10.19.2013

Here goes. 101.

I missed it. How could I have missed that?!

My last post was my 100th post (!). And I totally missed it. Only realizing it after I had written and posted last week and logging back in to see "100 posts".

Wow, friends. We made it. We did it. 100 posts together. I think that's worth a mention! And if this wasn't so virtual and you weren't all so far away, I would pop a bottle of champagne and cheers to you all for keeping up with this scraped and layered palimpsest of a blog.

Once I realized my major faux pas in missing a mention of my 100th post, my mom reminded me of the big bash that Ellen had for her 100th episode. Which made me feel even more lame. Ah well, I'm not Ellen and this is not a daytime TV show. So let's embrace our differences and celebrate 101!

Here goes. 101.

Whew. That means I've been writing and posting here for 2.5 years. Go figure. I went into this endeavoring to share my "work" (words) with "the people" and in an attempt to keep myself accountable to my writing. I don't always hit my once a week mark. Sometimes I don't feel like I have anything valuable to say. And other times I'm bursting with thoughts and reflections and news.

Take this week, for example. I did make this incredible squash coconut curry - which was really amazing and firey. I also made a really beautiful and really delicious apply pie. My first of the season. I set out to make a pie for a little gathering and realized that all my recipes are packed in a box. Because we're moving a week from tomorrow. So, I made it from memory, using good sense, baker's intuition, and my approximately 17 years of experience making apple pie. And it was perfect! Which made me feel great because I recently heard something about how we are losing some measure of our intelligence because we have become so dependent on Google. Apparently, if we gave ourselves 30 seconds to try and recall the information we might have stored in our brain before Googling it, we would be smarter. It felt good to exercise my right to remember and bake with confidence.

Also, since my 100th post, I attended a live show of Wait Wait Don't Tell Me and Radiolab in a glorious series of NPR camaraderie and realization of what my favorite radio hosts really look like. Both amazing nights.

But none of that is really why I sat down to write. Yes, curry and pie and radio are all good things, but I've been thinking about some things a little deeper than all that and talking with some friends about things a lot harder than making a pie from memory.

A friend posed this question to me: Do you ever feel like if you don't take the biggest step of faith you would be disappointing God?

My response: YES.

Furthermore, do you ever feel like if you don't take the biggest step of faith you will disappoint yourself?

Yes.

I know a lot of people who are in some very unique periods of transition and soul-searching right now. It is so exhausting to try and discern what you should do. Sometimes I think God makes it very clear, and sometimes I think he asks us to take the trajectory of our life and faith into consideration and make a choice. Humanity is a conundrum - because we like having options, but once we have options, we can become paralyzed by our fear of choosing the wrong thing. Or paralyzed by our fear of disappointment.

This is huge. I think we probably spend way too much time thinking about disappointment and guilt. The truth is, we are imperfect beings. We mess up an awful lot. And probably cause our fair share of disappointment. But here is another truth I find to be very freeing: this is not news to God. The whole purpose of his beautifully and powerfully designed thread of redemption, culminating in the death and resurrection of the Son of Man, is so that we can be free of all that. The Master of the Universe did not create a world full of beauty and joy and places and things to explore so that we can feel guilty for enjoying it. Nor do I believe he gives us choice, opportunity, and avenues of transition so that we act or fail to act out of fear of disappointment.

My prayer for myself and for the many people I know who sit in this tension, is that we would be compelled to move with intension, clarity of mind and spirit, and great joy.

I think Frederich Buechner says it best:

"Here is the world. Beautiful and terrible things will happen. Don't be afraid."

10.11.2013

14 1/2 Things Everyone Should Do or Know How to Do

I have a friend who's always recommending articles from Relevant magazine. Once you start poking around their site, you can get lost in a web of articles on faith, culture, ambition, and the current state of things. Last week I read an article on 3 Steps to Determining Your Dream Job, which disappointingly, did not produce a magic eight ball response but requires a fair bit of effort on my part. This week I read an article on 20 Things Every Twentysomething Should Know How to Do. A few of my favourites from the list: Hold a Conversation with Someone of Any Age, Parallell Park, Bite Your Tongue, Be Alone. And then I stumbled upon 10 Books Everyone Should Read by 25-ish, which I found incomplete (and the Bible doesn't count).

