Shema. Hang Ups All Up in My Head.

I’ve got this hang up when I go to Friday night services at temple. I like closing my eyes during the shema. I feel closer to myself, closer to God maybe, when I sing those most sacred words in the privacy of my own head. But that meditative, personal moment is always interrupted when I start to worry. Is everyone else opening their eyes? When should I open mine? I can’t be the only one with my eyes shut! What if I miss the moment when everyone sits down? I’ll be standing up alone. This is what the inside of my head looks like. It’s filled with what do I look like to the outside world thoughts. In a moment when I want to get in my head for some peace and introspection, I end up deep in my head filled with hang ups.

I do this a lot. What will the other runners think if I show up to an Indy Runners run, don’t know anyone, and run all by myself? What will my Facebook friends think if I post one more picture of my freaking dinner? Will the lovely couple who owns Nicey Treats think I’m nuts if I show up to their truck one more time for a dreamy popsicle? Do I look like a complete amateur when when I pull out my fancy camera and attempt to take a picture?

Of course, no one is paying that much attention. Most people are just wrapped up in their own world, because that’s just how people are. Maybe human nature to pay attention to ourselves first?

Self consciousness. I’m overcoming it. Comfort and confidence in your own skin. I started to learn how it fit on me at camp as a kid. Not comparing or worrying about looks. Every time I get on my mat in yoga I leave that farther behind. It’s about what works for me. For you. Then I’m pretty sure somehow you’ll end up looking like the best version of yourself to everyone else without even trying, without any hang ups.

On Friday night I stood in temple and sang the shema, eyes closed.

Spring Salads, Songs, and Spirit Squads

Spring, I think you’re here. Finally. Why did you make us wait so long? You’re going to stick around for awhile to make it up to us, right? We’ll now be blessed with endless 70 degree days with light breezes and lots of sunshine.

Sweet relief from the cold means I’ve been celebrating in lots of ways. Running in shorts (miracle!) and with the Indy Runners group. I like having running companions to keep my mind of off the actual run some days. Yesterday I showed up for the Tuesday run at Hinkle Field House on Butler’s campus ready to do four, maybe five, miles. Thanks to the girl I ran with, I ended up going six miles!

 

May is Race Month in this fair city and the Mini-Marathon is the kick-off for a month of festivities leading up to the Indy 500. Biggest half marathon in the country, what what? I opted for the role of cheerleader this year instead of runner, which I thought would be very difficult. I’m a pretty competitive person, especially when it comes to races. But I remembered how much I appreciated the support of my friends along the race course last year, and I was excited to cheer extra loudly in the places where I remembered feeling the most tired. My friend Sam and I biked to around mile 9 and then maybe .25 mile before the finish line. Extra perk? En route we go to see the wheelchair racers and the insanely fast top finishers (can you imagine running 13.1 miles in just over an hour?!), a part of a race that I never get to see as a participant. The sheer athleticism of these men and women blew my mind.

 

Our posters (yes that’s Ryan Gosling and Bob Dylan) got plenty of head nods and smiles from random runners, but we cheered extra hard for our friend Marnie and her fiance Jannson and my two other friends that we happened to see run by. We even ran along the sidewalk for the last .25 miles with Marnie, screaming her name the whole way. I am beyond proud of these two!

Can we talk about driving with the windows open and music blaring? It’s one of my favorite warm weather pastimes. Right now I could listen to Patty Griffin’s new album American Kid all day. The first song feels like the perfect summertime folky anthem to me.

Back to running. It’s cool, it’ll lead to epic spring food. In starting to think about training for the marathon I’ve signed up for this fall, I’m considering my diet. I know that the more miles I log, the hungrier I’ll be, but I do not want to just stuff myself with tons of pasta, as amazingly appealing as that sounds. So I’m focusing on fueling with lots of fruits and veggies and healthful proteins like beans and lentils. To kick start this fresh new diet I did a really great three-day juice cleanse from Natural Born Juicers. If you live in Indianapolis I highly recommend checking them out. I’m now a few weeks out from having finished the cleanse and am back to my marathon fueling diet. I’m actually really missing my morning juices and how awake and strangely full they made me feel, so I’m thinking of going in on a juicer.

