changing the channel: I’m a bit done with this “curated life” bullshit

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I’m an addict. If I fall in love with something or someone long enough, I tend to become obsessive to the point where the object of my affection becomes my inevitable ruin. That avocado once craved rots, and the passion I once had for someone becomes a tick, a drone, a dull sustained murmur I’m desperate to snuff out. Over the years I’ve gotten remarkably better at being present and self-aware, in spotting a burgeoning addiction as it starts to harvest and breed, and finding ways to lay my pitchfork down, stop, and change course. It sometimes feels like stopping a hurricane with a paperweight, but it’s in this diligence, this constant observance, that allows me to enjoy small things like chickpeas without becoming fixated on them. (I had to issue a chickpea fatwa, and get off the stuff for two weeks to re-learn how to consume it in moderation, and on it goes).

Some addictions can’t be controlled, and I’ve learned to live a life without certain things (alcohol, drugs), but what I’ve witnessed is this: what I’ve gained from leaving those two afflictions behind is so much greater than the cold comfort I experienced in succumbing to them. Perhaps it’s the difference in understanding that it’s okay to rip off the bandaid and feel that tear, that very immediate hurt, versus inching off the tape. We take a sip of this or a snort of that to ease the pain of the ripping, but it’s only a delay, because in the end there will always be the hurt. It’s just a matter of understanding our timeline of when we’re ready to experience it. Do you want to face or prolong it? These days I take my pain as it comes and breathe through it to get beyond it. I’m ripping all the bandaids off, even on the days when I really, really don’t want to deal with the pain.

There’s a point to all of this, I promise.

Lately, I’ve been feeling adrift in all aspects of my life. I’ve completed a creative project that’s out in the world and I haven’t started something new. I move from business project to business project, and then go through the motions of pitching again. I find recipes to post on this space and then glance at the blog a week later and cringe at it. I feel stuck in a lot of ways, and it occurred to me the other night that this space isn’t exactly what I want it to be. Because, for a while, I became addicted to a thing called traffic. I don’t even know where this came from, but I remember being in Spain, spending hours taking and editing these beautiful photos, finding a way to marry image and type that was purposeful to me, to have people unfollow me on Instagram and scores of people not knocking on this virtual door as often. I was puzzled. I gave so much of myself into something I created and 1. I was basing that worth and art on how many people read it–no bueno 2. Some people really just care more about recipes, and that’s cool.

So much as I’d read articles on growing your reader base and followers (part of my other life is to read such articles), I couldn’t help but feel the advice was pat, mechanical, cold. Someone I clearly wasn’t or couldn’t be. If I see one more carefully composed image of a suggestion of a life (requisite sunglasses, macbook air and monogrammed mug–honestly, is this how you live because my living room table right now is a fucking mess. Exhibit A, below)–I might just torch the joint (kidding).

Yes, I like floss (new addiction in the works). Yes, those are birth control pills (how else am I going to remember to take them if they’re not in front of me?). And yes, that was my morning smoothie. That is my real life, and I’ve come to realize I want to share more of this rather than something cultivated.

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I don’t want to optimize my blog post titles for search. I don’t want to leave comments on other people’s sites simply for the sake that they’ll come to my space; I leave comments because I have something thoughtful to say, although most times I’ll tweet out a post I like or share it on Facebook. I asked myself this: If I never plan on making this space commercial, if I’ll never accept ads or sponsored posts or any of that jazz, why do I care about how many people come to this space? Right? I should care that what I create will resonate with a certain kind of reader and the rest will find other sites to suit their tastes and needs. All of this happened this morning (as that’s when I tend to do a lot of my thinking, or obsessing) after reading this piece. Completely unrelated to the topic at hand, but this remained with me:

But Carol doesn’t dig much for money anymore. Now she is an organizer at the community development institute she helped establish in an old schoolhouse down the road, working to reconnect people in her community, especially young ones, with their place. It’s what she calls the task of “merging people and landscape back together.” She says that central Appalachia has suffered “erosion—the slow leakage of its people,” and wants to find ways for people to reinhabit the mountains. Root digging is one of them. “Where people are trying to live with the land, there’s always a need of interaction with it. Root digging’s a way to train and educate people to quest, ask questions, be aware of their environment, find empowerment.”

