2/24/15

every stumbling block is a stepping stone.


We are moving this weekend. We are not able to keep the house. 


There are a lot of factors coming into play here. This winter has been the hardest Maine has seen in a while -- over 100 inches of snow piles up very quickly, sagging the roof and trapping us in the driveway. Our state passed it's record for frigid temperatures in a specific amount of time and make no mistake, we definitely felt the wrath of that; frozen pipes twice, car batteries dying, and a near-constant need to fill the oil tank again drained our bank account and our patience. 


I usually pride myself on accepting responsibility and rising to the occasion. Above all else, I am able to keep an unusually cool head when stress strikes. Within the last four months, however, it seemed like everything that could go wrong for us did: J lost his job. Twice. Both of our cars went into the shop. We ran out of oil. The loan spiked unexpectedly. Our furnace wouldn't turn on. 

At some point you go from handling stress well to trying to live inside of it. 

At some point it's not worth it. 
 

I don't do so well with failure. This deep, sinking stone in my chest feels like failure.  


It strikes me as a delicious irony, candy sticking to rotten teeth, that the week J and I are moving is the week I am teaching my Preschool class about how love is the only thing needed to make a home. I sat in the floor and showed them pictures from around the world; their sticky faces were topped by wide eyes as they saw homes made with mud or stone, blinding white rows or bright thatched huts. We sang about being thankful for what you have and recognizing that being with a loving group of people is what makes your house a home.

It gives me pause.

It makes me think that, even though J and I are packing up our life in these brown boxes once again, these brown boxes do not necessarily hold the sum total of my life. 


These are just things. Yes, they are things that I have bought, that make me happy, that tailor my house to feel like it really reflects me, but at the end of the day and at the end of my rope they. are. just. things. 

Just like this house is only a structure. 

Just like my failure is a matter of opinion.

 

My proclivity is to view the world in a black-and-white way. A few years back I would have viewed someone in my shoes as a complete failure, inept at functioning within the confines of adulthood; having to go from house to apartment would have been seen, honestly, as a regression.

Dealing with people for a millisecond will tell you that nothing about that worldview is true. People are a marriage of beautiful and ugly, and I believe that you need to experience both to live a full life. How can I appreciate the good without the bad? How would I learn to fly without knowing what it felt like to fall? 


All over the house, my things are resting in cardboard boxes. I've stripped the walls of the art, the pictures, and I've said goodbye to the obnoxious colors I was so excited to paint. All that remains are the curtains to keep out the cold and the furniture I cannot force into a box. This weekend I will move those things from one set of four walls into another.

It's fitting that we will be moving into an apartment on the first floor because I do not take this move as a step up or down. It could be a stumbling block or a stepping stone, but it is up to me to decide. 

Failure or future. Or both. 

love,
a





2/17/15

neutral & natural.








For somebody who lives in bright colors and obnoxious patterns I sure do have many neutral pieces populating my closets. I suppose it's because every day I get older I appreciate the balance in things; a cozy sweater, army green skinny jeans, menswear shoes, and minimal jewelry. 

And a good cup of coffee because nothing says lazy days like taking five hours to finish one cup of coffee. 

Also, new hair. I've yet to come to my senses and do something about my split ends so I've embraced the "long messy bob" look until I've found the strength to head into a salon. The color, however, was something I was incredibly ready for and was actually dreaming about for a few weeks. It was an in-home dye job (yes, yes, I KNOW that hair color is not something people should really attempt on their own, but I've been doing my own hair for a couple years now so give me a little benefit of the doubt) after tireless research which didn't turn out as bad as I thought it would.

My natural color, medium-light ash brown, turned out to be at the exact opposite end of the hair spectrum to my deep red. I was expecting a lot more resistance from my mane as I attacked it with the dye and the toner, but it took rather well. There's still quite a bit of red in there but a few more dye jobs will take care of that. 

