This Week in My Garden: August 19, 2015

In the middle of this heat wave, it's hard to imagine that summer is almost over. But here in Vermont, it is. One of these days, we'll wake up to a cool 50 degree morning and put on jackets to walk the dog or bring the garbage cans out to the curb, and we'll put on jackets again the next day and the day after that, and eventually we'll realize it's Fall. Our light jackets will get replaced with fleece ones on the coat hooks, and we'll try to get a handle on all the leaves. We'll put the garden to bed - if we're on top of things. The threat of snow will give us a sense of urgency.

But for now, it's still summer. There are two fans going in the bedroom, and we're avoiding turning on the oven. Every day, I pick a new tomato or five. I sort through the giant bush of pole bean plants to find a few ripe beans here and there. Though it's silly and most likely too late, I'm hopeful that the tiny little cantaloupe on the vine will grow big enough to eat in these last weeks.   

My fighting spirit has been replaced with resignation, and I just swat away the Japanese Beetles. I suspect there will be no brussels sprouts since the cabbage worms bested me. I've run out of Sluggo and haven't bought a new one. 

After a summer of pulling weeds and fighting off pests, I'm just hauling in the harvest and preparing to say goodbye to my daily walks through these beds. Before long they'll be covered in snow, and I'll dream again of next summer and the beautiful garden I'll create.

p.s. Tomato Pie - if you've got tomatoes coming out of your ears

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35 Things I've Learned After 35 Years

I never understood people who didn't look forward to their birthdays. Adults who moaned, "Ugh, don't even talk about it!" confused me. Don't even talk about it?? That day that everyone celebrates the fact that you're walking on this planet with cake and presents??

But this year, when my wife asked what I wanted to do for my birthday, I cried and said I didn't want to think about it. A difficult year and the sense of being somehow behind on the path of life left me feeling like time was moving forward without me. And my birthday was a very specific representation of that. 

I had a new understanding of all those folks who hate their birthdays. 

I came around eventually and talked to my wife about celebrating, ultimately enjoying the cake she baked and the evening with friends. And I started thinking about all that I've learned in the last 35 years, all the ways I'm not "behind," all the ways I've really got my stuff figured out.

So here they are. 


35 Things I've Learned These Past 35 Years

1. An episode of Murder She Wrote is a satisfactory antidote to a bad day at work, though two episodes makes the escape complete.

2. Giving friends a second chance when needed is almost always the best policy. No one is perfect, and most of us have received second chances we didn't even know were second chances. 

3. Sparkly shoes can step in for self-confidence when necessary.

4. No emotion lasts forever, at least not in the same form. 

5. A contagious laugh is way sexier than cleavage.

6. Buying the smaller size because you're going to lose a few pounds is never a good idea.

7. The right shampoo really does make a difference. 

8. Learning to accept love and support from friends may be one of life's greatest struggles. And gifts. 

9. The world is not a fair place. Trying to mend wounds for others feels better than dwelling on what feels unfair to you. 

10. Ratios for water to grain are: rice - 2:1, grits - 4:1, oats - 2:1. 

11. Making things with your hands heals your soul.

12. Use of the Oxford Comma is a point of controversy in the U.S. even though your eleventh grade English teacher beat it into you as the word of God.

13. Your partner cannot read your mind, and their kindness is no less kind because you suggested it. 

14. Friends have love languages too. Learning and accepting the ways friends care and receive care will go a long way toward meaningful relationships.

15. People will disappoint you, and you will disappoint people. That's usually not the end.

16. A non-greasy, non-smelly hand lotion is a thing to be treasured. 

17. Prayer is about what happens inside. 

18. No matter what size you are, you're still you, with all the same gifts and failings.

19. The tension on a sewing machine is a dark and mysterious force that must be honored and feared. 

20. Tending plants in your own vegetable garden is a special kind of wonderful. 

21. Gratitude works. 

22. If you can't find gratitude today, you might tomorrow. (Repeat.)

23. Facebook can make you feel connected or disconnected, depending on how you use it. Commenting and engaging feels better.

