2016 Gift Guide: For the Fashionista

OK, I’m totally overselling this post with the term fashionista, but I did want to include a few clothing and accessory picks on the guide. My personal style definitely leans towards casual comfort…hoodies and striped tees always accepted!

Sherpa Zip Hoodie | Tulle Cuffed Striped Tee

As are colorful socks…

J. Crew | Happy Socks | Smart Wool

…and jogger pajamas. (I’m a total convert!)

Constellation | Aerie

But, I also enjoy dramatic makeup…

Albeit: ChampagneChanel: Architectonic | Charlotte Tilbury: Love Liberty |

…and a dazzling accessory, every so often.

Radial Drops | Chandeliers | Floral Drops

 

Or, a little sparkle (or maybe a lot!) on the wrist.

iPhone Case | Ice Chunk Bracelet |

Maybe even a faux fur snood…simply because it’s called a SNOOD!

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Faux Fur Snood

The holidays are a great time to gently nudge (or heartily push!) your friends and family outside of their typical fashion boxes. As much as we casual folks embrace a little sparkle from time to time, true fashionistas secretly enjoy kicking off their Louboutins and lounging around in their jimjams. Choose accordingly.

2016 Gift Guide: For the Wanderluster

Oh, boy! Where do I even start? There are so many fun travel items out there. I could probably just send you to Flight 001 and be done with it, but what about guides and gizmos and all the other gadgets?! I had a hard time narrowing it down, and I’m certain that I’ll go to sleep tonight thinking, “Wait, I left out…X, and Y, oh and what about Z…plus this other hundred things!!” I didn’t even get tap into the many travel size beauty items that are perfect for sneaking in your suitcase. But, here you have it, my Guide for the Wanderluster in your life.

All You Can Eat Press | Rough Guides | Wildsam Field Guides

These days, it easy to find a plethora of travel info online. There’s just one problem…internet access. While traveling, it can be expensive (or, simply impossible) to stay connected 24/7. From local specialty guides to traditional books, it’s sometimes nice to have analog options for the road.

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Travel Stub Diary

I’m not sure what the average person does with all of the tickets and stubs they collect while traveling. More responsible folks probably send them straight to the trash. But I’m not a big shopper while journeying and can’t help but hoard these little mementos. Having a place to organize them all is a great idea!

Bramble and Beene | Ban.do | Flight 001Near & Far

A cute passport cover is something that I would never buy for myself but would totally love to give (or receive) as a gift. It just might make this essential document easier to spot in my bag. There have, admittedly, been a few moments of panic…

Paper Label Loungewear

There’s a great deal of debate about how one should dress on a plane. Though I’m not entirely on board with pj’s, I’m definitely not interested in dressing up. I’m #teamcomfy all the way. Thankfully, there is plenty of stylish loungewear in the world without having to resort to flannel drawstrings covered in pink penguins or purple corgis.

Bose SoundTrue Ultra | OstrichPillow Lite | Convertible Travel Blanket

I need a few things to successfully settle in for a long flight: noise canceling headphones, a good pillow, and a cozy blanket are key. It’s not always practical to tote all of these things along, but so nice when you’re able! I have an awesome inflatable pillow that tucks into a small bags when deflated and functions well in a variety of positions, depending on how little or much air I put in. 

Trunkster

After paying a crazy amount in extra fees to check our bags to Spain last year, the number one selling feature of this Trunkster suitcase is its built-in digital scale. Of course, zipperless entry, water resistance, USB charging (up to 4 times for iPhones), and location tracking via iOS and Android app don’t hurt!

VSSL | Hydaway | Prospector Co.

Compact is key! VSSL is a flashlight with survival gear (think fire starters, a wire saw, and first aid supplies) hidden inside! Wonder how TSA handles it. Hydaways are 12 oz and 21 oz collapsible water bottles with an optional storage case that tucks just about anywhere. Prospector Co. makes travel-friendly compressed towels perfect for quick cleanups. All great picks!