Have you guys ever orchestrated a big change in your own hair?

love,
a

psst  -- pants, sweater, and shoes were all thrifted! :D

2/14/15

organic love.

To J, a love letter on this Valentine's Day. 

  

My Darling, I can collide when I'm around you.



Sometimes I hear about relationships where your words are choked and hung out to dry, opinions dangling uselessly from the clothesline until the sun has bleached them enough to be insignificant. I hear about thoughts unspoken for the fear of rejection. I hear about stories that will never be told and feelings that have been recanted as dirt is dismissed under a rug.

We have stood across an ocean of tile, one washing the dishes and one putting them to bed, and we have told our stories with venom. We have turned over the rug and let the dust fly until it has become both a spec and a plank in our eyes. 


We are never in danger when we disagree. There are no ultimatums laid at our feet, no one voice that rises above to decide once and for all. We started on a rocky ground but our pounding feet have flattened the earth and our voices have carved out the stones until you and I stand, eye to eye and hand to hand, on an even ground. Our differences have made us equal. 

The collisions will come because we are not afraid to be in opposition.


My Darling, I can thrive when I'm around you. 


When I was a little girl I learned about how most baby birds are taught to fly. They never succeed without a little push, and even though there is a danger in gravity working against them, they have to fight back in order to fly. 

The world can be a heavy place. The current of Normal is narrow and unyielding, a stream gnawing it's way through a mountain, and I am the troublesome ocean who cannot fit inside. The waves I make do not always follow the agreed upon patterns. 



 My identity is dismissed, my diet is ridiculed, and I have a fierce dedication to self-expression that must border on intimidating. I have heard of relationships that frown on a woman living so loudly. But just as the sun, the moon, and the earth are intertwined they are also autonomous; we need each other and yet we have an orbit that calls for respect. 

There is no monarchy in the throne of our arms. 


You see, we have dug our toes in the dirt together and when the roots shoot down deep, we can choose to clip the leaves or let them grow. No plant is stagnant from sapling to tree and we embrace this change, we relax in the shade of the spreading branches and crave touch even when the bark is rough and withered. The seed remains the same. 

Our vines have cracked each other's houses but I think the breaks add character. I think we are free to grow as we please. 


My Darling, I can survive when I'm around you.


Every demon wants his pound of flesh and we both know this tenth fold. Just as we flattened the earth until it gave us equal footing, we have built a foundation on the debris of best-laid plans that life has crushed. Brick by brick they rose and fell; your depression, my eating disorder, your foolishness, my cynicism, our cars, our money, and our home. 

We are not prone to abandoning when the road gets rough or when the wind turns cold. 

We stay and we build, and when the fire consumes we build again. We build because where there is a house, there can be a garden. And where there is a garden, there is fresh earth. Where there is fresh earth, we will be able to collide and thrive and survive in health.



Something allowed to grow, uninhibited except by the occasional pruning, will the take the sun and the rain, the smiles and the tears, and come through in an altered but honest state. I have heard of relationships where the word "no" is not respected, where there is no trust and your eyes must be glued to your partner's back. I have heard of relationships where change is mandatory and conforming to an ideal state expected. It seems neither honest nor healthy to remove the imperfections. 

Apart from the occasional pruning, my Darling, I believe we love each other's scars. 

Organic does not mean perfect or desirable. It is something that has come from the work of the earth and will bear the mark of the seasons. There will be dirty nails and flushed foreheads. There are no shades between us but a spectrum, blending together into years. From August burn to January freeze, from October silence to April thaw, we will be honest, and imperfect, and healthy. 

You will be my organic love until time decides otherwise. 



all my love,
A. 


2/10/15

strong stripes.









I couldn't shake the feeling that I hadn't done a decent outfit post in a while, so I am pleased to present an obnoxious mixing of patterns dusted with glaringly bright turtlenecks. 