24. A Sunday afternoon on the couch with a good book is Heaven. 

25. Avoiding all conflict will result in losing opportunities for closeness. Sometimes fair and honest arguments are the path forward.

26. It is best to get your skis onto the ground before you slide off the lift. 

27. Any day with kitchen dancing is a success.

28. Cheetos will not solve your problems. (See #21).

29. Compassion is more likely to bring about change than judgment - in yourself and others.

30. Fresh flowers on the table make up for a little messiness elsewhere.

31. Any person who can regularly make you laugh until you cry and/or pee just a little in your pants is to be cherished as an angel on Earth.

32. Everybody has shit they're working through and not talking about.

33. Reading the recipe slowly and carefully before beginning a new dish is probably a good idea.

34. Asking for what you need is generally the best way to get what you need.

35. Everything will not be okay. Some things will. Others won't. With time, that will be okay.


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This Week in My Garden: August 7, 2015

I feel unmoored lately, sometimes drifting, sometimes dog paddling through day after day, stopping occasionally to look around frantically for something to tether myself to. 

Some days it's work, some days it's the safety of my bed, lying next to my wife. Too often, it's things that are themselves floating and leave me feeling alone and disoriented. 

The best moments are in the garden, soaking in the sun alongside these beings whose roots reach into the earth. I talk to them and gently tend their leaves and ask them for a bit of their strength, their knowledge of the way to hold yourself firm to the ground. 

As I eat a tiny ripe tomato or a crisp raw green bean, I imagine their wisdom seeping into my veins, teaching me what it means to grow strong.

p.s. The Messy Shot.


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In Between Movie Montages

You know that movie montage?

The one where the prima ballerina/star quarterback/tennis legend was all uptight and not able to access their true gift anymore until they broke free of their structure and danced with kids/played a pickup game with their old neighborhood pals/volleyed on their childhood court and remembered why they loved it in the first place?

You get the idea. 

And you know that other movie montage?

The one where the ice skater/spelling bee contender/musician wasn't sure they had what it takes to make it until they worked for hours and hours, denying all else, their body shaking and sweat pouring off their face as they proved their mettle? 

I'm stuck in the space between those movie montages. At least the non-Hollywood space. 

For months I've been getting up between 4:30 and 5:00 most weekday mornings to write these posts. The alarm would go off, and my feet were on the ground before I could take a second breath. I cherished those dark, quiet hours with my computer. I was doing exactly what the writers say is the key to writing - butt in seat, daily practice. And my blog - you guys - was my taskmaster. 

I didn't become a superstar, but I was on a role.

Recently - is it the heat of summer, the tiredness from my job, the daily struggles of life? - when the alarm goes off, I'm sluggish. I stop the ringing and lie still in bed. Several mornings I simply haven't gotten up. On others, I've moved to my computer and sat staring at the screen, empty. In homage to my taskmaster, I posted on these pages even when I felt removed from my words. 

Last week, I broke the rules. I slept in, leaving the page empty. This week, I did it again. 

I keep thinking of the saying - If you want to be a writer, write. But at what cost? The destruction of your love of writing? Sending words out into the world that disappoint you?

I'm being a little hysterical, of course. Getting up early to write will not destroy my love of writing - at least not long-term. But will it help? Will I work through this and get to the other side? The side where I feel inspired again? Is now the time where I sweat it out and prove my mettle? Or is now the time where I sleep in and write poetry and emoji fiction and snippets of love stories on the weekend?

In the past, I've dropped the practice on a million different things, each time proving to myself (at least in my own story of my life) that I do not have what it takes. 

At this crossroads, the question is whether I double down or set myself free? 


p.s. Always so much navel gazing about writing

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Project Pie: Tomato Pie

Project Pie: I'll be baking 24 pies before Pi Day 2016 to get over my fear of baking pies. And to eat delicious things. You can join me by posting about your pies in the comments or tagging your twitter, instagram, or facebook posts with #projectpie. Make something scrumptious and gooey!

