Play Pretend: Hunkering Down

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Hunkering down in our homes isn’t really much of a game of pretend. Hopefully, you’ve settled quite nicely into a rhythm that works for you. Now that you have a routine for the kids, and a feel for separating work from home (if you are so lucky), I guess it’s time to accept the idea that staying at home will become the new norm. Who knows what will happen when this is all over? Perhaps companies will find work-from-home more efficient or productive. Perhaps mothers will decide that home-schooling has its benefits over private school. Perhaps those who are jobless create a niche for themselves as a small business owner. Perhaps we may remain, forevermore, at home.

I’ve been spending my own time reflecting on the functions of my home. I have been put-putting around the house reclaiming our space and making it the zen oasis that my lifestyle needs. A home is more than the house itself. It is a recluse from the outside world, a reflection of our personal self, and as such, should not be neglected or taken lightly. Therefore, my days have been spent remodeling our sustainable couch (more on that in a future post), and clearing the air of clutter and negative energy.

With the realization that parks and beaches may not be accessible to us in the near future, possibly even as far as the summer months, I have also decided to finally focus on our small city balcony. I will be remodeling that into a relaxing outdoor space that we can escape to, when sunlight basking and fresh air are what we need. I am a person who needs to have natural sunlight, be surrounded by nature, and breath in fresh air. Last summer, we religiously parked our bottoms on beach sand every single weekend, and it pains me to hear that beaches and parks are closing in response to COVID-19. In response to the response, I will be creating our own outdoors in this tiny home. I will also share that remodel in the coming months as we document it.

For now though, I traverse the dangerous road of having too much time on my hands. Making our house a home, a thing I haven’t had much time for since we made our measly renovations when we first bought the place, could lead to spending money in excess. I wrote previously about how property ownership does not have to be a dream home at the get-go and I am one who likes to take all things slow, including making purchasing decisions for creating a space dedicated to hunkering down.

I don’t have any rules persay as to the number of hours or days that I have to mull over a potential purchase, but I do prefer to wait. I like to absorb all the feelings, consider all the motives, peruse the alternatives occasionally if space in my heart allows. Sometimes, you just love a thing too much, you know? So in these cases where I feel a burning desire to tackle a project of reformation, I try to simply list my wants and play pretend. Let the fire simmer down, if you will, until my brain has had time to catch up with my heart.

Here, a few finds made to create a space for comfort. These are things that I think would help turn a home into an oasis worth settling in, from companies that I would love to support and see survive past this small-business drought. And with these items, a small anecdote on how I envision them in my own life.

+ A pair of Kygries slippers or these lighter linen alternatives from Fog Linen for walking around cool, clean cement floors while providing a cushion for the feet.

+ Kinto day-off tumbler or Kinto tea pots in the name of staying healthy and hydrated.

+ Fog Linen socks for lounging around on the couch or in bed, whether your space be in home-mode or work-mode.

+ Vitruvi Humidifier for refreshing the air cooped up at home. 

+ The Beauty of Everyday Things for reminding us that maybe we already have all that we need.

+ Citizenry Linen Throw Pillow Covers + Parachute Throw Pillows for sinking deeper into that couch or bed or floor, what-have-ye.

+ Notary Ceramics tray, reminiscent of TV dinners during childhood, to hold teapots and mugs of coffee on preferred soft surfaces. 

+ Cleaning supplies, for a bout of spring cleaning.

 

Lemon Poppyseed Loaf

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

I am not the type of person who cleverly come up with recipes on my own. Perusing recipe books, pastry displays at coffee shops, and farmer’s market stalls are really how I get most of my inspiration. I will usually come across a base recipe that sounds good, but will have qualms over a few of the ingredients or will find substitutions necessary. When it comes to baked goods, I will usually swap flours, fruits, and toppings. When it comes to meals, I will typically throw in what I already have in the pantry to reduce waste, and add complexities such as spices, peppers, hints of lime or lemon, even brown sugar.

This lemon poppyseed loaf, however, comes as close to the original recipe published in Tartine Book No. 3. Of course, it was my husband who made it and not I. He came across it last week after eating dinner, sitting at the table perusing through the pages to look for bread recipes. Ironically, this cake was what caught his eye.

Instead of Kamut flour and pastry flour, we used einkorn flour, which I’ve had as a staple in the pantry since my fellow baker reported it as being his favorite bread flour, and all-purpose flour respectively. We did not use Kefir butter like the recipe asked, sticking with the more readily available unsalted butter during these barren times. I couldn’t justify splurging on such a frivolous ingredient as Kefir butter after the financial repercussions of COVID 19 (see how to battle those here in my recent post). This lemon poppyseed loaf (and all other home-baked goods thus far) has been the silver lining to this stay-at-home movement thus far.

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Ingredients:

  • 1 1/4 cups granulated sugar
  • 2/3 cup Einkorn flour
  • 1/3 cup All Purpose Flour
  • 1/3 cup Almond Meal
  • 1 1/4 tsp baking powder
  • Pinch of sea salt
  • 1 cup unsalted butter, cold but pliable
  • 4 large free range eggs
  • 2 T poppy seeds
  • Juice of 1 lemon
  • Zest of 2 lemons

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The Process:

  1. In a stand mixer with a paddle attachment, mix the dry ingredients listed from sugar to salt.
  2. Add the butter and, slowly increasing the speed to medium, mix until just combined.
  3. Add the eggs one at a time, incorporating each egg before moving on to the next.
  4. Stop the mixer and use a rubber spatula to scrape along the sides of the bowl to ensure that everything is included in the mix.
  5. With the mixer on low, slowly add the poppy seeds, lemon juice and lemon zest.
  6. Once combined, transfer the mixture into a tightly sealed container and refrigerate overnight.
  7. In the morning, preheat the oven to 350 F and take out the container to allow the batter to come to room temperature.
  8. Spray coconut cooking spray into an 8.5 x 4 inch pan and line the bottom with parchment paper. Transfer the batter into the pan.
  9. Bake for 1 hour and 10 minutes, turning the pan halfway through.
  10. Check for done-ness with a toothpick (hopefully if comes out clean!), adding a few additional minutes if the loaf isn’t ready.
  11. Let cool in the pan for 30 minutes. If you invert it too soon, the loaf may not come out nicely. Use a knife and run it along the sides of the loaf. Invert the cake onto a wire rack and let cool completely.