I realize my writing doesn’t only color outside of the lines, it’s a whole other fucking coloring book. I’ve never really been popular. I prefer a small, quiet life instead of a large one. I get anxious over compliments, but I’m getting better at accepting them. It took me years to publish my email address on my site, and I still think about deleting it. I guess what I’m saying is that I write and think about the things people sometimes don’t want to talk about, out loud. I wrote a book that can be construed as too dark, which makes me shake my head because my book is about children desperately trying to climb out of the darkness, but the need for us to skirt the dark remains. I write long, sometimes dramatic, posts here because the only way I’m able to make sense of anything in my life is to write about it, sometimes here, mostly privately. There is a need for me to get things down, commit things to paper as it were, and I’m finding that we live in world of TL;DR.

People don’t have time, nor do they often care about reading something long or winded. They don’t want to excavate the mess of a middle; they prefer their posts neat and packaged and pretty.

Well, I’m not pretty. Maybe not in the conventional sense of the word and much like how I had to quit the chickpea nonsense, I’ve stopped being consumed with this need for traffic, of weighing the value of what I create against the volume of people who choose to read it.

Going forward, I’m going to try my best to be Carol, that root-digger, to find ways in which I can merge my life, what I love, and art in a more complicated and interesting way. Practically, this means that I won’t have a recipe and pretty photograph every day — I plan to dial the recipes down to 2 times a week and make them SPECIAL. Other times, you’ll find longer posts here. A merger of type, photographs, and handwritten words related to what’s going on in my life right now. In this way, I’m trying to be braver, bolder, more honest with myself, while challenging myself in my work.

Because I want to be 80 and seeing something new every single day. I want to create until the clock stops ticking. I don’t want to post a pretty picture just for the sake of posting. I want this space to be a record of another kind of art I want to create.

And I hope you’ll stick around for the journey along the way…

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relishing in architectural wonders in cordoba, spain + some thoughts on losing faith

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For someone who no longer believes in god, I’ve been spending time in many places of worship. You have to know that for the great portion of my life, I wanted so desperately to believe that a god was real, omnipotent, that I would be among the flock that will inevitable be warmed by his presence in the afterlife. I wanted to be believe in an afterlife, because the idea that our bodies would be cindered and ashed, or withered to bone felt unbearable, lonely. That first punch of air, that great push out in eighty, ninety years time (if we’re one of the lucky ones) becomes a crawl, an acquiesce, a slumbering home to the darkness from which we’d come. And to think that the bookend of this one life is only black felt wrong.

For seventeen years I sold myself on a god even when logic (and my heart) was telling me otherwise. When I think about it now, it makes sense why I cleaved so much to a figure that was a blanket, an embrace, a warmth I desperately needed after losing my mother. Having just graduated college, I was on the precipice of a new life but when I turned around there was no one really behind me. There was only me. So maybe I needed that blanket, that cold comfort that carries you through the night because I wanted to feel loved, protected, and cared for in the larger sense of the word care.

I often think of the body of a house and our world as the country to which it belongs. I spent the greater part of my life rebuilding my house, which had fallen to blight, disrepair, ruined by drink, grief, and fear of being truly vulnerable. I did this privately, slowly, laying down brick by brick, and over time, as I outfitted my house with furniture and shutters, I saw houses sprout up around me. I saw hands waving out of open windows. I felt the tickle and warm embrace of the gardens. Blooms that broke ground and started to grow. I no longer cared about having volume, rather I thought about personal velocity. A party was no longer a failure if sixty people didn’t show up. A short story wasn’t a mess because the “right” people didn’t talk about it. And being with people just to have someone to sleep next to in your bed, no longer sated me. I said to myself that I would rather be alone for the right reasons then with someone for the wrong ones. I became confident, quiet, pensive, and present for myself and relationships with people. I traveled more, read more, became more curious, and started to question everything I thought I knew.

And I started to see the world unravel around me, and the magnitude of hate and inequality, and for me, all signs pointed back to religion–how man had managed to pervert and interpret the teachings of god as justification for segregation (gays are suddenly an other, rather as human beings who deserved to be treated with dignity). How women were second rate because of the fact that they were born women and the word said it so. How simple, fallible creatures think they know the whole of the world, regardless of whether a god has a hand in controlling it. Suddenly, there are groups of people who feel chosen while others are considered other, and death, that once great equalizer, suddenly becomes this frightening place where people are banished to burn and suffer because they chose not to believe.

