Rye Strawberry Thyme Scones

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Strawberry season almost slipped past without my notice. Gone were the invitations to pick fruit from the farm, gone are the baskets of luscious berries that caught my eye at stands, gone are many more familiar indicators of seasons passing by. It wasn’t until a farmer’s market opened up in front of our door that I noticed and realized that strawberry season is here.

Rye and strawberry is one of my favorite flour and fruit combinations. I’m mighty peculiar in that way. I’ve got buckwheat and blueberry pancakes and einkorn and tomato pizzas, things that go like jam and jelly in my book, and so too with rye and strawb.

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These scones are perfect with a light cup of coffee in the mornings. My dad had a habit of dunking bread-like brekkies directly into his mug, but I prefer to bite into this pastry creating a crumby mess on the plate. I personally do not like very sweet pastries – so we added thyme into these scones which make them more savory than normal. Because of that, I can easily eat two to three without walking away feeling heavy. It takes minutes to prepare and these were fresh out of the oven before our room mate even walked upstairs. If sleeping in is more your thing, make then mid-afternoon for a little work-at-home tea break.

This recipe was modified from Kinfolk Table, by far my favorite published recipe book for it’s unassuming simplicity and charm. If you can, support local and small bookstores such as Lido Village Bookstore, one of my SoCal faves.

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Ingredients:

  • 1.5 cups dark rye flour, freshly milled if possible
  • 1/2 cup all-purpose flour, plus additional for dusting
  • 3 tbsp. sugar, plus additional for sprinkling
  • 1 tbsp. baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/4 cup plus 2 tbs unsalted butter, cut into small pieces and chilled
  • 1 cup dices strawberries
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1/3 cup heavy cream plus additional for brushing
  • 1/s tsp vanilla extract
  • Fresh or dried thyme

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The Process:

  1.  Preheat the oven to 400 F with a rack in the center.
  2. Sift the flours, sugar, baking powder and salt in a large bowl. Add the butter pieces and with thumb and pointy finger, flatten the butter, pinching floury bits into it. Alternatively, you can use two knives to cut the butter into the flour mixture until it resembles small peas.
  3. Stir in the strawberries.
  4.  Whisk the eggs together in a separate bowl. Add heavy cream and vanilla to the egg mixture and whisk again until well mixed.
  5. Stir the egg mixture into the flour mixture with a fork, mixing until just combined. I l liken the end result to one big, shaggy mess.
  6. Lightly dust a clean work surface (I use a marble pastry slab, but a wooden surface works well too), with flour. Turn the dough onto this surface and knead until just combined.
  7. Shape the dough into a square (6 inch x 6 inch). Cut the dough into four 3-inch squares, then cut the smaller squares into triangles.
  8. Arrange the scones on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper. Brush the tops with heavy cream using a pastry brush. Sprinkle the tops generously with sugar and thyme. Depending on the flavor profile you are aiming for, you can favor one topping over another.
  9. Bake for 16-18 minutes or until the tops are golden brown. Transfer the scones to a rack and cool for 5 minutes. Serve warm.

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These babies reheat real nicely in a toaster oven. I would store them in an air tight container on the counter for a few days. I reckon they won’t last long.

For those wondering, these cake plates are from East Fork Pottery in Eggshell.

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My grandfather died in the early evening of March 25, 2020.

My grandfather died in the early evening of March 25, 2020. I imagine as the sun was setting, the last rays of light took with them his final breath, the last rays of hope of his seven surviving children and loving wife.

My grandfather did not die of the Coronavirus. In fact, a few weeks ago, he was alive and well, without the usual ailment that one would find plaguing an 85 year old man. But two weeks ago, he was admitted to a hospital due to a stomach ulcer, and afterwards, was released with a list of medications but no energy to take a sip of water, let alone food.

Last Wednesday, he was re-admitted to the hospital due to dehydration. Because of the Coronavirus epidemic, no one was allowed to visit him. We hardly spoke to him and calling the hospital led to dead ends at times, because they had many more problems of their own. I think of what it must have felt like to sit there alone without a face to recognize, without a warm hand to hang onto. To spend the last week alive in isolation, without a breath of fresh air.

At least when he did speak on the phone, he still joked with jubilee, telling my grandma that “there are a lot of beautiful nurses around” as my dad bantered with him, begging to switch places rather than stay at home “with these two oldies.”