On top of that spring has brought the most magical produce to the farmers markets. Slowly at first, but surely. A few weeks ago radishes and pea sprouts started to show up, and so I rejoiced. This time of year is perfect for buying lettuce and any other awesome vegetables that catch your eye and making a huge salad.

I’d love to give you a recipe for this, but I feel like that would just be limiting, so here’s a basic guide.

Pile your plate with lettuce (mine, year round thanks to hydroponics in greenhouses, is almost always from Eden Farms). I like a mix of lettuces to give my salad a little more flavor and depth.

Chop up a variety of vegetables, whatever is pretty and bright and catches your eye at the store or market. I went with pretty pink and white radishes and sweet pea shoots from Harvestland Farms. Never had pea shoots? Me either until this salad! They taste like peas, not surprisingly, but before peas come around. Like a pea preview. Maybe add a squeeze of lemon over things now. Add some fresh herbs if you have them on hand.

Any good salad, or meal in my opinion, is topped with a soft yolk fried egg (my eggs always come from Schacht Farm, I love them, eggs and people, so much). Fry one up with a bit of salt and pepper, or poach it in olive oil like Oh Joy, which is what I tried out for this salad. I liked this cooking option, because it a nice amount of olive oil to drizzle over the salad as dressing.

Break open that egg and let the yolk get all cozy with the lettuce. Heck yes, spring!

Change. Orange Bran Muffins.

Change tends to come quickly. Maybe it takes you by surprise. Lately change has been sneaking up on me.

Two weeks ago I was running in full winter gear as snow flurries fell onto my tongue. This week I’m wearing shorts and tank tops. Not together. Let’s not get too crazy. Two and a half months ago I had my heart broken. Talk about chaos. A week and a half ago I remembered why I loved the mountains and a barn filled with horses—peace. And five days ago I crossed the finish line of the Shamrock Shuffle with a new personal record and the Chicago skyline rising in front of me. I felt this overwhelming sense of luck and joy, and that feeling just hasn’t gone away yet. Change is sticking.

I once thought bran muffins were ridiculous. I worked at a coffee shop in Raleigh and we sold muffins. The bran were always left at the end of the day, and honestly I didn’t blame our customers. Why would you opt for healthy, tasteless bran when you could go the blueberry or carrot?

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Here and Now. Buttermilk Skillet Cake with Praline Topping.

This weekend I am focusing hard on the here and now, not on the what I wish and what should have been. Because in reality what should have been is right where I am here and now.

Here is a snoring pup and a snoozing cat. A gin, tonic, and mango juice beverage. One pound of bacon vs. one girl. The Rhythm Center with one of my favorite almost-four-year-olds. March Madness. And cake, because as Julia Child said,

I have a cake recipe for you to, you know, help you avoid meetings. It comes to you from the Joy the Baker Cookbook. I’ve passed the recipe over many a time, probably because it looks so simple. I’ve passed it up for the fancier carrot cakes, avocado cupcakes, brown butter chocolate chip cookies, chocolate chocolate muffins … uh, maybe I just passed it up for chocolate.

You should probably bring this cake to your next meeting at work, because every office could use a midday party. And it is the perfect cake for a spontaneous meeting-gone-party. So simple and unassuming in its cast-iron skillet (though you can make it in a cake pan, too). It most importantly is easier to make than going to the grocery to buy a cake. If you bake or want to start baking, the ingredients in this recipe are ones you either always have in your kitchen or ones you should buy, because you will use them in any other recipe you’ll make. It smells just like a simple, perfect cake should—buttery, warm, vanilla-y. Buttermilk is key here, making the cake lovely and tender.

And the praline topping? It looks like caramel, but it’s so much easier. Trust me. Caramel and me do not have a good relationship.

But as this topping boils on the stove, your kitchen starts to smell like a candy store. I may have stood over the pot just breathing in the sweet scent.

Sweet and simple cake like this is perfect with a cup of coffee after family dinner on Sunday night. I guess that makes family dinner a party.

Here and now is pretty good.

Recipe after the jump!

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Weekends. Sanctuaries.

Coming at you with a weekend.

