Wednesday, January 8, 2014

On Moving Forward

Just about a week ago, I barreled into 2014 with great verve and vigor. To be honest, 2013 wasn't all that kind. It was filled with bouts of deep depression, a 1.5 month illness, job disappointments and a whole bunch of other baggage. Maybe some of you can relate.

And so when January 1st rolled around, I was thrilled that I could start something new. I shook off the burdensome year past and looked forward to this next glorious year. I felt hopeful, strong, and confident that things would miraculously change for the better.

Well, 7 days later and. so far, not much has changed from 2013. At least, situationally speaking. And, as any good overachiever knows, it's easy to think all the changes of the year should happen right smack at the beginning so I can get on with it. Obviously, that's not the way it works.

Still, last Sunday, I was reminded of something that has continued to shape my perspective on this new year and feed my sense of new hope.  My pastor spoke at church on 

Isaiah 43: 18 & 19, 

"Remember not the former things, nor consider the things of old. Behold, I am doing a new thing; now it springs forth, do you not perceive it? I will make a way in the wilderness, and streams in the desert"

I've been hearing strains of this sentiment in posts by other bloggers, conversations with friends, and thoughts of my own as I spend time reading the Bible and reflecting on my life. And yet, it hadn't all come together yet. I was still looking back every few minutes at 2013. Nervous and anxious that I hadn't really shaken the year. That nothing was going to really change. Finally, this morning, though, as I sat journaling and drinking ginger tea before heading out into the frigid air for work. my mind, and my heart, got it. 

I'm not meant to keep looking back at what was. No, I'm meant to look to the new thing God is doing in my life, and the space around me. Isaiah asks, "do you not perceive it?" Because maybe this "new thing" isn't smacking me in the face while I sit lazy on my couch and lament about my poor year. I have to look for it. My new thing. It is here. And it's not just passively here, it's springing forth. There is energy, life and light. It is a way in the wilderness, a stream in the dry, dry desert. 

But, I can't see any of those things if I'm continuing to look back. If I'm so busy seeing where I came from that I never look where I'm going, then this year won't be any different than the last. 

Do you remember how, in driving school, we learned to keep our eyes on the road, especially at night, because wherever our eyes are focused, that's where our car goes? This morning I remembered to put my eyes back on the road and on to the One who is doing a new thing, always. Who is making a way in my wilderness. 

This year might not be a glorious year to remember, either (or it might!). But my hope is to keep a better perspective in the inevitable moments of fear, failure and disappointment sprinkled among the more jubilant times.  

Jesus is making me new every day. He doesn't have to wait for a date on the calendar to start.  

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Happy Veteran's Day

This month my grandfather will be 94 years old. When he was in his early 20s, the son of two Sicilian immigrants, he joined the US military and fought in World War II. He was stationed in New Guinea, fighting on the Pacific front. A part of the war, that I learned little about growing up. Almost exclusively, aside from Pearl Harbor, I learned in school about the European front. The Nazis. Hitler. I never learned about the horrors the men who fought in the Pacific faced. Horrors that to this day, statistically, crippled the veterans who returned more powerfully than other men who fought in WW II.

I don't mean to minimize anyone's loss or pain. Each and every burden in the face of war is great. I only mean to try and understand what my grandfather, Macy, may have faced. He never spoke about the war, or his role until I was in college. One warm summer day, though, while my family and I visited he and his wife, he began to talk to us about his life as a young man in the war.

with my Grandpa Macy several years ago
He told us about the shock of landing on the island and finding the woman there didn't wear shirts, but walked with their breasts bare, ready to feed the babies on their backs. His nickname, Macy, comes from the war. His cousin was stationed nearby him and to avoid confusion with their last name, Mascena, on mail days, he became "Macy". He laughingly told us that he an a few guys, including his cousin, devised a plan to make homemade wine in a unused drum of some sort they found (can you tell we're Italian?) and my grandfather used to hop boats to other camps and secrete the illegal wine to other soldiers. Once he almost got caught, but managed to evade capture!