I was in 9th grade, with braces and acne and unfortunate bangs, and I couldn't believe this 10th grade boy liked me. Wanted to play songs for me on his guitar over the phone while I fell asleep. Sent me flowers and wrote me love notes and waited for me outside classes. Liked me liked me. 

He was on the tennis team, a funny quirk in his otherwise alternative grunge persona, I always thought. We headed out to some neighborhood courts so he could teach me how to play. And so we could have our first fight. 

Sporty was a word no one would ever have used to describe me. I played the flute and the piano, got good grades, and sang in the church choir. In the hand-eye coordination department, I fell into the zero to none category. 

Walking out onto that tennis court, I could feel my middle school gym class anxiety rising up. For reasons I could not understand, this boy thought I was special and, though I blushed at the mere thought, sexy. I was not about to show him just how uncoordinated and ridiculous I could be. 

So instead of trying to hit the ball, I planted my feet on the ground and swung my arm out half-heartedly, watching as the green fuzzy sphere flew past me. Again and again, I wouldn't run for it. My boyfriend became more and more frustrated and eventually refused to send anything over the net. We'd try serving instead. When he told me it helped to grunt as I hit the ball, I knew things wouldn't go any better. There was no way I'd be making any un-ladylike sounds in front of him. Absolutely not. 

About 30 minutes after we'd arrived, he stormed off the court and we made the trip back to my house in silence.

I feel sad for both of them. The boy who couldn't understand why on earth his girlfriend would agree to go learn to play tennis and then appear to become catatonic on the court. And the girl who would rather stand motionless and get into a fight than try something difficult and risk failing. 

And what does this have to do with tomato pie?

Oh yes. The pie. 

I thought of that moment out on the tennis court as I picked up my pie crust and watched it tear into three and then four large pieces on its way into the pie pan. My shoulders slumped, and I looked at the dough and thought for a moment that I wouldn't be able to put this pie up on the blog. 

And then I remembered that I'm not fourteen years old, that I have two decades on that girl, that one of the blessings of getting older is worrying less about looking silly, about failing. 

So I slapped that pie crust into the pan and squished all the torn edges together and made myself a pie. 

And then the blasted thing happened all over again when I pulled it out of the oven and realized I totally overlooked the part about how you're supposed to remove the tomato seeds so the whole thing isn't a SOPPING MESS. Whoops. 

Folks, I swung hard at that ball, and it just sailed right. on. by. 

But thankfully I've gained a few other things in the last 20 years - a little stick-to-it-iveness and a deep hatred of wasting food. I'll be damned if I was going to let a little slushiness stand in the way of eating those beautiful tomatoes and a healthy serving of cheddar cheese. No ma'am. 

I spooned out liquid that was pooling around the crust, put that sucker back in the oven, spooned out liquid, back in the oven, spooned out liquid... You get the point. 

And it turned out quite pretty and, I'll be honest, awfully tasty in spite of the soggy crust and tomato juices leaking all over my plate. 

I wish I had taken photos of the messy parts, but I was so focused on remedying the situation that I completely forgot to document. You'll have to take my word for it. 

This whole project pie thing feels like a do-over for all those times I chose standing still over trying. And there were so many. There still are. But in this one tiny spot, on these Sundays in my kitchen, I'm going for it. I'm risking failure. I'm practicing swinging and missing and swinging again.

I wonder what's next. 

p.s. I'm not writing out my own recipe for this one because things didn't go as planned, but here's where you can go to make your own: I used this olive oil crust - not sure what went wrong. I used whole wheat pastry flour, and it's very tasty even though it didn't hold together. And I used this tomato tart recipe, but I used a mix of sour cream (1/4 cup) and shredded parmesan cheese (1/4 cup) in place of the gruyere, and cheddar cheese in place of the camembert. And I used heirloom tomatoes from our farm share - don't forget to take out the seeds!

