Inspirations

Recently Enjoyed Things

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Enjoying Dutch Babies with lemon and powdered sugar.  Drinking cups and cups of red raspberry leaf tea and meditating on a beautiful, short and pain-free birth(it’s worth a shot!)  Craving vegetable spring rolls with my favorite peanut sauce.  Snacking on carrots and hummus.  Experimenting with exquisite fresh spices from Figi.  Baking chocolate chip cookies (way too often.) Savoring every moment with this little lady. 

Home

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Home is not always where the heart is. You see, my heart is intricately woven into time and space with my husband and daughter, and yet still we are not home.  Home is where my bones know peace, and where my mind effortlessly follows. It’s where desire, and nostalgia dissolve into the present, leaving nothing more than deep sighs of content, and belly laughs exchangeable for an abdominal workout. It’s where cousins kiss repetitively, leaving their mamas swooning over a family bond that runs deeper than I can seem to wrap my head around.  Home is where green things grow, and where mountains hold secrets, and symbols that I acknowledge, and inquire about daily. It’s where beauty begs to be praised, and where my heart is open enough to sing such praises without much effort or intention.  It’s where coffee runs like water, but still, I savor its aroma like I may not get the privilege to smell it tomorrow.  It’s where I move across chilled wood floors, and am known by the most beautiful dance community I have ever found.  It’s where that space inside my chest swells with purpose, and meaning, and where the little things become my every-thing’s.  It’s where I am so connected and present that I forget about my camera, except to capture my little Lorax.  It’s the place I want to give octave, and the new bambino, growing, and dwelling inside the most creative part of my being.  It’s the place I can’t resist much longer.  My suitcase heart is finally asking to come home…

A Place At The Table

I have a feeling that when people see or hear that we don’t own a car, they get the wrong impression.  I can see the gears turn in their head, and the comments they make, leave me to believe that we easily get labeled as the next self – righteous hipster couple.  Bikes are cool, especially this one, but we are not.

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What people don’t know is the journey we have been on the last four years.  They don’t know that we love people, and hate war, and those two passions are deeply connected to our decision to live car free.  They don’t know that we believe refusing to purchase oil, on a weekly basis, is our tangible way of loving our neighbors half way across the world.  It is our tangible way of saying that our comfort and lifestyle is never ever worth innocent lives.  They don’t know that while my husband has a great job, we have an insane amount of school debt, and a year ago we were hundreds of dollars short, every single month.  We were in a real financial crisis.  I am not talking about a first world crisis that translates to, I can’t afford an iPhone. I mean the kind of struggle that results in our family and friends bringing us groceries, buying our daughter the next size up in cloth diapers, and simply giving us their own hard-earned money, or else we would not have paid our bills.  I don’t say this for any pity, because I believe I am blessed beyond measure, and in every struggle there is growth.  I say this express how dangerous assumptions are.

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When people tell us that living car free with a child is unsafe, irresponsible, not practical, or egotistical, first it makes me want to cry, and then it makes me want to scream.  Since when did living within our means become irresponsible?  When did choosing to fill our bodies with good nutritious food, rather than fill our gas tank become backwards?  When did a bicycle become so unsafe, when cars kills thousands of people each year? When did caring about the air my future grandchildren breathe make me a crazy hippy?  How does living without a hunk of metal take away my husbands manhood?

Christopher and I both thrive off of questioning social norms.  This makes being married and trying new things, fairly easy for us.  On our own unique journey we were both deeply convicted about the American lifestyle, specifically the obsession and reliance on the automobile.  This internal struggle only got stronger and louder until one day we couldn’t ignore it, and then one day we couldn’t afford it.  Ironically, our car payment, gas, and insurance was exactly amount of money we were short each month, but even a car paid in full costs $9,000 a year to maintain.  So, I was praying relentlessly for God to provide,  to take us out of Casper, and give us more earning potential.  I was always under the impression that it takes money to live like you don’t care about or have money.  I thought that it takes having just the right job, in just the right neighborhood, with just the right city infrastructure to give up something like a car.  While all these things make it much easier, this has not been our story.  We were called to bloom where we are planted and live well with what we have been given.

