A Race, A Pep Talk + Mid-Summer Notes

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A couple weeks ago I ran a little 5k race. William was running a half marathon and I decided rather than feeling sorry for myself and being a poor spectator and cheerleader, I would do an easy run as part of the 5k. I knew doing so would be difficult because I love competitions and races are normally a time to test myself. I knew I needed to treat this “race” like a different kind of competition—a competition to test whether I could be in a race situation and do the smart thing for me right now, which is to go slow and easy because of my injury. I also knew that I needed and wanted to look after more than myself, that I needed a greater purpose than simply willpower as a way to achieve this. I set an intention to encourage others throughout the race.

I’ve mentioned this before, but I don’t feel like an adequate cheerleader. I prefer boosting others by offering an insightful encouragement in a private, one-on-one setting. It is discomforting to offer public encouragement and during this particular three mile jaunt, I couldn’t actually bring myself to do it. Instead, I was torn between feeling like everyone was incredibly slow, resulting in me wanting to yell at them all to get their asses in gear like our local high school football coaches, and one of silently urging them to do better, to keep it up, and to not give up. Meanwhile, I kept passing people. Thus, in between the already conflicted mental “encouragement,” I was competing with an internal voice which kept saying, If you were being stupid, you could have gone out at the front and won this 5k without a single speed workout in seven months. This was a truly powerful feeling to know and acknowledge the experience of being competitive was there for the taking if I wanted to, though at the expense of my injury and healing.

In the past, I greatly struggled with self doubt. I still do to an extent but not in the same way I did then. I felt unworthy to achieve my goals. I’ve had multiple discussions in the past about focusing on the big picture—not screwing up the overall trajectory in a single workout for the fun of it—and I’ve really struggled with this too. I have especially struggled with it these last few months because my feet get sore hours after a run is completed and stay sore for several days, making it especially difficult to gauge whether I’m pushing them too hard until the damage is done. Since that week of the race, they have been especially sore, and I’ve had to drastically cut back on running.

I want to run longer, faster, and harder than I have been able to. I want to pour my all into a run again and feel my lungs burn. I want to test my ability to compete with my mind when it is at the point of giving up. I want to mentally smash through the wall of disbelief in self that I had in the past and put every rough day I’ve had in this down-period behind me by breaking through to the other side in a tough run. In short, I want retribution for these months of inactivity. I want to feel badass a couple times a week by doing a good job at a hard effort. I like difficult. I like fast. I like adrenaline. I like competing with myself.

Last fall, I was doing exceptionally well at the mental side of running. During a training cycle, my favorite runs are track workouts. I look forward to them each week and I see them as an opportunity to train my mind more than I do as a way to get faster. I was able to get into a place during many weeks where I could push through every self doubt that came my way. I had mantras. I had a vision. I had the experience of giving up in past races that mattered, which I channeled, and I envisioned playing it smart and tactical throughout each repeat until I needed to give it my all in the final ones, just like in an important race.

Throughout these past few months, I’ve used this same track workout tactic a couple times to get through rough days or random push-up sessions. Realistically, I should use the tactic more right now when I need to take it easy, to cut short runs or not even begin them and rest instead. Rather than get caught in the downer mood of “not getting to”, I can focus on the big picture. I can channel being smart and tactical. I can use my visioning to push away mental doubts. Like the end of a track workout, it is mentally tough to focus on my overall trajectory and think about why I run as a lifestyle, rather than give up on my future goals and run today just to say I did. Ultimately, I run not to kick ass at a small town 5k without training and not to go as hard as possible consistently until I grind myself into perpetual injury. I no longer run to fearfully manage my weight or body image. I run because it feels as imperative to my health and happiness as brushing my teeth, showering daily, and smiling at strangers. I run to experience the joy of connecting to Jesus, of actively-meditating, and getting away from my anxious, overanalyzing mind.

Because I’m an achiever and a competitor, there will always be much joy in working toward faster, better, and stronger. This isn’t going away. But I recognize that in all pursuits we go through trials and low-points. We get tested in ways we didn’t foresee and we struggle with doubt not only in whether we can achieve our dreams, but whether we can even attempt them. This is okay. It means the dreams matter.

