While I was sitting at work yesterday, I decided that I wanted spaghetti squash for dinner. Which, no big deal – except – I didn’t have a spaghetti squash at home. I thought about hitting the store on my way home from work and I quickly remembered that I had a fridge full of food. I had several cups of cauliflower soup left over, gorgeous Hawaiian opah defrosting in the fridge just ready to be thrown into a salad, a dozen eggs, about a half pound of pancetta, frozen shrimp, and multiple cans of coconut milk for a quick curry. So, I had plenty of options. No reason to run to the grocery store for one thing – something I hate doing anyway because there is nothing more annoying than dealing with the after work Whole Foods crowd for one lousy ingredient.

After talking myself out of going to the grocery store for a spaghetti squash, I found myself pulling into the Whole Foods parking lot after a long day of work and buying a spaghetti squash. I made a fake macaroni and cheese out of it. It was delicious. I was eating dinner while watching television (bad habit) and the news of the government shutdown was blaring across my living room.

Suddenly, I felt ill. A quick google search confirmed that food stamps and WIC and programs that I truly believe in are being halted for who knows how long. And I had more food in my fridge than I can probably consume before it goes bad. I was immediately annoyed with myself and my impulsive need to purchase a spaghetti squash.

I took a close look at what I spend on food every month. Between coffee, happy hours, lunches out, take out, and groceries – my bill for a single person is appalling. I mean, it was double than what I thought it should be.

I’ve never been somebody who has been on a food budget. I believe in quality food. I don’t mind spending a lot of money on a really good piece of cheese. Or grass fed beef. I’ve never really watched my food spending at all and it was pretty eye-opening to see what I spend on food.

So, I’m challenging myself to a little October challenge. $150 on all food and drink for the month of October. $150 is still a decent chunk for a single person. I know that a lot of people do the food stamps challenge and I think that is admirable. I know that I couldn’t survive on it. I do want to prove that people can eat mostly organic, tons of fresh produce, high quality protein, and very little (or no) grains for $150 per month.

So, here we go.

springsummerfall. I don’t know what happened, but I blinked and fall is right here. Not quite here – but it’s looming.

There is something alluring about Fall to me. September always feels more renewing than January – it’s probably tied into my feelings about a new school year – fresh start, fresh wardrobe (man, I miss those back-to-school shopping days) and fresh, crisp air. I’m not a student anymore, thank god, but there is still something about Fall. This year feels even more new start symbolic since I just moved into a house that I think will be my home for the next few years.

This house. As I wrote about awhile ago, it’s not my ideal neighborhood. But, there is something about this space – its calmness, its charm. I’ve been in the place for a week now and it feels just perfect for me.

afterlight (3)

 

It feels like the ultimate adult fresh start. I donated about 90 percent of my furniture. I’m actually excited to have projects again. To refinish. To paint. To make somewhere a home vs. “this is where I am renting for the next 12 months, so it’s okay that things stay in boxes the entire time.”

This past weekend, despite having a ridiculous amount of unpacking to do, I planted. I symbolically threw down roots. I got my hands a little (okay, a lot) dirty. I thought about what my life in this space will look like – what my life in Portland has looked like and how I am going to create what I want.

That’s the beauty of Fall and fresh starts. Really, that’s the beauty of Portland. When I murmur an idea, everybody’s questions are “that’s amazing. how are you going to make that happen?” and not “whoa, that’s crazy. Do you have a savings account?” I’ve been trying to push down the personal “whoa that’s crazy” voice a lot recently. Silence it. Starve it. It’s starting to work. This space has been that first glimmer of hope.

I have a lot of needs right now. The need to buy a vacuum. And a couch. To hang curtains. A closet clean-out should happen too. I also need to start my own business. Place my own stake. Launch myself. Push myself.

I can make a few promises right now. I promise that I am going to build a home. I can also promise that I will be here, using this space, much more often. It’s a good little home on the internet and it’s time for me to plant some roots.

xo.