It was Sunday night when he was diagnosed with late-stage pancreatic cancer that had already metastasized. Although my aunts and uncles asked the doctor not to tell him, my grandfather already knew, as my father’s brother, who happens to be a nurse at the same hospital, told us that my grandfather had asked him, “Why have I been moved to the cancer wing of the hospital?”

My grandfather was never a fan of medicine and hospital beds, and had already told us a few weeks before that he did not want to undergo surgery when it came time. “Was he warning us of what’s to come?” my mother later wondered. There was no chemotherapy or radiation therapy to be had. So, per his request, they brought him home on Monday evening via ambulance. Home – where my grandma and aunts and uncles went to see him.

On Tuesday night, my mother called me sobbing, telling me that he was almost gone. That he had no words left to speak and his eyelids failed to even open anymore. She was on her way home and I asked her if she would like to stay with him but she said she was going home to rest.

Wednesday evening, my father called Mike’s cell phone and the minute I heard my mom wailing like the sirens of the sea and making gutteral sounds that could only come from the bottom of hearts, I knew it was over. She was the only one of the seven surviving siblings who wasn’t at his side when the sunset took him away. She was his baby, the favorite according to her own kind, and she wasn’t there.

Sometimes, the hardest thing to do is to let go when someone we love is near. Maybe it was easier for him this way, to leave silently without the tether. My mother learned to understand that, but of course, at that moment she cursed the gods and herself for the choices she’d made.

He didn’t suffer emotionally, ignorant of the cancer growing within him. He didn’t suffer physically as he peacefully rested his eyes during his last few hours. Every surviving child got to see him one last time between his arrival home and his final destination. It was the best case scenario one could hope for, considering.


Yesterday evening, before getting the call, I read the Little Blaque Blog, the words of Erin Rose Belair. It couldn’t have come at a better time.

Into the Blur

by Erin Rose Belair

It is one thing to say, we take this for granted. It is another thing to live in the knowing, to taste it, to have life so close you could reach out and touch it. If only…

The rest of my day is decided by how I spend my morning. I move carefully forward because if I slip, the entire day is lost to fog and worry, and pacing the room so quick I may wear the rug thin. If I make it through the morning hours without reading the news or asking why, then I know I can make it to sun down.

I keep myself busy by doing everything carefully. I untangle my hair in a hot shower. I make coffee slow and drink it even slower. I read poems to the dog and count the waves that come in. I am more grateful for this view than I have words for. We have so much more than we ever realize. I watch the waves come in and count clouds. I miss my mother. I set the table for no one.

I wonder what we will say about all of this later. I wonder sometimes if there is a later. How it will sound on our tongues, some strange fever dream we all slipped into? The lines are more blurred by the moment, night and day, day and night.

I name the days by the things that stand out. The day the bird flew inside. The day they took away the beaches. The day I slept fourteen hours. The day it rained so hard the windows rattled and blurred the horizon. The day you made a table. The day I learned to make bread.

Sometimes the fear is palpable and I envy people I talk to that don’t carry the weight like I am. I try to prioritize, narrow my focus, control my panic but it does little. I open the windows. I cry at night. I worry there is no going back. I worry even worse, that this is not the worst of it, that today will be something I covet in the weeks to come.

Everything that used to seem important feels like a forgone notion.

What I really want is to spend a summer in Maine and eat lobster, and drink white wine, and watch my daughter out the window in the yard of the house we rent for all of July. What I want is to be afraid of things like mosquito bites and too much salt in the salad, and whether or not you still love me like you used to.

It’s all a blur. Maybe we’re there already. Maybe this is all a dream. Eventually we learn not just how to endure it but how to thrive and stay alive in it as well. We still have to make something out of all this.


Every day I’m on here, spinning life as a gift. Every day, I implore y’all to just take things more in stride. Every day I preach that too many of us walk the world asleep. My mother didn’t expect it all to come so suddenly. It was why she was not there by his side.

Or perhaps, as the one closest to him, she knew, too. And she could not bear to see how it all unfolds. I wish I could have done more to shake her awake, but I couldn’t. Words, they only do so much.

But it taught me a valuable lesson in that sometimes, people do walk the world asleep. We do take things for granted. The freedom to walk outside, the ability to visit the dying and sick, the warmth of sun on the sand. We worry about when we can work again, when the kids can return to school, when the parks will re-open. We rush to our phones and laptops to connect, distant yet closer, until tomorrow, but our eyes glaze past our own loved ones, the cat sleeping on the couch, the parts of ourselves we’ve already spent too long ignoring. Even with the opportunity to stay home, where everything most dear supposedly lives, we fight to get some part of ourselves out there, on social media, in the workplace, via selfie and Skype call. Maybe a few times in our lives, we will wake, even for a second, to spot the present moment passing by, as if scenery on the long train ride which we call life.

