change of scenery

20130503-093349.jpg

I’ve been feeling meh lately. First, I haven’t been doing a good job of taking care of myself. I was on a 6 month junk food bender, I haven’t had a haircut in over a year, laundry mountain is next level, you get the idea. Also, I’m in a bit of a rut. With a nine to five and a child in school, my week is pretty structured, and I do like to have routines but I think I have taken it too far. Same office, same cafe for tea, same lunch spot, same route to and from work. Meh.

So now I am on a quest of sorts. A quest for new.  I don’t really have room for major change at the moment, but I realized that doesn’t mean I can’t incorporate a little newness into my day to day. This week I’ve been making an effort to go to different cafes in the morning. I’ve been taking a different route to work. The other day I went to the farmer’s market at lunch for a change. There is nothing earth shattering about this, but a change of scenery can’t hurt.

And I am trying to take care of myself. I am in the middle of a cleanse to break my crazy sugar and caffeine addiction and perhaps lose a few of the junk food bender pounds. I am going to schedule a haircut and I am even considering exercising. I don’t have anything against activity, but I don’t care for “working out”. There is something so forced and soul-less about it to me. I would love to go hiking or take a yoga class every day. Alas, 4am and 10pm are not practical times for these activities and that is when I have available time for exercise. I like to think that my morning walk to work is sufficient, but I am starting to face the reality that it just isn’t. So hello soul-less exercise. Maybe.

What do you do when you are in a rut or when you want to take better care of yourself? I’d love to know.

wonders

Hello and happy Friday. Sometimes I need a reminder that I think the world is an amazing place, that there are wonderful and beautiful things in it. Whenever this is the case, I go looking for wonders and I am never disappointed. Some things do my heart so much good by merely existing. Here are three.

Rainbow trees:

01-rainbow-eucalyptus-tree-bark-hawaii[1]

Eucalyptus_deglupta-base[1]

Yes, rainbow trees! Naturally occurring rainbow trees. They are eucalyptus trees and as the bark peels, it reveals multi colored layers beneath. I totally have a thing for rainbows. And unicorns. Wouldn’t a rainbow tree forest be the perfect place for a unicorn to live? I just might want to live in a rainbow tree forest.

Frost flowers:

frostflower

Frost flowers are ice crystals that form into flower shapes under specific conditions in the Arctic. The idea of delicate little ice blooms floating on the surface of the sea has me enchanted. I’m sure some dee connection could be made between frost flowers and fleeting moments, impermanence, the nature of beauty, etc. But really, I just look at them and think “Oooh, pretty.”

Mouse-deer:

mousedeer

Gimme one of those now. Actually I’ll have two, please. Neither mouse nor deer, the mouse-deer is the tiniest member of whatever animal family hoofed mammals belong to. They are tiny and THEY HAVE HOOVES. Oh, and they are really, really cute.

What makes the world a better place for you?

Photo credits:

Rainbow treesFrost flowersMouse-deer

monday thoughts on a tuesday

20130423-105739.jpg

Hello Tuesday. I hope everyone had a lovely weekend. It was unbelievably beautiful here. So beautiful that for most of the weekend I forgot to miss winter. It was hot yesterday, so I am back to missing it again.

Saturday was about as close to perfect as a day can get for me. Birthday brunch for my bestie on a shady garden patio with Edith Piaf playing in the background, moving to a sidewalk table of a nearby corner café with French macaroons and sparkling water to pass the time before getting a tattoo with the birthday girl that evening, followed by more café sitting. Yeah, I like hanging out in café’s and I can’t tell you how lucky I feel that Abby does too. It was the sort of day that is good for my soul.

20130423-105811.jpg

Sunday was all about Abby spending time with her bestie and a nice sushi dinner with the bestie’s family – Abby’s first sushi boat experience.