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Tuesday Morning


I got up early to write, but my words aren't ready for you guys yet. Maybe they're not ready for me yet. Or I'm not ready for them? 

After an hour of writing, I got back into bed and snoozed with my wife and then snuggled with the pup. The high is 90 today, and I'm lazing here under the sheet while I should be up showering and getting ready for work, letting Navah run around and put all the fans in the right windows to pull in as much cool air as possible after last night's rain. 

I'll be late for sure, but sometimes a Tuesday morning calls for extra snuggles. 

Project Pie: Strawberry Rhubarb Crumb Pie (Whole Wheat + Vegan)

Project Pie: I'll be baking 24 pies before Pi Day 2016 to get over my fear of baking pies. And to eat delicious things. You can join me by posting about your pies in the comments or tagging your twitter, instagram, or facebook posts with #projectpie. Make something scrumptious and gooey!

Strawberry Rhubarb Pie sounds like the perfect dessert for a Southern luncheon on a summer afternoon, but I didn't have a slice until I was an adult living in New England. I'm not sure I'd ever even heard of rhubarb before a few years ago. 

The notion that this reddish, greenish stalk that looks a lot like celery can, when mixed with sugar, turn into a deliciously sweet confection is a bit magical to me. And when I decided to bake 24 pies, there was absolutely no question that a strawberry rhubarb would be in the mix. 

We haven't grown rhubarb in the garden because apparently it takes over everything, but I do think it would be a good problem to have - Ugh. I have sooo. much. rhubarb. I guess I'll have to make ANOTHER batch of rhubarb jam.  Damn.

You see what I'm saying? 

Instead, I hunted rhubarb this year like a hungry animal, asking everyone I saw with a rhubarb-based treat where they'd gotten theirs. Person after person told me it was from their garden, and it was all gone. I despaired that perhaps there would be no strawberry rhubarb pie for me. 

And then a couple weeks ago my wife called from the co-op and told me there was rhubarb - should she get some? Oh, I despaired. I was leaving for BlogHer in New York that week and wouldn't have time to bake a pie. But would it last while I was gone? Buying rhubarb and having it go bad in my refrigerator would be deeply depressing. I took a gamble and told her not to buy any, hoping there would still be rhubarb at the store when I returned. 

And glory of glories, there was. 

I even have a little left over. Ugh. So much rhubarb. I guess I'll have to make a little rhubarb compote this week. 


Strawberry Rhubarb Crumb Pie (Whole Wheat)
Adapted from Strawberry Rhubarb Pie


1 1/4 cups whole wheat pastry flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
4 tablespoons cold Earth Balance (or other non-dairy butter)
1/4 cup shortening, room temperature
1/4 cup ice water

1. Quickly mix the flour and salt together in a large bowl. 
2. Break the shortening into large chunks and cut your butter (from the freezer) into small pieces. Add the butter and shortening to the flour mixture. Cut it into the dry ingredients by chopping vigorously with a pastry blender or cutting it with two knives. Work quickly so the butter does not melt. Make sure you are getting all the flour off the bottom of the bowl. Stop when the mixture has some pea-sized pieces and is mostly a consistency of dry, coarse crumbs, like cornmeal. 
3. Drizzle the ice water over the top. Using the blade side of a rubber spatula, cut into the mixture until it is evenly moistened and small balls begin to form. If balls of dough stick together, you're done. If they don't, drizzle 1-2 more tablespoons of water over the top. 
4. Press the dough together until it forms a ball. It should be rough, not smooth. Press into a flat, round disk. Wrap tightly in plastic and refrigerate for at least 30 minutes. You can refrigerate for up to several days. 


3-4 cups rhubarb, cut into 1/2 inch pieces
3-4 cups strawberries, halved
3/4 cup coconut palm sugar (or sub cane sugar)
3 tablespoons whole wheat flour
1 teaspoon lemon juice
2 tablespoons Earth Balance (or sub butter), cut into small chunks

1. Mix together the sugar and flour and set aside. 
2. Mix together the rhubarb, strawberries, lemon juice, and Earth Balance and set aside.