LifeProof Waterproof Case| QBracelet iPhone Charger

LifeProof cases are essential when heading to the beach. Perfect for taking fish-selfies while snorkeling! But, the case also protects your phone from sand. Win-win. And I love that Mark & Graham monograms QBracelets, making this practical travel techcessory much more stylish.

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Scratch Map

Do you have a special way of keeping track of your travels? I’ve seen pin boards and photo displays, but I think this would motivate me to venture forth more often. Plus, how satisfying would it be to scratch off Antarctica?!?

2016 Gift Guide: For the Home

As someone who lives in a tiny house, I appreciate gifts that pack a punch but don’t take up a lot of space. As a gift giver, I enjoy pulling together a themed collection, like the pancake breakfast in yesterday’s guide. So, I tried to choose things For the Home that would make a statement all on their very own, but would also work well in groupings. I encourage you to add your faves to the list in the comments.

 

Elevate the entryway with elegant accessories:

Cedar Wreath | Sly Fox Door Knocker | Waterhog Doormat

Warm things up with a cozy blanket and a cute place to store it:

Collapsible Felt Baskets | Pendleton Wool Monitoring Blanket

Fill out the bar cart with a selection of locally crafted spirits:

Fremont Mischief Whiskey | Sun Liquor Hedge Trimmer Gin | 2 Bar Spirits Bourbon

Add some mugs for coffee, tea, or secret hot toddies:

Bellina Blooms Mug | Elephant Tea Mug | Quilted Porcelain Travel Mug

Include a few themed items for your mother who just got a dachshund puppy:

Tea Towel | Napkin Set

Scent the home with my favorite wintertime fragrance:

Thymes Frasier Fir Collection

Set the table with a few candlesticks:

H&M Home | Zara Home | Jonathan Adler

Or, add a fire to any tablescape:

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Moda Flame Tabletop Fireplace

Give the gift of luxury and convenience…

Book your loved one a home cleaning or personal organizer…and send the recipient for a relaxing mani/pedi while the heavy lifting gets done.

2016 Gift Guide: For the Foodie

I’m finally taking the plunge into the gift guide game. These are all things that I would love to receive. So, even if I don’t become the final word on gift-giving, at least my family will know what to get me! And, because not everyone wants more “stuff” in their lives, every guide will include an experience. Never forget that the greatest gift you can usually give someone is time – time away from social media, time shared together, time to learn something new!

A note on Foodie Gifts…I’ve intentionally picked things that aren’t just for hardcore foodies. They make terrific presents for family, friends, coworkers, and holiday party hosts. Not everyone loves to cook, but most people love to eat – especially when given something unique or unexpected. So, I’ve tried to include a little something for every level of chef, entertainer, or general lover of food.

Cookbooks:

Small Victories | Cooking for Jeffrey

These two are my top cookbook picks this season because Julia Turshen and Ina Garten are both known for flavorful classics that are also very accessible to non-expert chefs, like myself. They often also include useful tips and inspirational images for cooking without recipes, when I’m feeling more adventurous.

CurateThe Aleppo CookbookMy Two Souths

Of course, there are LOTS of great cookbooks out this year. I’m particularly drawn to those that document and explore cultural differences, like these that investigate the tastes of Spain (which I’m really missing this holiday season!) and Syria (a highly compelling topic given the conflict in the region), and the fusion of flavors between India and the American South (wuuuut?!?).

Foodstuffs:

Pancake Molds | Noble Tuthilltown Bourbon Maple Syrup

There’s something about eating pancakes that always makes me feel like a kid again. A pancake gift set is perfect for the holidays when folks have time away from work and feel inspired to make special breakfasts. Add a package of mix to suit the recipient – I’m a fan of Bob’s Red Mill Gluten-Free Pancake Mix – and a special topping like this bourbon-barrel-aged maple syrup. Can’t lose!