 

 

Fish and I have a complicated relationship. It’s one of my favorite things to eat. And it’s one of my least favorite things to cook.photo (65)You can’t reheat fish (not successfully, anyway) and one thing I have come to count on as a single girl is leftovers. I’m a big fan of making enough dinner to have for lunch the next day. My waistline and wallet thank me for being thrifty like that. Not only does fish not ever reheat well, but honestly, if you are somebody that brings fish to work and sticks it in the microwave, bad things should happen to you. I am not somebody that judges what other people eat, but man, subjecting your entire office to overcooked, dry, reheated fish smell should be illegal. It’s gross. Take it from me, your coworkers will hate you even more if you attempt the whole fish in the microwave situation.

So, fish for dinner is pretty much out for the leftover dilemma alone. Not to mention, I struggle with cooking fish. I always overcook it. I never add enough fat – so it’s dry. I can’t manage to debone it without hacking it to pieces. Basically, unless we are talking about shellfish, I am lost in the world of cooking fish.

But, after finding out that I can’t eat gluten, grains, soy, or legumes – its meant that more animal protein is on the dinner rotation. Not a problem – I’m an excellent carnivore. However, I have been eating a ton of red meat. Between all of the red meat I eat at restaurants and what I have been cooking at home, I have been longing for something lighter and have been craving seafood.

photo (66)

So, the solution was to create something that I could eat hot or cold (to curb the reheating problem) and something that had a ton of flavor. This was the first attempt at these shrimp cakes and I have to admit, they were pretty delicious. I might make some tweaks and try some new things in the future (see notes below), but these will definitely make it into the regular rotation.

Gluten Free Coconut Shrimp Cakes

Serves 6

1 cup shredded unsweetened coconut

1 lb. cod (I used black cod because I had it in my freezer, however, I would use a cheaper cod for this recipe in the future)

1 lb. uncooked, devained, peeled shrimp

1 egg

Lemon Juice (I used about 3 TB)

Salt

Coconut Oil

Pour the unsweetened coconut into a shallow bowl. In a food processor, process cod, shrimp, egg, lemon juice and salt until fairly smooth. Using your hand or an ice cream scoop, form 2 inch balls out of the fish and dredge them in the unsweetened coconut – flattening them a little with your palm. They should look similar to an uncooked crab cake at this point. Heat the coconut oil in a pan over medium-high heat. Pan fry each cake for about 3 minutes on per side. Note, since coconut isn’t bread, these will be a little harder to keep together – but they are still delicious and worth the extra effort.

** These are delicious warm or cold and I am planning on enjoying them over big bowls of leafy greens for lunch this week with homemade Chesapeake dressing (basic lemon, mustard, salt, pepper blend).

*** I decided that this recipe made a lot for just me (even with leftovers). So, I fried half of the cakes and froze the other half (raw, but already formed into patties) to defrost later. Hooray for quick weeknight dinners. I’ll let you know how they defrost/cook.

**** I’m likely going to play around with adding some homemade mayo to these (along with some different flavor profiles) to see if it helps them be less crumbly.

 

I’m moving. I’m thrilled that I am moving. Beyond thrilled. For those that know me outside of this blog (aka real life), you know that I have a love/hate relationship with my current apartment.

Love: My neighborhood. Hate: Nearly everything else.

Don’t get me wrong, my apartment is cute. But, it’s expensive. It’s really large for a one bedroom, but there is a lot of wasted space. No dishwasher. No washer/dryer. No garbage disposal. No parking spot. No yard. Part of a large (and ugly from the outside) complex. A hallway that smells like weed, cigarettes, and wet dog. Unlikeable neighbors. Absolutely awful landlord/property management (seriously, I could write a novel on this alone).

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But all in all, this neighborhood has won me over. Being so central. Walking to Heart every day. Having nearly everything I need within a few blocks. Being surrounded by tree lined streets. A great running route. Telling people where I live and having them sigh and say, “that’s such a great neighborhood.”

Despite my apartment’s many faults, for the three years I have lived in Portland, I couldn’t have asked for a more excellent home. But, the frustrations of my property management – the short story, this is a super old, super run down building – things break. I’ve been given so much shit for asking things to be repaired – like my front door – I like having a door that closes and locks and allows me to enter it – super high maintenance of me, I know. The rent has been skyrocketing since I moved in – it’s gone up 45 percent in less than three years. And I have been growing more and more frustrated about all of the dead space in my apartment.