I’m going to end by sharing two statements/mantras that inspire me to keep going and I hope will be of use to others:

There is a quote plastered to my day-planner from a random Rich Roll podcast which says, You have within you the ability to realize anything you desire; otherwise you wouldn’t desire it in the first place. This statement is my go-to reminder every time doubts creep in. Some days, I have to employ it over and over again to cancel out the fear-based self talk.

I’ve been carrying around a water bottle boldly printed with the mantra, Head up. Wings out. It reminds me daily that the fight, the flight, the journey, the attitude employed in each and every step along the way is more important than the outcome. Pursuing happiness daily and overcoming the moments of doubt, worry, and our own selves keeping us “stuck” are actually the big achievements.

In whatever you are working on these days–whatever you are hoping for or doubting you can accomplish–know that we all are far stronger, far more capable that we give ourselves credit for. Keep your head up. Keep your wings out. You get the opportunity to wake up each day and begin again. Focus on your overall trajectory. Experience the journey. I believe in you. And I finally believe in me too!

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And with that, here are a few meals and long and short reads, listens, and watches that I’ve been enjoying lately.

Eating: All the recipes from Sprouted Kitchen Bowl + Spoon, but these are my favorites so far!

The Hippie Bowl

Marrakesh Carrot Salad

Lentil Tapenade

Slivered Vegetable and Soba Salad with Mapled Tofu

Roasted Tamari Portobello Bowl with Tahini-Kale Slaw

– The Last Meal Salad

and other recipes that are divine:

Grilled Zucchini + Radicchio Salad with Arugula, Cherries + Bourbon Vinaigrette

Fava Bean Hash Pan from Vegetarian Everyday

Spiced Millet Pilaf with Beetroot + Mint Pesto

Coconut + Fennel Tart

Toast in other places:

Mushrooms + Garbanzos on Toast with Cider + Thyme, my recipe was a Community Pick months ago on Food52. Recently it was also featured in their round-up of 17 toasts. For the summer months, I’ve especially been enjoying Zucchini Toasts, Cashew Ricotta + Dukkah.

Currently Reading:

Skippy Dies. This book reminds me why I love great literature. I’m nearly through it and super excited to discover Paul Murray, who is about to release a new novel.

Vegetable Literacy. This is the cookbook that I sit down and read for hours on slow summer weekends. It then inspires me to go take care of my garden.

Running with Joy. I’m still re-reading Ryan Hall’s training journal day-by-day and finding lots of insightful faith-related takeaways.

Short Bits:

Running and Yoga. Yoga has been my go-to on non run days. I don’t know that it is truly helping my foot, but it is definitely my best mental cross-training in lieu of running.

Listening to:

The Rich Roll Podcast. There were some really great episodes these last few weeks. Or maybe I’m going through a phase.

Light Bits to Watch:

Runners Racing the London Public Transportation. I love these types of videos. If ever there were an opportunity, I’d so like to race public transportation and I practice daily with the stairs vs. elevator at work. ;)

Runners talking About Running. A short video that reminds me why I’m glad there are more runners at my work than aspiring magicians!


Zucchini Toasts, Cashew Ricotta + Dukkah

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Sometimes, I’m surprised to realize how long ago I began this blog. It began as a little project to collect thoughts and share recipes shortly after I graduated with my undergrad degree, an entire six years ago. Much has changed since then, both on the blog and in life, but one thing that has stayed the same is my fervent and on-going affinity for the freshest, most-local, seasonal produce. Though there is a slightly deeper reason for this than simply liking vegetables, I’ll save that topic for another day. Instead, today’s post is for The Recipe Redux and the theme is Fresh From the Garden Produce.

Thanks to my mother who has the greenest of thumb(s), I was privy to garden produce from the very beginning. What came along with the garden were numerous lists of chores, which inevitably were put off until the heat of the day and the fear of not having them done when my parents got home were at their peak. The worst chore was picking green beans and I never have particularly cared for them, possibly as a result of being haunted by memories of spending “hours” picking in the hot sun. Realistically, I’m betting my attention span was less than 30 minutes.