Crumb Topping

1/2 cup whole wheat flour (or whole wheat pastry flour)
1/4 cup + 2 tablespoons coconut palm sugar (or sub brown sugar)
1/4 cup Earth Balance (or sub butter), melted

1. Mix flour, sugar, and Earth Balance together until crumbly. 

Putting it Together:

1. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. 
2. Roll out the dough on a lightly floured surface, beginning in the center and rolling out from all directions. Roll the dough about 3-4 inches wider than your pie pan.
3. Transfer the dough into your pie pan by rolling it loosely around your rolling pin and then unrolling it into the pie pan. Press the dough over the bottom and into the corners of your pan. Trim the edges of the dough, leaving a 3/4 inch overhang, and then tuck that overhang underneath itself.  
4. Sprinkle the crust with about 1 tablespoon of the sugar and flour mixture.
5. Mix the remaining sugar and flour mixture with the strawberry rhubarb mixture and pour into the pie crust. 
6. Top with the crumble mixture, and place the pie pan on a large baking sheet and into the oven. Bake for 30 minutes.
7. Let cool for 10-15 minutes on a rack. Slice and enjoy.

 p.s. Remember my strawberry basil pie? Yum. 

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This Week in My Garden: July 23, 2015


The weeds are out of control. I need to spend an hour in there this weekend pulling up ten thousand grass shoots. I pick new cabbage worms off the brussels sprouts every day. There are now Japanese Beetles on the green bean plants, just like last year. The delicata squash looks like it's not going to produce.

But there are four baby pattypan squash, and we picked 5 cherry tomatoes yesterday. 

So, #gardenlove.

These Days: July


basking in the lasting glow of my days at BlogHer
chowing down on refrigerator sugar snap pickles
wishing the summer would never end
failing miserably at meal planning
listening to The Name of the Wind on audiobook (for 27 hours!)
looking forward to a new knitting project
trying to catch up on weeding the garden
spending extra time outside whenever I can
loving late night conversations with my wife
rejoicing that I get to see my sister two weekends in a row
ruminating on what type of pie I should bake next
making an effort to take a long walk every day
calling friends for long chats
practicing gratitude

p.s. These Days: May

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I turned off my alarm this morning for the first time in months, at least for the first time when I hadn't prepared a post the night before.  

I heard the little chirping crickets sound, and my only thought was No. I swiped the screen and fell immediately back asleep.  

The tiredness is unsurprising, but you would think that after a weekend of talking blogging and writing and the power of online media, I'd be leaping out of bed to share my voice with the world.  

And yet.  

The BlogHer Conference was deeply inspiring, and the energy in every room was powerful enough to need its own registration. I told my therapist that being in the audience, listening to the keynote speakers and the Voices of the Year readers and videos and open mic participants, felt like a cross between the most loving church and the U.S. Women's World Cup game. We were there to cheer. We were there to be moved. We were hungry for it. 

I had tears in my eyes more moments than I can count. A couple times they spilled over. Once, when someone's words were too true and too beautiful and too painful, I had to head to a bathroom. As I stood with my back against the stall, silently sobbing, I heard the door open and the sound of a woman choking back tears. I opened the latch and peeked out. I didn't know her, but our red-rimmed eyes met and we hugged each other and held on while we wiped our wet faces. 

In her interview up on the BlogHer stage, Ava DuVernay, the director of Selma, spoke of her evenings hanging out with fancy people (aka Oprah, etc) as going to Disneyland. It's amazing and magical, but when you come home, she said, there's a big pile of laundry and you still have to get up and go to work the next day. 

I spent a weekend in community with the most diverse, empathic, and empowering group of women I've experienced. It woke a craving. Or at least helped me put a name to it.

And I came home to a life that is lovely in so many ways but not quite Disneyland. 

I want to keep it alive, but I don't quite know what that looks like amid the work days and the dog walks and the laundry. I know I can't wait until next year. I'm hungry now.  