And with tears in his eyes, and holding the hand of both my sister and I, he told us that he realized that soon he might be gone and no one would know these stories, no one would know the things that made him, him.

That summery day, on the patio of my grandfather's home is something I hold close in my memory. And even more so, now this his own memory has failed him.

I keep those stories close because they remind me that freedom comes at a price. I felt it in the weathered hand of my grandfather who didn't, and perhaps couldn't, talk about his part in our freedom for decades as I grew up.  I feel it when I think of my other grandfather, Jim, in the coast guard during the Korean War. And my brother-in-law, a career man in the Navy, who spends months at a time away from my sister and his life here.

As I stood on the sidewalk yesterday, on my lunch break, and watched Boston's Veteran's Day parade march by, I clapped, and waved my flag. I looked at these men and women in the eye and hoped they would know how much I'm thankful for their willingness to serve our country, despite the great cost.  I am so thankful. 

Happy Veteran's Day. 

Saturday, October 12, 2013

KatyInTheKitchen: Birthday Charlotte Russe

A few weeks ago, my sweet roommate requested that I make a special birthday treat for her mother, who is visiting this weekend to celebrate! We discussed something decadent and rich that would be a complete birthday indulgence.

Now that summer is over, I'm back to baking away, and was excited for an opportunity to make a delicious and beautifully presented treat. . .my favorite!

I spent a lot of time deciding what I wanted to make when I happened to come across the idea for a Charlotte, or a Charlotte Russe cake. You've probably seen one before, but not known what's it's called. A Charlotte is a dainty mold cake filled with custard, mousse, or cream and surrounded by ladyfingers or sponge cake.

Since I haven't made one of these treats before, I searched around for some recipes that fit the bill. I made my ladyfingers using this amazing recipe from the Cilantropist, and while her mousse filled Charlotte sounded amazing, I opted for a coconut custard recipe favored by Martha Stewart.

The result, a rich, creamy coconut custard filled Charlotte garnished with some fresh tangy raspberries and finished with a chocolate bow. Divine!

Wednesday, October 9, 2013

One Year Later

Warning: This. Is. A. Rant. 
It's been just about a year now since the demise of my darling car Betsy, as some of you may well know. My '98 Escort met her end one sunny day, as some pals and I bounced toward the home of a friend on Boston's rough city streets. There was a snap, some clanking, and the terrifying moment where I wondered if we'd see a wheel rolling past us on the road. . .from our car!

We did manage to make it there and back that day, and I let Bets linger in my parking lot for a few more weeks, un-drivable and defeated, and hoping that she would miraculously be healed. Having dumped a huge amount of money into trying to keep her chugging the previous summer, I didn't bother to take her in to my hott mechanic (see: Fred). You know, no need to beat a dead horse and all.

So, I said my goodbyes and donated her off to the Special Olympics.

Thus began my first year, ever, of not having a car. Betsy was my car before I even had my license, and got me through 8 years of a lot of life changes. 

I'd like to say that this has been the best year ever, and I realized having a car is foolish and needless in a walking city with accessible public transportation (if one can call the B line thus. . .). For sure, I didn't miss having to shovel out a car this winter, or pay for car insurance, or feel the helpless frustration of walking up to my parked car and seeing a telltale orange paper tucked beneath a windshield wiper.

But, really. I'm over this.

Sometimes I just want to go to Target at 8 o'clock at night for no other reason then to look at sunglasses. And sometimes, I want to grocery shopping and have it not take 2 hours. Also, as much as I wax poetic about this blessed city, sometimes I just want to get out of it. 

I want to go home to the country, or the beach, or just go to dang church on a rainy Sunday and not have it be a giant production involving planes, and trains, and (gracious) friends who've offered into giving me a ride. I would like to go visit my grandma, who always asks me when I'll be in town, instead of reminding her I don't have a car so I won't be in the wilds of northern Connecticut anytime soon.

