June 24, 2019

The Hiatus

It has been nearly three years since my last post. 

I stopped sharing after the end of the four year relationship that was plastered throughout each page. A relationship that I tried to be grateful for, and used this space to practice gratitude as a way to convince myself it wasn't toxic - yet it was. I wanted to return and document the healthy growth that unfolded, but I couldn't, as this lie I had woven throughout the posts was littered everywhere. I tried, at the time, to delete photos and names - to the best of my ability, and yet... it seemed like I couldn't truly purge this space of his presence unless I were to delete those years I had lived entirely.

I didn't have the heart for that. I had been to so many incredible new places that I still may never return to - I cooked and consumed tasty meals, I hiked my Ozarks, and I reflected on my life. So I removed myself instead and - sadly - stopped documenting the past few amazing years. Now I would like to return - and update you on all the wonderful things I've come by in the time that has passed. I felt I couldn't begin posting until this had been explained, but it is not that I am still hung up on it. Not in the least.  

I will leave it at this: I believed I was in a normal relationship as I'd grown up hearing relationships were hard work - I figured the constant struggles we endured together as a couple were the hard work everyone was talking about. In reality, I was in an emotionally abusive relationship with someone who did not treat me the way I deserved to be treated. I wrote here in the rosiest glasses I could muster, pretending all was well and highlighting the good moments. So before I begin documenting my new life, let me tell you: if you are in a similar situation, you will regret the time and energy you wasted, even if it taught you a few good lessons too. Love should not be "hard work." Your happiness can and will be found elsewhere. You have to be strong enough to start over. 

So. Here we go. 

September 22, 2016

Autumnal Equinox

If you're not familiar with Couchsurfing, it's kind of like the free version of Airbnb... but its mission is a little different - with the focus being less on finding a place to sleep and more on community! When you stay with a CS host you receive a local's insight (unless your host simply wants to help you out but doesn't have the time to chat or show you around) - you can stay up late discussing cultural differences, learn about their life, or have them show you to the best Belgium Waffles shop. I used Couchsurfing when I backpacked France, and in Chicago prior to that. I unfortunately haven't been able to truly host on my own, but I was always as involved as possible when an ex and his roommates hosted guests at the infamous Wet House in college.

Even if you don't surf or host, you can still be a part of your local Couchsurfing community if it's active... and while it's died down in Northwest Arkansas, when I first moved to Fayetteville, there were monthly potlucks, often with a theme, that each member took turns hosting. I loved having that sense of community and I feel like I'm missing out on that these days...

Point being, one of our get togethers I recall was for the Summer Solstice, when we had a Swede-style Midsommar potluck. We celebrated the longest day of the year by eating Scandinavian dishes at an outdoor art installation, "Under the Stars" - wearing bright clothes and talking about life.

You might recall from a science class back in the day that there are Summer and Winter Solstices (longest and shortest days of the year, respectively) and Spring and Autumn Equinoxes - where the length of day and night are about the same. They mark the beginning of each season and are reversed in the southern hemisphere.

September 19, 2016

Toil - Boil - Bubble: Fermented Drinks

It may not quite be October, but as I mentioned before, I can feel Fall crisping its way in and I'm super excited about some bubbling fermentations in my future.

I've only had one or two Cokes over the last couple of weeks and if you know me at all, you know I can't hardly stand to go even one day without at least one for a little pick-me-up at some point. They're my weakness and I'd blame my mother but I'm an adult now. I've been drinking a lot more hot tea throughout my work day as a replacement, and some fizzy store-bought probiotic drinks (or an occasional alcoholic beverage) or lemonade at home. I have this problem with not really drinking much water, even if it's sitting in front of me - if something has flavor I'm more likely to pick it up and take a sip without thinking about it. My point being I can't just replace Coke with water, but I can replace it with my own flavored, fuzzy drinks - ones that are actually good for your gut.

What's Kombucha? 

If you're not familiar with Kombucha, it's a fermented black or green tea that, legend has it, originated in the far east centuries ago. To brew it, one must obtain a SCOBY (I've never tried making my own SCOBY but it's supposed to be possible - but not exactly fool-proof and the consensus is that it's far easier to slice a piece off of someone else's).