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Bees Knees Spicy Trio

What can I say? Some like it hot! Spicy sweet, spicy savory, spicy spicy…this trio covers it all. Fans use them in coffee, tea, cocktails…on oatmeal, waffles, and fried chicken…to spruce up baked goods and grandma’s favorite recipes. Heads up, the sriracha is not gluten-free, and the honey, like all honey, is not vegan. But, you can buy everything separately.

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Chocolate Covered Goat Milk Caramels

I am a huge fan of Big Picture Farm caramels. They’re so creamy and delicious. The unique goat’s milk flavor makes them entirely addictive. Now…they come covered in chocolate!! I’m dying over here. Must send order immediately. BTW…these come in cute boxes that are great to have around for that horrific moment when you desperately need an extra little gift.

Entertaining:

Scalloped Marble Serving Board | Laguiole Cheese Knives

We received a set of cheese knives as a wedding gift and I never thought we would use them. Alas, I love bringing them out. They make both small and large gatherings feel just a touch more special. Plus, it’s the sort of thing that you can mix and match if you have multiple sets.

Light-Up Tree Bottle Stopper | Winter Shapes Ice Tray | Antler Drink Markers

Not everything has to be serious at the holidays! In fact, few things should be. Inject a little fun into your entertaining with some silly accessories. These make wonderful hostess gifts and stocking stuffers.

Cooking Tools:

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Food Styling Precision Tool

This is the kind of thing that I would never buy for myself, but would totally love to play with to make culinary masterpieces! You know, for two of us…since I wouldn’t dare mess up a meal for friends. Ha! Still, fun.

Dexam Home

I adore enamelware, and these little milk pots and jugs from Dexam Home are too cute! RF is not keen on single purpose kitchen items, and I understand where he’s coming from. We do live in a small house with limited storage. But, there’s nothing like heating up an adorable pot of milk for real hot chocolate. And, these are charming enough to display.

Classes & Events:

The Pantry at Delancey | Skillshare | Book Larder

As I mentioned in the intro, I’m a HUGE FAN of giving experiences over stuff. There are loads of classes, meals, potlucks, food swaps, author talks, and more that are perfect for foodies. Check out local restaurants, bookstores, community centers, and schools for events in your area. And, don’t forget online! Skillshare offers so many terrific culinary classes from the comfort of your computer – everything from honing your knife skills to mixing the perfect cocktail to shaping Asian-style dumplings – all taught by popular chefs and well-known culinary purveyors.

In Seattle, I recommend Book Larder, a community cookbook bookstore. They host a variety of events every month, including their popular Lunch Break! one-hour, lunchtime, cooking classes. The Pantry at Delancey hosts potlucks and food swaps, and their classes run the gamut from Homemade Holiday Gifts to Tastes of Thailand to a 2-Day Molecular Gastronomy Workshop.

If you’re feeling a super splurge, Outstanding in the Field will be in Argentina, Chile, Hawaii, and Mexico this winter. Or, keep an eye out for pop-up farm-to-table meals, or other special dining events, in your area.

The Sweetest Thanksgiving Potatoes

Well, it’s Thanksgiving this week, which means that it’s time for the age-old debates: mashed potatoes or sweet potatoes – sweet potatoes, obvs – so, more importantly, candied, marshmallows, or…pecans?!

At heart (or, at least at stomach), I’m Southern. I stand firmly in the brown sugar and pecans camp. Many people disagree, until they try mine. So, if you’re a die-hard mashed or mallow fan, but are feeling a little bit adventurous this year – or, better yet, if you already agree with me – you should try this recipe.

Oh, and a quick Thanksgiving PSA…do not forget to make your own cranberries! They’re so much more delicious than canned. And, it’s possibly the easiest way to wow your friends and family at the holidays, since so many people think it must be impossible.