All of this is a very abbreviated summary of what I’ve been thinking about privately over the past two years. While I believe in a spiritual life, while I can marvel at wonder and man’s propensity to create great art, I no longer believe in a single man (or being) who will usher me into the afterlife.

So you’d think that I wouldn’t spend the great deal of my holiday in churches and mosques, however, as an artist, I was rendered speechless over their magnitude of devotion, and how it can drive greatness in man. Yesterday, someone told me that in Islam man cannot create perfection because the only perfection is god. There is always a flaw in a painting, or a millimeter misstep in a mosaic, and I didn’t interpret this line as something limiting, rather I thought it a celebration of being flawed. We live in a society that has morphed into something strange in its obsession for curation, order and perfection. Everyone is desperate to architect the idea of a perfect life–that image of sunglasses perched on a gleaming silver laptop. The body, and all exteriors, preened to perfection. The bruise of a lip on a coffee cup. How we relentlessly edit, delete, refine, re-edit, publish, course-correct–and I want so much for imperfection, for fuck-ups, for people wearing their flaws on their skin as a badge of honor. I don’t want all this whitewashing because suddenly you become the pure definition of the color white, which is the absolute absence of all color. I rather you be like Anthony Bourdain, flawed, raw, strange, bringing all of his passions into one place and redefining his art by not succumbing to being what a food writer should be.

Today I stood in The Cordoba Cathedral centered in a mosque (Madinat al-Zahra), the creation of which found its origins in a King’s ego, how the reconquesting of the city should reflect the Cross. But in this flaw (and all the ones that have come before), as you see in the pictures, comes great artistic juxtaposition and awe-inspiring beauty.

I don’t believe in perfect. I believe in the remarkable nature of our flaws and people who love and respect beyond borders and books. Visiting places of worship didn’t feel odd as someone who doesn’t believe, rather it gave me faith in man and his ability to perpetually ferret out the light even in the midst of darkness.

I haven’t fully reconciled my feelings toward faith, but I’m open and eager to learn and love.

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the salvador dalí theatre museum + dalí’s jewels, figueres, spain

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I might have fallen in love with Salvador Dalí the first time I saw Un Chien Andalou, his masterful short film collaboration with another famous Spanish surrealist, Luis Buñuel. The film opens with a score befitting a circus–very pomp, parade and the like–and then you see a man (Buñuel) casually smoking a cigarette while he sharpens a blade. A woman, practically muted, endures the severing of her eye by this man and this blade and so the film begins. It’s not really a real eye, rather it’s the eye of a calf, no less horrifying, but the optical illusion will become one of Dalí’s many talents.

From sadism, confused priests, the peanut-crunching crowd, rotting donkeys and ants pouring out of a severed hand, the film is less a meditation of the grotesque and more of a celebration of a mind left to its own devices. You imagine the unfathomable and make it come to pass. You imagine a voice smothered rising above the din to a shout to a curdling scream. I remember watching the film while I’d started reading T.S. Eliot’s “The Wasteland” and watching Weimar films. I was young then, 23 or 24, and I felt a strange kinship with these oddballs. Poets talking about people spouting out of the dead land as if they were harvested, and a piano being hoisted up in a living room as if this was the sort of thing that happened.

What I loved about surrealism and the poetry and films of the teens, 20s, was that it challenged our perception of what was normal. We are trained to believe what we see. We’re realists, pragmatists–we look for the plain and simple, yet some of us look beyond what is in front of us and see something altogether different. You see a woman walking down the street and she’s a woman, but I see her as a container, a vessel, a house filled with drawers and windows–some whitewashed shut, others flung open, and so the story begins.

The story always begins when you dare to venture just beyond your reach. Beyond what your mind instinctually tells you what your eye sees.
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love.life.eat. of the week

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While I’ve always been curvy, the size of my chest has oscillated wildly over the years. In my 20s, I was impossibly thin, and shirts fell the way they would when draped on a mannequin. Part of me misses those days without cleavage, not having to worry about the way tops and dresses fit–I simply wore what I wanted to without thinking about it. Now, that’s all I do. Think about ways in which I can dress around my boobs. And yes, I’ve heard the countless refrains of VIVA LA BOOBS! Celebrate the girls in their glory, and what not, however, that kind of style makes me squirm beyond measure. I’ve always been modest–glamour has never been part of my repertoire–and I much prefer classic cuts, effortless fits, and naturally, the color blue.

