The Big Picture + Rainbow Salad

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I’ve been keeping journals since I was at least 10 and I’ve held on to each one, lining them up on a shelf, displayed prominently in our living space. Every once in a while, I pull one off the shelf and read through a few pages. Some are light and comical. Others are filled to the brim with quotes and encouragements, the next with lonely prose. They provide a glimpse into the mind of a typical teenager/21yearold/postcollegegirl. Whatever the mood, they give me incite into the journey towards my present state of mind.

I get a kick out of the 2003-04 journal. Its pages encapsulate the internal chatter of a high school girl–the stream of consciousness about various crushes, the silly happenings that mean nothing and consume her days.

Next there is an entire journal of syrupy poetry that can rival any T. Swift song. It slams me back in the moment of that first year in college, those neighbors and dates I had so quickly forgotten.

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Then there is the 2007 journal and my heart breaks for that girl. One after another, the pages ring out her longing for affirmation, even as the experiences she captured illustrate it was so obviously there, for the taking. That girl couldn’t see her friends, her family, her peers reaching out to her, proclaiming their support, admiration, respect. She couldn’t see past her own insecurities and struggles to figure out where she stood in the grand scheme of things.

Looking back, I feel a world apart from that girl and I’m glad she made it through. As I read through the pages again, I also feel an uncomfortable nudge of awareness. Just as we are all works in progress, that girl of 2007 hasn’t entirely conquered all her battles in the now of 2014.

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I still push and expect too much of myself. I want to accomplish it all, get everything right, make the process seem effortless even though I’ve kicked major ass to get here. I’m overcome by self doubt in the moment of making a decision and put off making big ones, big life changing ones, for months and years, all the while stewing about them. I seek clarification that I am enough.

When I talk to my friends and peers, I am reminded I’m not alone in these feelings. I’m reminded that it is okay to fail, good even, and optimism and determination go a long way in helping to get back to work. Progress is slow and there’s a big picture. Life is lived in each moment on the way to our destination.

You can be transformed. Not overnight, but over time…We strive toward a goal, and whether we achieve it or not is important, but it’s not what’s most important. What matters is how we move toward that goal. What’s crucial is the step we’re taking now, the step you’re taking now.  -Scott Jurek
 

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As I reflect back on the journey–the life phases spilling out over the pages of my journals, I’m better able to see the progress, the intricate beautiful details that make up these moments we are in. I’m better able to pause, grab a deep hug and a cup of tea, and celebrate this phase–this spot in my timeline–and stop worrying so much about the getting there.

Today I’m telling the girl of 2007 and the lady of here and now–and you, my friend reading this: You are loved. You are enough. You don’t have to have it all together. Focus on the step you’re on. You will get there.

You can be transformed. That’s the big picture.

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Rainbow Salad, Inspired by Green Kitchen Stories
This salad is a celebration of what is in season and available where I live right now. I often make salads like this one that contain whatever vegetables are in the fridge or are available at the farmers market. This one has carrots, fennel, and easter egg radishes along with spinach, mint, and parsley. Fennel stalks, left over from another meal, are particulary good when chopped like celery and roasted. Reserve the frilly fronds and use them as a garnish. 
 
3/4 cup uncooked brown rice
1/4 cup uncooked wild rice
2 cups cooked garbanzo beans
Stalks from one fennel bulb, chopped into 1-inch pieces, fronds reserved
3-4 carrots, peeled and chunked
1 bunch radishes, quartered
1 drizzle balsamic vinegar
1 drizzle extra virgin olive oil
salt and pepper
1 cup raw walnuts
2-4 cups spinach leaves
large handful parsley
handful of mint leaves
1-2 Tbs. raw honey
1-2 Tbs. freshly squeezed lemon juice
1/4-1/2 cup of quick-pickled red onions
more balsamic vinegar, olive oil, salt and pepper to taste
  • In a medium saucepan, combine 2 cups water and rinsed brown and wild rice. Bring to a boil, cover, and simmer for 40-50 minutes until cooked. Set aside to cool.
  • Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. In a baking dish, combine fennel stalks, carrots and radishes. Drizzle and toss with balsamic vinegar, olive oil, and salt and pepper. Bake for about 15-20 minutes, until nearly soft. In the last five minutes, toss in the walnuts, and let them roast together with the vegetables. Take from the oven and set aside to cool.
  • In a large serving dish, toss the rice mixture, garbanzo beans, roasted vegetables, and the remaining herbs, leaves, and additions. Add more honey, balsamic vinegar, and salt and pepper to taste.
  • Top with diced fennel fronds.
Quick-Pickled Onions
1 large red or yellow onion, thinly sliced
1 bay leaf
4 whole cloves
1/2 cup apple cider vinegar
1 cup water
2 tsp. salt
2 Tbs. sugar, maple syrup, honey, or coconut sugar
  • In a saucepan, combine the vinegar, water, bay leaf, cloves, sugar, and salt. Bring to a boil until the sugar is dissolved.
  • Add the onion slices, stir, and remove from the heat.
  • Once slightly cool, transfer the mixture to a quart jar or another glass container and chill in the fridge for 1-2 hours before using.
  • They will keep for about a week and can add an awesome tangy flavor to all sorts of things!
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Spring Green Fennel Millet Cakes

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I look down at my black work pants. They’re starting to fade in the fold lines, and I have to use a lint roller to make them black again. My favorite blue sweater is comfy, but people are starting to associate me with it. There are likely a few researchers at work who cannot remember my name and instead refer to me as “Blue Sweater Girl.” My shabby black pumps have seen me through many long days of teaching over more than a couple school years, and my scarf was a gift given in my senior year of high school.