I suppose all we can do is hold each other and lift each other and do our parts as best we can. I’ll be there today, offering words, even though I know they can’t possibly take the pain, or make the forgetting go more quickly. I can only use them to pass the time by, to fill each second with memory, love, or whatever else she needs right now, until the seconds burst one by one. But as a girl who processes things with words, words are all I have to offer. Words are all I have to write.

 

Healthy Coping Skills During Times of Stress and Anxiety

To brush over this trying time is to do a disservice to all who are negatively impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic. I am not only speaking of those who are impacted physically, which on its own seems to be the global focus of this pandemic and rightfully so considering the number of deaths that we have seen thus far, but I am also referring to those who have suffered financially, mentally, and emotionally.

Many a small business owner is seeing their life’s hard work dwindling before their eyes with hardly a hope of surviving this stay-at-home movement. Many blue collar workers are forced out of a job, having been laid off about a week ago “for the wellness of the community” but at their expense. Many a woman has seen their education and work opportunity wane as they are forced to stay at home to school children who are now being expected to virtually learn. Many children will struggle to find an equal footing in the current educational system, as the ability to have access to the internet or a computer will greatly determine which children learn and which do not. With all of this impact and more, it is safe to say that these are difficult times which may leave people feeling a bit less-than their normal self. 

In an effort to be of help (somehow), I wanted to take the time to share the following words from my sister-in-law and registered therapist, Alexandra, for those who are currently struggling to maintain their mental health or are experiencing more-than-normal levels of stress and anxiety.

Some great tools to aid with anxiety, stress, and loneliness during this time are:

  1. Being active – going for a walk, run, yoga, at-home workout, and getting some sun, if possible.
  2. Create routine – whether that be a work-from-home routine or a morning routine, creating some sort of consistency for your body and mind are important.
  3. Spend time with someone you care about – Don’t isolate. Even if it’s virtual time together, text someone or call someone, at least one person a day.
  4. Take breaks from the media – Take breaks from your phone, the TV, and the news. This helps us not ruminate or over-think, and reduces stress, anxiety, and worry.
  5. Do something for you! – Mindful activities such as baking, cooking, coloring and art, working out, reading a book, taking an online course, or learning something new can really help carry you through tough times. Schedule at least fifteen minutes a day for this.

Off course, you don’t have to do all of these, especially if you are working from home or are out working and helping others. But these are some healthy coping skills that can reduce depression, anxiety, and feelings of loneliness.

Alexandra Tillapaugh is a Registered Associate Marriage Family Therapist specialized in counseling adults and children with a variety of challenges, including but not limited to, anxiety, behavioral issues, depression, self-esteem, and relationship problems. She is also my wonderful sister-in-law.

During this time, she is offering lower cost online counseling sessions to people in need in our community – especially those who are displaced, anxious, and stressed.

“I know many people are anxious right now and stressed. They may need someone to talk to or need help with learning a few coping skills.” 

She is offering a free consultation on the phone so that people of the community may seek help without the pressure of money. It’s a great way to find out if her services work for your particular situation or lifestyle.

“I want to get an understanding of why they want to talk to a counselor prior to any sessions. It’s the best practice.”

To learn more about her services, schedule an introductory call, or simply chat with someone over any hardships you may be experiencing, you can view her website here. To offer helpful tips for those who are suffering, feel free to comment below.

Restorative Quarantine

Despite being of the general stance that gym memberships are far from a frugal person’s prerogative, I have had BlackTag Membership at CorePower Yoga a few times in the past, typically when my schedule was most full and I needed the external stimuli to help dedicate to myself some form of self-love. Out of all the classes CorePower offered, my favorite was a class called Restorative Yoga, which was essentially nap-time yoga. The class was only offered once or twice a week per studio, but I made sure to attend those classes religiously. Instead of the more popular classes with weights or high-temperature yoga sessions, the restorative classes were always held at night, in the dark, at room temp and on our backs (well, mostly). The teacher guided students through a series of poses, sometimes in candlelight, all of which were held in stillness for five minutes at a time.

