the summer s l o w down

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Like a slow tide, I’ve experienced an emerging realization over the last couple months, or perhaps years, that something I’m doing, some aspect of how I approach my life, isn’t working. It is a realization that has made itself known in virtually every part of my experience, in my relationship with friends, in my relationship with William, in my relationship with self, in my slow realization that I’ve lost the ability to just simply stop, lay down on the cool summer grass and do nothing, for even a moment and perhaps hours, as I was prone to in childhood and as a teen. This inability to relax has shown itself in my hormones, in my mental anxiety, physical aches and pains, digestive disturbances, in my rush to chronically add more and more, to say no on the one hand and then say yes to two additional things on the other, to develop a never-ending to do list that’s grown to multiple lists in various regards, to six email accounts separating the differing entities I’m involved in and subsequently floundering through answering most of them, and on.

I know my experience of overwhelm is not unique. I know it’s now more the norm as we all scramble about adding on to our presence on social media, to our physical possessions, to our feelings of incompleteness and subsequent filling the space with things, physical and non-physical.

A year ago, almost a year ago exactly, I actually felt the exact same as I do now, and I took action by downloading Jason McGrice’s meditations. The small sum I paid for those meditations when there’s a plethora of free ones floating about the interspace proved to me well worth it. There are some individuals that I especially associate with Jesus and his qualities as teacher, authority, and healer, in the most sacred way. Jason’s meditations, practiced for this past year more days than not, have been one way I’ve experienced the presence of Jesus, and of attempting to navigate excess stimulation and the generally just too much of our time.

In the past month and more, I’ve written about this slow awakening to the havoc of stress on my more personal blog, in addition to what I’ve shared here in past posts. For whatever reason I also sense the need to share here what is helping me navigate through.

The slow tide of hearing the message to s l o w down, to make it a priority to shut off, to rest my whole system, to notice the constant physical tension and seek whatever activities that guide me to re-learning to relax is coming in strong these days, almost like I’m being hit over the head every which way these days to LISTEN AND SLOW DOWN AND REST.

 

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  • Specifically, I’ve been doing a free-write journal by hand every morning lately. This practice is less like an indulgence and more like a necessity to ground and settle my mind into the day. For example, one morning I felt so overwhelmed by my to-do list and schedule (neither of which should have been causing extreme stress) that I wrote about my exact physical sensations, and how I was watching the shadow of my pen move across the page in the morning light as I wrote down each word. Doing that, and writing it in that way was soothing and helped me slow down my thinking and realize I had nothing to stress over, nothing too pressing, no reason to rush so much.
  • Jason’s meditations, as mentioned above.
  • Re-reading (and actually attempting to follow!) Renee’s self-care recommendations on removing excess stimulation.
  • Gaining more awareness from an eye-opening podcast on self-care with Yarrow Sarah Magdalena Love
  • Maribeth’s Helen’s latest newsletter, which was yet another driving home the message.
  • Returning to the forest. After months of no desire to go trail running, I took my first run back after the marathon to the trails on one of those days that I needed to calm my racing mind. As usual, it was insanely therapeutic.
  • MUSIC! My playlist lately, the birds that soothe me, and chakra healing!

 

Perhaps you’ll resonate with some of this and some of the links will prove helpful. I encourage you to try to slow down with me and take some time to find what works for you in terms of self-care, if you haven’t already. Otherwise, stay tuned for a new recipe coming soon in which I’ll finally share a sourdough loaf!

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Honey-Roasted Rhubarb and Favorites, Lately

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Hey friends, it’s been a hot minute. I’ve recently had an epiphany about ‘keeping the main thing the main thing,’ and for me right now, that’s successfully taking care of myself through peak weeks of marathon training, and then balancing summer term of grad school with my newish job, in that order. Everything else has been largely set aside for now unless it fits into the above. Which means I’ve made variations of chocolate walnut banana bread for three weeks in a row as end of the week baking therapy, made a lot of lovely but quick meals, taken significantly more restful moments and reincorporated naps into my life, but also haven’t done much else or shared here.

Below are a few favorites from the last couple weeks and months, and a lovely quick recipe for honey-roasted rhubarb, which tastes great as an add-in to a seasonal green salad, stirred through morning porridge, or simply spooned alongside some nice yogurt.

 

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to read: 
Plant Spirit Totems by Bloom Post
Eat Up! by Ruby Tandoh
Long days but learning so much in all my classes

to eat, drink, and imbibe:
Ginger-Turmeric Kombucha
Strawberries, and cardamom. also, rhubarb.
Flower Essences by Sophia Rose

to listen: 
Medicine Stories Podcast, but especially the episode with Sajah Popham (#17)
Lauren and Jesse’s new podcast, which is great for all sorts of life advice, but especially for athletes with questions.
Nicole Antoinette’s discussion with pro-runner Collier Lawrence. So much good stuff including goals, suicide prevention, and more.
A good pathophysiology review of the (lots of science!) involved in depression, for all you fellow science nerds.

to pause in awe and simply take in:
Early morning sunshine, through the leaves
Gifts from a lifetime friend who lives on the other side of the world

 

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Honey-Roasted Rhubarb
When adding the finished rhubarb to a seasonal salad, I find it goes great with a mix of delicate and hardier greens, and alongside early season snow or snap peas, pea shoots, toasted walnuts or hazelnuts, and a light vinaigrette dressing. That’s just one variation of how this can be incorporated into a savory meal, and partly why I tend to err on the side of less honey, to let rhubarb’s natural sour-tart flavor shine through. 