OK, back to sweet potatoes. Not as easy as cranberries, but certainly not complicated. I will say that my recipe has been an evolution over the years, and continues to change from time to time. When I went off to college and was hosting my first Friendsgiving, my mother sent me this very rough recipe for a super simple version:

Mix together:

1 – 40 oz. can of sweet potatoes
4 tsp softened butter
1/4 tsp salt
2/3 tsp cinnamon
1/8 tsp nutmeg
2 T brown sugar

Top with:

brown sugar
butter
chopped pecans

Of course, she had made this recipe a thousand times, tossing ingredients in as she went. I had watched her so often that I knew to use softened butter for the topping, and to just get in there with my hands to mush it all up. Baking temp? Whatever worked for what it was cooking beside. Baking time? Until the topping melts.

Somewhere along the way, I stumbled upon a more refined recipe that I’ve been altering to suit my tastes ever since. I keep it tucked in a cookbook – obviously well-worn. I pull it out every year to use as my guide, and adjust as I go along.

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You must know that there’s no chance I would use canned sweet potatoes now. Gross. You can boil them pretty quickly, but I think it’s well worth taking the time to roast them; it yields a more complex flavor.

My current evolution is more soufflé than straight up bake; though, as you can see from my mom’s recipe, omitting milk and eggs certainly won’t ruin anything. They key, really, is being generous with the streusel. After all, what better holiday than Thanksgiving for including dessert with your meal?! I promise, you will be popular.

Maple Sweet Potato Smash
with Spiced Pecan Streusel

Sweet Potatoes:

6 large sweet potatoes (4 lbs)
6 T butter (sliced in 1 T sections)
3/4 tsp salt
1/3 C whole milk
1/2 C real maple syrup
2 eggs, beaten

Streusel:

6 T butter, softened
1 C packed brown sugar
1/2 C flour (I use a gluten-free all purpose)
1 1/2 C chopped pecans
1/8 tsp ground cloves
1/4 tsp ground nutmeg
1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
1/2 tsp salt

Directions:

  1. Preheat oven to 400F and line lower rack with foil. (You’ll thank me on this one.) Pierce tops of sweet potatoes several times with a fork. Roast directly on rack until knife enters center easily and cleanly – approx. 1 hr, but can vary between 45-90 mins depending on size and thickness of sweet potatoes.
  2. Reduce oven heat to 350F.
  3. Let sweet potatoes cool until skins pull away from flesh. This makes them much easier to peel.
  4. Transfer peeled sweet potatoes to mixer or large bowl. (Note: using a mixer creates a fluffier base, but it doesn’t make a difference whether you use a stand mixer, a hand mixer, a potato masher, or fork. I have used them all and it always turns out delicious, regardless.) Add butter and salt, mix until butter is melted.
  5. Add milk, maple syrup, and beaten eggs, beating between each addition. Mix until smooth.
  6. Transfer mixture to greased 9 x 13 baking dish, distribute evenly, and smooth top. img_0161
  7. Mix all topping ingredients in a small bowl (Note: This step can be done while potatoes are baking, if you’d like. Mama will tell you that using your hands to mush up the butter is the best way. If you don’t like to get brown sugar and butter under your nails, just use a fork. It’s fine!) img_0166
  8. Sprinkle the mixture over the top of the potatoes and bake, uncovered, for 30-45 minutes until streusel melts a bit and the pecans are toasted. If it browns too quickly, you can add foil to top to prevent burning while topping melts.
  9. I recommend letting it sit for 10-15 minutes after taking it out of the oven to give it time to set. The top will crisp up as it cools.
  10. Enjoy! You don’t even have to wait until Thanksgiving. We’re having my trial run with a pork loin roast tonight. Thursday…with turkey!