For beginners, this could feel like eons. Some postures were more painful than others, depending on how your body best contorts, but in that darkness and quiet, with your mat facing away from the other students and towards the wall, you must sit through that discomfort and pain in solitude. There always comes a point where you think you can’t hold the posture any longer and you have no option but to relax into it and let yourself go, and in that letting go, one may find themselves suddenly waking up after having slept through the rest of class or sprawled out, off the mat, in complete relaxation. The classes were generally never full, and there was always space to stretch out, which is unfortunate, because as a fellow yogi exiting a restorative class once expressed, “this is the best class this studio has to offer. It’s a shame not more people go.” A sentiment with which I concur wholeheartedly.

This is the class the world can use more of.

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Now, I would wager that there is a group of people in this space wishing to do a bit of restorative work themselves during this stay-at-home movement. So careening towards the other side of the spectrum from productivity, I decided to focus today on ways to make quarantine time productive in generally socially less accepted ways.

While life pre-COVID had us running around with shoes to fill and duties to perform, the current state-of-affairs presents the world with a rare gift of a lack of responsibility – a state which many of us haven’t experienced since childhood. This lack of responsibility frees up much needed time for introversion.

I would liken a majority of the population to living as if sleepwalking, unknowingly performing tasks that are pre-determined by a social upbringing, without any form of individual choice on the matter. This may offend some, but all truths have the potential to cause pain to the unknowing. However! If you’ve been suspicious of this for some time but haven’t had the head space to figure it all out yourself, maybe what you seek during this period of slow isn’t productivity at all, but rather, an awakening.

Socially unaccepted forms of productivity are my personal favorite, not only because I have always had a soft spot for going against the grain, but also because I find them to be ironically more successful in living a meaningful life. By socially unaccepted forms of productivity, I am referring to a slew of activities that are thought to be a general “waste of time” by modern standards, but actually have many life benefits that we have under-valued, for parts of ourselves too-long ignored.

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If restorative quarantine is what you seek, then here are some easy activities that will help you tune in to your true self, perhaps the same self that you lost along with your childhood, as adulting became the center of your being and you forgot who you were to begin with… Isolation is the perfect setting for self-discovery.

  •  Sleep – My most favorite activity since birth. My parents can bore you to death with an endless array of stories that begin or end with me falling asleep. Every aunt and uncle can only seem to recall one unifying memory about my childhood – that I would fall asleep at every gathering, at restaurant tables, on neighbor’s couches, through any noise, commotion, or movement. Even my husband will comment, “Boy, you sleep a lot”, after a ten hour night of rest. As I grew older, my sleeping became less and less as my energetic self started accumulating roles, titles and projects. But when work suddenly became non-existent (was it really only one week ago?!), I reverted back to my restful state, sleeping by ten P.M. and waking around eight in the morning. Sleep is the most under-rated restorative practice and is arguably the most helpful activity to our well-being. Sleep is the state where you process all of your daily observances into something with meaning, as it pertains to you. Sleep is closely tied with memory formation, which essentially forms our entire reality. We constantly live in the past or future, the past which is no longer existent except for in memory, and the future which is based on past experiences but which also is not in existence. This is what Deepak Chopra talks of when he says that humans live in a continually dream state. Our reality is dependent on sleep and until we can create that reality will we be able to start separating ourselves from the past and the future, and start living in the “vivid now”.