Believe me when I say that 90% of my wardrobe is BLUE.

A few weeks ago I tried on every dress in my wardrobe and sighed over the BOOB SITUATION–the fact that nothing fit right because of the size of my chest. So I donated and gave away 40% of my wardrobe, and replaced what was missing with fewer pieces of higher quality. I purchased this classic black dress because I love the fit, drape and back, and the fact that I can dress this down with a cardigan. Boobs secured. In the midst of a rage blackout over my father’s medical condition, I blacked-out and purchased this dress in this pattern from Meg Shops in Williamsburg. I’ve worn this linen dress four times in two weeks and I am in LOVE. I love this dress so much I even considered purchasing it in PINK. Guys, PINK. I have ZERO pink in my wardrobe.

Finally, I purchased this swing trench from Everlane because of the perfect cut, color, and price. It also replaces a less-than-flattering grey trench that I’ve been holding onto for longer than I want to admit.

While some look to their wardrobe as a means to tell a story, my clothes are purely functional. However, my home is a place filled with stories–the nesting dolls from Russia that were nearly confiscated at the airport, the prints from a wonderful photographer I met in Melbourne, the ceramic vase from Mexico, the cashmere scarves from India and linens from Cambodia–and I’ve become a collector of art and items that evoke memories. Although many items I own have been acquired as a result of my travels, I became obsessed with Sivana Skayo’s Intimacy Under the Wires series, specifically this photo. The image has already inspired another trip–one I plan to take this fall.

And finally, I’ve recently acquired an ice-cream maker and naturally I’ve booked two ice cream socials with close friends. Know that I will be making a ton of sweets from the Ample Hills Creamery book.

UPDATE: DO NOT PURCHASE FROM ARTFULLY WALLS. MY PRINT CAME IN HORRIBLE CONDITION, WAS OF CHEAP QUALITY, AND HAD THE WEBSITE BRANDING ALL OVER MY IMAGE. I’M ENRAGED THAT I SPENT $70 AND WAS RIPPED OFF.

everything you need to know about traveling to india: the logistics {monster post}

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Although I had such an incredible experience in India, I couldn’t be more happy to be sitting on my couch, Twilight Zone playing on the background and a cup of coffee brewing. Home feels good, right, and I feel as if I’ve returned from my trip with an arcane sense of understanding and clarity. I’ve got a separate post brewing on all matters Felicia and enlightenment, but for now know that things are good, although I’m a bit disoriented and tired, as in I’m trying to understand that I won’t see a camel on the way to the store — that sort of thing.

Anyway, a great deal of you lovely folks sent emails, tweets and comments inquiring about traveling to India. Everything from safety to hotels and that sort of thing, and although I can only give you my impression, know that India is HUGE. I mean, 1.2B people huge, and I know that saying this is patently obvious, but you don’t really understand how massive India is until you visit. Customs, dialects and logistics vary by region, so I’ll give you my take on having visited the following cities: Delhi, Agra, Ranthambore and Jaipur, as well as asking a ton of questions of our intrepid, and very patient, tour guide.

Itinerary: Through Jetsetter, I discovered Indus Travel’s Treasures of India tour, and I can’t recommend it enough. Only a year in operation, it feels as if they’ve been executing flawless tours for years. From precise and friendly airport pick-up and transfers to excellently-appointed hotels {I stayed at Vivanta by Taj — the most extraordinary hotel, ever, as evidenced by my photos below, Gateway, Vivanta by Taj – Sawai Madhopur Lodge, Trident}, to small group sizes {our tour was of seven} and an amazingly kind, smart and funny guide, Indus really made my experience in India a truly special one.

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Language + Religion: Although English is generally used for official and business purposes, Hindi is the official language and is spoken by about 30 percent of the population. There are in all 22 officially recognized languages. When I asked my tour guide about faith, he relayed that bulk of the population is Hindu, followed by Muslim and Christianity. For the most part, the relationships between the varying faiths are extremely amicable, with the exception of interfaith marriage, which is very much frowned-up culturally, but absolutely legal.

