The Wisdom of Trees

I have been captivated by trees for as long as I can remember. Whether it’s a lone tree standing tall in a barren Texas landscape or a massive relic hidden in the labyrinths of Washington’s old growth forests, it is their resiliency that I find most admirable. Trees are survivors; they grow and change and carry the full weight of their pasts with them. As their branches grow broader, their roots get stronger. Some of those branches stop short while others stretch on to birth new limbs, reaching in unpredictable directions. Rather than leaving these smaller branches behind, the ones that didn’t amount to much, the trees carry them proudly from one generation into the next. They are part of what makes the tree beautiful, even if they cease to be central to its purpose. I suppose the connections between human lives and those of trees are easy to enumerate when one allows their thoughts to drift toward the sappy. See what I did there?

I spend a decent amount of time reflecting and am grateful for the luxury to do so. Recently, I have been noticing that I sometimes struggle to carry all my branches with me in a comfortable and meaningful way. This may be due to the incongruence with which comfort and meaning are simultaneously available to me. Striking a balance between a life driven by goals and one defined by bliss is an objective I am fortunate to be in pursuit of. It is, most certainly, a first world problem. For the past five years I have been on the journey to where I am now and I find people constantly asking, what’s next? Which for me begs the anxiety producing response, is this not enough? Is it never going to be enough? Our capitalist society drives us always in the direction of more — more education, more opportunities, more money, more, more, more. I think I’m learning that I’m not motivated by more.

After years of uncertainty and relative struggle, I am finding untold joy in everyday tasks and simple pleasures. The very act of cleaning my apartment has become a zen-like experience during which I hear these words: Before enlightenment, chop wood, carry water. After enlightenment, chop wood, carry water. This mantra reveals itself to me as I am making beautiful the little corner of this world I have carved out for myself and it brings me peace. I may be far from enlightenment but I am learning to allow myself the grace to enjoy my life as I have created it rather than be compulsively hunting the next struggle. Challenges will come and future Lea will know how to handle them; present Lea does not need to go looking for them. No, she just needs to trust her branches enough to hold them high while allowing her roots to grow strong. Her leaves will find the sun.

Advertisements

Leave a comment

Filed under Uncategorized

Re-watching TV

Fact about Jared: he does not prefer to “re-view” media. TV, movies, books — he enjoys them once and then moves on. This does not apply to music. As evidence, I’ll point to the extended period of time in 2009 when I was forced to listen to Paper Planes by M.I.A. once a night, immediately upon returning to our musty studio on South Huntington. That he wanted to re-experience. But rewatch Parks and Recreation? He’ll pass.

You may be shaking your head because this is something you struggle to relate to. I hear you! I heartily defend my many re-watchings of the fine programing that make up this golden age of television. During those viewings I have learned new things, laughed new laughs and cried the same tears, again. Some of this may be due to the oft-inebriated state I was in during my initial viewing, but hey, that’s college. Or as I like to call it “My 20s.”

Now that we are both 30, there has been enough distance between us and, say, That 70’s Show, to have little to no recollection of the series’ events. Also, it’s summertime so there’s not a lot on the TV. Point is, I have finally been able to convince Jared of the value in rewatching a pilot of a long loved show to really study the way it captures the entire series. You see what I did there? I gave a relaxing pastime a value element that made it a kind of work so he could engage with it in a way that agreed with his soul. Marriage is tricky but I’m winning at it.

Although we enjoyed revisiting the first episode of That 70s Show, we declined to view any additional installments. After that we started Frasier for the first time, which I think best illustrates the depths of our desperation for some light evening entertainment. I knew this was the vulnerable time to strike. And Netflix knew it too. As we scroll, scroll, scrolled, Ms. Netflix recommended The Office as a program we might enjoy based on our previous viewing. I flashed Jared my big toothy smile and he, captivated with love for my crazy eyes, relented. We watched the first episode and cackled. I mean REALLY lost our shit. My bowels shook from the giggles and Jared nearly threw up. That day was my favorite day.

This is the first time we’ve watched The Office together and we’re on episode 5. In addition to the intrinsic value that exists in rewatching this treasure, we’ve also learned that working for Michael Scott would not be funny in real life, BJ Novak never ages and everyone wants someone to love them the way Jim loves Pam. Everyone.

jim-pam-office

 

 

Leave a comment

Filed under Uncategorized

Torres del Paine. Day 1.

“There you are!” Jared appeared around the corner and walked down the grocery aisle toward me. “I’ve got a bag of lentils, five packs of minute rice, peanut butter, a loaf of bread and a dozen eggs. What did you get?” I said nothing but held up a box of red wine. He furrowed his brow. “Lea, it’s five days. And we have to carry everything.” I put the box back.

“Good point. Five days is a long time.” I picked up the larger, 2L box and put it in my basket next to a bag of dried kiwis. “I’m ready.” Jared frowned and tipped his head to one side. “I’ll carry it!” I proclaimed and promised, “You’ll be so glad we have it.”