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  • Meditate – Meditation is a practice in staying in the present moment. When I first started doing yoga, I had a completely different expectation for meditation. Namely, I thought meditation was the ability to sit in complete zen, without thought or feeling or motion. I thought it meant complete nothingness, and required utter silence, empty rooms, devoid of any and all distraction. After much practice, I realized that meditation brings up a lot of observances that could act as distractions – noises you never noticed before like the ticking of a clock, the hum of a fridge, or the silence itself; and aromas that you never smelled before such as last night’s dinner lingering in the air, the age of a book’s page, the must of an old couch, the smell of a fresh breeze – distractions such as thoughts that stubbornly make their way into your mind’s eye, an elephant in the room. Meditation is not the separation from all these things but rather, the physical connection to their presence without any emotional or mental ties. In essence, its having a free-flow state of mind and physical surrounding without any sort of affect. You notice a thought and let it come and go, without any emotion after it. You hear a sound and think or feel nothing associated with it. This disconnection is what connects you to your present moment. It is when you unlock your being, separate it from past and future, from surrounding and your physical body, and you see yourself in complete clarity.
  • Dissociate Time – Time is a mental construct. Someone once decided for the rest of us to divvy the day into twenty four hours, each with 60 minutes, each with 60 seconds, et cetera. But how long does a second really last? In my opinion, it lasts as long as you perceive it does. You have external stimuli (such as a clock or a watch or a phone) telling you when one second is up, but what each person experiences in that one second can be completely different things. One person may experience a slew of emotions, another may experience nothing at all. One person may experience a life-changing event which registers in their mind as so impactful that they recall that second lasting what seems like forever. I have been recently obsessed with this idea of expanding time by controlling my consciousness’s perception of it. I came across this idea during a slow living experiment, when I realized that my slowest days felt much longer than days where I was busy with to-do-lists. Think about a day of work. When you are busy, work flies by, but when you are slow, work drags on. Everyone has experienced this. So I have been conscientiously taking note on how certain slow-living activities expands the time I have to experience, well, life. Yesterday in particular, I did an activity which I think is perfect for quarantined folks without work (or children, or worries, or distractions seeking your attention). I covered up every single indicator for time in my household. I took blue packing tape from the garage and covered every clock present, including the one on the bottom-right side of my laptop and the one underneath my camera on my I-phone. I wanted to know what it would feel like to experience a day in the life without any time restrictions or time indications. I wondered when I would wake, when I would get hungry, when I would feel like going to bed. I wondered what I would be interested in doing, and for how long. Let me be the first to tell you, yesterday felt like ages. I did everything I wanted to do and noticed the sun was still up. I ate whenever I felt like eating, and the only indication to sleep was my eyelids resisting the reading I was doing. I wondered to myself multiple times, what else shall I do? Which proved to myself that we can, in ways, expand time. Try it for a day. See what you learn about yourself.
  • Avoid Mirrors – Our self-perception is heavily altered by external markers. Self-confidence is tied to how we see others perceive us. Our self-worth comes from the titles and roles that we have been endowed or earned. When someone asks for a definition of self, most people answer first and foremost with their occupation or profession. It is these same external definitions of the self that prevent us from truly understanding who we are. So another personal experiment that I heard of previously in Twyla Tharp’s book The Creative Habit that I highly recommend is to remove or avoid all mirrors. There have been many times where I am out and about (and have been for quite some time) and suddenly wondered, “What do I look like today?” Which in itself is a useless thought if you are trying to live a life of YOU-ness, but that’s how socially trained I am (and you are, and we are). Sometimes I’ll get through an entire day and then realize in the evening that I never once saw a mirror, never once brushed my hair, never once wore anything more than chapstick. It’s a really REALLY good feeling to have.
  • Live without modern conveniences – When Mike and I signed up for the Banks Peninsula hike in New Zealand one year ago, I didn’t know exactly what I was getting myself into. There were no modern conveniences to speak of during one of the nights. Hardly any modern conveniences during the entire trip. It was a terrible time, mostly caused by dreadfully rainy weather. We both slid on slippery rocks and landed our behinds on sharp stones. We treaded fearfully past at least a hundred cows, which look innocent enough standing on the side of the road but which are extremely intimidating when in a horde at arms reach. I shed many tears and whined in disdain. We never finished the hike, because the storm eventually became so bad. There were seven of us travelers huddled in a hut, all seven debating on calling a ride back to town rather than hiking through the third and final day. We were on farmland with nary a sign of civilization nor electricity. The shower was outdoors underneath a spider’s web inside the trunk of an old tree. We lit our rooms with candlesticks. We huddled around a furnace fed with acorns. We cooked meals over a gas stove lit by matches and sat together on a rickety wooden dining table, telling stories although we came from all over the world speaking different languages. There was a tub heated by a furnace fed by wood that needed chopping. You had to sit on a plank to avoid burning your stone-poked-bottom on the porcelain. It was where a family of three took a nice bath underneath the rain that fell from the sky. I wielded an axe for the first time, was scared of the storm not for the first time, hated spiders and bugs more than normal, loved fire more than normal, slept like a baby through the dreadful night. Your deepest demons and fears come out to play, and after it was said and done, your biggest strengths carried you through. (I did mention that sleep was my strength!) All of this to say that in retrospect, it was the most romantic moment of my life. They were the deepest connections I had ever formed, with strangers no less. It was a different universe and time altogether, separate from this one. And I learned a lot about myself. Now I know that the current COVID recommendations do not include running off to a cabin in the woods, but ways in which we can spare ourselves of modern conveniences include spending a day without lightbulbs, forgoing a shower, or avoiding the microwave and using a stovetop to reheat left-overs. For people who always dine out, it could mean prepping your own meals, and for those who drive down the street, it could mean taking a walk and lugging groceries back. Spend a day trying to live without modern conveniences, and see what rises up.

