Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Quinoa, Broccoli & Cheddar Cakes

Spring is just a day away, but winter couldn't leave us without one big shebang: we should be racking up about 8-10 inches of heavy, wet snow today. And with the wood burning stove going and Jason working on our current house project, a new guest bedroom, I'm all for settling down with my laptop and taking a snow day. I love me some winter, but I'm officially waving the white flag. I'm ready for sunshine and milder temps. Fresh air and fresh greens from the farmer's market. Open windows in the house AND the car.

Lunch today wasn't anything fancy, just leftover quinoa, broccoli & cheddar cakes thrown together with some organic baby kale I had picked up the other day. And since I can't get enough avocado these days, I added some as well. It's too easy to get sucked into comfort food day in and day out during the winter, and I often need to make a conscious effort to lighten things up. Otherwise, I'd end up feeling like a giant lead weight. Not exactly what I had in mind for feeling "grounded".

Quinoa, Broccoli & Cheddar Cakes
Muffin tins are a go-to in our house, and we use them to make anything from individual turkey meatloaves to frozen tomato sauce portions. This recipe should yield approximately 10-12 muffins.

1 cup uncooked quinoa
1 egg, beaten
2 cups cooked broccoli, chopped
1/2 cup shredded cheddar cheese
Salt & pepper, to taste
Muffin tin, sprayed with olive oil

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.

Bring 2 cups of water to a boil in a pot. Rinse quinoa well and add to water, cooking for about 12 minutes, or until they have "popped". Remove from heat, drain and rinse with cold water to stop cooking process.

In a large bowl, add cooked quinoa, egg, chopped broccoli, cheese, salt and pepper, and mix well. The mixture should be a little wet, but sticky enough to form a large meatball-size lump in your palm. Fill the muffin tin with even portions and pop in the oven for about 30 minutes until they are just starting to brown on top.

Happy last day of winter!

Tuesday, March 5, 2013

Dare. Dream. Create.

The other night Jason and I got together for a dinner led by an incredibly talented chef and in the company of good friends and work colleagues. Outside the snow was coming down but we were cozy laughing, swapping stories, eating and sipping wine. It was just one of those nights that was guaranteed to leave us smiling for days after.

But before dinner was even served, I was introduced to a girl that would be stepping into another dear friend and coworker's position. My thoughts immediately went to this idea of a new addition to the team, before I realized that it was a replacement. My dear friend was leaving us, spreading her wings and flying out to start the next chapter in her book and this new girl would be the new her. As the evening went on with a gourmet adventure laced with merriment, the news was still processing in my mind. She was leaving. She was going somewhere else. Oh, my heart.

In any corporate environment, this would be commonplace; a company's employee list ebbs and flows all of the time. But we are still a smaller team that works closely together to create and to troubleshoot. We vent, we support, we laugh. It goes without saying that I will miss her. But much more importantly so, I am so, so very proud of her. Life presents so many opportunities for us to take but, if we're not ready or open to receiving them, we can very well miss them. We shy away from situations that lead to growth if they present unknown situations that scare us. We don't like change, even when change is the very thing we need. We are often scared of what we don't know and that far too often keeps us stagnant in life. Simply put, we have forgotten how to dream and how to create.

As the dinner wrapped up and it was time for us to leave, I turned and let out a casual "Have a good night!" as Jason and I headed towards the door. In a split second, I saw her guard lowering. Vulnerability. Tears began to well in her eyes. We were one of the last ones out of the building and that everyday goodbye meant something more to her this time. She would be facing a bigger goodbye in the future soon and it was scaring her. We hugged. I reassured her. Goodbye wasn't going to be tonight. And because the snow was getting worse, we walked out towards the car as my heart swelled with emotion.

It's possible that she will never read this, but that hasn't stopped me from letting her know how very proud I am of her for having the courage that not many others have to take a chance, spread her wings, try something completely new (and a little scary!) and follow a dream. Well done, girl!

