesty is?  It’s telling the truth all the time, no matter how brutal the message or the delivery.  I feel radical honesty is a bludgeon, not a tool, and believe there are more compassionate ways to talk about problems.  Which brings me to my next point…

* Recognize that partnership is about problem-solving.  Choose a good problem-solver!  Especially if you think you might raise children with someone, you’ll want a partner who can think both rationally and creatively about problems.

* Believe that you deserve love.  This one sounds really basic, but it’s worth spelling it out.

* Choose the love that calls for you to be your best self.  I believe that we come together into relationships to shape each other into the best people we can be.  Along those lines…

* Let yourself be shaped by love.  Paul and I are learning how to be partners.  We’re doing pretty well, and I think part of that is recognizing that we’re learning how to do this thing we’ve started.  At the risk of saying something controversial, I think dating and relationships are a lot easier if we are open to another person’s influence.  If you aren’t open to learning and growth, I’m not sure you should be dating.  (Opposing opinions welcome here!  But if so, I’m curious how you approach dating.)

And there you have it: a theory of love in a single blog post.  Happy day to you!

Thursday, June 13, 2013

Resting Up North

Green and White in Detroit

Checking Out the Sights{Checking out the views from the 15th floor of the Compuware building in downtown Detroit.}

Hi, y’all!  On Tuesday I flew north, and right now, as I sit here typing this post at my sister-in-law’s table, watching the sunshine illuminate spring’s greenery in the yard, all I can think is this: it is good to be home.

Chatting with my sister-in-law this morning, I realized that this trip to Michigan is the first one in over a year when I have arrived in my home state and felt (more or less) like myself.  A year ago when I was here, I was brokenhearted over a romance that was winding down into something less.  I came home in October to mourn the death of my brother Scott.  And in December, after an intense period of grant-writing that dragged on to the very last minute, I was exhausted.  It felt like I’d been run over by a train.  After all that, it is refreshing to be here with a heart buoyed up by lightness and joy.  My mind has been resting and healing.  My body…well, my body is getting stronger as marathon training begins.  And the subjective feeling of living in this body has so much to do with the feelings in my mind and heart that my real task this year has been to heal my way back to feeling healthy again.

And I think Michigan is the perfect place to do that.  Last week was fun, visiting friends in Texas.  But it’s here, in the land of tall trees and the people who have known me the longest, that I think everything will be made well again.  Yesterday we took two little ones to the Michigan Science Center for some nerdy fun, most of which consisted of jumping into a pool of plastic balls and watching balls dance over an airstream.  Today my sister and I spent the day together, eating salads at Panera, trying on wedding dresses at I Do, Too (she tried on, I assisted), and eating ice cream cones.  Tonight there was a Daisy Girl Scout meeting and a handful of very excited five- and six-year-olds, followed by some serious playing in the yard before the final bedtime call.  The weather has been beautiful up here, with perfect temperatures and enough rain to keep things interesting.  It was tempting to stay up last night to watch the thunderstorm, but Lydia likes to wake me up every morning for snuggles before she has to get ready for school, so I need to start going to bed earlier!  After we get out of bed, I’m practically falling asleep on top of her while we sit on the couch watching a show.

I’m so happy these days.  I hope you are too.

(PS  I have a few posts up my sleeve right now, including a bird’s eye view of how this summer o’ fun came to be, as in: how can I afford to take two months off?  I’m writing posts and editing photos during the quiet time, so I’ll still be posting here while I’m in Michigan.)

(PPS  I started writing this post in the morning and am now finishing it as the day winds down, hence the switch in day times.  I kinda like it, so I’m keeping it.)

Sunday, June 9, 2013

The Truth about Writing

For LLF_Those who get to write_JPEG

Just a little writing inspiration to kick off your week.  Sometimes the truth is self-evident!

Write on, friends.

Saturday, June 8, 2013

Road Trippin’: Five Insights from Houston to Dallas and Home Again

Cookies for the Road{Cookies for the road!  Recipe here if you feel like baking.}

Paul and I were on the road this week, and it was fantastic!  We did a little tour of Texas, spending a day in Houston and two days in Dallas, visiting friends, eating great food, and sleeping as late as we wanted.  I finally got to see my friend Courtney in her city, where we ate empanadas, drank chai milkshakes at her favorite coffeeshop (Plum Coffee, in case you were wondering), and made an explicit agreement that I would be her grad school cheerleader/sympathizer if she decides to go back to earn her PhD.  After that, Paul and I met up with his college friend Brandon and Brandon’s beautiful family.  From Houston we went on to Dallas, where we hung out with our friends the Minnericks, whose photography will blow you away—seriously.  Wow.  (Also, this.  Wow.)  Paul got his first taste of an all-vegan restaurant, Spiral Diner, and we learned that Jam Jar’s sweet Shiraz is a terrific wine.  (Yes, it’s sweet, but not overpoweringly so.  I was curious and skeptical, but in the end, we killed that bottle of wine, no problem.  It was delicious.)