I play music as I do things around the house on this unrushed, mostly unplanned Sunday morning. Lately I think I’ve been trying to catch the wind. Futile most likely, but for some reason I can’t seem to stop. Wind, leave me alone. Come back when you’re a pleasant breeze.

Sunday is pancake day. This morning pancakes broke me. (Sorry Joy the Baker, I cannot get your single lady pancakes to work!) In one stupid moment pancakes almost ruined my entire day. Just breathe, though, right? Turn to a favorite pancake. Funny how the same food that brought me to tears one minute, is perfectly golden and doused in maple syrup the next. Sometimes it’s good to stick to our favorites.

Sunday needs to relax, because Saturday was spent being busy. When one of your best girls is getting married in August some Saturdays are busy. Find bridesmaids dresses, have margaritas and beers, accidentally make off with diamond bracelets from my parents’ jewelry store, visit the reception location.

This is The Sanctuary on Penn.

Stained glass windows everywhere.

Even the bathrooms were lovely.

Have you ever been somewhere that just breathes a person? The Sanctuary on Penn fits my friend and her fiance perfectly in the history, the stories, the details, the scuff marks, the light, the many rooms, the leather chairs and dark wood bars, the fact that I can say bars plural.

Good luck penny floors.

Perfect. Wandering around this old church and picturing it filled with their guests was easily my favorite part of the day.

Comfort. Crusty Bread.

What do you gather around you when you need comfort?

A mug of tea or a cocktail? A favorite sweatshirt or song? Your friends, your family? Pasta or cookies? Maybe even a memory?

Sometimes the memories, those are the worst when you’re searching for comfort.

Smells comfort me. My running shoes and my yoga mat bring me comfort. So do family and friends and my dear, sweet Mira and Lola.

And food, though different food for different situations. Sometimes I need a fresh loaf of bread. It’s homey, warm, simple, and good. And no matter how many loaves of bread I make, I still feel an incredible amount of satisfaction when I take the bread pan out of the oven and slice myself a piece. It’s a miracle to me every time that I can get the yeast to work.

I was out of bread last weekend and craving something different from my usual whole wheat sandwich bread. Something white and crusty. I found a recipe for a no-knead bread via Pinterest and decided to give it a shot. Not many ingredients, no mixer or kneading required, and I could let it rise its required 12-18 hours overnight and put the loaf in the oven in the morning.

Nothing beats a house filled with morning sunshine and the smell of baking bread. Wait, warm-from-the-oven bread with avocado and a runny fried egg—that almost beats it. Talk about comfort, plain and simple.

I’m on my second loaf of this crusty gloriousness, and I’m going to tell you, it cannot be easier to make. You may say yeast scares you (please, no yeast jokes, I know at least one of you is making one in your head.), that making bread is a difficult process. Trust me, it’s not.

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On Turning 29 and Peanut Butter Pie

So far 29 has taught me…

that cinnamon sticks do not light on fire and therefore cannot double as birthday candles, and also smell not like cinnamon when burning.

sometimes taking care of a sick person can be a blessing in disguise. It’ll lead to lots of cuddle and couch time.

a good birthday present to yourself upon turning 29 is disinfecting the entire house.

birthday parties at this age include some little people who may not even be able to join in on the conversation. This does not make parties any less enjoyable. We may be growing up, but everyone is still game to adjust their grown up schedules so we can all still hang out and be friends like normal.

time goes by so. fast. In the blink of an eye I’m a year away from 30. I remember when 30 sounded so old. Now it feel like NBD, just the next thing that’ll happen in this life.

Perfection is not something that comes on the first time. Well, rarely anyway. Who among us can say their first time having sex was awesome? Bad first date that turned into many more amazing dates? Who doesn’t feel there was some room for improvement in the first real job they took, the way they handled themselves in their first job? Perfection, let’s be honest, 29 years have taught me that it doesn’t exist, thank God. But ecstatically amazing, drool-worthy, break out the happy dance? That does exist. Twenty-nine says it exists if you admit to your mistakes, learn from them, don’t kick yourself, and give it another go.

Perfection did not exist in the first peanut butter pie I made for Michael, and at the tender age of 27 I did not know how to admit that. For the last two years I have heard endlessly about the perfect peanut butter pie from Smokey Bones.

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