This morning Octave and I rode in the rain to our favorite grocery store.  I was fortunate to buy handfuls of fresh produce, herbs, chocolate and even some special cheese.  To walk into the grocery store and not only buy exactly what I needed, but also what I wanted was one of the best feelings.  After our rough year, I’ve promised to never take that for granted.  I remembered that just months ago, going to the grocery store was not so light-hearted and inspiring.  I prided myself on budget friendly meals that looked and tasted gourmet, but relentlessly prayed for God to provide more.  Yet even in our lowest, most discouraging place, we still were far better off than 40 million Americans.

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All this is to say that tonight I finally watched A Place At The Table.  I wept like a baby, and then I wept some more.  My heart is heavy and I feel the burden of hunger in this country, on my very own shoulders.  Hunger exists, and yet most of us don’t even know about it or have to see it.  Those of us who know about it fear that there is nothing we can do about it.  I am certain that I was not given my love for cooking for me and my family alone.  I was not given this passion for food to just post pretty pictures, and share sweet stories.   This realization does not diminish the heart and soul that goes into this space.  I am a creative being and this is such a fun outlet for me.  However, I know it does not end there.  I don’t know what this change looks like just yet, but I want to be apart of it!

My personal experience has revealed that riding bikes can create more room in a tight budget for food, and help to maintain a healthy and agile body.  It can also make you really happy!  I am not suggesting everyone sell their car, I know it is not that simple, and I am not pretending to know what is best for the millions of people who go hungry every day.   I know that people have different preferences, circumstances, values, and convictions.  I am not interested in telling others how to live.  I will however share my own story, and bring light to the fact that the automobile, food crisis and obesity in this country are all deeply connected more than we may realize.  Would food deserts, racism and poverty in this country even exist if we weren’t given the opportunity to segregate, spread ourselves out, and build our own kingdoms via the automobile?  Maybe, maybe not, but the automobile makes this much easier, and now privileged upper-class people have the ability to stay privileged, and not have to come face to face with those who are not.  Like I said earlier, assumptions are really dangerous, and in this country there is an assumption that poverty and hunger is a choice, and anyone can rise above it.  We watch Will Smith in The  Pursuit of Happiness and think that such a story is possible for everyone, rather than one in a million.  This could not be further from the truth.

If you are reading this I encourage you to watch the documentary, A Place At The Table, if you haven’t already, (it’s on Netflix.)  If you feel compelled, send an email to Congress to protest against cutting the SNAP program that millions of hungry Americans depend on.  It seriously take 2 minutes!  Click here to see what else you can do.  Let’s end hunger in our neighborhoods, in America, and then the world!  No one deserves to go hungry. EVER.

Saturday: A Photo Essay

I want my life to rest in neatly folded piles beside my bed at night. I want to open and close my days with a piece of twine wrapped loosely around a leather-bound memory keeper, so I can capture, hold, and remember every last detail. I want to sigh heavily after a good days work and marvel at a beautiful, functional, organized kitchen. I want to wake before the sun, and prepare lavender scones with fresh lemon curd, and freshly pressed coffee.  Most days I manage to only accomplish the cup of freshly ground coffee, and steal a piece of morning sun for me, and my camera.

My photographs in this space only catch a glimpse of my days, and usually my favorite moments in the kitchen. What I share is in fact reality, but only a fraction of it. I have eyes and ears that crave beauty, and live to capture it. Some days I feel like a beauty thief, trying to desperately savor and soak in all that it is. I consider myself fortunate when I have my camera beside me, and am able to keep those images in my head alive.  Moments of the early light that sneaks in my window as I pour my morning cup of coffee, or the vulnerability of poached eggs just moments before Octave sticks her fingers in, and smears yolk into the carpet, are moments that stand out in my days.  I am not trying to portray something that does not exist, I am simply trying to hold onto moments I declare lovely, while they last.  I am trying to capture how I see and feel life.