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  • Read Fiction and Poetry – When I was a child and teen, I only read fiction and poetry. When I became an adult, I preferred to grab non-fiction, in order to “improve” myself. I started to view fiction and poetry as unnecessary, nonsensical blathering that was not worth an ounce of my precious energy. Recently, I’ve decided against my original decision. Fiction and poetry is necessary for the soul. It is the reason I have been able to shape the world around me into what it is. It was my best friend in my youth, and it reveals to me what we already know but forget. I say, read fiction and poetry, even if you don’t have the time.
  • Listen to Music – If someone asked me today what I like to listen to, I would most likely reply with, “I don’t listen to music.” Which is true. And extremely peculiar coming from a girl who sang in the church choir for a good 17 years and who took voice lessons until she was 27 years old, who locked herself in her room with a microphone and who showered with the radio on. But three (-ish) years ago, I stopped listening to music. At all. In the car, in the shower. I preferred silence. I valued my thoughts more than my feelings. I wanted my mind to focus on tasks, not sounds. When you make decisions like that, a part of you dies. But with the advent of the quarantine, I decided to put music back on my radar. I still haven’t picked up a guitar and am thinking of donating my recording studio to a friend. But on my to-do list, I added “listen to music” in the morning somehow. This one is a personal restorative activity. I’ll let you know how that goes.

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Productivity In Times of Quarantine with SkillShare

This post may contain affiliate links. Please see my disclosure to learn more.

On the heels of the previous post regarding creating separate spaces between work and home, I thought I would be completely inclusive here and address people who, like myself, have recently found themselves at home without work, undoubtedly the greater of two evils. Not knowing how long the hiatus will last, it becomes difficult to spin this quarantine into more positive lighting, but spin this I will try.

If you are finding yourself suddenly at a loss (of words, a job, and/or purpose), may I suggest making quarantine time a time of productivity? I have partnered with SkillShare to give those looking for something to-do something to learn. Using this sign-up link, you will receive two months of FREE access to their Premium membership, because seriously, who knows how long this will last?!?

An ideal day of quarantine for me would include a morning of yoga, a rejuvenating shower to face the day ahead, a cup of mindfully made coffee, and a late morning lesson on SkillShare. All of this followed by a healthy lunch, writing for the blog, meditation for the mind, reading for the self, and tending to our home for the soul.

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SkillShare is a platform that features some of my favorite bloggers teaching others their life skills in a succinct series of videos. This list includes Erin Boyle’s course on Minimalism and Kathryn Kellog’s course on Going Zero Waste (now’s the time!). If you for some reason find yourself jobless indefinitely, there are also lessons on SkillShare teaching SEO, how to create branding on social media platforms, how to edit videos and photos, how to launch a fashion line, how to design your first website, and more. Of course, if you wish to take this time to start a blog of your own and are looking for ways to make money, this course on How to Monetize a Blog is by far my most favorite.

I hope that this is helpful somehow to people who are finding themselves with unprecedented time on their hands and aren’t sure what to do. I hope the skills you encounter on this site will fuel your energy towards something fruitful, whether that be a hobby or a new profession. Either way, I hope to help in any way possible, and I think sharing resources for the first few months of uncertainty is a good way to go at it.

Likewise, for those interested in learning budgeting, you can find my own course on Mastering a Budget FREE for all. For those interested in minimalism and creating a lifestyle of zero waste, you can always ask me questions below, or DM me on my Instagram.

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Every time someone signs up for a free-trial on SkillShare, TheDebtist will earn a small commission that will support the continued work in this space, which includes but is not limited to, a sharing for resources for all so that we can rise up from difficulties such as those presented by the COVID-19 pandemic in togetherness. Thank you for your support of this work.

How to Separate Work from Home

A majority of you may be finding your work office suddenly within the confines of your home. While this is the dream situation for many Americans, I would wager that there are an increasing number of people who have found that this is not exactly ideal. Even if you don’t have the extra weight of caring for kids or elderly, I am sure there are still challenges to productivity that we all have to face (hence why you’ve found yourself reading this blog post instead of working on your task). It could be that after just a few days of trying to work from home, you are struggling to find that balance.

I wrote once about how to find a Separate Peace Space for work-at-homes, but I decided to follow up with a succinct list of tips that newly quarantined workers might find useful.

