the eve of the eve.

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“to a better year.”

this was me a year ago, at a New Year’s Eve party my friend and i hosted.  in front of the lens of the photobooth, we danced, and wrote posters and celebrated the end.  and the beginning.

my biggest desire: a better year.

so here i sit on the eve of the eve of the end of this year i hoped would be “better,” and have to admit that it was in so many ways.  hard but good.  stinking of death but robust with life.  i entered this year a broken (and broke!) wreck, and am walking out of it at peace with my ever-healing mess.

this year saw a few different guys who laid claim to my heart, a devastating separation from a good friend, a bike accident, the long-anticipated Superbowl come and gone, goodbye to an old dream and hello to a new job, a sickness that made me afraid i might ultimately lose my father, yoga and 12-step groups, dating and falling in love, reconciliation and renewed friendship.

whew.  that’s a mouthful.

still, with all this (and so much more), i sit in a state of slight disbelief that this year is nearly over. as remarkable as this year has been, it’s end is approaching with very little fanfare.  i will rise tomorrow, and go to work, and check emails and eat lunch.  and apart from spending the evening party hopping from one hopping party to another, it will look just like any other day.

i think this is why it’s been hard for me to reflect on the year.  i’ve been trying, though without much effort, to think of what my new year should focus on, what is the burning desire i want to see fulfilled?  what is my “to a better year” for 2013?

i still do not have a clear answer, but the word “contentment” floats lazily and peacefully to the surface.  i cannot yet tell if this is my desire or where i find myself or if its something i should try to center on.  but still, it sits on the edge of my mind and lingers, like the smell of lotion after a bath.

here are some other words that i’d like to focus on during this coming year:

cook.
whole and wholesome meals.  for fun and for serious.  even when i don’t want to.  especially when i don’t want to.

practice.
patience.  hospitality.  yoga.  learning to let go.  grace for myself.  sitting still. observance of the gifts of the seasons (rest and reflection in the winter, preparation and planting in the spring, growth and giant living in the summer, harvest and ending in the fall).

find.
that place where my strengths and passions intersect.  endurance.  healing.

tend.
myself.  my home.  a garden.  the yard.  a peaceful space. those pesky finances.

celebrate.
victories, big and small.  my 30th birthday!

love.
myself.  my sweet B.  those around me.  wildly.  fully.  in risky ways.  all those quiet and subtle places only i am privy to.  even when it’s hard.

so, here’s to 2013, and all the unknown wonders and experiences it has to offer!

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weekday vegetarian.

there is something extremely gratifying about making dinner from scratch.

even after a long day.  even though there were a ton of veggies to cut.  even though it needed to boil and simmer and saute until it was almost 8p before we actually ate it.

even then.

a friend of ours recently explained how he was trying to be a “weekday vegetarian.”  his reasoning was simple: he loved meat, but he recognized a drastic difference in his body when he didn’t eat it.  he felt lighter, healthier.  so he made a compromise.  eat a vegetarian-based diet throughout the week, and indulge in some meat dishes on the weekends.

after giving this considerable thought, i decided to try it for myself.  i actually eat a lot of veggies as it is, but i tend to fall back on meat dishes when i’m tired/home late from work/lazy, etc.  a strictly vegetarian diet takes so much more intention on my behalf.  i have to actually think through each day, each meal, and what i will be making, and what i will be picking up at the market.

fortunately, there are some resources out there that make it easier.  Sonja and Alex Overhiser, of a couple cooks, are one such resource.  i was recently introduced to their blog, a collection of recipes from their kitchen, and i honestly can’t believe i ever did without.

my first experimentation, lentil and butternut squash soup with chard, was amazing enough to please even my skeptical boyfriend.  the majority of the ingredients were actually available at the winter farmer’s market and, on the recommendation of a friend, i substituted kale for the chard.  the result was pure deliciousness.  the primary veggies, squash and corn, created a sweetness while the oregano and thyme resulted in a savory delight.

this was not the only recipe that caught my eye.  in fact, the whole blog about made me drool off my chair, but my next attempt at awesomeness will be the sweet potato and red onion galette.  here’s to a more delicious level of food creation!

and to vegetarianism being tastier than expected.

put bacon on/over/around/in it.

similar to the “put a bird on it” philosophy, bacon has taken over the landscape of our taste buds.

on the way to Broad Ripple last night to see a friend’s art exhibit, the girls in my car and i discussed all the ways we’ve heard for using bacon: bacon jam.  bacon frosting.  bacon cookies.  chocolate covered bacon.

i’m starting to sound like Bubba (shrimp cocktail.  shrimp gumbo.  shrimp…).

so, when we reached the Scratch Truck food truck in SoBro, i just had to get their special dessert: bacon maple creme brulee.

verdict: incredible.  beyond incredible.  beyond words.

we got to Indy Hostel, where our friend’s work was showing, and pretty immediately met an Aussie named Kathy.  i offered her my desert, as we were sharing amongst us, and her nose crinkled up when she heard the combo of ingredients.