Friday, March 1, 2013

Until One Day Becomes Today

Several years ago, I had the opportunity to work among some incredibly talented editors for a very popular pregnancy and parenting website. During that time, I fell in love with reading through many of the members' birth stories, from the so-called easy ones to the complicated ones, TMI ones, heartbreaking ones and beyond. There is something so incredibly heart-warming about bearing witness (if only from a blog post) to such personal, transitional experiences. Perhaps it was my body's way of letting me know that I was in that child-bearing age range...or simply that whenever it was my time, I would be ready. But would I really be?

Spoiler (or-not-so-spoiler) alert: I'm not actually pregnant. But I'm married and it is a topic that comes up pretty frequently. Social media outlets don't let you forget, either, as you watch friends and acquaintances announce their transition to familydom. And while we don't feel ready at this exact moment, we know that this next big life decision is not that far off in the future. It's a very interesting feeling, when something that had always felt so far away in the vague future of your adulthood becomes part of your five-year plan. That said, the big question is...when? We're being careful to make sure there are no real surprises, but how do we picture our life as we get ready to bring a life into this world? Where are we living? What are we doing? How much money are we making? What does our saving situation look like? Have we traveled enough? And then my brain screams, "BUT THERE'S SO MUCH THAT WE STILL HAVE TO DO!!!!!"

I arrived to write this post today from reflecting on two other blog posts, the first written by a dear friend of mine. She and I worked together in NYC and have swapped wedding, marriage, baby and life advice more times than I can count. She wrote a post on her blog, Merital Bliss, about a friend of hers who was breaking down her and her husband's decision to get pregnant. And there's one especially poignant takeaway from her friend's story. It's not so much about being ready (because who is ever really 100% ready?); it's about being less NOT ready. This one brilliant idea stayed with me and I often bring it up in topic-appropriate conversations.

The second bit of food for thought that I got today was from another blog that is one of my guilty pleasure reads -- although I'm not exactly sure how it could be considered guilty. But I've laughed to it and I've sure as hell cried to it. And today, my heart smiled to it. As she recounts the birth of her third child, a new younger brother to two older sisters, she talks about how she thought she originally wanted another girl (before finding out the gender). Her words are simple but so beautiful:

"And while I thought I wanted another girl because girls are what I know, I had no idea that what I really wanted was a boy.  Sometimes you don't know you want these things until fate picks them for you.  And then you're thankful that you don't get to make all your own choices because that would be kind of selfish and boring, and you'd never get to experience your secret wants--the ones only fate knows."
-From Enjoying The Small Things

So I suppose that's kind of it. It's not today or in the near future, and I am so at peace with the present and thankful for our life right here, right now. I'm so happy that there is no feeling of rush, so we keep moving forward until one day becomes today.

Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Who Are You?

I often think about our words and actions, why we say and do what we do, what they mean and how they differ among the different relationships we keep. It's a very fine line we walk, with changes in rhythm, tone and inflection in our voices sending vastly different messages. But those rules apply to vocal conversations; the written word is guided by different rules. And social media is the toughest beast of all. Anyone can hide behind a screen and carelessly throw words out into the e-universe. And often enough when this happens, they don't stop to think of consequences, of whose lives they are affecting. And that is dangerous.

Recently, I received an anonymous comment on this blog that was pretty belittling and accusational in a matter-of-fact, passive aggressive kind of way. I'm not going to say what exactly was sent, but I went from being utterly shocked to angry to shocked that I was so angry. It was a pretty personal jab and it hurt. Like, hurt hurt. There were a million different responses that ran through my head that day, from snarky and right-back-atcha hurtful to holier-than-thou and kill-em-with-kindness. But at the end of the day, those anonymous words that were posted can only take meaning and shape if I let them. If I let my confidence down enough to let those words into my soul. The second I start questioning myself because of some anonymous words, I let myself down. Why would you choose to be disrespected by someone else or, more importantly, by yourself?