Neither of those statements proved true. Less than half an hour into our five day hike of The W in Torres del Paine I was sure of only one thing — I could not do this.

patag

We had completed a three month circle of South America and this was to be our story’s climax. I did not pack appropriately. I carried actual dishes with us, packed an extra pair of shoes, insisted on scrambling fresh eggs every morning and let’s not forget the aforementioned wine, which I drank from a travel wine glass. Because that’s a necessity. I will say this for 26-year-old Lea, she had class.

She lacked foresight, however, and among her many luxuries, failed to pack her poncho. In Patagonia, there are two cardinal rules — you say “buenas” to other travelers on the trail and you never forget your rain gear.

So there I am, drunk and wet. Just kidding, I was sober and the sun was beating down on my tender Irish skin when I shouted “break” for the 11th time in under an hour, the first hour, of what was to be a 5 day, 50ish mile hike through the mountains. Jared stopped 20 yards ahead of me and sat down. I inched my way to him, cursing every cigarette I ever smoked. When I finally arrived, he insisted on taking the wine out of my pack and carrying it, in his hands, for the next 8 miles.

pata

We eventually made it to El Chileno, our first camp, just before sunset. Jared rushed to set up the tent while I prepared our dinner of lentils and rice, pesto flavor tonight. We are a divide and conquer couple, functioning at our best when we have separate tasks to complete. I poured a glass of wine and offered it to Jared, who shook his head. “I think I’m getting sick.” I worked to contain my eye roll because OF COURSE HE WAS SICK. Jared has always, since toddlerhood, been an extremely clean child and has grown into an adult with the immune system of a homeschooled preteen. I used to put pennies in my mouth.

More wine for me, then. So much more wine that I fell asleep without brushing my teeth and woke up in the middle of the night with a bladder too full to ignore. Reluctantly, I ventured into the darkness, fumbling with my flashlight as I wandered toward the outhouses. While I grew up camping in a world where you can just pee in the woods, etiquette on the trail demands the patronizing of facilities where available. So to the spider den I went. Upon hearing a rustle among the silence, I instinctively turned my light toward the noise and saw two steely blue eyes staring at me.

My heart started beating in my chest and the sensation from my bladder dissipated. I knew there was wildlife in these woods, just as I know snakes live in Texas. I still wasn’t expecting to see a wolf on my way to the toilet. In my still-tipsy stupor, instead of doing whatever you are supposed to do in the case of dangerous wildlife encounters, I ran back to the tent and decided my bladder could wait until morning.

That was Day 1.

Day 2 began 45 minutes later as we rose to hike, in the dark — almost vertically, to see the sunrise over the Towers.

patagonia 1

Worth it, right? Just kidding, this is from Google images. We hiked for 2 hours in the pitch black to see this view as the world got lighter but the sun never rose.

patagonia

My sweet partner, in all his joyous glory, would be deterred neither by the cold nor the fog, nor my profligate disregard for luggage space. We were energized and ready for the rest of the hike, which would prove to be a beautiful if painful stripping down of the material self and absolute reliance on one another. Day 2 was the best and the worst day. It was the day I finished the wine.

Leave a comment

Filed under travel

Life after Whole 30

Whole 30 is dead, but we’re alive and we still have to eat. And because planning is a big part of my bliss, I wrote out a 30 day menu for this adventure and damnit, I was excited about making some of those dishes. So, while for lunch we may be enjoying bagels on the veranda with a glass of blush…

IMG_7856

Dinners have still been largely whole 30 compliant. Except for the BBQ pork mac and cheese I ate last weekend. At a restaurant. With my big girl clothes on. That day ruled. This day was okay too — I made a chicken thigh dish with sun-dried tom-toms, green beans and olives, recipe available here. 

IMG_7857.JPG

It was aight. Heavily seasoned with rosemary, which I discovered was growing abundantly in our garden. What an adventure it shall be to watch what else blooms! As has been usual, Jared who looooooves chicken, has been happy with all the meals. I have felt they were all fine and could be made better with the addition of cheese. This process has taught me that I will happily eat half the meat if I can eat twice the cheese, but I’m not sure that’s how it works…

 

 

Leave a comment

Filed under Recipes

My man LOVES chicken.

While Jared was living alone he developed a passion for chicken and kale. Specifically he would buy a rotisserie chicken from the Whole Foods every Monday and eat it with kale for dinner most nights that week. Side note: did you know that Whole Foods offers a rotisserie chicken punch card? Amazing.

Anyway, first he sautés the kale with garlic and sometimes red wine. He then adds red peppies, jalapeños and chicken into the pan. Once it’s all melded together, he tops it off with olives (and in our pre-Whole30 days, hummus).

It’s tangy, crunchy, tasty and healthy so it made for a perfect quick dinner earlier this week. The next night I made a disaster of a spaghetti squash dish that I won’t even go into because it was such a travesty. It does serve as an adequate segue into dinner last night, which involved the other half of the spaghetti squash.

This variety of squash is one I discovered only recently while residing in Nashville. I have a particularly fond memory of being unable to cut my very first spaghetti squash in half. I was on the verge of panic when my slight but powerful roommate Sam came valiantly to my rescue. “Let me try,” she says as she proceeded to beast one of our knives through it’s thick skin like it wasn’t shit as she casually mused, “I’d cook it cut side down,” she says, “that way it steams itself.” And she dropped the fucking mic.