What with all this "listing" going on, all these neatly packaged articles on what you should do and know and read (which I found both helpful and kind of box-ing), I decided to make a "list" of my own, inspired by the lists above and fueled by the things I have come to believe to be good and true in the world, things that have so prominently shaped my own life.

A very inconclusive list of 14 1/2 Things Everyone Should Do or Know How to Do, in no particular order:

1. Travel somewhere new.
This could be a neighborhood in your city, a different state, a new restaurant, and once in a while, somewhere you don't know the language. It will teach you about yourself, the world, and most definitely, put things in perspective.

2. Cook something.
The ability to cook something truly delicious is one of life's greatest joys. Make it a habit. Host a dinner party. Share recipes. Start from scratch. And enjoy!

3. Read a great piece of literature.
East of Eden. To Kill A Mockingbird. The Alchemist. My Name is Asher Lev. Pick something off your age-old "to read" list that is sure to challenge and inspire you. You might learn something about history, humanity, yourself, and you will be a better reader and writer because of it.

4. Spend time in your local library.
The public library is one of the greatest uses of our tax dollars. A quiet archive of words, at your fingertips.

5. Power-down your devices.
This is simple. We should be able to do this without issue, but we don't. It separates us from the people immediately around us. So make it as much of a habit as powering-on.

6. Opt out.
Learn to say no. It is a practice that will serve you well your entire life in a society that teaches you to always say 'yes.' Sometimes no is better.

6 1/2. Opt in.
Learn to say yes. You don't want to say no to everything, then you'll never do anything. It's especially important to say yes to those things that feel right in your gut, or those things that really challenge and inspire you.

7. Go it alone.
Community is important and essential to a well-balanced life. But in a world of 7 billion people, it can be just as important to learn to be alone. See a movie. Go out to dinner. Take a walk. Just do it alone, because you can, and sometimes, it's just what your soul needs.

8. Spend time with your grandparents, or someone's grandparents.
It's a fact: they won't be around forever. So have dinner with them, listen to their stories, learn from their mistakes. Life is a gift.

8 1/2. Spend time with children.
Another fact: they won't be young forever. They will remind you how to play, give you an excuse to be silly, and give you a reason to say and do things you wouldn't otherwise. Also, they will love you purely and authentically.

9. Give something that means something to you.
Time. Money. A meal. A coat. A photograph. Give it to someone who needs it, whose life will be better for the gift. Without a doubt, it will be an even greater blessing to the giver.

10. Walk or ride instead.
Carve out a little more time to get from A to B and opt to walk or ride there instead. You will probably take note of things you wouldn't otherwise, maybe meet some new people. And you will learn how much of the world operates walking or riding most of the time.

11. Be authentic.
This is important. Perhaps one of the greatest cries of this generation is for authenticity. So be you. There's a reason you were created that way.

12. Give it a go. Take a risk (and if you make a mistake, acknowledge it).
Don't live in fear of what you do not know. And maybe don't always base your decisions on what is "safe." In an ever-evolving world, there is always something new, different, or unknown. The fact is, you'll never know until you try it. And if it doesn't work out, it's ok.

12 1/2. Be decisive.
We live in an overwhelming world of options. We tend to deliberate over trivial matters because we have been so inundated with choice. The ability to choose is a gift. The ability to be decisive is refreshing and essential.

13. Spend time with someone who is sick, disabled, or dying.
It will put things in perspective, teach you to value your life and your abilities. And probably, it will bless them. And you.

14. Mourn with someone.
One of the hardest things to know how to do. Usually it requires more silence than speech. It is more about learning how to be present with someone, lamenting with them.

14 1/2. Celebrate with someone.
Be sure that in learning to lament, you are on the lookout for the joys. It's true what they say, "You only live once." We have been created and celebrated, so let's do the same. May you see the wonders all around you and celebrate.

10.02.2013

What's not to love

Now that that's done, we can talk about autumn, and all the lovely things that come with it. We've had such a string of gorgeous, perfect fall days that I haven't minded the transition. Although the days are getting shorter, and I regularly finish my evening runs in the dark - which just makes me think about winter.

I had bookmarked a couple great recipes with figs at the beginning of September, anticipating their short and delicate season and not wanting to miss out. I returned from New Orleans just in time to grab a pint of black mission figs. They can be kind of hard to find and you definitely want to use them shortly after buying them, they don't like to sit around. I've used dried figs before when out of season, but the delicate texture and earthy, floral flavor of fresh figs are incomparable.