I'm hungry for the person I am when I'm open to all that community and connection, when my heart is full and ready to give.

I hope I brought that girl home. 


p.s. A very different experience from three years ago for me.


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BlogHer 15: The Shortest Recap Ever

I have to apologize, you guys. I was blog conferencing so hard I forgot to think about actual blogging. I didn't knit you a sweater or bake you a pie or even think of anything remotely profound to say. 

All I've got is this: You know how I said I wasn't going to make friends at BlogHer 15

Well, no one's right all the time. 


(But for those of you who didn't really make friends, you're okay! The only reason I did is because one incredibly warm and caring woman took me under her wing, and I'm calling her a forever friend whether she likes it or not! I'll be paying it forward next year.)

This Week in My Garden: July 16, 2015

This is the year. This is the year we're going to get actual red tomatoes. We already have 2 ripe cherry tomatoes, and those slicers are well on their way! The two previous years we've been here, I've ended the season with pounds of green tomatoes. I do love fried green tomatoes and a good green tomato salsa, but the point is to make actual RED tomatoes that we can eat fresh. And this is the year.

Perhaps this it how it will go. Each year we'll have one vegetable that does really well. Last year it was sugar snap peas. This year our sugar snaps were a bit of a bomb. The year before that it was cucumbers, which last year were pretty disappointing and seem to be heading that way again. I would hope that eventually I'll figure things out so I can have a bang-up crop multiple years in a row. But no luck on that front yet. 

We're finally getting little fruits on our delicata and pattypan squash plants. There aren't that many, but I'm crossing my fingers they'll make it. For some reason, growing actual pattypan squash feels like it would be the coolest thing ever since they look to me like something that couldn't actually come from nature. 

I've let the weeds take over a bit since I've been so busy keeping the rabbits away and murdering slugs and now cabbage worms. I hate to kill these guys. They're such a pretty shade of green, and their little bodies remind me of the caterpillars I  collected when I was a kid. But, like with the slugs, I really have no choice when they're eating the crap out of my brussels sprouts.

And I just saw a few Japanese beetles on the green beans, which I have absolutely no problem killing because they disgust me. Last year, I waged an all-out war against them. 

I'm not giving up on the cucumbers entirely yet, but I think the zucchini, the eggplant, and the cantaloupe  are likely goners. And there's some new white patchy stuff on the sugar snap peas, which I remember from last year. Anybody know if this is just something that happens at the end of the plant's life? 

What's going on in your garden? 

p.s. A peak back at the beginning.

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What Is Your X?

I met Caitlin at a gigantic fabric store in Maryland, just outside DC. She was working behind the desk, cutting the right length off those big bolts, and I was deciding on a bundle of fat quarters for an upcoming quilting class - my first. 

In an uncharacteristically outgoing moment, I brought a few fat quarter bundles up to the counter and asked for her opinion. As we got to chatting about the various patterns and what I was making, we discovered we were registered for the same class. 

She had already made a few simple quilts and sold some cross-stitched pieces on Etsy, and she told me right then that she wanted to sew and own her own fabric shop one day. I remember thinking at the time, Wow. That's what she wants, so she's working in a fabric store. Smart. 

It's stupidly simple - almost. Sure, it makes sense to do things that will move you toward what you want. But I've always been deeply envious of people who know what they want. Or, maybe more accurately, people who can tap into a place of honesty about what they want and then go for it. 

For  as long as I can remember, I've wanted a zillion different things and, sometimes more than I wanted the things themselves, I've wanted affirmation that the things I want are the right things to want, the smart things to want. I've wanted them to be things I could be sure of, which can mean never getting to the threshold question - what do I want? 

Caitlin and I crafted together a few times, and then she got a job at Spoonflower and moved down to North Carolina and we eventually lost touch. 

She's begun popping up in my Instagram feed again recently with these incredibly beautiful quilts, so I headed over to her blog to see more. And lo and behold, she's selling her gorgeous quilts and her fabric on Etsy and at craft shows. 