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The best of chores was devouring the hourds of zucchini that came from our garden. We often ate them in two ways; one in a variation of this cream of zucchini soup (which I soon shall be giving a facelift for less dairy and gluten), and two, drenched in flour and egg and fried to crispy golden french-toast-like rounds. Every person in the family loved these meals, and to my recollection we all loved zucchini in general. Since my parents had the joy of raising three hot-headed, disagreeing, and violent-toward-each-other, orange-haired children, it’s a wonder that we all could agree on anything!

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To this day, I absolutely love zucchini. It is the simplest of plants to grow and goes every which way into summer meals. Lately, I’ve been grilling it up on the stovetop grill with a coating of dukkah, spooning it atop toasts spread with a cashew ricotta, and watching it disappear faster than my plants will produce. (Crazily enough, this is possible.)

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Zucchini Toasts, Cashew Ricotta + Dukkah, serves 2

If you go ahead and pick up store-bought staples like bread and dairy-based ricotta, and make or buy the dukkah ahead of time, these toasts make for a very quick and simple meal. If you like to do everything or prefer a vegan ricotta, I’ve included recipes for all the fixings below. Dukkah is one of those super-easy-to-make seedy, nutty, spice mixtures that packs a serious punch in the flavor department and amps up the flavor profile of simple meals. It is Egyptian in origin and a suitable (although certainly different) substitute in this recipe could be za’atar, if you have that on hand instead. This book is my favorite source for truly great gluten-free bread. I made the 100% Whole-Grain Batons for these toasts and their slightly heftier density and crust worked out perfectly.

Cashew Ricotta, see below

2 Tbs. Dukkah, recipe below

1-2 Tbs. whole-grain or dijon mustard

1/4 tsp. salt

2 medium zucchini, chopped into smallish squares

1-2 tsp. olive or coconut oil

4 slices whole-grain bread (a denser, baguette type works particularly great)

additonal dukkah to coat zucchini and serve

  • Mix the 2 Tbs. dukkah, mustard, and salt into the ricotta. Set aside.
  • Toss the chopped zucchini with a spoonful or two of additional dukkah and oil. Grill on a stovetop grill until slightly soft and charred edges begin to form, about 3-5 minutes. Remove from grill.
  • While zucchini is grilling, lightly toast the bread slices and then slather a bit of the ricotta mixture atop each one.
  • Then, pile zucchini atop the toast and ricotta, sprinkle a dash of additional dukkah on top, and serve.

Cashew Ricotta

1 cup cashew milk (or any other non-dairy milk)

1/4-1/2 tsp. lemon juice

1/2 tsp. extra virgin olive oil

pinch of salt

3/4 tsp. agar powder

  • In a medium saucepan, stir together all ingredients.
  • Very slowly, bring the mixture to a boil, stirring occasionally.
  • Reduce heat to low and allow to simmer for five minutes or until agar is dissolved, stirring occasionally.
  • Remove from heat and cool for about 10 minutes. Then, transfer to a sealed container and place in fridge until set, a few hours.
  • After the mixture is set, transfer it to a food processor and pulse until you get the desired consistency.

Dukkah, adapted only slightly from Vegetable Literacy

1/2 cup hazelnuts

1/4 cup sesame seeds

1/4 cup coriander seeds

2 Tbs. cumin seeds

1 tsp. fennel seeds

several pinches each of dried thyme, marjoram, and oregano

sea salt and freshly ground black pepper

  • In a saute pan, toast the hazelnuts and seeds until fragrant and lightly colored, about five to eight minutes. Then pour onto a plate to cool.
  • Once sufficiently cooled, transfer the nuts and seeds to a food processor. Add the herbs, 1/4 tsp. salt to start, and pulse until the mixture is roughly ground but not yet paste-like. The goal is a fine but still crunchy textured mixture. Taste and add additional salt, if necessary, as well as a few pinches of black pepper.


Beet Hummus

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I have a spirit vegetable; one for each season.