Visas + Travel logistics: Citizens of all countries need to have a valid passport and an entry, transit or tourist visa obtained from the Indian Mission in your country prior to departure. Visas are usually valid for either 3 months or 6 months from the date of issue and are valid for multiple entry regardless of whether you intend staying that long or re-entering the country. Since I’m still traumatized by my Russian consultate experience from a decade past, I opted to use a service to obtain my visa, Travisa. You’ll need to fill out extensive online forms, submit passport-type photographs {these can be uploaded online}, and submit copies of your recent utility bills. The process can take anywhere from 4 days to a month, so be safe — my Visa took three weeks and I spent, in total, $300 for all of the processing.

India Local Time: The standard time for India is calculated from Allahabad and is common to all cities. Indian Standard Time (IST) is 5 hours and 30 minutes ahead of GMT. You won’t believe how many times I checked my watch, confused about the 1/2 hour situation.

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Local Currency: The monetary unit in India is the India Rupee (INR). XE.com is a useful site for currency conversion. For U.S. citizens, for every dollar I received around 58-60 INR, depending on the day. When I travel, I tend to use my AMEX for most purchases instead of cash so I can get an average value of the exchange rate. I do use cash for pocket money. Note that most folks don’t have change for large 1,000 notes, and torn notes, even in the slightest, will be refused. You can find ATMs in most hotels and large cities, however, in smaller provinces they are not as ubiquitous. Try to change a great deal of $ at the airport. I was in India for nine days and $500 American dollars was more than enough since larger purchases were made with my AMEX.

Of note, I do place global travel alerts with all my credit cards to avoid fraud, and to ensure that my credit card providers know I’m using my card (s) in another country.

Health + Medical Requirements: Two weeks before you leave for India, absolutely make an appointment with your doctor. Depending on your vaccine history, you may have anywhere from 2-6 shots. I had four {polio, Hep A, tetanus, and another one of which I can’t recall at the moment} and took a typhoid oral vaccine a week before I left. I also took malaria pills daily, and I was stocked with pills in the event that I got sick from any of the food {I did, twice}. I also brought sunscreen and DEET, although, quite honestly, the DEET didn’t work. Oddly enough, lavender oil, did.

Safety {Misconceptions + The Real Truth}: Okay, I’m going to take this head-on. Unless you don’t read or don’t care about world news, you’ve certainly heard about the very brutal rapes in India over the past year. From gang rapes in buses to captures during the daylight hours, the news has painted a very dark portrait of India, which is disturbing in a multitude of ways, yet shouldn’t be the reason why you don’t travel to one of the most beautiful, intense and spiritually attuned countries in the world. Rape, murder, sexism are prevalent in all countries in the world — some more than most — and if anything in the past year has taught me, it’s this: the U.S. clearly doesn’t view women as equals {rape and victim blame culture, anyone?}, even if we all like to talk a good game. The existence of social media has raised awareness about these atrocities, however, if you think that rape suddenly just started in India, you may want to rethink that. Without getting too deep into a rabbit hole {I’m also jetlagged and not thinking straight}, India is a relatively safe country if you’re smart about how you travel.

Groups of men {or a few in pairs} will approach you in an attempt to sell you things or talk to you — simply and politely ignore them and they’ll go away. Our guide relayed that these folks are looking for easy marks to target and don’t want to deal with complications. Personally, I don’t travel around at night as I tend to do most of my tours during the day and stay home and read, blog, or catch up with my new friends in a GROUP, in the evening.

People will stare at you, it’s a fact. Part of it has to do with the fact that you’re different. In many of the rural areas, many people don’t regularly see people who aren’t Indian, and it’s more out of curiosity than contempt. A few kids took our picture, and asked us whether we liked Obama. The harder part was dealing with men staring. I traveled with a tall blonde, who elicited quite a bit of attention, but it was extremely challenging to not feel eyes roving about your body. Nothing is ever said or insinuated — it’s just a feeling of disquiet. This was most prevalent in the markets and more rural areas {highway stops and that sort of thing} — less so in New Delhi, KOD, business districts, etc. While I didn’t like it, I dealt with it. 80% of the time I was greeted and treated with kindness, and I found folks to be curious, smart, and friendly in my interactions.

For all the people who had a heart attack that I was going to India, breathe it out. I NEVER ONCE FELT UNSAFE.