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  • Designate A Work Space – Isolation helps tremendously with focus. Think about the monks who have retreated into a shrine on a mountain. The less distractions you have, the better. You may even find that you’ll need to work less as long as your focus is well-honed for a good chunk of time. I prefer to have really tidy and clean work spaces that face a wall or a corner of the living room. When possible, I like to have natural sunlight nearby so I can feed off of the sun’s energy. For those with little ones at home, a separate room all-together may be necessary too.
  • Create A Schedule – A schedule will greatly help with keeping you on task. Each morning, assign a block of time to each activity you need to get done, and follow the schedule strictly. It will greatly increase awareness for when your mind starts to wander or when you find yourself doing chores instead of work. There will be time for distractions later. I mean, you ARE stuck at home!
  • Fall Into Good Habits – Good habits include waking up at the same time every morning, exercising to increase your energy, limiting coffee to a certain cups per day, and getting enough sleep at night. Good habits also include eating only at designated times for designated meals (no snacking allowed!), creating a schedule every morning, and staying focused on the task at hand.
  • Learn to Prioritize – Perhaps the hardest thing about working from home is now, you are suddenly presented with a to-do list that includes house chores. Before, when you went into work, you had a designated space for professional duties only. But as you check your emails, you might find a sudden callings to clean out the fridge, or do a load of laundry. It’s a quick task, so how can it hurt? This is when prioritization comes in handy. Know what is most important and do those first. As I said before, you have all the time in the world later.
  • Know How You Best Operate – I best operate in complete silence. My sister best operates with music in the background. My mother best operates with ten pen options lined up in a row. My husband seems to best operate later in the morning rather than earlier. Knowing how you best operate will be essential in setting yourself up for success.
  • Have a Conversation with the Household – It’s easier to change what is in your complete control, but it is difficult to shape the world around you. Many of you may be finding yourselves at home with roommates, children, and significant others. The best thing to do is to communicate with each other what works for you and what doesn’t. Maybe some members are better sitting through 8 hours straight of work, while others need occasional breaks. That’s fine, as long as you all know each other’s boundaries. Perhaps setting aside time to hang out is essential, especially when little ones are around. It gives them something to look forward to and motivates them to stay-on-task in order to get that reward at the end. Whatever it is, talk with each other! #distantyettogether, am I right?

How about you? Feel free to share some tips here, I am sure others will be reading. And then afterwards, BACK TO WORK!

With love, of course.

Chocolate Chip Walnut Banana Bread

This post may contain affiliate links. Please see my disclosure to learn more.

When I was operating my own humble little bakery, Aero, there was one item that sold out almost every day. The chocolate chip walnut banana bread. I didn’t really understand the hype around this one loaf, since deep in my heart I felt like the better items on the menu included loaves of sourdough, with or without additions, lovingly fermented over 24 to 72 hours. This banana loaf was quick to whip up, especially with my noble steed (a kitchen aid mixer that Mike got me for Christmas, five days before we were married), and since I associated love with labor, I just couldn’t for the life of me fathom why this was the loaf that flew off the shelves.

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Now with the bakery closed and with many a person finding ample time on their undoubtedly well-washed hands, I’ve decided to share this recipe with the world so that they could continue to fill bellies and hearts while I take a personal hiatus and well-needed time to myself during this stay-at-home period, which I’ve decided to look at as a gift.

But first, a bit about this recipe. This is not some grandoise, elegant and eloquent thing that I’ve creatively concocted out of thin air. It is a very basic and simple traditional recipe that has been adapted through different generations. This loaf came from Mike’s grandmother, who is a wonderful baker born and raised in North Dakota and whose magic bars and thumb-print peanut butter cookies graced our wedding reception’s dessert table. The banana bread recipe was passed on to Mike’s sister who made her own personal modifications. And after our wedding, it was shared with me on a hot summer afternoon when she and I decided to get together and bake in her kitchen. When I originally made this recipe for the first time, it was on a low counter-top, and we used what left-over ingredients were at hand, following the recipe in a blasé kind of way. No disrespect to the original recipe but we had more healthy substitutions in mind. Instead of pouring the batter into a traditional loaf pan, we used miniature loaf pans to make four teensy-tiny loaves that any minimalist would drool over.