She would have been ashamed of the monstrosity I created out of the first of the spaghetti squash (and rightfully so) but she would have applauded our commitment to not wasting food when Jared created this:

After yoga last night we were debating whether to eat out or eat in and ultimately reached the conclusion that, with a fridge full of food, there was only one objectively right thing to do. Said Jared, “Who do we think we are? Our fridge is full of fresh food.” Said me, “Yeah, we’re not babies, we can eat what we have.” To that end, I had snacks on snacks in this order:

  1. Veggie chips and guac
  2. Gazpacho
  3. Carrots and hummus
  4. Plantain chips and almond butter
  5. Trail mix

Because I’M NOT A BABY. I’m a big girl who really wants pizza and beer tonight. 🙋🏽🍕🍺

Leave a comment

Filed under Uncategorized

Deliberate Eating

On the advice of an outside medical professional, we have decided to suspend the restriction of our dietary intake to the inexplicable guidelines as set out by the creators of Whole 30. Translation: I won.

Following a confusing episode this weekend it was determined that, from a health perspective, a diet devoid of grains is not ideal for persons as physically active as we are.

(No shit).

In light of this brand new revelation that I definitely haven’t been saying all along, we are going to amend this month’s challenge to avoiding alcohol, dairy and added sugars but to include the whole grains that have been widely accepted as an important part of a healthy, balanced diet since the beginning of time.

This doesn’t feel like a failure to me, mostly because I had absolutely nothing personally invested in this, but also because I have expanded my cooking repertoire vastly this week and am looking forward to continuing that. In one week, we’ve learned how to pickle vegetables, pan sear salmon, make semi decent Asian food without soy sauce and, most importantly, we learned that I was right.

Now, as promised – snacks.

First, deviled eggs:

Look at the variety!! The base is the same: equal parts mayo and mustard with onion powder, garlic powder, cumin, salt and pepper. Then some have capers, others chopped pepperoncinis and still others chopped olives. All topped with paprika, just like my mama taught me.

I brought these deviled eggs to a friend’s game night but they did not go over well, because the game night was at night and deviled eggs are no companion of red wine. Noted.

And now, chicken salad. What can I say about this substance that will adequately illustrate the depth of my love for it? For me, discovering chicken salad was like discovering The West Wing following the last presidential election. It’s everything I never knew I always needed. And now I can make it myself.

If nothing else comes of this month of deliberate eating (as I’m now calling it) I will never again over pay for sub par chicken salad when I can make it exactly how I like it at home. And store it in a Fage Yogurt container, just like my mother in law taught me.

*Praise hands*

Leave a comment

Filed under Uncategorized

Whole wheekend

It’s a new thing I’m trying — pronouncing all my W’s as if they have H’s behind them. We’ll see how it goes. I’m not married to it.

Anyhoo. This weekend was a grand success. I made two dinners that were hearty and delicious. The secret? Potatoes. I hardly ever eat them in my real life but they do the job in this twilight zone I’ve submitted to.

First, a mustard crusted salmon with an L. Served it with ranch roasted potatoes and brussies. The potatoes came from this recipe. I drizzled with homemade ranch (literally just mayo, mustard, lemon juice, garlic powder, onion powder, dill and chives). The brussies are just halved and thrown in the oven with some garlic at the same temp as the potatoes (400) until tender.

Salmon:

Rub with mustard balsamic sauce listed below.

Turn heat to med-high, add olive oil to cast iron skillet

When oil is smoking, add the salmon, skin side up.

Cook 4-5m

Don’t move salmon, Put entire skillet in 425 degree oven for 6-8m

Keep a close eye. Ours was ready in 6m. This was by far my favorite salmon I’ve ever cooked and the best meal of our Whole 30 adventure. It was the first time I’ve felt full. Both physically and emotionally. Moving on…

Last night I made this balsamic chicken with the leftover brussies and potatoes. I added kale and mushrooms, topped it with a lil avocado, some olives and voila:

This was super easy. First, we brined the chicken in water and salt for 20m, then cooked it in a 450 degree oven for 20m. So tender. The mushroom and kale were added to some garlic and shallot in a pan over medium. Throw in some balsamic vinegar and then the chicken. Toss it in the hot pan with the sauce (listed below) and serve.

Mustard-Balsamic sauce:

1 tbsp stone ground mustard

2 tbsp balsamic vinegar

Onion powder

Garlic powder

Thyme

Chives

Salt and Peppie

This second dish was also a lesson in meal planning and not wasting food, which are two things we work extremely hard to incorporate both because the efficiency of it really gets me going (LOVE EFFICIENCY) and also because not wasting food is objectively the right thing to do.

For week 2, I’ll be focusing more on lunch prep because I was quite hungry a lot this first week. An apple and almond butter just isn’t getting the job done without other carbs. I’m thinking chicken salad and deviled eggs. Stay tuned.

Leave a comment

Filed under Uncategorized