Which brings me to my point. Every word and action we send out into the universe becomes part of who we are. So, essentially we decide every day who we are. If someone is having trouble with their own life -- be it lack of self confidence or unhappiness in their own relationships -- I am determined to not let their troubles become mine. After all, somebody took time out of their day to track me down and post ill-intentioned words on my blog but didn't have enough self confidence to leave their name. I'm far from perfect, but I try my best to live as healthy and genuinely as I can. I can only walk away from this experience and hope that they eventually find happiness of their own.

Monday, February 25, 2013

2013: The Year Of...

When I turned 30 last year, I declared that this was going to be the year of doing stuff. My girlfriend and I were going to run more half marathons -- and actually train for them. The one in October, the Cape Cod Half Marathon, was a flop. We ran it cold turkey. (Talk about horrible preparation! Never again will I run sans training!) I was going to finally sign up for yoga teacher training (check! It starts in April -- YAY!). And...well...we were just going to do stuff. You know, the stuff you always talk about doing but never actually end up accomplishing.

Cape Cod Half Marathon in October

Jamaica, mon!
A good hearty vacation was crossed off our list as Jason and I went on our first ever real vacation together, a delayed honeymoon to Jamaica. We were honestly worried that we wouldn't know how to fully relax but that fear was squashed to bits once we touched ground in Montego Bay. For five days, we planted our butts in the sand and left them there. It was truly amazing and allowed us to empty our brains completely (save deciding on what exactly we were going to have for breakfast, lunch, dinner and all the snacks in between). We talked about life, we laughed (a lot), we smiled, we were. We also did a lot of talking about how we should be making the time in our life to travel. It's not easy, but surely we would be able to save some money and allot some time to getting away. But then we came back home to life and responsibilities. And somehow over the course of two months, I've managed to forget how I imagined it was all possible to make that time.

So as I sit here and write a post about how 2013 is going to be the year that I do stuff, I am starting to wonder exactly what the rest of that stuff is. What do I want to look back on when I prepare to greet 2014? And how do I know if I've succeeded? What does success mean to me, anyway? Is it money? Is it reaching a certain professional level? Is it finding that thing that I was meant to do in life, that true dream job?

I thought I left this all behind in my twenties. Oh, 30, you sly devil. You almost had me.

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Winter Love

Those around me know my quirky love of autumn and winter. I would give up a day at the beach to be on the mountain any day, regardless of the fact that I was a summer baby. That said, I've found that one of the biggest reasons I love the colder seasons so much is that I've always looked forward to all of those outdoor activities. I started skiing when I was 5 and have always enjoyed the whole package: getting forced out of bed at an entirely-too-early time, packing everything into the car, driving up to the mountain, unpacking, and hitting the slopes. Even for a day trip -- and even when my parents expected me to carry all my own gear -- it was always such a fantastic experience.

But last year was a dud of a winter. And this year our schedule, riddled with home renovation projects, has left little time for any extracurricular activities. When you grow up skiing the North East, you know that the mid-February-into-March season can very often mean warmer days and colder nights. Which means icier trails. The point? If we don't get out now, another year will have gone by without hitting the slopes. And as I approach my second winter indoors, I'm starting to see how those who don't make time to enjoy the season can fall victim to creating a internal distaste for winter.

SO, I've resolved to make the most out of what is left of this winter. Before I know it, trees will start to bud, the temperature will start to rise and we will all open up our hearts to a new season. In the meanwhile, here are a couple of the things on my list these days:

Get outside.
Sounds pretty obvious, but sometimes this little-but-important item can slip by unnoticed before you realize that you've spent the past three months indoors. Instead of trying to get to the bigger mountains (that require planning ahead, getting the time off, reserving rooms, and a two-plus-hour drive each way), stay local. Thankfully, I've always lived fairly close to very local small ski mountains. It's not always ideal, but it's certainly better than nothing. I'm also taking advantage of a new pair of snowshoes and all of the local hiking trails in the area. One of the keys is to make sure you dress appropriately. Being outdoors and being miserably cold defeats the purpose and is just plain unsafe. Jason and I were out during super storm Nemo in full snowboarding gear and had a blast.