For me, it was a week of great conversation, the kind that make you hungry for more.  I want to talk more about those conversations in future blog posts because I feel like there’s a lot to unpack.  For now, I thought I’d share a few notable things from this trip, things I’d like to remember for the future.

* I don’t like to collect kitchy things, but at the Comfort Inn where we stayed in Houston, they had a waffle-maker that makes waffles in the shape of Texas.  That would be, I think, the perfect souvenir for my time in the Lone Star State.  (Also, the waffles were surprisingly delicious.  I had a bite of Paul’s, then he offered to make me one.  Then he went back for seconds!  They were that good.  Also, a boyfriend who offers to make you a waffle is a good thing.)

* Sometimes the best way to spend your money on the road is to purchase some privacy via a hotel room. 

* Some people have a knack for changing your mind.  And others have a knack for making you think.  Paul and Courtney fall into that first category—they are rhetorical powerhouses who will win you over.  I am not a rhetorical powerhouse, and I’ve decided that I’m okay with this—at least in conversation.  But if I can get you to think, then I will feel I have accomplished something meaningful.

* Some of my happiest moments occur when I get to listen to smart people talk to each other.  I’m a happy sponge, soaking up all the good stuff.

* Contentment is a small dog that tucks itself into the space between you and another person.  Or how about a dog that asks you to cover him up with a blanket?  Adorable.

Happy weekend, friends.

Monday, June 3, 2013

And Your Reading Assignments Are…

Hey, guys!  I went on an xoJane reading binge over the weekend, and I thought I’d share a few of my favorite pieces with you.  Be sure to read them carefully; there will be a quiz tomorrow.  You can bring me baked goods for extra credit.

* Trashy is so not my aesthetic, but I loved this “Ode (and Guide to) Trashy Beauty” at xoJane.

(What is my aesthetic, you ask?  How about not-very-sexy librarian plus a heap of earth-crunchy?  The natural aesthetic I like is basically the polar opposite of Kara Nesvig’s trashy, which is probably why I found her piece fun and interesting.  Like, hey, what’s this interesting thing over here?  It makes me want to go give myself a pedicure with my boldest nail polish.)

* An insightful, honest look at thoughtless consumption: “I Hate All My Clothes: How I Fell Victim to Fast Fashion and What I’m Going to Do About It.”  Here’s an excerpt:  “I’ll never give up buying inexpensive clothes—I’m just being really brutal about what makes the cut.  I’m forcing myself to really love something before I bring it home these days.  It’s kind of an awesome challenge.  I am holding the new things I bring into my closet to a very high standard.”  (That’s totally how I shop, by the way, whether at Target or a thrift store.  It works, sometimes a little too well.  The blogger has no clothes!)

There’s also a fantastic line that made me laugh out loud.  I don’t want to spoil it for you, but it’s awesome.  And this is totally how I feel about jeans now: “Would I rather have 2 pairs of great jeans instead of 35 pairs of just so-so jeans?  I’m starting to realize that yes, yes I would.”

* So sweet: “My Male Cat Has Totally Softened Me to the Idea of Having a Son Some Day.”

* Fascinating!  “I Decided to Try Being Totally Honest about My Sucky Life on Facebook.”  I really like this piece for the comments people left.  It’s so interesting to hear how differently people use Facebook.  Me?  I tend to post a bit of everything: friend stuff, feelings, casual invitations, interesting articles and blog posts.  And honestly, other than staying away from TMI about work or sex, I don’t worry too much about what I share.  I just…share.  And enjoy!

* This piece was brilliant.  Simple but brilliant.  (It’s not from xoJane, but I wanted to share it because it’s great.  Consider this a special bonus!)

Sunday, June 2, 2013

And Now for the Cookies

Late Night Cookie Baking

 I’m feeling a bit rusty at this food blogging thing, so bear with me, folks.  We’ll start with something easy, like cookies.  They’re easy to make and easy to love.

