Archive for October, 2013

What We Learn When We Learn About Love

Every Tuesday, I meet my sister and her kids for a quick supper right at 6:15pm. She’s usually between dance and tae kwon do classes for the kiddos; I’m on my way to the gym. It’s a nice way to see my family and catch up quickly, and chat with my sister. Last week I was telling her about celebrating my sweetheart’s birthday with dinner with his parents over the weekend. My five-year-old nephew was listening in on the conversation, and he cocked his head when he heard this and said, “Wow, you must really love him!” his eyes all huge and amazed.

I laughed, of course, because it was a funny thing to say, like Oh my god, such a hard thing to do for someone, having dinner with their parents! (It’s not, really: I like my sweetheart’s parents a lot.) But it was also startling, because I realized that my nieces and nephews are watching my grown-up life in their way, observing and learning and maybe even taking notes for when they’re older. I’m of course deeply interested in my own experience of my relationship, as well as my sweetheart’s experience of it — that we’re both happy and content and growing together. But I had never really considered before what my niece and nephews are picking up from me. It’s a strange shift in perspective to consider, to look at my love life through the eyes of my favorite little monsters. (more…)

Things I’ve Never Done Before But Tried For the First Time This Week


Baking Bread

I have always been intimidated by the idea of baking bread, though I love the coziness and warmth of the idea. Bread is also one of those things that annoys me about buying food — I try not to buy bread with lots of preservatives and chemicals, but it’s super-hard to find really simple, artisanal breads in my town without driving all over the place. And so I don’t often buy it, unless I’m craving a sandwich. (But let’s be honest, I don’t crave sandwiches…I crave mac & cheese and French fries!) But recently I decided to make my own bread and it turned out quite nice! I’ll be sharing the recipe soon with everyone, once I’ve made it a few times and figured out my own customization on it! But yay to baking bread!


If you ever told me when I was a teenager that I would be hanging out with my sisters, getting pedicures and going to exercise classes with them as an adult, I would’ve thought you were just insane, because my sisters and I were nothing alike…and they were my little sisters. But my sisters are pretty much my best girlfriends now, which is kind of an awesome thing for sisters to be. Of all the humans in my life, I’ll probably know my sisters the longest — all the way from our childhoods into our old ages, if we are lucky. And that struck me as a very profound thing, because that makes them one of the more significant relationships in our lives, even though if I’m honest with myself, my relationships with my sisters are the ones I take for granted the most — perhaps because I know they will be there and we are stuck with each other. So I’m trying to be as intentional and mindful of my relationships with them as I am with my sweetheart.

Anyway, I do see my sisters quite a bit over the week, and I’ve been on this kick to get them to exercise and be healthier in general. One of them is a working mom of three, so between the kiddos and her job, it’s hard to even get her in the gym in the first place, and she’s not so enthused about cardio. She showed some interest in Zumba, so I said I’d go to one with her, even if just to get her to exercise. And it was kind of awesome because it was fun to dance, but also kind of weird, because WHY IS EVERYONE ALWAYS SO WHOO-HOO AND SHOUTING? It’s like a cult! I seriously thought the instructor was high on coke or something. I did think the dancing and energy overall was fun, so maybe we’ll go again, and it’s a nice way to prevent dreadmill by shaking things up a bit — literally.

Not Making My Bed

All my life, I’ve been taught to make my bed every morning. It’s just part of the morning routine. I don’t even think I can remember the last time I didn’t make my bed! I even make it when I’m on vacation and staying at a hotel, that’s how ingrained the habit is. It is just one of those things that I do, I guess, pretty much automatic. And for the most part, it is one of those tiny things I do in my life to feel like I had a good day — the logic being, “Well, today I didn’t do this or that, but at least I made my bed!” And it’s a nice feeling to peek into the bedroom during the day and see a nicely made bed, kind of calming and harmonious and orderly.

But this weekend I told myself I was just going to relax and not crazy-work myself. I’ve been sort of running on empty and need at least one day to chill out, be a lazy bastard and just read, sleep, rest and lounge around. Sadly, it’s a lot harder than it seems sometimes — the compulsion to get something done never quite goes away. But funnily enough, not making my bed today helps. It’s always there, waiting to be climbed back into, a nice nest to read, sleep, dream and relax in. And so I haven’t done a lot today, but I have mellowed out nicely — of course, ironically the minute I get all chill and relaxed-feeling, I decide to blog! Bah! Enough of that…I’ve got an unmade bed waiting for me, and a copy of Marisha Pessl’s Night Film waiting to be read. Hope you’re all having a good weekend!