 

In the late summer, it is the blackest purple eggplant, with streaks of white for good measure, like the Prosperosa. Into late autumn and winter, I fall for winter squash, and I sway between the dramatic orange Red Kuri in those early months of the season, and the thin-skinned Delicata as the new year and deep winter approaches. As the soil warms in the early spring and makes for dramatic growth day by day, the sweet, tart, crimson rhubarb calls my name.

 

And in the heart of summer, when all the likely candidates wave their yellow-flowered flags before popping fruit upon fruit endlessly, I turn to the other side of the garden and pull the earthy beets from the ground, their soil-covered skins disguising the dramatic color within.

 

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I’ve mentioned this before, but I tend to identify with the harder-to-know vegetables, the ones that sometimes fall victim to knowing only one dish in most kitchens, or worse yet, never appearing. Like me, these vegetables might take a bit more work to understand, as what you see is certainly not what you get; they’re not the kind to be plucked from the vine and gobbled down there in the garden, warm and juicy from the sun.

 

I don’t revel in the hard-to-approach bits of my personality, nor do I love how I can remain so completely reserved to even my nearest and dearest friends. I don’t love how my first response to the teasing I get, for fun, is one of irritation and sharp-eyed fight-backing, before I slide my sassafras tongue back in, let out a smile, and just go with it.

 

I bet my spirit vegetables–with their thorny stems, prickly, then poisonous leaves, and dirty bottoms–feel the same way.

 

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Have you ever pulled a stalk of rhubarb from the ground, knocked that highly oxalated leaf off the stem, and sunk your teeth into the celery-like tartness, pure and raw and unadorned from sugar and strawberries? It is pungent; startling even. Have you ever greedily gobbled plain sweet roasted beets straight from their foil oven-packet before realizing you now don’t have enough for the recipe? Or done the exact same with a winter squash, thinking to yourself, this is the most magical candy on all the earth, as you’ve done so?

 

I don’t often share about my job, but one of my favorite things about it is wandering the garden with my high school students, giddily discovering a new vegetable is ready for harvest, like the spring’s first asparagus, cutting the new shoots from the ground, shoving stalks at them, and saying, try it. And there, with dirt on their hands, mud on their shoes, and weary eyes, they do and they discover a flavor they’ve never experienced before. It is one that you cannot get from a grocery store because it’s only there in that plant a short while before shipping and sitting on a shelf and waiting to be cooked in a fridge drains those flavors away. The students’ initial reluctance for something so green and unlike the usual packaged meals paves way for simple responses like, I’ve never tried asparagus before. I like it! Followed by their sitting in the log circle gnawing down an entire unruly, late-harvested, two-foot stalk.

 

Since it is summer, I spend a good majority of my days outside in one garden or another, whether at work with students, or in my home garden. I tend to eat even more vegetables than usual to keep up with the harvest, and I end most days tired, hot, and ready for a shower the moment I walk in the door. I’ve taken, too, to eating random vegetable-y things at most meals, even rounding out the usual morning porridge with a spontaneous need for beet hummus “spooned” upon whole cucumbers. I harvested six last night and there are at least 10 more coming in the next couple of days–and when cucumbers are as snappy, crisp, and fresh as these ones, they are perfect vegetable dippers for beet hummus.

 

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Though beets can be harvested nearly year-round in these parts, beet hummus is what I love to make in this season to convert the earthy-crimson-root-weary to my summer spirit vegetable. Try it. You’ll like it.

 

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Beet Hummus, adapted from Ard Bia Cook Book

Makes about 1 cup or so. Double the recipe if you’re likely to gobble it up in one sitting.

4-5 beets (about half a pound)

1 garlic clove, peeled

1 1/2 tsp. ground cumin

1 Tbs. pomegranate molasses

1 Tbs. tahini

2 Tbs. fresh lemon juice

1/2 tsp. sea salt

freshly ground black pepper

  • Scrub the beets and remove their tops and bottoms. Pile them into a large sheet of foil and fold until completely covered. Roast in a preheated oven at 400 degrees F until soft all the way through, about 40-50 minutes. Remove from the oven and let cool slightly. If they’re free from chemicals and grown in healthy soil, I don’t bother removing the peels.
  • In a food processor, puree the beets and remaining ingredients until they become a smooth paste. Add more lemon juice, salt, or pepper to taste.
  • Serve every which way atop the season’s fresh vegetables, or simply eat it straight from the spoon.