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Animals: On the regular, you will see cows. LOTS OF THEM, everywhere. They are like the stray dogs of the U.S., but most have owners. You will also see goats, dogs, camels and monkeys, everywhere. For the more exotic animals, you’d locate them at reserves. Of note, I saw several packs of monkeys with tourists trying to feed them and then grew shocked when a monkey bit them. Note, guys: these are WILD ANIMALS. These are not domesticated pets. Treat them as such.

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Getting Around {Transit, Street Navigation, Creative Honking}: This link is a great primer on traveling in India {I was either on a bus or car, so I didn’t experience it first-hand}. In Delhi, there were red public buses {sans air conditioning}, blue public buses {air-conditioned} and an underground subway system {most expensive of the three}. Most folks take buses and tuk-tuks {motorized or bicycle driven}. I did take a tuk tuk in Jaipur, and since the language was a barrier, my friends and I had our hotel cards with us at all times.

One thing you will notice is that EVERYBODY HONKS. ALL THE TIME. THIS IS A THING. There are no traffic lights or signs, so don’t be surprised by the very organized and brilliant chaos. Cars, motorbikes, tuk-tuks, cows, people, buses — they’re all weaving in and out of a multi-lane traffic lane or intersection. Since I’m an avid jaywalker, it didn’t bother me all that much, but I had to be aware of where I was looking. This was most prevalent in Jaipur.

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WIFI: Before I left the U.S., I called AT&T and purchased my requisite data plan. Seriously, DO NOT BOTHER. While I can make calls anywhere in India, I wasn’t able to access data services until I was in major cities or at my hotel. High-speed internet isn’t like the U.S., and most folks, I’ve noticed, don’t use smartphones — unless they are in business or have more disposable income.

Shopping + What’s Good + Wear to Buy: As I’ve grown older, I don’t shop for souvenirs like I used to, so I mostly buy pieces that tell a story. India is pretty excellent, IMHO, for the following: textiles {rugs, blankets, shirts, embroidery, cashmere, wool, pashmina}, perfume oils {I purchased fifteen small vials and I’ve no regrets}, spices {do not buy loose spices; there have been rumors of ground-up cow dug as a mixing agent}, marble and jewelry {I purchased a 1 carat sapphire set in .8 carat diamond ring for $175, certified and verified}.

Of note, haggling is expected, especially if you’re buying more than one item. 10-15% discounts are standard, but I’ve managed to get items up to 30% off.

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Food: Crazy that I’m saving the best for last, right? Indian food is extraordinary. I’m pretty much ruined for it. Most of my meals were vegetarian, and the cacophony of spices, textures and flavors transformed simple rice and dishes from the ordinary to the extraordinary. I will pen a separate post on the cuisine, once I adjust to the fact that I’m not going to see a cow on the regular.

As I mentioned earlier, these are my general impressions. If you’ve got info to add, tips, etc, please leave them in the comments field, as I know of a few friends who plan to travel to India within the next year.

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thinking about a life of intention + an invitation for feedback on this space

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When I read this quote on my friend Summer’s space, I was seized. My heart suddenly stopped, and I was met with a flood of ideas. One of them is so strange so not Felicia, and I keep talking myself out of it, so much so that it makes me think that this is an idea worth considering. For the past two years, I’ve served as a mentor to dozens of people, and the fact that people seek me out and really listen to me, is humbling. I actually like the fact that I play a small part in someone’s bloom and can help them find ways to find their passion simply. Part of me wonders if this is something I can do as a side project, professionally. Give one day sessions on how to find + start on a path of intention, using social media as one of your most valuable tools. I don’t know what form it would take, and I’m not blind to the fact that there are a million sites, books, and professionals who are actually trained as life coaches and the like, but…but…I still think about it. I don’t have the answers yet, but at least I’m thinking.

Speaking of listening…

On Monday, you might have noticed that I was tinkering with the design of this space because I felt bored. I temporarily changed the design to an all-visual format, and queried my friends on Facebook to gauge their thoughts. While some adored the clean layout, some of my friends gave me very constructive feedback, which made me revert back to the layout you see now. Some folks actually like the way I marry image + type. Some folks appreciate the austerity of this space. Who knew?