Fear and Loathing in Horseback Riding (Or, Being a Big Chicken and Getting Over It)

This fall I’ve been horseback riding every week, sometimes even twice a week, and it’s become the thing that I need to do in order for everything else I want to do — writing, creating, thinking, strategizing, designing — to go well. I don’t create anything except experience when it comes to riding. I don’t have any major ambitions with riding other than getting better at it and enjoying the company of an equine friend. By ruthless productivity logic, it doesn’t do anything for my life or my goals on the surface. And yet if I don’t ride out, my days feel overstuffed, rushed and cloistered in a way I don’t like.

But I’ve been thinking about the “inner work” of riding — the way it makes you focus in a total yet relaxed way, or how to communicate with another creature in a subtle, direct and profound way. Lately, though, I realized how riding is about confronting fear. Every time I go out for a ride, there is always a moment where I feel some fear — and I always have to make an effort to get over it in order to get what I want.

Fear, of course, is a very basic human emotion, along with anger, joy, disgust, surprise and sadness. It’s also one that we mask with other emotion words: anxiety, panic, uneasiness. No one likes to admit they feel fear, so we use those more “acceptable” words to talk about it. But deep down, they have fear at their core.

There are big and little fears in life, and big and little fears in riding. It comes from something as simple as having to put a halter on a horse you don’t normally deal with, or something big like riding a horse you’ve never ridden and trusted before — and who knows, today might be the day it will try to buck a rider off. I have a lot of primal fears when it comes to riding and being around horses sometimes, like being thrown off and having my face stomped upon, or falling off from a hard canter and breaking a limb. I have a fear on being on a horse that freaks out and I can’t control it or calm it down. I know, at some point, I will fall off, because most people who ride will at some point. It’s a question of “Is this the day?” and will I be able to stay calm and loose even when it happens.


Deliciousness: Apple Blackberry Crumble

It’s Friday evening and whew, what a week it’s been. Feeling a bit stretched thin and fraying, and it’s chilly outside. I don’t want to look at any more words or images or think…I just want to feel and smell and live in my senses a little bit. It’s kind of a perfect night to bake, no? I’m not a natural baker, but I play one in my dreams, and I’ve been experimenting with different recipes. There’s just something really nice about a warm oven at night, all the smells of apples, brown sugar, maple, melting butter and other delicious things filling up the room.

One thing I’ve been trying out lately are crumbles. I started reading about them a few weeks ago, when I looked something up about Michaelmas. I was going through this phase of reading about random British holidays and festivals and came across this bit about Sept. 29, when they celebrate the archangel Michael. In terms of paganish things, it occurs around the autumn equinox, and generally denotes the end of harvest and the beginning of fall proper. I’m not Christian or ever will be, but I have always found the whole seraphim and cherubim thing really fascinating — one of those weird rabbit holes of theology to wander around in on a rainy evening at home with some tea and an iPad. I mean, you know, all I had as a kid was the Buddha, and he seemed really intense and remote, a bit like the monks at the temple my parents took me to as a kid. Now angels, though…angels were understandable. They were on Christmas cards! They had iconography! Then as a teen I got the Smiths, so I was all British! British! British! Somehow it all comes together…in an apple-blackberry crumble.

(Funny aside: one of my friends as a wee kid told me once that she imagined Michael as this strong strapping dude with flowing hair, and I kind of pictured Lorenzo Lamas from “Falcon Crest.” Which is of course hilarious to me now.)

Anyway, if you read about Michaelmas and archangels, there’s a bit about Michael wrestling the devil and the devil landing in a bramble of blackberry bushes, and so one of the big Michaelmas traditions is to eat blackberries. Of course, you can eat blackberries on their own, but it is infinitely way more fun to eat them as dessert. (If I could make everything into a dessert or an omelette, I’d be so ace.)

And so I stumbled upon a bunch of delicious-sounding (and looking) blackberry dessert recipes in various cookbooks devoted to traditional British desserts, and decided to try one out. I mean, maybe it’s my weird way of being fascinated by angels and blackberries and deepening my resolve to broaden my culinary repertoire. Or just an excuse to try out a dessert! Anyway, here’s to wrestling devils and throwing them WWF-style into a bramble of blackberries! Enjoy!