 I've been trying to look on the positive side of this past year. I hope that I have grown more patient, and less structured. That I am more compassionate with people for tardiness and changed plans, and grumpy arrivals. Especially now that I know what it's like to watch the bus (that showed up early) drive by my stop while I stand on the other side of the street jabbing at the walk signal and wondering if I have the ninja skills to run through traffic in enough time to catch it.  I hope it has made me more vulnerable, and willing to admit to people I need help, because sometimes I do. 

But, OK, also, I really hope that this next year brings a new car. . .

Monday, August 19, 2013

The Real Deal

A few years ago, I moved to my lovely city (Boston, if you don't know) with a close friend of mine. At the time she was suffering from some pretty serious and mysterious health problems and, after a lot of trial and error, began some radical changes in her diet that have helped her tremendously. 

During that time, through her extensive research, I also started to learn about the amazing changes diet alterations have brought to people with autism, chronic fatigue, lupus and other serious mental and physical ailments that do not have "cures". 

These discoveries really got me thinking about the many unknown ingredients I'm constantly putting into my body. So many of my friends, only a few decades in to the long lives we live thanks to modern medicine, are already struggling with debilitating health problems that often can't be diagnosed or resolved with pills, creams, or any other quick fix. And more often than not, it seems changes in their eating habits start to give them some relief.

And really. . . is it any wonder? I was born in the late eighties and raised in that happy, roaring decade of the 90s craving Lucky Charms, Kool Aid, and Hamburger Helper. I've been consuming man made powders, chemicals, dyes, and protein chains transformed into "food" my some incredible technologies from my earliest days. It's no surprise  my friends and I seem to have bodies that are falling apart at the seems already with this list of faux nutrients? 

I'm ashamed to say that, despite this new awareness, it took me awhile to climb fully aboard the "real food" movement. Mostly out of laziness, I think, knowing it would mean a change in much more than just what I put on my plate. I finally am making some real changes, however, and it feels exciting and great! 

 Earlier this summer, I made the commitment to start eating about 80% real food on the regular. This seemed like a realistic goal without going crazy and failing right off the bat (which would happen if I deprived myself of ice cream, lets be real). I haven't been perfect, and have certainly had weeks where I've gone of the deep end. . . but, because this is a long term lifestyle change I'm striving for, I'm sticking to it, and being gracious with myself when I fail.

My hope is that, in the next few years, my diet will contain almost no chemical preservatives or processes foods. 

I decided to blog about some of the biggest challenges I've experienced so far in making this lifestyle change, mostly because any time I mention my goals to people, I hear the same thing. Something along the lines of, "Oh, I'd really like to do that, but I don't know where to start!" It seems like we're scared of using real food! And since I dove in with the benefit of some healthy eaters going before, and sharing knowledge and resources, I want to pass it along!

I'll be blogging this week about the change in food costs I've noticed this summer but, until then, here's a new favorite recipe of mine for when I'm craving carbs. 


Whole Wheat Tortillas:
(this recipe is only very slightly altered from here)
2 1/2 cups whole wheat flour
1/2 cup coconut oil
1 teaspoon salt
1 cup warm water

++In a stand mixer mix flour, oil, and salt until crumbly, scraping as needed. If you have a dough hook that would work, but I just use my standard paddle.
++Keep mixer running and slowly added warm water and mix until dough is smooth. At this point, I remove the dough and kneed it on the counter for a bit. If you use a dough hook, no need to knead (get it? hehe)
++Diving the dough into 12 pieces, roll each into a ball and flatten in out on a pan or board. 
++Cover with plastic wrap and let rest at room temp for 15 minutes to an horus
++Heat a skillet over med-high heat with a little coconut oil (or other favorite oil)
roll out the tortillas using a very small amount of whole wheat flour. I usually make mine about 8 inchesaround. 
++Transfer to the hot skillet and cook about 30-45 seconds on each side.
++Be sure to eat one when they are hot, fresh and amazing! The rest can be stored in the fridge or freezer to use later!

Monday, August 5, 2013

The Long Goodbye

Well, hello! 

See what I did there? Took the summer off and didn't even tell ya'll.