In all honesty, red, black, and white is always a winning combination; classy, bright, and aesthetically pleasing. I've been avoiding wearing a lot of it because I was always worried it would clash with my hair, but I'll admit the effect isn't as jarring as I thought. What is jarring, though, is how I dared to wear two patterns without a color in common. I personally think it worked well together, maybe because the turtleneck was all one color, but I could be biased. ;)

The scorpion pendant is a fabulous statement piece that I found in a little shop in downtown Portland. The item itself was grossly overpriced -- 20 dollars for the pendant and extra for the chain! I usually wouldn't spend that much on a dress, but I'm a sucker for unusual pieces. 

What's the most money you guys have spent for a piece you just couldn't say no to?

love,
a

red turtleneck -- thrifted!
black and white skirt -- thrifted!
red and gray sweater -- thrifted!
black boots -- thrifted!

2/8/15

Beet-and-Kale Dark Chocolate Mini-Cupcakes with Salted Chocolate Sauce.


Today, we're going to be focusing on putting some vegetables in your desserts.

That's right. 

We're using beets. 

Beets get kind of a bad rap, to be honest. The taste can be very bitter and trying to cook them makes your hands look like you just couldn't take any more of Aunt Bertha's complaining. 


Pictured: vegetables, not Aunt Bertha.

Ever since I became a vegan I've been fascinated with the effect food has on our health. Most of my research has turned up that, unless you have an underlying medical condition, you can eat your way to optimal health with more fruits and veggies, and less saturated fat, empty carbs, and sugar. 

I know that sounds like obvious advice, but it's surprisingly hard to live by. 

Stuffing vegetables into things with empty carbs and sugar almost makes it better. Make no mistake -- with the amount of sugar packed into this dessert I would never call it healthy, but the addition of kale and beet add some nutrients that give my inner health nerd a smile. 


And seriously, the color of a beet is just divine. Fun fact: you can also use beet juice after you boil them for an all-natural red food coloring substitute. 



This is the original recipe from yum.universe.com. I made a couple of changes out of the necessity of not having everything they required; I used regular unbleached flour and organic cane sugar instead of sucanat. 


We've spoken before about my love for the nutritional goodness of the chia seed, but along with being full of healthy fats they are also a staple of vegan baking for giving your goodies "lift" and "fluffiness" and "not being flat and gross". 


It's very important to follow the directions about keeping the dry and wet ingredients separate until the last possible moment! Vegan baking operates without any animal ingredients so you have to go with the flow of my plant-based methods. 


My new pantry staple: coconut oil! Perfect for baking goods and frying things at a low temperature (higher frying temperatures call for olive and peanut oil) and a fabulous moisturizer for the ends of your hair and rough feet. Not on your face, though. It will give you breakouts like no tomorrow.



Beets blended with coconut oil and chia seed look vaguely like strawberries. 


Kale, thought the be one of the healthiest foods on the planet.  I personally have a really hard time eating it unless it's mixed with something, so stuffing it into cupcakes counts as eating it, right? Make sure you chop it very finely before mixing it with your batters!


Once I had GENTLY folded wet and dry ingredients together and put them into a pan, it was time to make the chocolate sauce.  I know the recipe asked for coconut topping but we couldn't afford to grab canned coconut milk this week, so I made some Vegan Chocolate Sauce. I amended the recipe by using almond milk with some coconut oil mixed in and the end result was not as thick as I had wanted it to be, but it sufficed. 


One of the most important tips I have ever received about baking was to let your pastry cool before adding frosting/sauce/fondant. This lets your sauce sit on the top and keep the shape you apply it as instead of sinking into your baked good. 

I let my cupcakes cool and then dribbled the first layer of chocolate sauce. I shook a small amount of salt on the top and then popped it into the freezer to help it set. After it gave me a little resistance to touch, I applied a second layer and let it set on the counter. 


The end result: I could not taste the vegetables one bit and other people who ate them never guessed. 

Happy dessert-ing! That's a word, right?

love,
a

2/4/15

Little White Dress and Essay #1.