Boysenberry Pie

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Friday afternoon at the farm, Charlotte

and I exchanged dusty handshakes for

boysenberries, the farm dog circling

feet. You must be Rebecca, she

said, the hose shifting

shoulders, reminding

again

 

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this eating breathing living takes a

community to grow soil, berries,

pie.

farmer hands and bee sweat sweet

 

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and summer, tastes.

 

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It takes a community to do it yourself.

 

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Boysenberry Pie

The Recipe Redux requested pie, William favors all the varieties of blackberry, and the first mess of Boysens at Sunbow are melt-in-your-mouth, stain-all-your-fingers sweet. Summer brought them early.

This blackberry filling is our absolute favorite. We’ve made it a number of times with just about every type of blackberry and it never fails to please. My gluten and dairy-free pastry still needs a bit of tinkering as it’s currently more of a shortcrust in texture, so in the meantime, fill your favorite pastry with these berries and enjoy!

1 double-crust pie pastry of choice

6 cups fresh boysenberries (or any type of blackberry)

3/4 cup honey

1 Tbs. fresh lemon juice

2 Tbs. arrowroot starch

1/2 cup all-purpose gluten-free flour

  • Gently rinse and drain the berries and preheat oven to 375 degrees F.
  • Combine berries, honey, lemon juice, and flours in a large mixing bowl. Pour into a pastry-lined pie pan, add the top crust of your choosing, and bake for 40-50 minutes, until the pastry is golden brown and the mixture is bubbling.
  • Carefully remove from the oven and cool until ready to eat.

 


Character Training- A Running Update + My Good Energy Maca “Latte”

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I’m re-reading one of  my favorite books about running right now. It’s Ryan Hall’s Running With Joy, which is his daily journal that he kept in preparation for the 2010 Boston Marathon. I seem to quote Ryan a lot on this blog because he’s my first and favorite elite athlete. Ryan offers a Christian perspective to his training that can be applied to any area of life and it’s one that I relate to and gain perspective from often, both as a runner and in my faith-life.

 

One of the latest little gems that I picked up from Ryan was on character training. …I’m trying to keep a positive attitude but it’s tough, Ryan says. I want to see this as an opportunity for Christ to work in me and develop my character. Character training is harder than any workouts I do. 

 

If you’re a regular reader, you may or may not remember that I went into a running slow-down a few months ago around the turn of the year. I stopped running completely due to a weird foot injury. The whole experience brought about an unearthing of a lot of deep emotional baggage through which I’m still sifting and processing. The short and simple update on the injury is that I’m still working through it. My feet seem to bounce back and forth between one hurting one day or week, and the other the next. I’ve come back up to a few miles a week and people ask me all the time how I’m doing, whether I’m back to running. For the most part, my answer is “no, not really.” I say this even though my garmin and training journal clearly show progress. Some part of the perfectionistic, type-A runner in me does not consider 10-15 easy miles per week running even though it’s clearly what I’ve been doing. To be clear, this outlook only applies to myself. If I had this conversation with any other person, I’d want to smack them on the forehead and affirm, “You’re a runner. You’re running!”

 

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I bought the training journal in the above picture as a gift to self last fall, after a particularly big-for-me accomplishment. I saved it up for the beginning of the year, as I was looking forward to putting it to use to accomplish some big goals. When the injury appeared and I had to stop running completely, I did not want to use it. It made me feel like crap to be logging zero-miles for weeks at a time, even worse to have gone to the gym to cross train and realize I couldn’t do that either. I made a pact with myself that I’d still use it though, choosing to write down where I was at both mentally and physically and provide an accurate recording of the experience. In the past, I haven’t been so good about this and I look back at old training journals and see only a record of miles or times logged. There’s never been much description of where my head has been or how my body has felt. I have had lots of past injuries and none of them have been as mentally traumatic as this one. From the beginning, I have felt there is something significant to learn from this experience.