So, when my friend Daniel offered to rent me his rental duplex, I didn’t think twice. It’s a little smaller than my current place – but the space is much more homey and comfortable. Plus, two bedrooms! A washer/dryer! A yard! A garage! A good friend living right next door! An adorable place to live! Cheaper rent!

The one con – I would be leaving my neighborhood. My home.

My soon to be home is only 35 blocks north of my current home. It’s a quick 5-10 (traffic depending) minute drive from my favorite haunts. It’s all of 3 miles from my beloved Heart.

And here is where my thoughts got ugly and shameful. Daniel’s neighborhood is different than mine – nothing is walkable. It’s a little grittier. It’s definitely lower income. The streets aren’t paved. It’s the only time I have been in Portland and I have noticed that nobody around me looks like me.

When Daniel was showing me the space, he exclaimed, “it’s really great to live somewhere in Portland where there is actually diversity.” I took a long look around and smiled nervously. I immediately came home and started searching the police crime maps for the potential new neighborhood. I meticulously compared them to where I live now. This is something I should ALWAYS do before I move anywhere – I’m ashamed to admit that this is the first time I have done any of this type of research.

I kept thinking about the unpaved roads, the houses down the block that are falling apart, the groups of men that seem to just hang out on the street corner and I wondered if I could actually live there. If it was a smart decision. If it was a safe decision.

And then…

I thought about all of the times I have said things like “Portland would be perfect if there were more diversity here.”

I thought about all of the times I have said things like “I don’t even see color.”*

I thought about all of the times I have thought that it might be nice to live in a “more real” neighborhood or city.

The truth is, my new neighborhood is just as safe as my current neighborhood. In fact, there is less petty crime (robbery, car break-ins, DUIs, etc.) and there is the same amount of violent crime (rape, assault, and homicide). There is slightly more drug related crime and more domestic disturbances – but since I don’t do drugs and I’m not planning on getting into an abusive relationship – none of these things are a threat to me in my day-to-day life.

I’ve never lived in a neighborhood that wasn’t considered wealthy. All of my life, my neighbors were making six-figure incomes and my surroundings reflected that.

I’m deeply ashamed that I drove up to this new house, I saw the condition of the rest of the homes on that street, the unpaved roads, and the different races mingling and my mind immediately wondered if it was safe enough to move. I’m disgusted with myself that I’m still a little worried and nervous.

This is classism. This is white privilege. This is hipster racism. This is the worst, smallest side of myself. A side that I truly didn’t know existed and a piece of myself that I am so embarrassed about. I know better, I am better than this – but yet, these thoughts still pop up.

As painful as this is for me to write, I felt like this was important to share. I pride myself on being open minded. I’m a feminist. I support gay marriage. I have friends of all races, backgrounds, and socioeconomic classes. And yet, these ugly thoughts came to light when I thought about moving to a “poor neighborhood.”

I never thought I would think this way. I know that if I read this on somebody’s blog, I would immediately think that person was a privileged asshole.

I don’t really know what to say for myself. I wrote this because I felt like I had to. For those that protest that white privilege is just liberal propaganda to make white people feel badly and that hipster racism is not a real thing – I’m here to say that if you are white and especially if you are white and middle class, you have white privilege. You do. I do. I didn’t know that I did until I realized that I was nervous to move. Nervous to move to a place that was nearly perfect and more in price range. Nervous to move next door to one of my best friends in Portland.

I knew white privilege was real. I thought I was immune because of my political beliefs and my diverse circle of friends and my hippie free love attitude. But, I’m not immune and I’m so sad about it and I am humbled by how wrong I have been.

This all has been absolutely flooring me for weeks now.

Now that I have all this ugliness off of my chest and I feel like I can work on these parts of myself that make me so sad, I am happy to say that I am so looking forward to moving. I really am. I can’t wait to meet my neighbors (besides Daniel, I know that guy). I can’t wait to garden and give my dog a yard. I can’t wait to discover new coffee shops and new friends and new parks. I can’t wait to save money and start saving for a down payment on a house (thank you cheaper rent). And I especially can’t wait to share the space here – I see so much crazy potential in it – it’s going to be such a great move.