“bacon?” she said in her incredible accent from down-under.

“yeah, it’s kind of an American thing,” my friend responded.  “we like to put bacon on everything.”

welcome to America, i thought.  where our thing is to find a way to put bacon on/over/around/in everything we eat.

still, i’d eat that creme brulee again in a heartbeat.

on a more serious food note, i have been incredibly cold lately, have had an incredibly hard time warming up, from the inside out.  while this is probably partly to due to the drastic changes in our weather lately, i have to also acknowledge that i have not been good to myself nutritionally.  so i decided to finally try a recipe my wonderful Ayurvedic cookbook recommends: Ginger and Soy milk Chai.  it is working wonders.  here it is, for your enjoyment.  please note, if you are a warm body, please avoid.  it could heat you up too much, make you irritable.

Ginger and Soy Milk Chai
from Anjum’s Eat Right For Your Body Type
by Anjum Anand

1 1/2 c water
1/4 c unsweetened soy or rice milk
3 black peppercorns
8 green cardamom pods, lightly bashed to open the husks
small pinch of green fennel seeds
1/2-inch cinnamon shard
3 thin slices of ginger
1 black tea bag
honey

heat the water, milk, spices and ginger in a medium saucepan.  once it comes to a boil, turn the heat down to low-moderate, and simmer for 20 minutes, or until the chai reduces down to about one large cupful.  be careful as the milk can easily rise and boil over, but a low temp should prevent this.

add the teabag (i used loose-leaf tea in a strainer) and let it brew for 1 to 2 minutes, or until it is the strength you like.  Strain into your cup and sweeten to taste.

improving on no-bakes.

one of the early traditions Kelley and i established when we lived together was the glory of no-bake cookies.  perhaps the simplest recipe in the cookie kingdom, you just add butter, milk, peanut butter, cocoa, oats…boil on the stove…set out on wax paper to harden.  easy mcsqueezy.

so, as post-lunch found us craving a sweet treat, we decided on no-bakes.  Kel took to the stove and i measured the ingredients, and in all seriousness we began to discuss the mechanics of such cookies, little tricks we’ve learned over the years…bring to a slow, rolling boil; boil consistently for a full minute–any less or more will lead to runny cookies that don’t set up.

the irony began to settle in, that we were “improving on” the simplest cookies known to man.  we were making child’s play into serious art.  we were taking easy-bake-oven to a Julia Child level.

and we began to laugh.  laughed foolishly and ridiculously as our little works of art didn’t set as they should.  laughed as we scooped warm, liquid cookies off the wax paper and hurriedly plopped them in our mouths.

in transition…

i am moving this weekend.  the 12th time in the last 6 years.  that’s an average of once every 6 months.  yes, i am exhausted by this.  fortunately, i’ve become quite a pro at sorting, purging, packing and carrying.  when you move as much as i do (and sometimes as many miles…hello short stint in Arizona), you quickly learn to keep only what is most valuable. 

i am moving into a form of intentional community (we’re hesitating to define it so that it can organically define itself), where we live more like a family than just normal “roommates.”  there is one married couple, and three single ladies, including my dear friend Kelley and myself.  i am a encouraged as well as intimidated by this opportunity, but was blessed by a call from one of my future housemates yesterday, just telling me she was thinking about me and couldn’t wait to have me in the house.

training school is also set to begin next week, i think…i still haven’t heard specific details from the leader.  i have to remind myself that this is what i love most about his personality–his free spirit.  but still….with everything so up in the air, and change flowing in abundance, i’d like to know that just one thing is solid.

this has been a tough week, and it is still yet to be revealed why.  even harder than last week, when i was fasting.  i sense God is doing a deep work in me, and these feelings are just a result of deep, dark soil being exposed to the light.

on a different note, i made a delicious chili last night.  i don’t profess to be any kind of a great chef, but every now and then i can pull off a great chili.  and it’s so simple!  i used ground Elk (thank you Dan), but you can use any red meat.  i recommend grass-fed…

ingredients:
1 1/2 lbs ground meat (beef, venison, Elk…whatev)
diced onion
clove fresh garlic, diced
2 cans organic hot chili beans
1-2 jars diced tomatoes (i prefer Local Folks Foods)
chili seasoning, to taste

brown meat with diced onion, garlic, and chili seasoning.  throw all ingredients in a crock pot.  stir and let simmer for about an hour.

bon apetit!

see, simple!  and so healthy!  i just read that garlic is a great natural anti-inflammatory, plus it brings such flavor.