 

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I find that life often throws messages at me from all angles, bombarding me when there’s something I need to work on. Last week, it was the idea that I do A LOT of negative self-talk. I do it without realizing. I yell fairly violent words at myself for being clumsy, for forgetting, for being less-than-my-best. I bottle up and resent parts of me, I throw angry thoughts at my feet, and then push them as far as I know they can go in running. I will them to feel better, all the while silently berating them for being so broken. It was suggested that I recognize when I’m being negative and simply work on stopping those thoughts at their very beginning, with the idea that illness begins in the mind and can subsequently influence bodily illness. After having multiple professionals look at the physical reasons/weaknesses that might be causing and perpetuating the injury to no avail, I feel even more resolute in this.

 

My New Year’s Resolution was Thankfulness brings Increase, the idea of taking what God has given, no matter the joy or suffering, give thanks for it, and use it for His good. This practice has helped me to feel unbelievably blessed in much of my life, and I’ve been able to recognize there are far more important things than me, my problems, and what I want to do. In the past week too, since the beginning of simply recognizing my personal negativity, it has been curbed dramatically, likely in part because I don’t truly think so little of myself as all the negative thinking might imply.

But–I’m also a pusher. I want to see progress of the physical sort. What was a celebration last week, if not progressing, feels like stagnancy and/or going backwards this week, and on and on. It is character training to not always be moving forward, getting better. I had a thought when I was in the middle of the zero-miles months that this phase is true preparation for the goals that are still waiting for me. I am being prepared mentally in ways I never could have been without this phase, for the time when I’m ready to be tested again physically.

 

I cannot agree more with Ryan’s words. Character training is far harder than any workouts I do or have doneIt is far harder than any physical pain I have endured in this or previous injuries. And for that, today, I am especially thankful, for I see very real progress in character training. :)

 

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Good-Energy Maca “Latte”, makes 1 steamy cuppa

Adapted from Laura, this is my good-energy drink of choice lately. There’s a lot of talk that maca, a root vegetable from the Andes, is an adaptogen, and helps the mind and body positively respond to stress. I’m not really interested in the exact science of it because I feel a genuine lift every time I sip it. The taste of maca reminds me mildly of butterscotch which pairs nicely with the flavors of ginger and turmeric, and the color, too, is cheerful, so there we have it. The pinch of black pepper isn’t necessarily noticeable in taste, but helps the turmeric be more bio-available. Add it if you like.

12 oz. unsweetened almond milk

2 tsp. maca

1/4 tsp. ground ginger

1/8 tsp. ground turmeric

a pinch of black pepper

sweetener of choice

In a small saucepan, whisk the maca and spices into the milk over medium heat. Once the mixture nearly begins to simmer, remove from heat, pour into a mug, and add sweetener to taste.

 


Tart Cherry + Fig Granola

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A few weeks ago, I volunteered at a fun run organized by a student association on campus. It was the lowest-key race I’ve helped or taken part in and there were only a handful of runners participating. On the course, I stood amidst a bunch of trees in the park, pointing the way for runners and offering my cheers.

 

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I am the lamest of cheerleaders. I feel inadequate at motivating and lifting up. The words that come easily in print are the hardest to voice.

 

The course was three laps so I watched the runners progress through each mile. Because there were so few participants I got to know each of their fun-running styles, and consequently felt the need to up my cheering game each time they came around, from the first confident runner to the last couple walk/jogging together.

 

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At the end of the evening, one of the runners thanked me for being encouraging. You were really helpful; you motivated me to keep going, she said.

I swiveled around dramatically, making sure there was no one else she could be talking to before answering, Really!?!?

I was astonished.

 

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I spent the better part of winter reading Matthew Kelly’s book. In it he shares about figuring out how best to reach people. At the end of the day, it really is quite simple:  People need to be encouraged, he says.