But sometimes the photographs of food are staged, and the counter where I photograph is unusually clean, and the food is strategically placed under good natural light. This small, well used counter space is a beacon of hope in the midst of chaos and destruction. What you do not see is the kitchen table and white couch being colored while I take those photos. You don’t see the berry stained cupboards and grimy base boards.  I am not necessarily trying to hide those areas of my life, I am all about transparency, and I suppose they too are beautiful in their own way. However, I see that all day long, and I desperately want to hold on to the clean, quiet moments, especially when are few and far between these days.  My kitchen is my sanctuary and I take great pride in the presentation of food, table setting and dish washing. Food is where I put my energy, and this just happens to be a food blog that documents inspirations, recipes and happenings in and around the kitchen.  The fact that I wear yoga pants and sports bras almost everyday of the week, and am lucky to wash my hair one of those seven days, and haven’t scrubbed our bath tub in two weeks, does not get talked about, yet is very much my day in and day out reality.

Today I didn’t feel inspired to share “A Week In Photos,” instead I wanted to document an average day, in and around my kitchen, and share photographs that capture how I see my everyday life…the spilled milk, dusty mobiles, random meals that always happen at the end of the week, and beautiful fragments of light.

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6 am:  I wake-up and take in the morning light.

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6:15 am: Octave is already ready to go “bye-bye,” on the “bike.”  I sit and drink my coffee as she eats ,and I become increasingly annoyed and fixated on the fact that our dish towels have no drawer.

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7:00 am:  I make breakfast and a mental note to dust EVERYTHING, one day soon.

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11:00 am:  We go for a walk, and I wear shorts for the first time in months.

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I teach Octave about shadows, and we look at our own.  I see my silhouette and exchange my bun for a pony tail.  I make a personal vow to stop wearing my hair in a bun everyday.

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Noon:  We stop at Grant St. Market for lunch and limes.  We sit outside and stare at sunflowers, only to think of Colorado, Jill, and Aunt Lucy’s backyard.

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3:00 pm: We come home to find a missed call from Jasmine.  I dwell in the simplicity and freedom of a home phone.  I may not ever want to go back to being tied to a cell phone, but I tell myself not to form an opinion too soon.

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3:00-5:00 pm: Octave refuses her nap and cries for much longer than necessary.  I am too frustrated to document, so instead we watch The Food Network, while I regain some momentum to start dinner.

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5:00 pm: I make my first casserole-esque type dish (I don’t even like casseroles,) in attempt to use up every last vegetable in our kitchen.

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6:45 pm: Octave goes down for a very early bed time.

7:00 pm: I sigh and make myself a killer gin, lime & rose cocktail, think of my mom, and wait for hubs to get home from work.

To Rest in Beauty

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Beauty blows in and changes by breath.  Surely it is everywhere, available always, waiting to be acknowledged and praised.  But sometimes in the most unassuming moment, it rushes in, overwhelms the space, and leaves me in awe, wondering how and why I was chosen for and given this life.  The pacific is such beauty and magic that my littlest lady, running and dancing a million miles a minute, stops and feels it too.  She dances fully and exhales deeply to the sound of the ocean, just like her mama.

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The good evening light shines on my 92 year old grandfathers face.  I wonder everything and yet ask little about his life.  There is not enough time to know everything I desire to know. So, I pour some red, massage his wise and well lived shoulders, and savor these precious moments.

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My love arrives a few days later, and my soul rests in his presence.  Together we are home. We open good bottles and eat fresh seafood.  We rest and watch, chase and play.  Our beach babes are on the move, chasing the ocean and catching the wind.  My sister and I kiss and cheers to the good life.   This is indeed the good life.

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I reach for my lens to capture this beauty but beg my heart to capture this feeling.  Remember this forever, I tell myself.  Forever and ever, past all the ever afters.

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Boulanger

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I quietly escape into our bathroom for a spontaneous Sunday morning bath.  There are few moments to be alone, without a sweet babe wrapped fiercely around my leg.  There are few moments to read, let alone in peace.  Seizing an opportunity, or maybe creating one, I sneak away while a little lady and her daddy occupy themselves with giggles and books and before either one notice I am gone.  I acknowledge the gift of water, and time (alone.)  Before motherhood I was unaware that together the two become a luxury.  I open my book and with each page emotions stir, adrenaline grows, and purpose fills my bones, like water fills the tub.  I only read a book of bread but the art, history, and worldview of a Boulanger, (French word for bread maker, which I cannot stop repeating under my breath), keeps me engaged like a good dance class or a book of Chinese medicine.  Like cupping and acupuncture, improvisation and poetry, I am fully engaged, inspired and alive.  “Boulanger,” I periodically set my book aside, to say it again and again.  With each repetition the name begins to suit me.  With humble confidence and amateur ambition, I investigate from my boots to my brains, forgetting not one single cell in between.  I marvel at the mystery of transformation, remembering that just years ago my hands had not touched ground grains made new into dough.  My heart was not patient, and my mind not big enough to fit my wanderlust inside, what seemed to be, nothing more than a confining domestic vocation.