Friday Finds – Hijab Edition

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It appears that we are officially living in wild times. Every day, it seems, there’s a new threat to our liberty – in the United States of America!! – a country founded on freedom. No longer is that “mighty woman with a torch” the Mother of Exiles, her beacon-hand glowing worldwide welcome. No. In today’s world, our newly elected officials speak of building walls, deporting immigrants, and instituting a Muslim database, referencing our horrific history of Japanese internment as a precedent. For the record, this isn’t the first time this idea of a national registry has been floated – it’s quite similar to the failed Bush Era NSEERS program. So, there’s that. But, the fact that we keep returning to this idea that all Muslims are evil is beyond concerning to me. To blur the lines between Al Qaeda, ISIS, and other jihadist groups with the entirety of Islam is, very simply, ignorant. The word Islam literally translates to peace. The facts demonstrate that Muslim societies are among the least violent in the world. I understand fear, though. After all, I’m fearful of our burgeoning administration! Since the best way to combat fear is with knowledge, I thought I would explore a few positive stories about Islamic women blazing trails amidst/despite all of this madness.

globalmuslimpop

First, did you know…

  • According to a 2009 Pew Research Center comprehensive demographic study of more than 200 countries, there are 1.57 billion Muslims of all ages living in the world, representing 23% of an estimated 2009 world population of 6.8 billion.
  • While Muslims are found on all five inhabited continents, more than 60% of the global Muslim population is in Asia and about 20% is in the Middle East and North Africa.
  • More than 300 million Muslims, or one-fifth of the world’s Muslim population, live in countries where Islam is not the majority religion.
  • These minority Muslim populations are often quite large. India, for example, has the third-largest population of Muslims worldwide. China has more Muslims than Syria, while Russia is home to more Muslims than Jordan and Libya combined.
  • Of the total Muslim population, 10-13% are Shia Muslims and 87-90% are Sunni Muslims. Most Shias (between 68% and 80%) live in just four countries: Iran, Pakistan, India and Iraq. There also are a few Muslim groups that are difficult to classify as either Sunni or Shia. These include Kharijites in Oman and the Nation of Islam movement in the United States, as well as the Druze, who are located primarily in and around Lebanon.

Plus, 30 more facts.

hijab-emoji

Thanks to a petition from Rayouf Alhumedhi, a 15-year-old Saudi-German girl, the next release from Unicode will include a woman in hijab emoji. Alhumedhi’s 7-page proposal detailed the value and impact of equal representation, noting that, “The headscarf gives me power.” She also pointed out that head coverings aren’t unique to Islam. Women in Eastern Orthodox Christian faiths and some conservative Jewish communities could also benefit from having a headscarf emoji to represent themselves virtually.

The proposal caught the eye of Reddit Founder Alexis Ohanian who said of Alhumedhi, “[She’s] easily among the most impressive 15-year-olds I’ve met… [An] emoji may not seem like a big deal, but it’s one more way for a lot of people to feel acknowledged and represented ― and that’s a good thing.”

covergirl

CoverGirl recently announced another first: its debut CoverGirl in a hijab! Nura Afia, 24, a Colorado native, first started watching online beauty tutorials in 2011 while breast-feeding her baby daughter, Laila. Afia eventually began creating tutorials of her own and now has more than 217,000 YouTube channel subscribers and 13 million views…plus, a CoverGirl contract!

“Frankly, I feel proud to be part of a movement that is showing the hijab in a positive light for once. The more of us who can wear them as representatives of these big household names on TV or billboards the better,” she said. “It’s about them finally showing us that they know we are beautiful, too.”

hijab-nyfa

This year, New York Fashion Week made history with their first all-hijab fashion show. Indonesian fashion designer Anniesa Hasibuan hosted a runway show featuring 48 outfits, all with gorgeous hijabs. Though Westerners have viewed the hijab as “otherness,”  the style has been regarded as extremely fashion forward in other parts of the world. Melanie Elturk, chief executive of Haute Hijab wrote, “I believe fashion is one of the outlets in which we can start that cultural shift in today’s society to normalize hijab in America so as to break down stereotypes and demystify misconceptions. Last night’s show was a huge leap forward in that direction.” Beautiful.