I had underlined, ear-marked, and post-it noted that section, thinking how I wanted to practice encouragement in the ensuing months.

 

The funny thing about that runner thanking me for my invisible pompoms is that her words were equally encouraging.

Lifting each other up is a little gift that simply keeps on giving.

 

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Tart Cherry + Fig Granola

This granola is a little gift too. I don’t make granola often because I find the sweet flavors and crunchy textures mildly addicting and if I don’t practice some restraint, the whole batch will be eaten in one go. Numerous studies have shown that tart cherries are good for runners because they aid in reducing inflammation and increasing muscle recovery. While the amount of tart cherries in this granola are no where near the amount necessary to show real results, I am firm believer in the “every bit helps” philosophy, plus they taste good. We have a local business just up the road, Oregon Cherry Country, that grows and processes their own cherries and I usually purchase from them. Realistically, all the nuts, seeds, fruit, and even spices can be interchanged here. I really like the balance of the puffed cereal (like arrowhead mills or nature’s path brands, not rice krispies) with the oats, and the seeds, nuts, and fruits showcased here are among my favorites–change them up based on what you like or have! 

2 cups thick-rolled oats, gluten-free if necessary

2 cups puffed rice cereal

1/2 cup toasted hazelnuts, chopped

1/2 cup raw almonds, chopped

1/4 cup raw sunflower seeds

1/4 cup raw pumpkin seeds

1/2 tsp. salt

1/2 tsp. cinnamon

1/4 tsp. ground ginger

1/16 tsp. (a large pinch) cardamom

1/16 tsp. (a large pinch) cloves

1/16 tsp. (a large pinch) nutmeg

1/3 cup dried tart cherries

1/3 cup dried figs, chopped

1/4 cup coconut oil, melted

1/4 cup maple syrup

  • Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
  • Combine the dry ingredients, save the fruit, in a large bowl. Pour the liquids over the dry and use your hands to coat them all evenly. Spread the granola mixture on the baking sheet and roast in the oven for 15-20 minutes. Stir with a wooden spoon a couple times throughout to prevent the mixture from toasting up too much.
  • Remove from the oven and leave to cool before adding the dried fruit.

Time, Presence, Onwards, Cake

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I sat at a stop light the other day and observed the car in front of me:  Class of 2014  and the OSU beaver bumper stickers plastered amidst a bunch of others, graduation tassel hanging from the rearview mirror, windows down, speakers bumped up, the car lowered. The contrast between the person sitting in that car ahead and the one in mine made me realize the miles between freshman year in college and where I am now, of how life simply rolls on.

 

I was reminded of the relationships grown and discarded, graduations, funerals, weddings, the first-child pet dogs, cats, trees, and eventually babies that accumulate in my facebook feed and in friend’s lives, the late night “discussions,” the daily-fixings of self and relationship mess-ups, and how through it all we transition through the phases hardly noticing the passing until we stand from a distance years later, astonishing at the change.

 

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Time too is afraid of passing, is riddled with holes
through which time feels itself leaking.
Time sweats in the middle of the night
when all the other dimensions are sleeping.
Time has lost every picture of itself as a child.
Now time is old, leathery and slow.
Can’t sneak up on anyone anymore,
Can’t hide in the grass, can’t run, can’t catch.
Can’t figure out how not to trample
what it means to bless.

-Joy Ladin, Time Passes

 

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I walked down the aisle of St. Patrick Church three years ago today. I clasped hands with the love of my life and said, I do. I said yes to the hurdles, the craters, the euphoric peaks, and all the everyday in-betweens. I didn’t know how demanding it would be. I didn’t know how badly I’d fail. Daily.

 

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I didn’t realize the three years since that church-day, or the nine years separating myself and the college freshman in the car ahead would age me so. I didn’t know that I’d accumulate so much “experience,” that life would knock me down again and again, teaching me to raise my fists faster on each rebound. I didn’t realize how insular I was then and how passing time meant learning to grow vulnerable, inviting in both the challenging times and the victorious moments with the same big wide, open arms.