I made two stand-out recipes, courtesy of Martha Stewart. I won't be tooting Martha's horn just yet - I've made a handful of her recipes that have disappointed me. But I guess she knows her figs.


This Fresh Fig and Almond Crostata is really just another fancy name for a galette. I've spent my summer making all forms of galettes, sweet and savory. What's another galette thrown in the mix? It's just too easy and too delicious. You barely even need the recipe.

The same goes for this super simple Pizza with Fresh Figs, Ricotta, Thyme, and Honey. When I saw this recipe, I immediately set a handful of my precious figs aside, destined for this purpose. I love bringing sweet and savory together. The flavor of the thyme coupled with the earthy figs and creamy ricotta is really sublime. Drizzle it with a bit of local honey and you've got a real end of summer hit.


If you can still find a fig or two in your local market, snatch 'em up! You have to try these.

After figs, I spent time with good friends and picked a half bushel of apples, a half bushel of squash, a perfect little pumpkin, and for the first time, milked a big ole' cow name Norma. What's not to love about this season of bliss?



Also, I recently read this book from Jojo Moyes. And listened to this podcast from Radiolab. I haven't stopped thinking about either of them. The Moyes book will change the way you think about the disabled, and well, we'll leave it at that. Don't go Googling this book if you plan to read it - it will spoil the impact of the story. Just read it. And the Radiolab podcast - it's about Blame and it will challenge your stance on this moral conundrum, why and how we treat blame, and "what happens when we push past it with forgiveness and mercy." I was listening to this while out on a run, which is pretty standard, but I realized I had slowed down significantly, so incredibly weighty and hard this subject is. It will shake things up.

Ok, back to Wednesday. Happy hump day, all.


Fresh Fig and Almond Crostata

For the Dough:
1 1/4 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 tsp sugar
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 cup cold unsalted butter, cubed
2-4 Tbs ice water

For the Filling:
1/2 cup almond flour
1/2 cup sugar
1 egg
1 egg yolk
4 Tbs unsalted butter, room temperature
2 tsp all-purpose flour
1/4 tsp vanilla extract
1/8 tsp salt
1 lb ripe, fresh figs, stemmed and thinly sliced
1 Tbs fresh lemon juice

Make dough: In a food processor, pulse flour, sugar, and salt to combine. Add butter; pulse until mixture resembles coarse meal, with a few pea-size pieces of butter remaining. Sprinkle with 2 tablespoons ice water; pulse until dough is crumbly but holds together when squeezed (if necessary, gradually add up to 2 tablespoons more water). Do not overmix. Flatten dough into a disk; wrap tightly in plastic. Refrigerate until firm, at least 1 hour (and up to 3 days).

Make filling: Combine almonds and sugar in a small bowl. Add 1 egg, butter, flour, vanilla, and salt; mix until smooth, and set aside. In a medium bowl, combine figs and lemon juice; set aside.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. On a large lightly floured piece of parchment paper, roll dough to a 14-inch round. Spread almond filling in center, leaving a 2-inch border; top with fig mixture. Fold border over edge of filling, pleating all around; press down gently to seal. In a small bowl, mix remaining egg yolk with 1 teaspoon water; brush dough with egg wash.

Lifting edges of parchment, transfer crostata to a rimmed baking sheet. Bake until crust is golden brown, about 1 hour. Let cool on baking sheet at least 30 minutes. To serve, cut crostata into wedges.


Pizza with Fresh Figs, Ricotta, Thyme, and Honey

Pizza dough (either make whatever recipe you've got on hand or pick up the ready-made dough at TJ's for a last minute meal)
1/4 cup fresh ricotta
Fresh thyme, chopped
3-6 sliced fresh figs
Salt and pepper
Olive oil
1 Tbs honey

Place pizza stone or inverted baking sheet on rack in top third of oven. Heat oven to 450 degrees. Transfer stretched dough to parchment. Dot dough with ricotta cheese. Top with thyme and figs. Season with salt and pepper; drizzle with olive oil. Transfer to oven: Slide parchment onto stone or baking sheet. Bake for 13 to 15 minutes, until cheese is bubbly and bottom is crisp. Drizzle with honey.

A note on figs: 
The prettiest fresh figs aren't always the tastiest. Perfectly ripe figs, which are plump and tender (but never mushy), are often slightly cracked, with a bit of "honey" forming at the stem. They're highly perishable, so use them right away, or refrigerate for up to 2 days.