Actually, I should probably back up and ask you this: have you bought a bag of coconut flour?  Because I think you should.  It’s a fun ingredient to have in your pantry.  It’s silky in texture, with a subtle, enjoyable coconut aroma.  It doesn’t knock you over the head the way that shredded coconut can—it’s coconut that has matured to become a team player.  I love the stuff.

I bought my first bag out of curiosity and then turned to the interwebs for ideas on what to do with it.  What would we do without the internet to solve our problems?!?  We’d be much less well-fed, for sure, and we wouldn’t have this recipe for coconut flour chocolate chip cookies.  I tweaked my version of them right off the bat because I was inspired by a bag of Meyer lemons.  I felt like such a foodie the day I bought them.

I'm Sweet and Tart

I’d never seen them before in my small town, and I was beyond excited to bring them home.  Having procured such previous fruit, I didn’t want to waste them, so I decided to add some Meyer lemon zest to my cookies.  I love the combination of chocolate and citrus, and I think lemon plus chocolate is like a best-kept secret in the food world.  It’s one of my favorites.

When I made my first batch of the recipe I’ll share with you today, I loved them, but I wasn’t sure that Paul would.  They’re denser than regular chocolate chip cookies, with less of a buttery flavor.  Someone recently described them as having a pastry-like texture, and I think I know what they mean.  They aren’t crumbly per se, but inside your mouth they melt like a scone might.  In other words, they aren’t chewy, they aren’t fragile, and they seem kinda sturdy when you bite into them, but they have a lovely delicateness that makes them unforgettable.  In April, when Paul and I were at the Austin Open, after hours and hours of dancing, the organizers set up a table with cookies and other refreshments on them.  Paul was exhausted, and when he saw the table so far across the dance floor from him, he moaned sadly about being unable to get up to fetch a cookie.  I told him I’d brought those chocolate chip cookies he liked, and as I opened the container and he reached in to take one, he said, ever so sweetly, “I love you.”  To the cookie.  He told the cookie, “I love you.”

Coconut Flour Chocolate Chip Cookies{I love you too.}

Or at least that’s what it looked like to me!  I love that story.  Weeks later, as I was once again handing out sweets, he reached in to take one, and as he did so, he looked up at me, looked me right in the eyes, and said, “I love you.”  It was so funny.  I love that, the way our moments together build on each other, the way quirky little things we do become running jokes that make us giggle later.  The thing is, I love these cookies too, so I don’t really blame him for confessing his love to my baked goods.  They’re terrific.

Happy baking, friends.  Happy sixth birthday, little blog.

Coconut Flour Chocolate Chip Cookies

Adapted from this recipe

Makes a dozen cookies

I list the citrus zest as optional, but I would be really sad to leave it out.  It makes these cookies pop with flavor.  Also, these cookies are grain-free!  Perfect for your gluten-free friends or anyone who enjoys baking without grain-based flours.

1/4 cup butter, melted

1/4 cup granulated sugar

2 eggs

1/2 cup coconut flour

2 tbsp. almond flour

1/8 tsp. or a big pinch of salt

1/4 cup + 2 tbsp. semisweet chocolate chips

Finely shredded zest of one lemon (Meyer or regular—orange zest would be nice too)

1)  Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F.  Line a baking sheet with a Silpat or parchment paper.

2)  In a mixing bowl, stir together the butter and sugar.  Beat in the eggs.  In a smaller bowl, stir together the coconut and almond flours and the salt, breaking up any clumps with your spoon or fingers. 

3)  Stir the flour mixture into the butter mixture, then add the chocolate chips and lemon zest.

4)  Shape the dough into balls about 1 inch in diameter and place them on the prepared baking sheet.  Press them down a bit with your palm or use a fork to make a cute criss-cross pattern.  These cookies won’t spread, so shape them as you wish before baking.

5)  Bake for 10-12 minutes.  Cool on the baking sheet for a few minutes, then remove them to cool on a wire rack.  Eat!  These cookies keep nicely for at least two days at room temperature in a tightly sealed container.

Whew, that food blogging thing wasn’t so hard after all…

Saturday, June 1, 2013

That Which Nourishes Us

LLF Birthday Collage_JPEG{A few memories from six years of blogging about life, love, and food.  Original posts clockwise from top left: Texas Fudge, Roasted Black Bean and Tomato Soup, Green Peach Salad, Coconut Flour Chocolate Chip Cookies—recipe coming soon!}

Life, Love, and Food turned six this week.  This is one dinosaur of a blog I’ve been writing!  I think it might be a brontosaurus—they were vegetarians, right?