Get bright.
There tends to be this ginormous shift in colors in the colder months, from bright and borderline obnoxious to neutral and borderline comatose. I'll be the first to admit that creams and greys are the staple color of my closet, but I still make it a point to throw on some bright colors every now and then, if for no other reason than it made me smile. But colors don't stop at clothing. I've started buying some bright yellow tulips for our kitchen and have increased my intake of bright, fresh fruit and greens (as fresh as I can get). Kale, raspberries, strawberries, bananas, and oranges give your body a much-needed boost of vitamin-C, iron and feel-good energy.

Get hydrated.
This morning I took a look in the mirror and, once again, wondered how I was EVER going to combat my pale and flaky skin. Or at least that's how it feels. While I do drink a lot of water, during the drier winter months I'm starting to realize it may not be enough. Our wood-burning stove keeps the house warm, but the air very dry. I make sure to add a nice big pot of water for some extra humidity and don't take showers that are too hot. I've also been very careful in moisturizing, making sure to pay attention to those areas that haven't seen (and will not see) the sun in a while. It takes a little more time, but it's very worth it. I also have two different face creams, one for night and one for day, when protection against the elements is important.

So, what do you love about winter? Or, if one more snowflake is one too many, what are your favorite ways of escaping?

Sunday, February 17, 2013

Harvest Time

It goes without saying that swallowing any fear and taking this leap of moving to Maine has translated into some pretty cool experiences that I might not have otherwise had had I played it safe and stayed back in New York. And often enough, it's experiences that you wouldn't necessarily think of upon hearing the word Maine.

Case in point: I work at a winery. That's right, a winery in the midcoast region of Maine, somewhere between the ocean and throngs of moose. And I had the incredible opportunity of harvesting our vineyard in late September, a week before I hit the road to get hitched.

Since this was our vineyard's inaugural harvest, the whole team met down in the vineyard for a two-day power session. It was inexplicably beautiful those early mornings. Cold, dewey, and brilliantly lush as the sun rose over the vines.

The vines had been covered with netting to protect them against hungry rascals like wild turkeys.

Cellardoor Winery, Part III - Harvest from Cellardoor Winery on Vimeo.

Friday, February 15, 2013

A Mid-Winter Recap, Part II

2012 was such an awesome year. And awesome is a word that I never use.

[Checks through past posts to see if this holds true]

Like I said, awesome is a word that I almost never use. But it's a damn good word to describe 2012. Two very cool major things happened to us. We bought a house and we got married. As I had mentioned in A Mid-Winter Recap, Part I, purchasing the house was an almost 7-month process. And certainly not an easy one. But when all was said and done, we came back from our wedding and mini honeymoon to sign all the official papers. And then he carried me over the threshold. (No, I'm not kidding. The timing was perfect so we did it, hysterical laughter and all.)

But back to the big day.

We got married at Sugarbush Resort in Warren, VT on October 7. The forecast leading up to le grand jour called for rain. Rain every day leading up to it and for a couple of days after. With an indoor ceremony and reception, I wasn't too anxious. I mean, I was marrying my love. Rain wasn't going to ruin anything.

And it didn't.

The days before were certainly soggy, but when we all woke up on Sunday morning and looked out the window, we were thrilled. For all those guests that had arrived the previous evening, driving in the dark up the winding mountain road, the mountain was ablaze in colors.

It goes without saying that the day flew by. I was so emotionally charged that it all felt like a big dream sequence to me. I'm convinced my emotions went overboard to the point that I held it together without effort all day. Kind of like being numb, but in a good way!