20130423-105801.jpg

I kind of forgot all about Earth Day and didn’t do anything special. I saw a march go by my office but I don’t think that counts. What did you do for Earth Day?

magic door

fairydoor1 fairydoor2

Look what Abby found in the park last week. A tiny door on one random tree amongst many trees, so easy to miss. But Abby did not miss it and we went over to examine it. It is beautifully made and it fits the hole perfectly. It’s even hinged to the tree! Children have been leaving little notes and acorns for the fairy who must certainly live here.

This sort of thing is so good for my soul. It just makes me happy to know that there is a person out there who thought make a beautiful fairy door for a random tree in the park. Or maybe it wasn’t a person at all…maybe it was a fairy…

Have you spotted any magic lately?

kale and farro soup

farrosoup

I have some thoughts about the kind of food I like to eat. I like it to be comforting and romantic. Comforting, I am sure you get. It should be nourishing and satisfying. But when I say it needs to be romantic, I am not speaking of the candle lit dinner for two kind of romantic. What I mean is that it should be evocative. It should conjure – feelings, mental images, perhaps some magic. When I was reading A Clash of Kings, all I ever wanted to eat was barley stew. Barley stew may not sound romantic, but it is when it conjures images of the Night’s Watch warming themselves against the cold of the snow beyond the wall. Book food is romantic. So is old fashioned food that evokes feelings of bygone days. Movie food, humble food, childhood food, food from far off lands, these are all romantic foods.

As you might imagine, I am a comfort eater. I often turn to food when I am stressed, sad, angry, or tired to evoke a different feeling. I mentioned in my last post that I have been in need of much comfort lately. So since just before the holidays, I have been comforting myself a lot. Luckily, I truly do love good, nourishing food. But, as has been the case lately, I sometimes forget about the nourishing aspect of comfort food and focus on, well, the stuffing your face aspect. And now my jeans are tight and my brain is not very sharp. I tend to be pretty sensitive to the effects of junky food and have allergies to some preservatives. I am feeling less than comfortable.

So good, nourishing food is on my mind and I am trying to comfort myself with food that will actually make me feel good, rather than turning to cookie butter (don’t even get me started on cookie butter. Have you tried it? It’s amazing and I really can’t be trusted around it). The act of preparing something delicious that is also good for you is comforting in itself.

Here is something that rates high on Bronwyn’s Scale of Comforting and Romantic Food, or B-SCARF: Kale and Farro soup.

Soup of any sort scores high on the scale because I can’t think of anything more comforting than soup. It is one of my very favorite things to eat. Everyone has at least one memory associated with soup – the chicken soup your mom made you when you were sick, the first pot of soup you ever made and how much better it was than canned. Soup is alchemy. Throw a few humble ingredients into the pot with some water and soon, you have something completely different. And Snow White made soup of some sort for the seven dwarves. Fairy tale food has a high B-SCARF rating.

Soup isn’t really springy but this soup isn’t too heavy so it is a good soup for transitioning into spring. Kale is wintery but it’s green. Farro, somehow seems a bit springy as far as whole grains go. It is also out of the ordinary, which makes this soup seem special and thus, romantic. I have heard whole grains referred to as “ancient grains” which evokes all sorts of lovely, romantic imagery for me. Bonus B-SCARF points!

The first time I made this, I followed a recipe that I found online by googling “farro and kale soup”, wondering if there was such a thing. I was in the mood for soup and the combo sounded good. It is a thing and there are lots of recipes out there. The next time I wanted to make the soup, I could not find the same recipe to save my life. So I recreated it from memory, making a few changes. This is now my standard recipe. I use the word recipe loosely. I can usually only follow a recipe once. And I don’t usually follow it closely. But if I have to follow the recipe the second time I make something, I deem it too complicated and it does not make my repertoire. So be warned that my definition of recipe might not look like your definition of recipe. If you can deal with that, you just might like this soup.