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I relax deeper into the water and give myself permission to reflect some more.  It seems the domestic, mundane, everyday happenings have filled me with more meaning than my monumental story of a 34-hour train ride from Oslo to Budapest.  A domestic life filled with flour and time has produced as much pleasure as authentic Italian Cuisine and late night Vespa rides in Naples.  With pruned toes I sigh at my sweet memories, remembering that I once thrived off of an evanescent life, seeking adventure, with eyes gazed far and wide.  But today I crave a simple, local life with roots running deep and family drawing near.  I become more aware that both adventure, and a strong sense of place are not mutually exclusive, and although may seem worlds apart, are in fact one in the same.

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I rest easy in the water because this monumental book and bath have given me permission to courageously claim a new name. I sigh softly and methodically because I understand what I have become.  What was once a name attributed to being the creator of warm goodness straight out of the oven has surprisingly proven to be a way of life.  A baker is not a baker simply because of what they bake.  A baker is a baker because the meditative, life giving act not only transforms once useless ingredients into a sustaining life force, but because they themselves are transformed in this process.  While I measure and weigh, following recipe instructions with care, it ultimately comes back to a feeling, and at my core, I am a feeler.

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Days later I attempt my first Sourdough Rye with traditional natural yeast boasting one hundred and thirty years of life.  I am baking with a starter that has enough history to taste its stories, and enough life to sustain generations.  Flour, salt, water and yeast; individually they may be insignificant, but together they are wholesome and worthy.  With little space and adequate time these ingredients age and evolve, getting better with time.  I hope the same could be said of me one day.

On a Sunday in May, I declare myself a bread baker.  On the Tuesday following I still dwell in my recent discovery.  I daydream of the possibilities that find a home in such a name, and then I bask in its novelty.  It is my visceral pursuit, my domestic adventure.  I bake because I must. I am a baker.

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Modern Convenience and the Search for Meaning

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After my friend Jasmine spent six weeks in Africa she experienced  extreme culture shock coming back home.  She as well as so many of us who travel, was unable to process everything she had just experienced.  It got me thinking that while humans are great at adapting, we really aren’t made to travel around the world in a matter of a day.  The journeys we take today would take months if not years before the industrial revolution.  Naturally, we would have those months or years to process what we had just experienced.  Now we get only hours and days and we are expected to adapt quickly, and be ready for the next moment.  Our clothes still smell like foreign lands. Our bellies are still digesting foreign foods and our minds are still full of new people, new sights and new sounds.  There is no grace period for us to adjust and because of that, special moments and profound reflection are lost.

The same can be said when thinking about the automobile.  Octave and I walk to the library or the park for a play date and it takes forty-five minutes to get there rather than five minutes in the car.  I have time to process what just happened, who I met, what I felt and what we talked about.  I come back home and am able to be present because I worked things out in my head before I got back home. When I rely on my body for my transportation, my body is unable to move faster than my mind.  The relationship between the two is more intimate.  Living car free means that we have to give up convenience but we have decided that the convenience we give up far outweighs the deep meaning we gain.  Naturally, the search for meaning, and the temptation for the easy choice among all our modern conveniences does not stop with the automobile.

I feel a similar struggle within our food culture, or lack there of.  Fast foods, microwaves, and frozen dinners, are all very convenient but  similar to modern transportation, much is lost.  There is a loss of nutrients and a loss of human connection when we don’t gather around a table.  There is even a loss our digestive system experiences.  In massage school, one of my favorite things I learned is that the aroma’s we smell when we start to cook our food actually produces saliva that helps our bodies pre digest our food.  The smells created from a home cooked meal prepares our body to absorb what we are about to eat.  This is just one of the reasons fast food can be so dangerous.  In a matter of minutes you can realize you’re hungry, decide what you want to eat and have it at your fingertips.  The natural process your digestive system is supposed to experience gets completely lost.