She's doing it. In 2010, she told me she wanted to make quilts and sell fabric. And she is. I don't know what the rest of her life looks like, but I'm struck by the seemingly simple nature of the formula. You want to do X? Put down everything else, and start doing X. If you can't do X yet, work for someone who does X. Surround yourself with X. Eventually, you will do X. 

And I'm struck by how incomprehensible that formula seems to me. I want to become an actor? I watch a lot of television and learn to crochet. I want to become a teacher? I go to law school. I want to do public interest law? I go to work at a big firm. I want to become awesome at photography? I learn to knit. I want to focus my time on becoming a better writer? I take on more responsibility at work. 

Of course, we know all about hindsight, but looking back on all these decisions feels a little like watching a tiny mouse version of myself running through a maze but constantly going the wrong way, like I'm standing there, shouting incredulously from outside the box Hey! What are you doing?! The cheese is THAT WAY!!

I don't know what the answer is here. I don't know if there is an answer. 

I have a lot of interests. I always have, and I'd say that my task here is to just accept that as who I am - a person with a zillion hobbies and no expertise. Except that there's something deeper underneath. There are longings and desires that I think I keep hidden even from myself most of the time. I have the sense often that I'm standing in my own way, but I don't know which direction to move. Or how.

And fear. There is so much fear - often masquerading as confusion or overwhelm. 

Comparison is a tricky game - it's not that I'm trying to look at one person's success and ask why I'm not there. But I am trying to ask myself what is your X?  Really, seriously, right now. What is your X? 

p.s. I wrote basically this same post three years ago. Oy. 

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BlogHer 15: I'm Not Here to Make Friends

Me and a couple other fabulous ladies on a small blogger panel at BlogHer 12

Me and a couple other fabulous ladies on a small blogger panel at BlogHer 12

In two days I'll drive down to New York for the BlogHer Conference, that annual extravaganza where a small town's worth of bloggers (most women) descend on a hotel for a few nights of non-stop schmoozing, partying, and talking shop. 

Or panicking, looking around awkwardly, and hiding in corners. 

To each her own, right?

Okay, so my title was a bit much. I'm not on a reality television show, I'm not here to "win it," and I'm not anti-social (at least not on purpose). I paid good money to spend 48 hours with these thousands of women, and I've been looking forward to it for months. I want to have an awesome time and meet lots of fun new people. But the closer I get, the louder my inner middle schooler gets. Will they like me? Who will I sit with at lunch? What if I'm dressed wrong? What if someone notices I've gained weight? (a sign that things have really derailed, but one of my mind's favorite completely irrelevant things to throw into any 'ol insecurity fest) How can I be here when I took over a year off blogging? How can I talk to these REAL bloggers? Who do I think I am?

There is no lack of information online about how to "do" blogging conferences, and especially this one, as an introvert or an anxious person. Take things at your own pace. Go back to your room to recharge. Let your business cards talk for you. Remember to just have fun.

And they're all good points. Many of these articles end with the author sharing how they overcame their overwhelm, discovered their tribe, and went home with the best friends of their life, whom they've reconnected with every year at the conference. 

Here's the problem: I went to BlogHer. Back in 2012. I read all those articles in preparation, and I was ready for transformation and serious best-friend-making. There were some awesome parts of the trip. But I spent a lot of time standing around feeling awkward. I didn't know what to talk to people about. Or I did - blogging. But I still felt 12 years old and shy and like I didn't belong. I didn't come home with new friends, let alone a best friend. Sure, I left with some new twitter accounts to follow and some new folks I super-duper admired and mildly stalked, but no one that I maintained a real friendship with. 

And I'm a friendly person. But I couldn't relax. I felt the whole time like I was on overdrive. Afterwards I couldn't figure out how to keep any of the smaller connections going. I commented on some people's blogs. They commented on mine. But eventually the connection wore thin. Those that kept a thread at all seemed more like bloggy acquaintances. I've admitted I'm not that great at online friendships anyway

I felt overwhelmed and like a failure. What had I done wrong?