1 onion

2 stalks of celery

2 or 3 carrots or a handful of baby carrots if you don’t feel like peeling

1-2 cloves of garlic

6 cups of chicken broth (this is what the recipe said but I always use more – 8-10 cups maybe? The farro sucks up the liquid and it turns into stew quickly. You can add water after the 6 cups of broth if you don’t have that much broth laying around.)

A few spoonfuls of tomato paste

A bunch or two of chopped kale (or a bag from TJ’s or Smart and Final. You probably don’t need the whole bag.) Remove the stems if you are feeling ambitious but I don’t bother doing this with the bagged stuff.

1 ½ cups dry Farro (Randomly, I remember this quantity from the original recipe but I find that a lot of bags have 1 ¾- 2 cups of farro so I just put it all in there – perhaps why I always need to add more liquid)

A chunk of parmesan cheese (or some other hard, salty cheese)

Buzz up the onion, carrot, celery and garlic in a food processor until it is super finely chopped or it looks like mush – either is fine. If you have a big food processor, you can buzz all the veggies at once and I am jealous. But you can also use a little countertop processor and buzz each veggie individually (except the garlic – throw that in with one of the others). Watch out for the onion – it will gas you when you open the top of the food processor so look away! In a big stock pot, sauté the veggie mush in olive oil for a few minutes until it smells really good then add a cup of broth and simmer until the broth is almost completely reduced/evaporated. This takes about 5-10 minutes. Stir in the tomato paste and then dump in the kale and farro. Pour in the rest of the broth (you can start with 5 cups and add as necessary) and throw in a chunk of cheese. Let it all simmer for about 30-40 minutes until the farro is soft and the kale is wilty. Garnish with grated parm and a drizzle of olive oil. Yum.

winter heart

blossoms1

I miss winter. There I said it. It has technically been spring for a few weeks now but the grey skies and cool temperatures allowed me to remain in denial. It even rained over the weekend. But spring is here now and there is no denying it. And I wish it was still winter. I’m sure this makes me sound like a serial killer or something. I’m not. I promise. And I don’t have anything against spring; I’m just not ready for it.

I’m feeling tender these days. I can’t say why exactly. No reason and every reason at once. Maybe it’s a mix of life events, world events, growing, changing, thinking. I’m feeling contemplative, inward and a touch melancholy. And I kind of like it. Winter is good for this. Winter is like being bundled up in a warm blanket. It’s all cozy scarves and spiced chai tea. I was born in winter. It is my season. I feel protected in winter. In spring, I feel exposed. Spring is like the wee early morning and I am too sleepy to leave my comfy winter bed and face the light of day. It is early and I stumble, bleary eyed, into the too bright kitchen and fumble around for the coffee maker. My limbs are weak and my head is cloudy and I want just 5 more minutes please. Pretty please?

I spend most of my lunch breaks at a café near my office. I sit in the window, headphones on, notebook out, and watch the world go by. Today I ordered creamy mushroom soup and sat in a dark corner, Cocorosie on my ipod. In the winter, this is perfection. But it is a bit off in the spring. On the other side of the window there was a couple sitting at a sidewalk table, basking in the sunshine while eating chicken caesar salads, the very epitome of spring. Everyone is wearing sandals and capris and looking forward to the hot days ahead. But I haven’t had a pedicure in ages, capris make my legs look stumpy, and hot days make my nose bleed. And so, as is often the case, I am out of step.

I was trying to explain this to a very dear, spring loving friend. First, she suggested that my wistful heart could perhaps use a little less Cocorosie. Then she told me that I was the sunniest grey lover she’s ever known and that when she thinks of me, she does not think of grey but rather peach and yellow with a touch of lavender for good measure. I found this interesting. As much as I love grey, I do like peach and sunshine as well. But one can’t live on sun ripened peaches alone. So I am still eating soup while the rest of the world eats peaches and Caesar salads. It is possible that I will fall in step with everyone else soon enough. Possible, but not probable.

What about you? Are you basking in spring?