While I write a lot of what excites me, sometimes I feel as if I’m moving in the dark. Am I intimidating? I want to do so many things on this space {ideas of interviewing women who run small businesses, foodie and fitness profiles, and a lot more travel pieces}, but I wonder what’s clicking for you. If I judge it by my “likes per post” {terrible gauge, I know}, you guys love the food + recipes. But is there something I’m doing right or something I could be doing better? I really appreciate and respect your feedback, and since I have no plans to EVER monetize this space, the fact that this space is a virtual dialogue between me + you means that I value your voice in the conversation.

So tell me — what is it that you love about coming here? What do you wish you could see more of? If you’re shy about leaving a comment, feel free to leave it anonymously.

Image Courtesy of Summer Pierre. If you don’t visit her blog and buy her art, you’re bananas.

baking maple syrup pies + getting inspired

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Today I spent the day with my friend Summer. A remarkable artist and a devoted mother, I’ve known Summer for nearly a decade, and the way in which she sees life and inhabits it, so completely, so beautifully, always inspires me. Summer is a light that refuses to dim, and whether she’s drawing, crafting comics, painting or writing, she’s an artist who is surgical in the way in which she can evoke a mood or a detail simply through a brushstroke, a line deliberately drawn, or a careful meditation on color.

Hers is a world in which you want to dive in, headfirst, and succumb; feel the undertow, drift wonderfully in and under. I stood in her studio space and eyed the vibrant book cover illustrations, a mess of photographs that she holds close to her art, which is an extension of her heart, and a sweet arrangement of vintage foodstuffs, cookbooks, and labels, and I felt a sort of calm. The kind of calm where you needn’t see your friend every week, but something about who they are and what they do makes sense to you, ebbs and flows with your creative rhythm, and as Summer and I settled into talk I felt as if it were yesterday that we were two women — one strumming a guitar, the other publishing a literary magazine — trying to find our voice, our way.

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My world is small, deliberately so. I don’t have patience for telenovela-level drama. Working a room, and accumulating a litany of high-wattage names, exhaust me. So I tell people that if I leave a meal and don’t feel inspired to create, if I leave drained and spent, if I feel as if I’ve encountered a barnacle in human form, I excise. This may be cruel and cold but it’s efficient for it allows me to spend time with people who ignite something, and that mutual reciprocity builds things, hatches plans, makes us run in separate directions to set the world ablaze.

So maybe it was the sugar high from a simple pie that is rich and smooth and sweet, or perhaps it was the ride up the Hudson, or possibly time spent with brilliant, wonderful people, but Summer and I parted, invigorated.

We parted wanting to wreck things. To deconstruct. Build anew.

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INGREDIENTS: Recipe courtesy of Ruth Reichl’s The Gourmet Cookbook
Pastry dough
1 1/2 cups packed light brown sugar
2 large eggs at room temperature
1/2 cup heavy cream
1/3 cup pure maple syrup (preferably dark amber)
2 teaspoons unsalted butter, melted
Accompaniment:crème fraîche or unsweetened whipped cream
preparation

DIRECTIONS
Preheat oven to 350°F.

Roll out dough into an 11-inch round on a lightly floured surface with a floured rolling pin and fit into an 8-inch (3-cup) glass pie plate. Trim excess dough and crimp edges decoratively.

Whisk together brown sugar and eggs until creamy. Add cream, syrup, and butter, then whisk until smooth. Pour filling into pie shell.

Bake pie in lower third of oven until pastry is golden and filling is puffed and looks dry but still trembles, 50 to 60 minutes. Cool on a rack to room temperature (filling will set as pie cools).

Notes in the margins: If you don’t have an 8-inch pie plate, substitute a 9-inch tart pan and prebake crust before baking with filling.

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an awakening at moma: there is a method

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The most terrifying fact about the universe is not that it is hostile but that it is indifferent; but if we can come to terms with this indifference and accept the challenges of life within the boundaries of death — however mutable man may be able to make them — our existence as a species can have genuine meaning and fulfillment. However vast the darkness, we must supply our own light.Stanley Kubrick

edamame + corn quinoa salad + a trip to ps1

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The scariest moment is always just before you start. –Stephen King

Yesterday was a photograph worth shredding. A day worth tearing to pieces and setting the scraps of paper aflame. Right now I’m writing this from a friend’s apartment, surrounded by her beautiful zoo of cats and dogs, creating some distance from it all. A few weeks ago, someone regarded me with interest, said, I don’t know what to think of you. I can’t put you in a box. I want to put you in a box, because it’s easier that way, but I can’t. At the time, I laughed when the person said this, felt proud that I couldn’t fit neatly anywhere, but as time passes, this notion that I will never be simple, be easy, starts to fill me with dread. And I think that’s what I keep evading — the fact that I consistently deviate toward a box in which I’ll never fit. Invariably, I’ll squeeze and adjust and won’t breath for a bit, and as soon as I find myself lodged halfway in, it’s only then that I’ll panic, want to climb out and run as fast as my legs will take me. It’s only then that I regard the box as a coffin, trying to pull me under, under.