I noticed the BlogHer Conference emails and the twitter posts the next few years, but I pushed away any desire I felt to go by remembering that feeling of failure.  

This year I wanted to go back. It's been three years, and I feel newly recommitted to blogging. There are things I want to learn about and improve. I want to hear from experts, and I want to talk to some brands, and yes, I want to say Hi to a few people I read on the web. 

And what has occurred to me is this: maybe the BlogHer Conference is just that - a conference. It's not where I'll meet my best friend (I already have some awesome ones). It's not where I'll discover my true home (I have a great one). It's not where I'll finally feel like I can be myself (I'm learning to do that over and over everyday, everywhere). 

My expectations were all out of whack. 

It's so awesome that there are people who go to BlogHer and find their perfect place, who party until they can't stand up anymore, who meet their friendship soul mates. Maybe this year I'll surprise myself and become one of them. But I don't think so. 

No, BlogHer is where I will learn more about being a good writer and crafting interesting headlines and engaging my readers. It's where I'll figure out what's really involved in "partnering" with a brand. It's where I will meet other bloggers and talk about creativity and finding time to show up and developing an online presence. It's where I'll become inspired my hearing the truly exceptional words of authors I admire. It's where I will focus on the skills to help me become better at this thing I love. 

I have no doubt I'll meet some freaking awesome folks in between.

But as for making fabulous life-long friends and having the best weekend of my life? 

I'm letting my 12-year old self off the hook on that one. 

p.s. I did get to pretend to be a Rockette, which made my 12-year old self very happy.


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24-Hour Refrigerator Pickled Sugar Snap Peas

The sugar snap peas in our garden are growing like weeds, which is saying something because the weeds are a little bit out of control over here. 

I was feeling so excited and proud of myself for deciding to plant an entire bed of that candy-like vegetable. 

Until I ate one. 

They're not good! I mean, they're edible. But the shell is tough, almost like they're shelling peas instead of sugar snaps. But I checked the package of seeds, and they are most definitely Sugar Daddy Snap Peas, meant to be eaten whole. 

We're getting peas from our farm share right now as well, and the difference is extreme. When I bite into a farm share sugar snap, it's crisp and juicy. When I bite into one of ours? Well, first off, they feel hard and almost hollow, and then when I take a bite, it's like that first time I ate edamame - when I thought you ate the whole thing and had to suffer through chewing that fibrous shell. Oh, and they're definitely ready to be picked - it's not an issue of picking too soon.

The only thing I can imagine is that the Burpee seeds (from their organic line) we got this year (as opposed to the High Mowing seeds last year) were just not very good. 

Insert huge sad face.  

I was - still am - feeling super disappointed about it, but I had come across Natalie Freeman's recipe for refrigerator pickled sugar snap peas some time before and been intrigued. I thought I'd try it out and see if it made the peas more edible. 

So this weekend, I picked a whole heap of them, made the brine from salt, vinegar, and honey, poured it over the trimmed peas and a little garlic and red pepper flakes, and put them in the refrigerator to do their thing.

I almost couldn't wait the 24 hours. But when I took them out the next day...



They're delicious! I want to pickle everything! Refrigerator pickling is so fast and easy, and I'm going to have a lifelong devotion to Natalie for showing me that I can use honey in place of refined sugar with great results. 

It didn't 100% fix the peas - there is still a little toughness in them. But they'll continue to soften in the brine, and this way they're at least easier to chew! And they have a great flavor. 

I'll definitely be making more batches as I pick the rest, and I'm going to start thinking about what else I can pickle. 

Check out Natalie's recipe, and let me know if you try it!


p.s. Try this simple tomato and hearts of palm salad this week.


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Friday Photo Gratitude

Stealing a bit from Soulemama's weekly {this moment}, I will be posting a single photo, no words, every Friday as a practice of gratitude - for the simple and extraordinary pleasures of life, for the ability to capture them with my camera, and for the honor of sharing them with you. 


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