I love finding parallels in my  life and this week I realized that my reasons for not wanting to own a car or buy store-bought bread, are one in the same.  I want my days to play a role in my survival.  Just because I can do things faster and more efficiently with the help of modern conveniences doesn’t mean my life is going to be better.  Now for some, that might not be true.  Maybe those modern conveniences do improve their life.   Maybe store-bought bread gives a single mom who works two jobs and is hardly able to make dinner come together at all, the ability to have more quality time with her children.  Maybe a car is a symbol for survival and the ability for a man to provide for his family and without one his family would go hungry.  I am very much sensitive to that fact that one size does not fit all, and I can only comment and reflect on my own life and my own experience.

After lots of thought and little experience I have come to the conclusion that I was made for the slow life.  I was made to walk or run or bike.  I was made to give my hours to rising dough, soaking seeds, fermenting kombucha, growing vegetables and teaching these traditions to Octave.  I was made to take a few steps back from my culture and question.  To make sure I truly understand why I wake each morning and make the choices I do.  For Octave to not grow up lost in the confusion of pop culture and lazy parenting, I have to ask myself why. I have to weigh my options and make choices that suit my family even if they seem impossible or strange to others.  I will make many mistakes as a parent and I already have, but I am determined to have solid responses to all the questions of why.  Even if it all changes tomorrow, I want to know where I stand today.  A seeker of truth, lover of the mundane and ambassador for the slow simple life, I am.  Without a car and without a microwave we will live, and while our friends may wonder if we are turning Amish, I feel more human than ever before.

*Edit: This is no way means that I don’t believe in flying thousands of miles away from home to explore the world.  I will forever desire to set my feet on foreign soil.  However, I will think about all of the above as I do so!

To Feast & To Flourish

DSC_0089Two weeks ago today we made an epic life decision.  It will change the course of our lives, the way we see the world and the worldview we help create for Octave.  We decided to sell our car and one week ago today we actually sold it.   This beauty is being handmade in Portland, OR and is on its way!  We didn’t expect to sell the car this soon, so until it gets here, Octave and I are relying on our feet, the support or our friends and Christopher’s ambition.  With the biggest snow storm of the season, we are getting cabin fever.  Some hours I have felt frustrated but most of the hours of the day I have been filled with complete joy.  I am so proud of us!  In my opinion this is the most important decision, apart from getting married and having Octave, we have ever made together.

It may take years until we get back to Portland or Denver (both friendly bike cities,) and even more years until we are debt free and if that is the case we want to live now.  We want to live out our values and be true to our convictions.  We want to show Octave that with creativity and strong will, anything is possible.  We want to show her that loving your neighbor can go as deep as living simply and sustainably so that our neighbors on the other side of the world don’t have to bare the burden of our lifestyle.  We want to show her that most of the time, we have choices, we might just have to sacrifice something else we want.  We can’t have everything, and that is great because it really doesn’t feel good to have everything anyway.

Our choices and where we spend our money reveal what we value and love most in life.  We don’t want to spend $10,000 a year on a car.  It is totally okay if others want  to, but we just don’t.  We are tired of our money supporting things that our hearts don’t.  We want to spend our money on quality food and drink, to be enjoyed and celebrated with friends and family.  We want to use our bodies to their fullest potential because some people don’t have healthy and able bodies, but we do. We want our money to build up and support life.  We want to be debt free.  All these issues have been heavy on our hearts and while life has been good, it has not been as full as it could be.  Almost all the things we value and desire in life could be achieved, simply by getting rid of our car.  While this town might not be ideal, with little public transportation, no car share program, extreme weather, high winds, intense hills, little bike infrastructure and a 15 mile commute each way for Christopher, we know that there is no better time than the present!