*Note: I haven’t said this in a long, long, long time. College was the last time probably – for good reason. It’s a stupid thing to say, but I have said it.

WRITERS NOTE: This post was incredibly hard for me to write and the ugliest, hardest thing I have ever written about myself. I am not proud. I shared it because I thought it was important. With the disturbing recent headlines (Trayvon Martin in particular), I felt like it was necessary to share these horrible and fleeting thoughts that I never thought I would have. I thought I was better than this and above it all – if anybody would have told me that I would have had these thoughts – I would have called them crazy. My entire group of friends would have called them crazy. But, when I was put into a position that wasn’t hypothetical – the thoughts appeared. I wanted to share these things because everybody needs to recognize their role in making society better or worse. Everybody needs to own their ugliness and make strides to change. I’ve never been so disappointed in myself. I know this post is going to rub some people the wrong way. I know I’m not as eloquent in explaining as I’d like to be. I know I’ll lose readers and twitter followers – I understand – but I felt like this was important.

 

I have been thinking a lot about dating recently. I don’t really date. I mean, I have dated. It’s not anything I do regularly and it’s not a priority. I would love a partner – but the idea of dating a ton to meet somebody – not appealing. I’m terrible at it. Beyond terrible, actually. Being single at 30 (for me) means having to rely online dating. I work in a really small, really incestuous community – I can’t imagine dating within it. Most of my friends are married or in very serious relationships – none of them seem to have single male friends (or at least, they aren’t interested in setting me up with anybody). I can’t remember the last time I met anybody at a bar or a party (this makes me sound sad, I know) – so online dating it is.

Online dating is horrible. At least, it is for me. You make a snap judgement based on a photo or the way they answered their profile questions…are they witty? are they trying too hard? can they spell? why are they wearing that weird hat in that photo? And the list of potential, “no thanks” continues.

ANYWAY, this is a long winded way to say that I have fallen hard for this blog. It combines all my favorite things: dating, writing, art, typography, fun videos, and relationships. Plus, I find both Jessica and Tim to be very likable and endearing – which to be totally honest – is not common for me when reading somebody’s blog. It’s a lot of reading to get caught up, but it’s totally worth it – it’s my favorite new thing on the Internet.

 

This is really long and there are no photos. Onward…

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I’m an absurdly competitive person. Most people, even the people closest to me, have no idea. I’m quiet about it because I always viewed stereotypically competitive people as hot-heads or overly aggressive or just plain ridiculous – I’m none of those things (well, ridiculous sometimes). But, I am competitive. It’s honestly my least favorite aspect of myself – it’s almost unhealthy how badly I need to be good at something. I’m the type of competitive that obsesses if somebody is better at me than something or seems to be better than me as a person. If a man breaks up with me and immediately starts seeing somebody else – I convince myself that she’s somehow better than I am – in some aspect or in every aspect. I find reasons to give myself flaws and tell myself that I lost and she won. It’s not behavior I’m proud of and it’s held me back in all aspects of my life. It’s closely tied to my fear of failure, my perfectionism, and hating a learning curve. Believe me, it’s not fun inside my brain. It’s a struggle to rise above these thoughts – a daily struggle.

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Growing up, I played tennis. I was good, I wasn’t great. But, I was a fairly athletic high schooler and I loved being on the tennis team. Tennis didn’t require a lot of distance running. Our practices were usually a couple of hours followed by running a mile or running bleachers. I remember those short distances being hell – I was exhausted from leaving everything I had on the court for two hours and then I was never a strong distance runner even when I had all the energy in the world. I always finished in the bottom half – I was never last, but I was happy to have ever finished in the middle. I hated it. I told myself that I hated running and that I was bad at it. I never considered that I was running a 8:30 – 10 minute mile after working out for 2+ hours. I just looked at it as I was slow and everybody else was fast. I was never going to be a runner. My legs were too short. I wasn’t built for running distances.

That was that.