Here are a couple highlights from our amazing day:

Jason and I met at the top of the mountain for a first-look session with our photographer. That meant separate trips up on the chairlift so that he could be there waiting, turned away from me, when I arrived. My best friend was convinced that I was either going to lose a shoe, both shoes or my whole person. Thankfully, none of those happened. What did happen was a dramatic temperature drop. And wind. Lots of wind. This is a pretty emotional part of the day, but I will sum up our experience with a line from National Lampoon's Christmas Vacation, as the Griswold family stands in a desolate, snowy forest looking at their soon-to-be Christmas tree:

"She'll see it later honey, her eyes are frozen."

Testing the wind.

Coming back down on the chairlift.
The ceremony.
Bridesmaids, flowers and maids of honor

Some of the boys.

And now, our little wedding trailer video:

Daniela and Jason from Liam McKinley on Vimeo.

And then, as the evening came to a close and gave way to morning, we all gathered for brunch at the base of the mountain with the most beautiful view. It had snowed for the first time overnight. It was truly a dream come true. A skier-turned-snowboarder at heart, the snow was a beautiful wedding gift from the gods. Foliage and snow. Snowliage. Gorgeous.

Thursday, February 14, 2013

A Mid-Winter Recap, Part I

It goes without saying that it's been a while since I've been here, since I've felt the pull to sit and write. I'm not sure if it's due to the fact that it's been a year and a half since writing was my actual job. As in, something I got paid to do. Like those first couple of days back outside to run after a long, dormant winter, my rhythm feels off. It feels like work. It's not coming naturally. Not yet, at least.

But as of late, I've found myself lying in bed listlessly, just about to surrender to sleep, when the sparks of thought will start to ignite. Cozy and covered under all of those blankets, I certainly haven't yet been willing to get out of bed. But it has made me wonder whether I should at least try to pick up again. Because, like running, the first bunch of days are always the hardest. Your legs feel awkward, your stamina is almost non-existent, and you're trying desperately to keep a positive attitude as you dismiss the pain and the lack of breath. Then, after going through the motions day after day, week after week, you start to find your stride, your own natural rhythm that allows your mind to wander as you just go.

So, to start things off, I figured I would give a little recap of what's been going on around these parts. Last I wrote, Jason and I were about to give a little dinner party (update: dinner party was a success!). Winter then turned to spring, and with it came mud season. That's right. In Maine, there are 5 seasons. Winter, Mud Season, Spring, Summer and Fall. On the freakishly warmer days that climbed to 70 plus degrees, we went for little hikes. 70 degrees at the bottom, as we found out, did not mean that it would be 70 degrees at the top. Thick layers of ice lined the trails and, at some points, we were forced to shimmy along the paths by grasping branches of pine trees.
Jason heading up an icy path
Jason heading up an icy path.
Finding an opportune moment to strike a pose.

Finally at the top.

All that snow and ice eventually melted wreaked havoc on anything that wasn't paved (and somehow all the areas that were). The house that we had been renting had a dirt driveway. Thankfully, we had a garage at the end of that driveway, but going from point A to point B was a gauntlet. We soon said goodbye to that driveway, however, as the owner of the house decided to sell and that we needed to leave. After looking for alternative rental options, we started entertaining the idea of buying. While it can be true in many cases that a mortgage can be less expensive on a month-to-month basis than renting, we were still hesitant. I mean, could we end up with our first home just because we couldn't find something to rent? Yes. After nearly 7 months of dealing with banks, mortgage companies, foreclosure companies (did I mention it was a foreclosure?), et al., we were officially first-time homeowners to the ultimate starter home. Oh, how good it feels.

The ultimate starter home.

So what do we have on our hands? The house was built in 1865 is a 3-bedroom, 1-turned-1.5-bath farmhouse. We started renovating the second we were in and are now just about finishing up the master bathroom. For more information on this project, check out Jason's blog, Rebuilding Broadway.

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