I guess I figured if I was too busy soaking up summer to write, you were probably too busy to read (at least that's what I've been telling myself. . .)

Between apartment sprucing, weekends away, and summer fun with friends, I decided not to stress the blogging.

A recent slew of goodbyes to friends headed on their next adventure has got me writing, again, however.

My friends, Hannah and Joanna, recently left Boston for the warmer streets of Nashville, after 2 education-minded years. Closer to home for them both, but just plain far away for their friends here in the North East.

These lovely women were the latest in a line of friends and acquaintances who've taken part in a mass exodus from Boston this year. Since May they've been trickling away in fits and starts leaving those who are staying behind to look around at the empty spaces. We are waiting to see who will be left when the dust settles (to be perfectly cliché).  

These many goodbyes are not the first of my life and certainly will not be the last. While I know that, truthfully, we cannot all stay together forever, it hasn't stopped my compulsions to grab tight for hands around me as they go (or stay) and insist that we all be the lifetime sort of friends. No matter how often or familiar the sad task of saying goodbye comes around, each time I  feel that deep and throbbing pain in my chest at the thought being separated from another friends. And, truth be known, I feel a welling of self pity at the injustice of my having to say goodbye to someone when I just don't want to.

Wouldn't it be easier if we always could be close to the people we love most? If they were forever just up the hall, or down the street for a chat or a hug, and we didn't have to just suffice with Facetime or texting or phone calls (although, I'm mighty thankful for all of these means of communication!)

As often as I've been tempted to give in to that pity party these past few days, after this particular departure of my sweet friends, I've also been reminded that this sadness is really a byproduct; a longing in our hearts for something much deeper.

It reminds me that in the beginning, when Adam and Eve were new and full of wonder, and before they made other, more knowing decisions, there were no sad goodbyes. Only sunny day spent together and cool evenings strolling in the garden with their Father friend.

But then, without knowing really what they were doing, they chose, among other things, separation. From their Friend in the garden, from the garden itself, from each other, and their children and the list goes on. It was here that the jagged edge of "saying goodbye" must have been realized.  To begin to bridge this gap, there was another great separation, between a Father and his Son. The Son coming to earth as a man. Living among us, making friends, building relationships only to have to leave them behind. 

I imagine Jesus had more pressing matters on his mind those nights before He died. But I also wonder if He thought of his friends who had stuck close to him. If He thought of how He would no longer spend his days with them, joke with them on the road, or pray with them. I think, because he was fully man, that he did.

I know that when I call out to Jesus with sadness at the new distance from a friend, he doesn't just hear me. . .he knows intimately what I am feeling because he felt it too. And He knows that ultimately what I'm longing for is an end to separation from Him and His Father. 

For those of us in Boston who are not so transient, it seems a cruel decision we've made: To live in a city full of people always leaving. But for those who have chosen to believe what I do, let it be a reminder to us that the sorrow of parting will one day be erased. One day, we will be surrounded by all our precious friends on a cool, evening walk in the garden with our Father,  and there will never be another whisper of goodbye.

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Oregon Trail: Part 2

 Sometimes, I say I'll do things "tomorrow" but I'm really just using the term loosely.
Here is Part 2 of my trip to Portland and it's all about the amazing food. From street food at the food carts that are synonymous with Portland to high end outdoor Latin dining at Oba we truly enjoyed some amazing eats (as the foodies say. . .heh!). I'd go back to Portland just to keep exploring the cuisine scene, for sure!

Shwarma for lunch!
1} Lovejoy Bakers; 2} Kushary, Kushary; 3} Voodoo Donuts; 4} Bunk Sandwiches 

one night we hit up the funky Alberta neighborhood for  ice cream at Salt & Straw
(we loved the ricotta honey lemon)

Voodoo Doughnuts! I tried the dirty old donut I've had in awhile!

a slice of haunted pizza at the eerie Old Town Pizza
And my lovely travel companion Jenna: enjoying a Whole Bowl, strolling through Powell's Books, and drinking from a Benson Bubbler!