Further Reading:

Does My Head Look Big in This? – Randa Abdel-fattah

Further Watching:

Veiled Voices  – Brigid Maher

Further Listening:

#GoodMuslimBadMuslim (podcast)

Portland ADU Tour 2016 – Part 3

With all of the election madness, it’s taken me some time to finish up the ADU series. I’m going to try to get back to focusing on the things that I love – like architecture and design – to distract me from the swirl that lingers in my head, but it could take me some time to get back to regular posts. Right now, I’m taking in life as it comes. But, without further adieu, Part 3.

This ADU reminded me a lot of one of my favorites from last year. The design was different, but similarly simple, practical, and attractive. Plus, it had a model. That always makes me swoon!

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I’m pretty sure that this was the only ADU we toured that wasn’t styled to match the main house. Unless they have plans to paint their home, this one is complimentary, but not the same.

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It’s generally a bit more modern, with the cooler color and wood accents.

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This “secret passageway” made the proximity of the ADU to the main house feel like an advantage rather than a detriment. Both homes share a lovely backyard, which may or may not be a bonus for your situation. I don’t think I would mind it too much, but it probably depends on your tenant.

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The natural wood was carried through to the door, which has glass slats to bring more light into the home. An exterior fence maintains a sense of privacy. I think frosted glass would also work well on this door, but it definitely didn’t feel like anyone would be constantly peering in.

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This is the kitchen I dreamt of having in NYC. Very compact, and yet completely functional. In fact, high-end appliances make it feel downright special.

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As you can see, there’s not much in the way of counter space.

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A dining table strategically positioned in the center of the room creates the perfect multi-function dining/prep/work space.

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There is plenty of space in the open living room for full-size furniture. I did not confirm, but this couch sure looks like it folds out for guests.

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Minimal design keeps things feeling clean and fresh, but you could certainly add built-ins or more shelving on this side of the room for additional storage.

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A large closet to the right of the kitchen houses full-size washer/dryers, a standard hot water heater, and plenty of room for cleaning and pantry items.

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Another terrific example of full-size stairs! Why are there so many small houses with ladders?! They are neither practical nor comfortable – completely unnecessary.

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Stairwells also create opportunities for additional light sources that are also private…and pretty! Love the ledge for little decor touches, and this lamp. We lucked out with sunshine for this pic, but I bet that lamp is welcome on Portland’s rainier days.

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The only bathroom for this unit is at the top of the stairs. It’s sleek and completely sufficient. I do, however, appreciate the units that have an extra half bath. I think this ADU could’ve squeezed one in downstairs with the washer/dryer and hot water heater, especially if they had incorporated a space-saving on-demand hot water heater.

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Plenty of room in the upper level for a queen bed and some shelving or a dresser…or both.

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To the far side of the bed is a small hallway overlooking the stairwell. This definitely makes the space brighter, but I might prefer an actual closet in that space.

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I do like the potential for a little relaxing space up in the loft.

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I could actually see myself living in this space! When planning for renters, you certainly don’t have to overthink the planning, but I think it’s a nice barometer to consider whether or not you would live there yourself. Who knows? There are any number of reasons it could happen, so you might as well plan for the possibility!

PROS: Bright, comfortable, luxurious…despite being small.

CONS: The kitchen might be just a touch too small on the counter space front. It’s hard for me to imagine making a holiday meal here, which we have managed in small apartments.

BEST HOMEOWNER LESSON: Prepare for the possibility of permitting fights – they might send you back to the drawing board and blow your budget/timeline. Plan a vacation during the process to give yourself a break.

Catch up on all Portland ADU Tour posts:

Portland ADU Tour 2015
Intro
Part 1
Part 2
Part 3
Lessons Learned

Portland ADU Tour 2016
Intro
Part 1
Part 2
Part 3

Reflections on an Election

sparkler

My heart is on fire today. My head weary from the rising smoke. My nerves flinching from the sparks.