+++

I didn’t play tennis in college. We had no team and honestly, after 13 years of playing, I was burnt out. I never ran either.

+++

I moved to San Francisco with a boyfriend. We were so happy and so in love. And then we became comfortable. And then we started to get fat. And unhappy. And a little fatter. We didn’t have the courage to say that it wasn’t working anymore – so we just ignored our problems by eating, a lot. I tried to get him to work out with me. I saw an ad for Team In Training on BART one afternoon. I convinced him to sign up with me. Halfway through the season, he quit. He hated it. He didn’t feel a connection to the people. He didn’t want to wake up early on the weekends to work out. Our training runs were never in convenient locations. Not wanting to fight or go at it alone, I quit with him.

+++

That relationship mercifully ended. I moved down to Southern California. I felt alone and heavy and sad to be back in Orange County. I started focusing on losing weight. And I started going for walks. And eventually runs. I lost about 45 pounds in 3 months.

+++

I kept running here and there. I never really trained for anything. I liked to run, so I would throw on shoes and go whenever I felt like it. I never really thought about time or splits or specific types of training. I knew that I felt slow and I kept telling myself that I was slow. I never pushed myself to go faster or harder than I was. I just plugged along. I ran a couple of 5ks when they came up. And then out of nowhere, I decided to sign up for a half marathon. I ran the San Diego Rock and Roll Half Marathon in 2010. It went fine – I didn’t really train (I had never run more than 5 miles before that) – so I didn’t really know what to expect. I thought it was fun. I still thought I was too slow. But, I finished and I was happy.

+++

I moved to Oregon. My weight has fluctuated like crazy since. It’s up and down. My health has really gone downhill. Running regularly has become a thing of the past. I’m lucky if I get out once per week.

+++

I ran another half marathon without training. It wasn’t good. It wasn’t bad either. I just felt unprepared. And slow. And sore. Holy hell, the soreness.

+++

I haven’t run much since the half. I really had every intention in the world of picking up from there and doing it – making a schedule, making time, sticking to it, putting in the effort. And then life happened and work imploded and it was my birthday and my health started to significant slide downhill (more on this later). And in the back of my head was the relentless, “you’ll never be good at running, why even bother? I bet you could train for an entire year and still not finish much faster.”

The idea of putting myself out there. Declaring that I am doing this, I am running, I am slow, I am out of shape, but I am doing it…hasn’t been an option. The idea that I could train for a marathon and finish slowly while somebody else who maybe didn’t train finished faster – ugh. It crushes me. It makes me see the words failure and not good enough in huge blinking lights and I just want to curl up in bed and watch TV. Believe me, nobody is better at curling up and watching TV than I am.

+++

I changed my mind yesterday. I picked a distance I haven’t run yet (hint: further than a half). I picked a date way, way, way in the future. I sat with a good friend who helped me map out a reasonable plan – taking into account: my crazy work schedule, my unpredictable health situation, and my still not all the way recovered leg injury.

We made a spreadsheet (holy hell, I love a good spread sheet). And I was off. I breezed through yesterday’s workout. Was I fast? Not really. But, the run felt pretty good for the first one back and I was pleased with my effort. I refused to hear any negative self talk about how I should have been faster or how I couldn’t go any farther than that. I ran! I was successful! Day one!

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Which brings me to today. Today’s run was…not good. I felt nauseous the entire time. I was too hot. I couldn’t find a comfortable pace. My stomach was doing things that I was uncomfortable with. I just felt…bad. About halfway through, I paused my running app on my phone and just decided I was going to quit and try again tomorrow. I was too frustrated. I felt too sick. This run was barely a run since I had to slow down and walk so much anyway. It didn’t count.

And then, I remembered what my friend said to me yesterday: We all start somewhere and it always sucks.

I took a deep breath and decided to finish. To push through. To walk if I needed to. I just couldn’t allow myself to quit on day 2. I reminded myself that some runs are going to be humbling and it’s an important test of character to just continue. I don’t need to be fast. I don’t need to compete with imaginary people who are better than me at everything. I just need to try. And if I keep training, I’ll improve.