I’ve always been a difficult woman.

Finding my next leap has been an exhausting process. I’ve met with many companies that are settled when I crave the unsettling, while many others talk a good game about an open culture, use all the buzz words so acutely, but then they ignore the cowering girl at reception, they whisper that they envy me my trip to Europe because, they too, want to get out. To run. After a dozen of these instances, I start to feel as if the days repeat themselves with minor variation. Photocopies of boxes stacked up neatly in open workspaces. People sporting headphones, music blasting, miming sleep. Phones that never ring because the idea of a voice is irksome when we can email our passive aggressive state. People who moan about Monday and Sundays much like how one would regard an apocalypse. The week has been reduced to five days where only coffee and Spotify will save.

I’m difficult because I want none of this. I don’t want to be complacent, to punch a series of memorized numbers that will grant me trespass to a place that I will inevitably grow to hate. I don’t want to befriend Seamless. I don’t want to spend every day inching my way toward the dying, the final box and its heavy lid and the earth that will usher us back from where it is that we’ve come.

I’m difficult because I refuse to except anything less than extraordinary in a market that’s below ordinary, at an experience level where people feel as if they can get mediocrity and inexperience on the cheap instead of making the investment, instead of thinking about the long haul. I’m difficult because I want all my children — my food, writing, friends and business work — to have equal time in the proverbial playing field, rather than reduced to a changeling, some strange, ugly thing relegated to dark corners and hidden under blankets.

I wonder if what I want actually exists, and this is the thought that keeps me up most nights, bleeding into day.

Every day I try my hardest to remain focused and positive. I fixate on creating. I try to spend time in the company of others, desperate to turn the beat around. But I’m scared of being crippled by real financial obligations (student loans, debt) to escape the ordinary.

Yesterday, paralyzed, I spent the day with art and food. Here’s hoping that I’m soon able to walk, leap, run.

INGREDIENTS: Edamame + Corn Quinoa Salad with Mustard Vinaigrette
For the salad
1 lb frozen corn (fresh, shucked corn will also do)
1 lb frozen edamame (fresh will also work)
1 cup shredded carrots
1 cup quinoa
2 cups water
2 tbsp olive oil
2 tbsp chopped fresh thyme
1 tbsp chopped fresh rosemary
1 tbsp chopped fresh sage
Salt/pepper to taste

For the dressing
3 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
1 tbsp white (or red) wine vinegar
1 tsp ground mustard
Salt/pepper to taste
–Whisk all together to make a delicious vinaigrette

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DIRECTIONS
I know what you must be thinking — there’s a lot of contrasting flavors here, but somehow they work. Somehow, they’re harmonious and coalesce. Trust me on this. However, if you are the mistrustful sort, you can always dress this in a simple olive oil (3 tbsp) with the existing flavorings, and the salad is equally divine.

In a medium pot, boil 2 cups of water and the pre-rinsed quinoa. Once the mixture is boiling, reduce to a simmer, cover, and cook for 15 minutes. Once the quinoa is done, fluff with a fork and set aside to cool slightly.

In a large pot, cook the frozen corn and edamame (if using fresh, just shock for a minute in the hot water) on hight heat for 5-7 minutes. When done, drain and set aside.

In a large skillet, add 2 tbsp olive oil, sage, rosemary, thyme, salt and pepper. Stir for 30 seconds, and then tumble in the corn and edamame. Cook, stirring frequently, for 4-5 minutes.

In a large bowl, add the cooked veggie mixture to the quinoa. Toss gently with a spoon. Add the carrots and stir. If you’re rocking the vinaigrette, dress the salad with it, otherwise, feel free to indulge in olive oil to keep the mixture fragrant and delicious.

Serve lukewarm or cold.

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