I have faith that this searing blaze will die down soon enough, leaving behind a bed of red-hot embers to rekindle my activism. My mind is spinning now, but already plotting. Hate in the form of extreme bigotry and misogyny, intolerance of religious practices, cultural differences and lgbtqia+ citizens, and a willingness to turn a blind eye to scientific fact will not stand. Not in my house – not in Our House! This nation belongs to all of us, not just the haters, the ignorants, the deplorables. The fight for equality, human rights, and our first female president will continue.

I know that many are reeling today. I encourage you not to be paralyzed by your anger, your fear, your dismay. Take time to absorb this moment, to let it fuel you, but not so much that it defeats your spirit. We have come too far to take steps back now. There is no singular person who can handle the work alone. We truly are better together. So, grab hold of your causes – take charge. Raise hell!

Volunteer. Donate. March. Kneel. Lock arms. Sit in. Shout it out. Call your representatives. Build strength in numbers. Be the change you want to see in the world.

I do believe that all Americans share a goal of greatness. Of course, we have become incredibly divisive in our opinions about how to get there. It’s essential not to fear the “other”. Reach out. Do the work. Engage differing viewpoints. Share ideas. Brainstorm solutions. Question authority. Confront differences. Shatter the separation. Above all, never forget that we are all human – fragile, emotional, precious mortals. Be fierce, but also gentle, respectful, and kind.

Love is light. From the fiery embers our hearts will rise.

Friday Finds: Election Edition

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Wow, it’s hard to believe that there are only just a few DAYS left until the election. Election stress has run high this year, with the American Psychological Association reporting that over half of American adults (52%) find the 2016 election to be a very or somewhat significant source of stress. Amongst my very informal survey of friends, I’d say that number seems much higher. I know that I find myself solidly in the very significant source of stress camp.

Allegations that surfaced during this election have been particularly triggering to many women, and I simply cannot abide shaming victims of sexual assault who come forward to confirm that someone does something they openly admitted they doing! The Rape, Abuse, and Incest National Network (RAINN) saw a 33% increase in people turning to its National Sexual Assault Hotline for support, and a 45% increase in traffic to their website, the weekend after Trump’s infamous “pussygate” tape was released. Slate reported that, “Like many abusers, Trump is shameless in his denial of reality.” Seems like many Americans are in that boat right beside him. It’s hard to fathom a world where such behavior is considered becoming of a presidential candidate; and yet, here we are.

It is important to remember that nothing will change over night. And, that it’s more productive to channel concerns towards making a positive impact on issues you care about than to fret without action. This election has definitely motivated me to spend more time reflecting on my own values and priorities. I used to volunteer quite a bit more and need to get back to that! I am also becoming far more engaged in politics on a local level than I ever have before. Voting down the ballot is every bit as critical, if not more.

Above all, we cannot take for granted how fortunate we are to live in a democracy. We have fought wars on the premise of delivering democracy to others. So, it’s rather a slap in our country’s face to not vote when we have to the opportunity to be directly engaged in determining the fate of our own future. Get out there and VOTE!!

 

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Can you believe that there are quite a few women participating in this year’s election who were born before women had a constitutional right to vote?! The 19th Amendment granting women the right to vote wasn’t ratified until August 18, 1920. Let’s let that sink in…1920. That’s almost 150 years after the founding of our great nation! And only 96 years ago. The website I Waited 96 Years is a testament to the women who lived through that time. Juliet Bernstein, 103, recounts: I remember accompanying my mother in a horse-drawn carriage to the polls in the first election when women, at long last, had the right to vote. I am thrilled to have the opportunity to vote for Hillary Clinton and determined to see her inauguration! Horse-drawn carriage!!! I’m still working my way through all of their stories – every single one an inspiration.

Have you seen Joss Whedon’s election video starring Chris Pine? Oh, Leonard! Heh heh heh… At least we can laugh, right?! (#laughcry) Head on over to Save the Day to watch the full series of celeb-packed comedy videos encouraging people to head to the ballot box. Stanley Tucci, Scarlett Johansson, Mark Ruffalo, Julianne Moore, Don Cheadle, Nicole Byer, Keegan-Michael Key, Minka Kelly, Jesse Williams, Robert Downey Jr, and so many more.