This morning Octave stayed home with Christopher and I braved the elements to go to the grocery store.  I have not felt that alive in months!  I knew it would be hard, but I didn’t think it would be that hard!  I had to walk my bike up the most massive hill of all time.  At least in Casper.  Our cargo bike will have more appropriate gearing and I won’t carry 50 pounds of groceries on my back, so I am still very hopeful.  I bought a little more than what my body could carry, loaded it up in a massive backpack and pedaled away feeling so accomplished.  As I came down that massive hill with all our groceries, and most importantly 3 bars of chocolate, a handful of limes and eggs I prayed  wouldn’t break, I felt so content with my simple little life.  I have many hopes for our future but this morning I was completely present and satisfied.  While I did not grow all the food I carried on my back this morning, I worked hard for it.  My back feels it as I sit here and type, and this brings me much joy.  Working hard for the simple things in life feels right to me.  Everything tastes more flavorful, everything has more meaning.  Our life is just as it should be and I am filled with so much gratitude.  I am grateful that I have a husband who is passionate and strong willed and craves adventure like I do. I am grateful for a husband who is not afraid to be different.  I am grateful that we are sharing this car free life together.  I am grateful for Octave who doesn’t even know she is about to live a completely different way.  I am grateful for how her life inspires both of us to live true to who we are, to live here and now.  I am so happy that our little family has begun to feast upon our life because it tastes so dang good!

Red Wine & Sisters

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Tonight I pour a glass of deep ruby red.  I taste beauty and feel joy but the potential is limited.  I am alone, without my sisters.  My soul sisters.  Jasmine is in Africa and Adrienne is a newlywed in Michigan.  Most shockingly, I am in Wyoming.  With words, I sandwich Adrienne between the two of us, because that is how she likes to be.  She is the nurturer, the comforter.  Jasmine, with humble confidence fits first, and on a side, with the space to fly.  I need time for reflection and perspective so I prefer the space on the end.  In sentences and life this is how we organize ourselves when we are together.

Tonight I am longing for my favorite humans to sit around a table, pour some red and savor flavors.  Together. Tonight, as I pour a glass of red, I realize my heart is different.  Really different.  I once named my heart a petit sirah.  The color, that is.  It happened one night in California when I was drinking a bottle of 2009 Spellbound Petit Sirah with my sisters.  When Jasmine poured, I gasped.  I had never seen a color so breathtaking.  I resonated with this color so deeply that I immediately branded it the color of my own heart.  I love thinking about all our hearts being different shades and colors.  I used to ask people the color of their heart.  I miss this.  I miss a culture where asking such a question is not silly or strange and where answering is taken seriously, with the upmost reflection and care.

Tonight I realized that I am no longer petit sirah.  That was before marriage and motherhood.  Surely I have been made new.  The color of beets, malbec or even limes, come to mind, but without my sisters I just can’t commit.  I need their faces, laughter and desire to talk real.  To go there, to that place few like to go, but a place where the three of us live.

Tonight I realize that the more I live, the more I cherish good women in my life, especially these two.  So, tonight I hold up my glass of red to my sisters, who are thousands of miles away but are most definitely near my heart.  A heart that has yet to decide its new color.  Sisterhood reunion, come quick…

Coffee Beans & Dreams

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When I smell the earth, steaming in my morning cup, I feel a deep sense of purpose and strong urgency. Urgency to live louder, share better, express more. There is so much more life I want to live. Words, colors and images fold and unravel inside my bones and my brain creates more space for the pretty little things I inquire and dream about. I want to create. To make something from nothing. On open land, in the garden, enjoyed at our kitchen table. I want to create space for space to just be. For people, places and things to come alive in our presence and at our welcome. I want to move from the inside out with a babe inside, one at my feet, upon my hip, and holding my hand. Four babes and my love, but one for now. One perfect one, she is.  I want to create something from nothing, all from the Almighty, received and lived humbly (by us.) I dream of roots and a proper nest and then I sweetly remember that this transient combustion, a product of our past present and future, was once the center of my day dreams. This very season, in a tiny space, not our own. In a small place, that doesn’t feel like home, we are fulfilling our dreams.  It just takes a little different shape, in a very different place. With my most favorite human in the world, I made a bambino. A mama and a wife and a baker, I have become. These names are so natural I forget they were once a dream.  But, this was everything I wanted and everything I want. I exhale the heaviest gratitude and savor the last sip of morning goodness.