Six years is a long time, particularly in a young person’s life.  A lot can happen in six years.  To be honest, I have a case of whiplash about everything that has happened in the last three months, let alone six years, but maybe taking the long view is a good antidote to the too much, too fast feeling in which I’ve been boiling.

When I started writing this blog in 2007, I was a graduate student living in Evanston, Illinois.  I didn’t know if I’d finish my PhD.  I didn’t quite realize what a long, hard slog the path to a PhD can be.  Writing this blog gave me a healthy outlet in which I could write about my joys and sorrows in work and play.  I will always be grateful for the way in which blogging brought writing back into my life in a real and meaningful way.  Blogging can feel like a chore—there’s always another post to write and more photos to organize.  You never really get “done” with blogging unless you decide to quit altogether.  Sometimes I get frustrated by the way my ability to generate post ideas is not matched with the time, energy, and mental clarity to write posts, but mostly I try to be grateful for the way blogging lets me flex my creative muscles.  It lets me write.

In 2007, a peripheral friend came back into my life in full force.  That person was Matt.  Our friendship blossomed into romance and changed the way I think about love.  He inspired me to be a better version of myself.

Between 2007 and 2009, the puzzle pieces of my PhD work came together, and I was able to defend my thesis in 2009.  Immediately after that, I moved to College Station, Texas to start a new job.  My move to Texas brought me much, much closer geographically to Matt, and we enjoyed the new convenience of our locations.

2009-2010 were, in retrospect, the honeymoon years for me.  As a newly minted PhD, I felt triumphant.  As my romance with Matt deepened and matured, things felt calm, easy, and happy.  I enjoyed living in Texas, with its big skies and hot weather.  Life was good.

LLF Birthday Collage 2_JPEG{Life in Texas is beautiful.}

In late 2010, I began to seriously struggle with my work.  I never wrote about it much—I couldn’t, for political reasons.  Nevertheless, 2010 was a turning point for me.  It led to the challenges of 2011, and I met those challenges head on.  I will always be proud of the way I (thought I) turned things around that year.  It gave me the sense of strength and conviction that I needed to continue on with my work.

2012 was, by far, the worst year of my life.  It feels very far away to me now, in 2013, but it was a dark and terrible time.  Matt and I went through a six-month-long breakup that left me feeling, quite literally, broken.  All of my grant applications were rejected.  Worst of all, my brother Scott killed himself and shook my family to the core.  2012 pushed me to the absolute limit of what I could handle, emotionally and professionally.  It turns out that the only thing that really mattered was surviving that year.

But all was not lost.  By the time 2013 rolled around, things were starting to feel better.  Matt and I had managed to remain friends, even though it was hard at times.  I remain grateful for his presence in my life—I find his perspective, kindness, and appreciation to be invaluable.  And lucky me, I met someone wonderful in February this year, and he is my new favorite person.  It surprised me to find Paul so quickly in my search for a new partner, but I’m so happy to have a companion and confidant again, especially one who makes a killer pie crust and brings me groceries.

Professionally, 2013 has become a year of transitions.  After one last grant application was rejected, I had no choice but to resign from my position.  Worst of all, my project crashed and burned in its final stages, which broke my heart.  In hindsight, that may have been a blessing because it gave me permission to make a clean break.  Without a manuscript-in-progress hanging over my head, I was able to make plans for a summer filled with friends and travel.  And then, oh THEN, a new job materialized!  I’ll tell you more about that once the hiring process is complete.  I feel so blessed that I am able to take some much-needed time off from working to travel, and I have a job waiting for me when I return.

Though I am not a religious person, blessed feels like the right word to describe my life.  I am one of the lucky ones.  I have so much love in my life—good friends, a quirky and caring family, a new romance, intellectual challenges, healthy food, two blogs that I love writing and that other people actually(!) read(!).  Those are the things that nourish me and sustain me—they are the things that make me excited for each new day.  I am lucky to have so much abundance and so many opportunities in my life.  In writing this blog, I’m able to remember how very lucky I am.  That’s why I’m still here, yammering away, after six years and lots of bumps.

Thank you for being here, too.  You are all so kind and wonderful, and I’m tickled that you care to stop by and check on me.  I was going to share some cookies with you today, but I think I’ll stop here and save that post for tomorrow.  I’m too overwhelmed with gratitude to say anything else.

(Thank you!)

(And happy birthday, little blog.)