Election years are always extra juicy for the art world, and this one is no exception. HuffPo has a great feed of political works: If This Art Could Vote. With so many gifs and memes, I can’t say that any singular image has emerged as the iconic representation of this election in the way Shepherd Fairey’s “Hope” did in 2008. But the art world is still capturing our personalities and aspirations, fears and anxieties in the way it has since William Hogarth created the first political cartoon in the early 18th century. The more things change, the more they stay the same.

 

Now Watching:

Chelsea (Clinton) on Chelsea (Handler) – Netflix

Now Reading:

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Winner Winner Chicken…Chili

It’s no secret that I’m smitten with my slow cooker. Yet, even I will admit that the recipes I’ve tried so far have been slightly lackluster. When thinking about everyday meals, especially meals that I can plan ahead, speed trumps complexity of flavor. Both would be great, but I’m willing to flex. So far, I’ve had to. This beef ragu was delicious, but even it lacked a certain zing.

So, I set out to find recipes with more flavor. Specifically, one with a longer list of spices. Unsurprisingly, most crockpot recipes are designed to be quick and easy, and are pretty simple, which all too often equates to bland. When I landed on Crockpot Italian Chicken and Broccoli Rabe Chili from Half Baked Harvest, I had a feeling I was onto something.

Now, I’m going to be up front with a personal downside…all the spices. Ha! Confusing, right?! Well, because I don’t cook often, and I tend to stick with the same recipes when I do, our spice cabinet had needed a little sprucing up. That’s not cheap! But, if I can stay motivated to keep cooking, it will end up paying off. It just feels a little crazy right now…

That said, once the fragrance of this aromatic stew began wafting around the house, it was already worth every penny. So mouthwatering! I guess that’s not surprising when you start with a pyramid of herbs…

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Allspice, bay leaves, chili flakes, chili powder, oregano, smoked paprika, and thyme…plus, salt and pepper, of course. This, added to rich broth, sweet tomatoes, and tart balsamic, definitely creates a complexity of flavor.

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All but three ingredients stew for 6-8 hours on low, or 4-6 hours on high. From my research, and it makes sense, chicken breasts are prone to drying out and becoming rubbery when overcooked in the crockpot. So, I opted for lowest and slowest. At the 6 hour point, I prepped the remaining ingredients. (And, tried to make it look like Oscar was sitting on that bean can. Heh heh…)

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Now, the recipe called for broccoli rabe. These greens are what I found under that label at the store…but I’m pretty sure that’s kale. No matter. I like kale in a stew because it’s breaks down but doesn’t become overly mushy. I chopped 4 cups, sliced the peppers, and rinsed the beans. Before tossing them in, I removed the chicken pieces to shred. If you recall, I regretted shredding the beef roast in the crockpot because it was hard to make sure I had shredded everything.

I was slightly concerned at first. The chicken pieces were falling apart as I pulled them out of the pot, but they looked kind of dry.

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The best judge of something that smells AMAZINGLY DELICIOUS arrived immediately.

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He was not wrong. The meat shredded easily and was super moist and tasty.

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After pulling the chicken out of the pot, I tossed in the cannellini beans, red peppers, and kale to let them warm up a bit and absorb some liquid without competing with the meat.

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Then, I popped the shredded chicken back in, gave it a stir, and let it finish out the last 15 minutes of cooking time before resting on warm for another half hour or so.

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Pinch of Yum recommends eating this with a generous sprinkle of parmesan and hearty chunk of bread – or, serve it over polenta or pasta for a heartier meal. Those all sound like terrific options, but I also think this recipe is quite capable of standing on its own. (Seemed to work out when I took a spoon directly to the crockpot, anyway. Shh…)

I’m pretty sure I won’t have to worry about making the most of all of those spices. This one’s earned an instant spot on the regular rotation. Definitely my favorite crockpot recipe thus far!