 

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I didn’t realize that wisdom and scar tissue work hand-in-hand, and if we’re lucky, time gives us the grace to be broken apart and put back together again. Most of all, I didn’t realize how I would battle with time constantly, with soaking up the moment I’m in and being there, all there, with this person that knows and loves me best, with myself, with the lives my life touches, with the becoming of who I will be in the future.

 

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I asked William a few weeks ago if he thought I was the same person he met all those years ago, the happy girl that stopped to breathe in the experiences. I asked the question in desperation, wanting so much to undo the years inbetween and relive them again more fully.

 

I realize now I don’t want to go back. The memories of us then are snapshots that I’ll carry forward, reminding me that I can work on future goals and keep both eyes and feet in the present.

 

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I have much to learn. I want so much to be my best version for this person that loves me even when I am not. I’m infinitely different and wiser than I was nine years ago at the end of freshman year. I have gained much richness in these first three years of married life.

 

I cannot wait to learn more. I will learn more in time and am trying to savor each step of the way daily. Perhaps the learning and applying of this comes only from time’s unstoppable moving onwards.  

 

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One of my most loved memories of our wedding were the cake(s). I’m a bit fanatic about cake, so made sure there were lots of layers and interesting flavor combinations to suit every mood. We had vanilla chiffon with blackberry filling, chocolate blueberry, cardamom carrot with orange cream cheese frosting, orange chiffon with strawberry rhubarb filling, red velvet with cream cheese frosting, and {gluten-free and vegan} black and white with fresh strawberries, chocolate ganache and cream cheese frosting. Unfortanately, I had learned of my major allergy restrictions by the wedding day, and so did not try any of the main cake but am still hearing raves about it from those who did. 

I don’t take sayings like “it’s good for gluten-free”, etc. to pass as “good enough” when it comes to baked goods. I have high standards especially when it comes to cake, and gluten-free baked goods, if done right, are often better than their gluten-filled counterparts. I like to really challenge my baking skills so this cake is gluten, dairy, egg, and refined-sugar free, practically 100% whole grain, and can even be vegan if you find a suitable substitute for honey. As for me, I’m keeping in the honey because I used really lovely honey gifted from folks at home and its flavor shines through at the end of each bite, marrying well with the delicate taste of the rose water and rhubarb. There were many variations of this that came from our oven before I got the flavors and textures right. Each one was tested by William, who is just as discerning about cake as me, but in a completely opposite way. He prefers light and fluffy “simple” flavors without much fuss. This gained approval by the both of us and for that reason alone, it’s worthy of an anniversary celebration. 

 

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Rhubarb & Rose Cake, makes one 8-inch or two 6-inch layers

2 Tbs. ground flax seed

6 Tbs. warm water

3/4 cup brown rice flour

1/4 cup almond flour

1/3 cup millet flour

2 tablespoons arrowroot powder

1/4 teaspoon salt

1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder

3/4 cup honey

1/4 cup coconut oil (soft, not melted)

2 teaspoons rose water

1/2 cup unsweetened nut milk

2 cups diced rhubarb

1 Tbs. dried rose petals

  • Preheat oven to 350° F. Line the bottom of the cake pan(s) with parchment paper and then rub a dab of coconut oil up the sides.
  • In a small dish, whisk together the ground flax and the warm water. Set aside to form a thick slurry.
  • In a large bowl, whisk together the flours, salt, and baking powder and set aside.  In another large bowl, combine the honey and coconut oil with a whisk until it’s light and fluffy.  Add the flax slurry, rose water and milk; mix again until it is combined.  Next, a bit at a time, stir in the dry ingredients. Spoon in about half of the rhubarb and stir evenly throughout.
  • Divide the batter evenly between the cake pans, if using two, and then top with the remaining rhubarb. Sprinkle the dried rose petals evenly over the rhubarb. Bake for 45-50 minutes for a single 8-inch pan or 25-30 minutes for two 6-inch pans.
  • Transfer baked cake to a cooling rack and allow to cool for about 20 minutes; then remove from the pan(s) and rest until completely cool.

 

Wedding photos were taken by my dear friend Shannon of FotoNovella.


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