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I came home from the run – a sweaty mess, curled in the fetal position on my bathroom, moaning about stomach cramps. I had to lay there for 20 minutes before my cramps settled and I began to feel better. It was a miserable feeling. It was a feeling I’ve had before when I’ve run and usually about the time that I stop running for a few weeks, before trying again. I realized that this would keep happening if I didn’t just push through it. If I waiting two weeks before lacing up my shoes, I would likely feel this way again.

My next run might be just bad as today’s. I could struggle and walk and cry and cramp and feel bad the entire time. But the more I do this and the more I forget about being a slow runner or frustrated with my body, the stronger I will be. Not just physically, but mentally.

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I have no doubt that pushing myself to get into the type of shape that I want to be in isn’t going to be easy. There are going to be plenty more bad workouts ahead where I want to quit and do nearly anything else but hit the gym or pavement or whatever it may be.

But I owe it to myself to stick it through.

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Urban Coop is a lot of things. It’s my tiny little corner of the Internet to say what I want and I always wanted this to be a broad space to write. It will remain that way – but it’s also going to be a lot more exercise/health focused while I get my head back to a good place. If that’s not your thing, I totally understand – I started a tumblr that’s more focused on things I like, art, music, articles, politics – all things I will still write about here – but lots of quick hits over there if this type of navel gazing bores you (I totally get it – I find myself boring too).

Trail Mix Cups

 

I did the first adult thing I have done in a long while. I joined a gym. Now, to many of you, this might not seem like much of an accomplishment or even anything that you would classify as being grown up. But, for me, it’s a big deal.

All the way until I was 18, I was an athlete. I played tennis daily – it wasn’t ever considered “working out”, it was just what I did. It was just like brushing my teeth or breathing – I played tennis – no questions asked. When I started college, I stopped – my school didn’t have a tennis team, none of my friends really played, and I just let my racquet sit quietly in my closet.

Since then, I’ve realized that I can’t do nothing and stay in shape. It’s a sad, adult reality. I can’t eat French fries three times per week and not visually see (and feel) consequences. Apparently, it’s taken me until I turned 30 to really do anything about it.

Sure, I’ve worked out here and there. Gone for runs. There was the fall of hiking – where I went for a hike every weekend. I love being outside – so I told myself that outside is where I want to work out. Who wants to be in a gym when they can be outside? Nobody. At least, not me. But, the Pacific Northwest is a fickle mistress – gorgeous, with tons of outdoor hikes, bike trails, and trail runs – but with lots of rain. I am not a fan of the rain. I have spent the last three years telling myself that I would TOTALLY WORK OUT IN THE RAIN. It’s no big deal, I live here and now rain is part of my life. But, obviously, I am the biggest liar ever because I think I have worked out in the rain exactly five times. In three years.

So, I became an adult two weeks ago. I joined a gym. A fancy, expensive one. That I love. And, even more importantly, that I have been going to regularly.

And with working out on a regular basis, I have gotten hungry. Now, this wouldn’t be an issue usually because I am really good at snacks. However, I have recently eliminated grains from my diet most of the time – so that eliminates a lot of my favorite, go to snacks. I also don’t eat a ton of dairy anymore – so there goes things like cheese and yogurt. Fruits and vegetables are perfectly lovely things that I eat all of the time, but after a really hard two hour sweat session, I want more than a couple of carrots. I’ve been experimenting with mini-meals and all of those things – but I really hate eating like that. I’m much more of a 3 meal per day type of lady, with one or two small snacks, if needed.

I also know that I love trail mix. LOVE IT. I don’t usually go the store bought route – there is always one thing that I am picking around or something about the flavors that don’t mesh the way I want them too (I want sweet and salty in every bite). So, I used to make my own until I realized that I have no self control around bags of trail mix. Zero. A bag that should last a week, somehow lasts me a day and a half. It’s pretty alarming.

So, when I was perusing Health-Bent’s new cookbooks, Primal Cravings, and I saw their recipe for trail mix cups, I knew that these would be the perfect before or after gym snack for me. Also, genius. Not sure why I didn’t think of it. Trail mix in portion controlled sizes and super customizable, yes please.