One of the very first compliments anyone gives a little girl is, "She's so beautiful."


A bundle of joy, swaddled in a pink blanket with an equally pink, squishy face; the onlookers don't know any better and so they come up with the closest thing they can to a genuine compliment. The little baby is fresh, so they've no idea if she's strong or intelligent or creative. They call her beautiful because she is a miracle. They call her beautiful because it's what every parents wants to hear.

But it doesn't stop. 

As a toddler, the first compliments the little girl receives are focused around her beauty: long lashes, silky hair, wide eyes that search the sky and chubby cheeks everyone wants to kiss. Life has not given her a backhand yet, has not hardened the curves of her impish smile. She is praised for her first steps but soon encouraged to walk slower because of her new shoes or sit with her legs crossed because that's what little girls are supposed to do in dresses. Her ruffles and bows must not be dirtied. She is to be delicate above all else. She is taught to equate meekness and femininity, and femininity with beauty. 

And it doesn't stop. 


As a child, she is smart and strong and capable and creative. She enjoys building things with blocks and knocking them down with a triumphant yell, the conqueror of her domain. Grass cuts her feet in the best way when she runs outside. She is sure she can keep up with the best of the boys as they scour for bugs and treasures in the dirt, digging until nails are dingy and sweat is obvious. Colors have a taste when she eats with glee. 

Fun may be fun but sugar and spice is everything nice. She realizes that she has different clothes for playing and school, adventuring and company. She comprehends not dirtying the lace trimming her skirt, but why is a dress so precious? Her brother, her friend, her father -- they can all wear pants for school and company, She knows her appearance is tailored to different times because of what's expected of her, what is seen as acceptable for her. 

She knows that people tell her how beautiful she is in the dress.


No one was interested in her bugs and dirt as a child, and as someone fighting the precipice of adulthood no one is interested in her pain. She jots down melodramatic musings but the thoughts are faster than she can write, and when she tells someone they chide her for being ungrateful. Her pictures with smiles are received with open arms, cooing, "You're so beautiful," as a salve to the confusion making her body bud. The miraculous combination of bones, tissue, and blood has started to rebel, and no longer does she appreciate the muscles that made her run or the dexterity that brushes her doll's hair; she is angry at her thighs for expanding, her waist for taking up space, her skin for daring to declare that hormones may be inside. When she complains about herself the world applauds.

"Part of being a woman." They said. "But you're so beautiful."

She believes them for a little bit. 

Every Time she lists something she hates about herself it starts with her body.

And the salve applies only to her body:

"You're beautiful."


She believes that money can buy beauty, and as a form of self-expression beauty does her body good. She creates art with herself. With her skin and hair as the canvas she taps into colors and shapes, reams of fabric designed to hide every flaw are masked with trends. She creates a different painting every day and, for awhile, she loves it.

But it always comes back.

And it doesn't stop.



"You're so beautiful!" They chime. Thousands of voices, declaring their loveliness, take over the world. She tells herself as a grown woman she shouldn't care so much about it but, still, the collective agreement that she is beautiful warms her heart. This compliment uplifts her like nothing else can. After all, it's been a compliment she has heard since birth.


In the corner of brain there is a space that asks why. Why should this compliment complete her so, a sadistic puzzle piece that fits into a raw, angry space? She recalls the dirt, the color, the freedom she felt when she was passionate and resourceful. She recalls those times she coaxed laughter from stoney faces or hugged out the hurt when someone was weeping in her arms. She recalls these moments of tenacity and joy.

And it doesn't stop.


For what is she not so kind, so caring, so sensitive? Why is she not daring, audacious, or heroic? Why is she not so intelligent, so astute, so insightful? Why is she not creative or inventive?

All her problems start with her body because she has been made to believe her body was the most important thing about her.

She has been told she is beautiful so many times because they have been made to believe that her appearance mattered the most. 



"You're so beautiful."

Because we still believe it's what matters most.