When my sister-in-law sent me a photo of her recipe card a few weeks later, I decided to modify it a tad further. I had, at the time, Kefir instead of the suggested buttermilk or yogurt. I also had Rye grain from the Tehachipi Project, so I decided on a whim to mill Rye using my Mockmill right before mixing and to throw it into the bowl at 100% baker’s percentage. What came out was a very flavorful, dark, caramelized loaf that had a stickiness to it and a very moist, tender inside. Over the few months that I continued to bake this for others, I have decided that I preferred the recipe without chocolate chips, although my patrons fell into the two camps fairly evenly. I will leave that decision up to you.

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I personally enjoy this loaf a slice at a time with a glob of yogurt plopped on top, and granola or a seed mix strewn over it. On the side, I love having a light cup of Joe, preferably of an Ethiopian variety. This HHC cup of coffee particularly has notes of blueberry, cream, black tea and sugar. The beans come from Ecuador, which I highly recommend – I also recommend their Kenya bag with notes of lime. Currently, HHC has a promo : buy a bag of beans, get the second one at 50% off! Check out their Instagramto find out how.

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What are some of your favorite ways to eat banana bread? As dessert with vanilla bean ice cream? On-the-go with crumbs on your car seat? Like a child, licking chocolate off your fingers? Please do share below.

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Ingredients:

  • 1/2 cup butter (1 stick)
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 3 ripe bananas, mashed
  • 2 cups freshly milled rye flour
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1/2 cup Kefir or Bulgarian probiotic yogurt
  • 1/2 tsp vanilla
  • 1/2 cup walnuts
  • 1/2 cup chocolate chips

The Process:

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F
  2. Cream sugar and butter.
  3. Mix in eggs
  4. Add Kefir or yogurt and the vanilla.
  5. Add in the bananas.
  6. Add dry ingredients – flour, baking soda, baking powder, and salt.
  7. Fold in nuts and chocolate chips.
  8. Spray cooking spray on the loaf pan and pour batter into it, using a spatula to flatten the top. You can choose to sprinkle whole and half-sized walnut pieces over the bread like I do, to give it texture as well as for appearances.
  9. Bake for 1 hour and 10 minutes or until the middle is cooked through, rotating at the halfway mark. You can check for doneness by sticking a toothpick or chopstick in the center of the bread.
  10. Pull out of the oven and let rest in the pan for a few moments to slightly cool.
  11. Invert out of the pan and cool completely on a drying rack.

This banana bread is photographed on East Fork pottery’s cake plate in Eggshell

At 12pm EST today, East Fork released a pre-sale event for their two Spring colors – Malibu and Tequila Sunrise.

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The eggshell plate that you see housing the banana bread is similar to the Malibu, but a little more blue than green. I would imagine that both the Malibu and the Tequila Sunrise will pair well with plates and mugs in Morel – which is the color of my Mug. However, I can see these colors standing well on their own. They are the cheer that the world needs right now and are great in preparation for the Spring ahead! I mean, just look at how fun these are!

Due to COVID-19 affecting this small business, the pre-sale means that there may be a delay in delivery since East Fork is doing their part to battle this pandemic. It also means that it is unlikely that they will make more of this color once we all return back to our daily lives, because, well, they’ll head back making the pre-orders that you’ve made. If all of this sits well with you, I implore that you please support this small business and other small businesses, most of whom will barely come out of this alive.

Their plates are made by hand, ethically and with fair wages, and they have even committed to paying their employees the next two weeks their regular wages despite closing both shops. Their dedication to quality is superb and any pots that don’t meet their standards due to minor blemishes (but with complete functionality) are currently on their site for their Seconds Sale. I have personally bought pots at the discounted prices on their Seconds Sale and I am in LOVE with them and think they are higher quality than mass-produced goods. I thoroughly enjoy dining off of their ware, and it has transformed our meals at home to something more meaningful. 

I know that money is tight for most right now, but if you have any to spare and would like to use it as a means to vote for the businesses that you wish to survive post-COVID-19, please do consider East Fork. Don’t all rush at once. Cheers!

Recent Reads: Kitty O’Meara

And the people stayed home. And read books, and listened, and rested, and exercised, and made art, and played games, and learned new ways of being, and were still. And listened more deeply.
Some meditated, some prayed, some danced.
Some met their shadows.
And the people began to think differently. And the people healed. And, in the absence of people living in ignorant, dangerous, mindless, and heartless ways, the earth began to heal.
And when the danger passed, and the people joined together again, they grieved their losses, and made new choices, and dreamed new images, and created new ways to live and heal the earth fully, as they had been healed.