Now, these photos are some of the worst I have ever taken – so apologies. But, I was so excited to share this recipe, I felt like we could all suffer through some bad photos.

Trail Mix Cups

Adapted from Primal Cravings

1.5 cups chocolate chips (I use Enjoy Life brand – I like that they don’t have dairy or soy in them)

Good flakey sea salt (I use Jacobsen Sea Salt for nearly everything)

Toasted coconut*

Lime Zest*

Dried Cranberries*

Almond Slivers*

Line a muffin tin with paper or silicone liners. I used a large muffin tin, but a mini muffin tin will work as well.

Chocolate Chips

Melt 1.5 chocolate chips on the stove. When chocolate is melted, put about two spoonfuls in each muffin tin liner (less if you are using a mini muffin tin).

Salted Chocolate

Add a little salt to the chocolate. Seriously, salt makes everything better.

In half of the cups, add toasted coconut and lime zest. In the other half, add cranberries and almonds. Honestly, the amount is up to you, just make sure they are all touching the chocolate.

Throw muffin tin in the fridge until chocolate hardens. These do melt – so leave them in the fridge to store.

*You can use any combination of toppings that you like. You can add as much or as little as you like. This is a super customizable recipe where options are really limitless. I think my next round will include crystallized ginger and orange peel. Go crazy.

blue skies

The last three years have been strange, I don’t know any other way to describe it. I haven’t been happier in my life and all at the same time, this is the most unhappy I have ever been. It’s such a juxtaposition that makes very little sense. For a long time, I was convinced that my depression was rearing it’s horrifying head again – but this felt different. Different enough that I knew it wasn’t chemical. I’ve been in a rut – it’s as simple and as complicated as that.

About three years ago, I found out that the man I loved was not in love with me (and was in fact, dating somebody else and keeping that from me, and all the while having sex with me…he’s a gem), the marketing department where I was working went through tremendous budget cuts – so I got laid off, and I was living in Orange County – which is one of my least favorite places in California (except, my family is there and so is the beach – those are the only two things that make the OC remotely bearable for me).

So, in September of 2010, I packed everything up and moved to Portland. Hands down, the best and most fulfilling decision I have ever made. More on this later, I promise.

But, since I moved here – it’s been a series of ups and downs. I settled into a career that I love in ways and loathe in others. I’ve gained a bunch of weight. I forged incredible, incredible friendships that I didn’t think existed outside of romantic comedies or episodes of Friends. I started going out a lot – which is great for my hermit like tendencies. I haven’t had a relationship last longer than three months. I spend a lot of time sleeping. Dodger has gotten meaner. My career has flourished. I work all of the time. I still don’t have confidence in my work. I’m not writing as much as I should. My finances are still messy. And all of that stuff I mentioned that happened just around three years ago, I’m not over it. Far from it. I mean, I’m over the guy and I’m over the job and I’m over feeling like I was stuck in Orange County. But, I’m still scared that somebody I trust and care about more than I thought was possible, could turn out to be the worst and hurt me in unimaginable ways. I’m still terrified that my work isn’t good enough and I am going to forever going to be replaceable and I could lose my job at any second. I have a reoccurring nightmare that something catastrophic will happen and I will be back in Orange County for good and feel stuck (all in all, not the worst place to be, but it feels like a very awful white collar prison to me).

It’s the highest of highs and the lowest of lows. And it all stems from everything that happened before – before I packed up my life – before Portland.

And, I realized that I stopped doing all of the things I used to do before. The things that made me, me. The things that were odd, yet made me happy. I no longer spend hours listening to music and rearranging my bookshelves, cleaning out my closets, or reorganizing my spice cupboard – I keep thinking this home, this apartment isn’t permanent – so I sleep or watch Netflix instead. I don’t exercise regularly – I used to run everyday and enjoy being outside – I no longer just play. I don’t really date anybody suitable for dating. I date a lot of guys who are “fun for now” – but I don’t get involved with anybody worthy – out of paralyzing fear of what happened last time I thought I had met somebody worthy. I work a lot, but I try to keep a healthy distance – I’ve worked hard at focusing on all of the negative parts of my job and none of the positive – just in case the rug gets pulled out under me and I no longer have it.