1 lb. rhubarb, sliced into 1-inch slices
1-2 Tbs. honey, as preferred

  • Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Scatter the rhubarb in a single layer in a large baking tray, then drizzle over the honey, and gently mix it all together.
  • Bake for 20 minutes or until the rhubarb is tender, giving it a stir halfway through. The rhubarb pieces should keep their shape rather than cook all the way down.
  • Leave to cool slightly before serving.

cardamom + vanilla birthday cake

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I’ve noticed the last few months have brought little breakthroughs in my baking experiments, perhaps because I have not been practicing. I finally made a truly good gluten-free soda bread on my first attempt of the season. I wowed friends with this chocolate hazelnut cake. I made animal crackers that tasted better than any we’ve had before on the first try. Holiday pie crust and sourdough pizza, and likely more that I’m forgetting.

And without too much thought, after years of attempting and tossing out countless recipes and versions of gluten-free, dairy-free vanilla cake, I opted back to my very own chocolate recipe, transitioned it to vanilla and somehow topped it off with a truly amazing caramel-esque non-dairy “cream cheese” frosting to boot.

I’m not bragging by mentioning this so much as reflecting on this last year, my 30th, and reflecting on what it is I put my effort, intention, and attachment into. For sure it has not been baking, or recipe creation in general.

But I wonder sometimes what I have to show for that which I have put my focus towards? To hint, it’s been a lot of nutrition grad school, delving deeply into mindfulness and the often invisible soulwork, and running, always running. I wrote down three big goals for the year in early January and I’ve stuck them in a place where I see them regularly. Each time I’m reminded of the process, how it’s slowly unfolding, how I fail routinely and try again. My goals are process goals, not dependent on the outcome I’d like. But I’m coming to value the day in and day out of quietly working in the trenches, unknowing whether there’ll be a big payout.

In meditation lately, I’ve been envisioning myself sitting, floating on nothing, nothing above or below, nothing to grasp on to. This experience of complete lack, control over nothing, is absolutely uncomfortable even in a visualization exercise. And as I seamlessly transitioned into 31 the other day without much fanfare and devoid of celebrations minus a lovely cake in the flavors I craved that finally and unexpectedly worked out, I think I’ve come to understand a little more: the intentions I set, the high intentions, stories in my head and visions of “glory,” the culmination of work and work and work, on whatever it is I’m working on, very rarely pan out the way I envisioned. And that’s okay.

Because the real magic, I think, is in learning to become more comfortable in the floating, in the space between, in the process, in the unknowing.

Welcome to another rebirth-year. For sure, there’s at least really good cake.

 

Cardamom and Vanilla Birthday Cake, makes a 6-inch two-layer cake
Cardamom is a strong spice, one I love as an adult but was turned off by when younger. Add the amount you desire, starting with less, tasting, and adding more as needed. The frosting amount is intended to just slightly enhance the cake. Double or triple the amount for a fully frosted version.

120 grams / 3/4 cup brown rice flour
30 grams / 1/4 cup almond meal
2 tablespoons arrowroot powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 – 1 teaspoon. ground cardamom
3/4 cup sugar (I used the slightly less processed organic cane sugar)
1/4 cup coconut oil, soft, but not melted
2 tablespoons ground flax with 6 tablespoons warm water
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1/2 cup unsweetened non-dairy milk

  • Preheat the oven to 350° F and line the bottoms of each cake pan with parchment paper.  Then rub a little coconut oil up the sides of the pans and set aside.
  • In a small bowl, stir together the ground flax and warm water to form a slurry.
  • In a large bowl, whisk together the flours and spices and then set aside.  In another large bowl, combine the sugar and coconut oil and whisk until it’s light and fluffy. Add the flax slurry and then the vanilla and milk; mix again until it is combined. Next, a bit at a time, stir in the dry ingredients and combine.
  • Divide the batter evenly between the cake pans and bake for 25-30 minutes. Check after out 20 minutes so as not to over bake.
  • Transfer the layers to a cooling rack and allow to cool for about 20 minutes; then remove layers and rest them until completely cool.

 

Cream Cheese Frosting
4 oz. or about half a cup of non-dairy cream cheese (I used a 1/2 batch of this recipe)
3 Tbs. coconut oil, melted
3 Tbs. brown rice syrup
1/2 tsp. pure vanilla extract

  • While the cake is baking, make the frosting. If you want to make your own cashew cream cheese, you’ll want to start ahead to allow time to “culture.”
  • Combine all ingredients in a food processor and blend until creamy smooth.
  • Transfer to a bowl and place in the fridge for at least an hour to allow it to set up before frosting the cake.