SCOBY stands for Symbiotic Culture of Bacteria and Yeasts - it is also called a "Mother" or even a "mushroom" - but while similar, it is not technically a mushroom. I will warn you: if you've never seen one, they're kind of gross to newbies. They're slimy little pancakes that don't particularly smell the best. And when your tea begins to ferment, your virgin eyes may have difficulties deciphering between what looks healthy and what could be a sign your SCOBY's gone wrong. They're not particularly pretty unless you're one of those free love folks. And SCOBY's, when given love, grow more SCOBY's - to share with friends, to put in a SCOBY hotel, or if you're feeling really adventurous, to make some nutritious jerky.
Kombucha with painted plastic spigot on the far left. In the middle I'm hydrating some water kefir grains and getting my sourdough starter ready on the right - stay tuned for posts on both of those items! I love the cloth cover that came with my sourdough starter from Yemoos so much that I plan on it being my first project with the sewing machine I bought myself... I bought those ridiculous huge hipster head-sized hair bands a while back and never wore them. Reduce, reuse, recycle!

September 18, 2016

Things We Cooked This Weekend

I don't have a lot to say with this post, I'm just really glad I spent time in the kitchen this weekend (and less on the takeout... save Friday night Pizza Hut and a growler of fresh Fossil Cove beer). I'm dedicating a whole post to a few pictures of meals to simply celebrate the art of slow living and not relying on restaurants, huzzah! That's really an accomplishment for me on the weekends. I'm getting better about eating out during the work week... but I love to treat myself on the weekend. With $1000 deductibles in my future, I know I'll have to lay off on that habit...

Because someone was kind enough to share his last pre-made freezer burritos (a combo of eggs, black beans, veggies, cheese, plus fresh salsa), he said I was responsible for breakfast the following morning. Apparently he was joking, but while I was working on my ferments (see next post) Friday afternoon, I prepped an easy, mostly make-ahead breakfast to take over to his house: Dutch Baby. Dutch baby's are considered a type of one-pan pancake, but I would argue that they're more of a bread pudding. While you can make them plain, it's also common to add fruit, and since I still had several apples left over from making a birthday apple pie, I snatched one to skin & slice in the morning. I mostly followed along with this recipe.

These are delicious, and when cooked with fruit, there's really no need to add any kind of syrup, powdered sugar, or additional fruit topping - though I would probably do so with a plain one.

It was delicious. It definitely fueled us for the bike ride to the Farmer's Market... though I had to walk the hill where Frisco Trail leads to Maple. I'm getting there!

It's a little charred on the edges but it didn't taste burnt. I'm not very familiar with Peter's oven, and it's a little finicky.

September 15, 2016

National Thank You Day

So, I'm not sure when all of these national days came about - I mean we apparently have national pancake day, among others - and I'm not sure who came up with them (though I have a pessimistic theory that it's often to promote consumerism) - and I'm not even sure who all celebrates them (I mean, good luck hearing about each and every one in advance)... but today is National Thank You Day. A day for gratitude and for being thankful for those in your life. While I'm not going to use this as an excuse to purchase a bunch of thank you notes from Walmart (after all, National Thank You Note Day is the December 26th, go figure), I have no qualms with celebrating those close to me... and even those who aren't, celebrating service men and women who do work I could never do, celebrating farmers who put food on our tables, celebrating social activists who help our society progress - I raise my glass to all of you!

How I'd like to spend this blog post is by discussing ideas for a little something I call Random Acts of Kindness. If you've been under a rock, RAK are about leading a self-less life with a philosophy in kindness. I like to believe my friend Trent followed that philosophy, and as I've discussed when talking about losing him, I'd like to live life a little bit more like him, touching as many people as possible.
image via
So as I was saying, fulfilling a random act of kindness means taking an action to help out and/or do something kind for another person, perhaps someone you know nothing about, and not expecting anything in return, instead hoping this person will pay it forward and take part in a world where we care about our neighbors. Now that's a life worth living, isn't it? I think the most basic, well-known example is paying for the coffee of the person in line behind you. You can, of course, go much deeper and complete far more meaningful tasks - mow the lawn of an elderly neighbor (or the one of someone whose mower was stolen, hint hint???). You might leave kind notes for people to find in public reminding them how special they are, or send a letter to a veteran. You might sign up for some volunteer work (something I've always wanted to do consistently but have difficulty doing so with my ever-changing schedule).

I'm actually really proud of my town because, if you've heard of Free Little Libraries (which are a fantastic concept), one of our very own came up with the concept of Free Little Pantries, making food donations as easy as walking a few non-perishables out of your pantry and down the street. I'm honestly proud of my town on many different levels because it's a leader in kindness and acceptance, especially for our beloved state of Arkansas, where kindness is abundant but not always shared with those who think a little bit differently.