Armor. I have it in spades.

But, I’ve realized that I’m so unhappy being this guarded. I’m miserable. And I should be unabashedly happy. Seriously, Portland and the life that I have built here is wonderfully sweet. All I see is the salty. And sometimes the bitter.

So, I’m dipping my toe back into normalizing. Getting back to my normal. The normal that was the good things three years ago – the loving with all of my heart, investing in my job, and taking care of my home. And for me, going back to normal is going to be a challenge and one that I can’t dive into – it’s all about baby steps for me.

Oddly, my first step is something so silly and so simple, that I have no idea why it didn’t come to me sooner.

Dinner Party Invite

Duh. Having people over. Cooking. Making a playlist. I used to do this all of the time and it brought me so much joy. When I moved to Portland, I simply stopped. When I first moved here, I had all of one friend here. A friend who had a nine month old baby, was going through a break-up, and had just met her future husband. So, suffice to say, she was a bit busy. But, beyond that, I had no income – I was unemployed, I had used all of my money and borrowed money from my family just to move here, so inviting people over and throwing parties was not exactly in my thoughts.

Since then, I’ve worked for chefs. For the past two years, I have spent (on average), five nights per week eating at restaurants. Some of the most delicious food that I have ever had comes from these chefs – they are hysterical, frustrating geniuses –  that know how to load me up with all the duck fat, pork belly, and French fries that my body can handle. In turn, the nights that I’m home, I don’t even really cook. I make a quick (lazy) curry. Sometimes, I bake a potato. Basically, most of all cooking (even for myself) has disappeared. So, the idea of inviting anybody over hasn’t really crossed my mind.

I have plenty of excuses of course – Dodger is gotten crazier and a little meaner. My house is usually cluttered – due to not spending the time organizing and rearranging like I used to. And the biggest reason, the majority of my friends work in food. Therefore, are spoiled by these chefs like I am. And I know that nothing I can cook for them will measure up to whatever they are serving down the street.

But, truly, my friends are lovely people and they don’t expect 12 courses of super delicious, super rich food. They don’t care that Dodger will beg for food at the table. And they really don’t care that my bookshelf is less organized than I would like it to be. These people know that cooking for them and spending time with them in my home is helping me go back to my version of normal. And the girl who loves with her whole heart and bites off more than she can chew without trepidation, is on her way back.

I’m the worst at blogging. I mean, I’m the best at starting posts and saving them as a draft and then forgetting about them for days. Or weeks. Sometimes, months. But, here I am again. Playing catch up.

Things I’ve been up to when I haven’t been here:

384572_10100229755420390_903973911_nI went to Palm Springs where there were babes and babies and puppies and sunshine. To say it was glorious would be an understatement. It was the best. Although, I still worked way, way, way too much for “vacation” because….

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we opened a restaurant. And by we, I mean the company I work for and these guys. Grassa is up and running and fucking delicious. I’m not just saying that because I do their PR. I swear. Handmade, perfect and creative pasta dishes at a really ridiculously cheap price point? I’m in. My waistline is going to suffer – but it’s going to be worth every carb filled bite. If that wasn’t enough…

389225_10100232741990280_2038460541_nI said farewell to crab hand rolls at Wafu and hello to oysters at Block + Tackle. Yes, in the span of one week, we opened TWO restaurants. We redesigned and changed the concept of Wafu and transformed it to Block + Tackle. Equally as delicious – I anticipate eating a ton of oysters there this summer.

So, it’s been a busy month. Just a little. Nothing really compares to the rush of opening a restaurant – it’s busy and stressful and absolutely insane – but there is something fantastic about seeing something grow from idea to actual living, breathing, thriving business in a really short amount of time. It’s an absolute rush and despite all the stress and the late nights and the working during vacation, I’m pretty damn smitten with it.

 

 

 

More on this later, but I hope you are all subscribing to Ann Friedman’s twitter feed/newsletter. Seek her out – she’s wonderful.

Also, supremely grateful for all of the amazingly talented, brilliant, wonderful, funny, successful, and SUPPORTIVE women in my life.

Shine On, Friends.