Back when I was 13, I spent many hours agonizing over my sense of poverty, and how my shoes weren’t the stylish ones all my friends had. I’m beyond being quite so sensitive these days, but still often feel that people must look at me and immediately think my clothes are more worn than a professional situation dictates. And boring. How frequently can you wear the same blue sweater before people start to notice?

My job is active, and I’m rarely in the same space all day; for this reason I take a little more liberty in regularly dressing in my most comfortable professional clothes. As I dressed this morning in the same blue sweater-scarf outfit, I briefly practiced awesome negative self-talk and went on with my day. “So what if I’m wearing the same outfit again?” I thought.

In the afternoon, I gained a good dose of perspective when the dental hygienist gushed about the blue sweater, the lovely scarf, and how my outfit just “went.” Then she practiced her own form of negative self talk by muttering, “Now I really feel like I need to go shopping.”

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Not-enoughness. We are all surrounded by it. Encouraged to go after more without enjoying what we have. I think about my blog, my writing, my running times, my friendships, my job, and yes, my wardrobe, and I compare myself to the world around me.

I don’t need to. We don’t need to. We only need to be our best self, and to be kinder to her or him. We can all use a good dose of perspective. We are all good enough. In this new season let’s step outside our heads, refocus our energy  and send out our light.

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Spring Green Fennel Millet Cakes
The Recipe Redux challenged us to celebrate patties and Paddy’s Day all month long. These patty cakes are versatile, crunchy, filling, slightly sweet, and have that clean-spring-green look and feeling about them that we crave as the sun comes out and the flowers and trees blossom again. Make up a big batch or two and snack on them throughout the week. 
 
1 cup cooked millet
1 cup cooked small white beans
3/4 cup shredded carrots (about 1 large) 
A large handful of spinach leaves
1/3 cup raw almonds, chopped and toasted
1 cup diced fennel bulb
1/2 cup golden raisins
1 egg or flax egg (1 Tbs. + 3 Tbs. warm water)
salt and pepper, to taste
  • Prepare millet and white beans. Shred carrots and chop and toast almonds.
  • In a food processor, measure in millet, beans, carrots, and spinach. Process until the beans are no longer whole, but make sure the mixture is not entirely smooth.
  • Pour out the millet-bean mixture into a medium bowl, and then incorporate the remaining ingredients. Salt and pepper to taste prior to adding the egg.
  • Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F. Lay parchment paper onto a baking stone or pan. Using a round cooking cutter (about 3 inches in diameter) for structure, scoop the mixture into 8 cakes directly onto the baking stone.
  • Bake for 15-20 minutes and then using a spatula, turn the cakes. Bake for 5 minutes more.
  • Remove from the oven and cool before eating.

Recipe Redux: Apricot & Roasted Hazelnut To-Go Oats

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My mother and I have an arrangement.  She gives me jam and pickled beets and the like, and I return the empty jars to her for the next go round.  Except when I don’t return the jars and begin to use them as my new Tupperware for traveling.  Usually it’s trail mix, granola or this time around, To-Go Oats.  She always eventually gets the jars back, as I start collecting too many.  In the meantime I have an excellent collection of portable containers.

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The last several years have seen me as an on again/off again weekend traveler.  These next few weeks are no exception, as I will be on the road again and again until mid-September.  I am definitely counting down the days (less than 30, I hope!) until W moves back for good.  I’m squirming in my seat and imagining all the activities we can enjoy together that have been missed this last year.  I just can’t wait.

Though I’ve always been big on traveling with food and eating a consistent diet no matter the circumstances, after discovering all of those pesky dietary restrictions in the last couple years, it has become mandatory to travel with a bit of food insurance.  Throwing a batch of oats with all the fixings into a pan is my thing.  I can leave the cooler with every random pantry item that I mightneed at home. Instead, breakfast is all there in a convenient jar to be poured into a pan and made into a bowl of goodness.

I like to add both old-fashioned thick oats and steel cut oats because I like lotsof texture.  This batch includes a strangely addicting mix of fennel seeds, dried apricots, cinnamon and roasted hazelnuts.  It is happiness in a jar.  I always add fresh fruit, and this time around decided to double up on apricots, adding fresh red apricots to the top once cooked. The beauty of this mixture is if you’re an oat and yogurt kinda person, this is practically muesli-esque and can be used both ways.

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Did I mention I am excited to now be participating in Recipe Redux?  This month’s theme is Raising the Bar on Food in a Jar.

Apricot & Roasted Hazelnut To-Go Oats, serves 1
1/4 cup old-fashioned oats*
2 Tbs. steel cut oats*
2-3 dried apricots, diced
1 Tbs. roasted Hazelnuts, chopped
1 Tbs. brown sugar or to taste
1/4 tsp. ground cinnamon
dash fennel seeds
1-2 fresh apricots or any available fresh fruit
  • Measure into a clean jar, spin the lid, and shake.  You’re ready to go!
  • To cook, boil 1 cup water in a small saucepan.  Add entire contents of jar, turn heat to medium and cook about five to 10 minutes, depending on desired consistency.  
* I use Bob’s Red Mill gluten-free oats, but any brand will work, if you’ve no gluten problems.