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We prefer to eat our slices with matcha lattes in the morning. We gave half of the loaf to our parents and kept half for ourselves. We love how the exterior of the loaf is a dark brown sugary glaze. This is my husband’s “favorite thing he ever baked”. For me, it’s a bit sweet, but I bet that increasing the almond meal and substituting a darker flour while reducing the amount of granulated sugar to less than a cup would really make this loaf sing.

Of course, I could never just leave the recipe be.

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For those looking to discover the baker within, I highly recommend Tartine by Elizabeth Pruitt and Kinfolk Table. For a free way to learn how to cook, Skillshare has a few classes which you can access for two months FREE here

The plates are by East Fork Pottery, my favorite place to find tablewares from the heart.

Rye Strawberry Thyme Scones

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

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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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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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.

Buckwheat Blueberry Pancakes

This post is in partnership with East Fork Pottery,  a company slinging hand-thrown, timeless pottery in Oregon using regionally-sourced stoneware clay. Their beautiful food-safe glazes are made in house and lend their pieces character, but in an unfussy and classic manner. The collection is, truly, a treasure trove.

With the advent of daylight-savings-time-changes mid-winter comes a post-apocalyptic episode of me scrounging a few more moments of sleep, desperately and daily. The time change lands on my most dreaded day of the year, and what follows is a week full of lethargy, a pathology that is largely self-diagnosed by yours truly. Coupled with dreary weather, rainy forecasts and winter blues, there isn’t much to be excited about after the clock sets back. EXCEPT perhaps… naturally leavened buckwheat blueberry pancakes! 

All of this to say that the sun dost continue to shine, even if we can’t see it. You find brightness in other ways. In my case, flour to match in color with the winter blues, a dash of farm treasures in the form of berries, and perfect pottery to bring out those moody hues.

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Before you begin to think this post is mostly a ranting of my hatred for time changes and a boasting of my favorite vessels, let me straighten the record and say that this truly is a sharing of a recipe. In particular, one that gets me out of bed on those mornings when I feel as if sinking into oblivion would be a better option. I guarantee you, it is not. With the record straight, let me digress and romanticize about all the reasons why this pancake (and this plate) makes this time of year more amicable.

There’s something about the color of buckwheat. It does, to me, give the pancake a bluish hue. The texture of the flour is soft and fluffy, and with the help of a natural starter, gives rise (pun intended) to a very delicate stack. Yet the taste of buckwheat contradicts this delicacy with its bold, earthy tone. The savory taste so distinct in soba noodles is ever so faintly noticeable in this overall sweet recipe.

Then there are the blueberries, which we purchase from a local farm up the road from my parent’s house. Organic and freshly picked, I like to mix these additions into the batter prior to pouring onto the pan. What results when cooked in the cake is a juicy bubble bursting to seep its way into the pancake’s core. The tartness of the berries offsets the savory pancake, their juiciness offsetting the sandy texture of buckwheat.

Off course, drizzling the entire stack with maple syrup and pairing with maple sausage links can’t hurt. And if this hasn’t convinced you of the therapeutic effects of cooking a comforting breakfast on a wintry morning, perhaps the presentation on hand-thrown, human-made clay pots is more appealing to you.

This morel hue does just the trick. Reminiscent of earthy things, like mushrooms that sprout, grounding and calming all at the same time. It’s no wonder East Fork considers it the most versatile color in the collection. Rich and soft like brown butter, morel adds elegance to the presentation without being pretentious. The coffee mug, also in morel, fits warmly in the hand and elevates my mood.

Then again, the coffee also helps.

Whatever wintry flourishes you’ve got in your back pocket to abide the time until Spring arrives, may this help get you through.

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Ingredients:

  • 2 large eggs
  • 1 cup almond milk
  • 1 cup sourdough starter
  • 1 1/2 cup Bob’s Red Mill Buckwheat flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 cup granulated sugar
  • 1/2 stick melted butter
  • 1 cup fresh blueberries

Instructions:

  1. Whisk the eggs in a Kitchen Aid mixer or by hand, depending on your energy level.
  2. Add the milk and starter and whisk again, on low, until well incorporated.
  3. Add the dry ingredients including the flour, baking soda, salt and sugar. Mix thoroughly, stopping halfway to scrape a rubber spatula down the sides of the bowl, catching all the escaped floury bits.
  4. Whisk in the melted butter, and let sit for 20 minutes to allow starter to do it’s magic.
  5. Add the blueberries right before frying on the pan. Fold the berries in with a spatula.
  6. Scoop 2 tablespoons onto a pan and heat on the first side. Flip after bubbles begin to pop at the surface and cook again for about the same amount of time.
  7. Serve with Grade A amber maple syrup, more berries, and bacon or sausage links, if preferred.
  8. Get by for the rest of winter.