July 17, 2016
Hello friends! I have pulled another disappearing act on you. I know, I know, this is like the tenth bazillion time this year, but hey, what can I say? Senior year keeps you busy. At least it’s over now. (Thank goodness! No more high school ever! Balloons!)
For my graduation, my wonderful parents whisked me off to the land of beautiful carbohydrates — Italy — for twelve days. A foodie since my elementary school days, I’ve always wanted to go, intrigued by the promise of a country filled with every type of bread and pasta imaginable. And don’t get me started on the gelato daydreams. (You know ice cream is my kryptonite!)
My expectations were beyond fulfilled. I’m surprised I’m not a 350 pound bowling ball right now from all of the delicious goodies I ate from the Veneto to Tuscany to Cinque Terre.
We first arrived in Venice, our first destination, via water taxi, which was awesome. No better way to shake the airplane blues than a clear, sunny sky and the wind blowing in your hair!
For lunch, I demanded pizza. Of course. Being the veggie queen I am, I opted for a vegetarian pizza loaded with squash, onions, and eggplant.
Damn. I love pizza. This phrase will be uttered countless more times over the course of this post.
After wandering around Venice, we stopped for some gelato on the way back to our hotel…
…did I mention how amazing apricot turmeric gelato is?! Seriously. What a killer flavor combination.
For dinner, we went to this adorable restaurant on a canal called La Zucca, which specialized in veggie-centric food.
This asparagus and zucchini lasagna we split as a starter was simply divine, as was the chocolate-hazelnut semifreddo we had for dessert.
If I hadn’t been in public, I would’ve picked up the plate and licked it clean. Sometimes I do consider chocolate the most important thing in my life.
After another lovely day in Venice filled with canal traversing, alley exploring, and yes, more gelato, we departed for Tuscany, stopping en route in Bologna for a stretch and some lunch.
While Bologna is known for its meaty specialties, it actually has fantastic gelato, too. Out of all of the frozen treats we ate on our trip, this was #1. (And believe me — I consumed a tremendous amount of gelato.)
La Sorbetteria Castiglione, you stole my heart. I had white chocolate with caramelized bits and coffee/mascarpone with chocolate-covered coffee beans in a cup cone. Genius. Amazing. Much wow. (Also, I saw a sign in the shop saying they were opening a location in — you guessed it — New York City. Our love was meant to be.)
For the next six days, we puttered around Tuscany, visiting towns big and small all over. The hotel we stayed at was gorgeous, with a beautiful nighttime colors against the cypress trees.
Now, a smattering of nibbles and photographs from the Tuscan portion of the trip. Here’s some tasty food served at our hotel…
Some scenes from Florence…
And a few other shots from around the countryside (plus some pizza)…
(I clearly need a Vespa. Can someone get me one? Please?)
After six gorgeous days in Tuscany, we hit the road again for Cinque Terre, stopping on the way in Lucca for a stroll and some chow. (And by chow, I of course mean more gelato.)
(I clearly need a Vespa for every outfit. Maybe one day when I take over the world.)
We stayed in Monterosso al Mare in Cinque Terre, which was picturesque. European beach towns > American beach towns, at least in my snobbish opinion.
I had my favorite pasta dish of the trip our first night in Monterosso. Seated at a table by the sea, I was brought an enormous skillet filled with penne pasta, seafood, tomatoes, garlic, herbs, and wine. Can you say HEAVEN?!
The next morning, we hiked the trail from Monterosso to Vernazza, the next town over. PHEW. Can you say steep? I don’t think I’ve ever sweat so much in my life, and that’s saying something. (Have you ever taken an ashtanga class in August with no air conditioning and fifty other people in a small room? Serious competition here.) The views were incredible, though. And somehow, my milkmaid braids held up. Good job, hair.
Here’s me in all of my sweaty potato glory, and Vernazza, where I promptly proceeded to jump into the ocean in all of my clothes. (This will not be pictured, hehe.)
From Vernazza, we took the train to the remaining three towns in Cinque Terre. The highlight for me was of course the food. We had scrumptious fried seafood in Riomaggiore and I, being the diehard foodie I am, took the train all the way back to Vernazza just to try some gelato I had seen there previously. (I will do anything for food.)
(It was worth it.)
Cinque Terre was so beautiful…
The following morning, we departed for Pisa, where of course I had to take some insanely dorky selfies…
…and we returned to the U.S. the following day (cries).
Italy was freaking fantastic. I can’t wait to document more of my adventures next year and beyond. 🙂
Tags: adventures, Italy, my life, travel
June 1, 2016
Food! Glorious food!
It feels like I’ve barely had time to cook lately. The past six months or so, I’ve significantly upped my yoga practice, so I’ve been dashing off to afternoon or evening classes almost every day. When I get home, I’ll snack on whatever fruits and veggies I can find rather than cooking an elaborate meal. While I love yoga — I am training to become a teacher this summer and fall, after all — I do miss my daily ritual of preheating the oven and heating pans with olive oil.
Sometimes, though, a free morning or night will present itself, and I’ll get roasting, bake something, or make a yummy breakfast like these pancakes!
After AP exams are over, most seniors at my high school go on internship — meaning we’re free from the confines of school to go out into the community and do something worthwhile. As for me, I’m currently interning at the local newspaper, building up my writing repertoire before heading off to college.
I know what you’re thinking: “Abby, I thought you were all about food! Why are you working at a newspaper?!” Well, I ain’t no one trick pony. Yes, I like to cook (and eat, cough) but I also love to write, and do photography, and do yoga, and learn about history, and draw, and do crafts, and do music and…
…okay, I’ll stop. The point is that I like lots of things, and as a teenager especially, I think it’s really important to get experience in lots of different areas in order to be the most well-rounded adult possible. Also, since I might want to pursue food writing as a possible career, this gives me good practice on the journalistic side of things.
What’s so nice about internship is that there’s no homework. I can’t remember the last time I didn’t have anything to do for school in the afternoon and evening. Free time is glorious. I’ve finally had time to read books (I read Walden — one of the most amazing pieces of literature ever) and have started teaching myself how to play ukulele. It’s so nice to sit on my bed every night and strum and sing away, not having to worry about waking up at the buttcrack of dawn the next morning to suffer beneath the weight of tests and study guides and worksheets.
Now I just have to graduate. Eighteen days from today, baby. I can’t wait to decorate my cap. It’s going to be purple and sparkly and have Grumpy Cat and Pusheen on it. It will be glorious.
So yeah. Pancakes. Pancakes are almost as fantastic as escaping four years of high school. Especially pancakes with bananas and chocolate chips.
What’s the secret to chewy, fluffy pancakes? Baking powder. Lots of it. A tablespoon seems excessive, but trust me, you need it. Nothing is sadder than a flat pancake.
So, are you ready to how to make these marvelous breakfast delights?
Prep Time 15 min
Cooking Time 5 min
Total Time 20 min
Yield 12 pancakes
1 1/2 cups of whole wheat pastry flour (feel free to substitute with all-purpose or gluten-free flour)
1 heaping tablespoon of baking powder
2 tablespoons of sugar
Pinch of salt
1 cup + 1/2 cup of unsweetened vanilla soy milk
2 teaspoons of apple cider vinegar
1 tablespoon of ground flaxseed
3 tablespoons of canola oil
1 teaspoon of vanilla extract
2 ripe bananas, sliced thinly into rounds
1/3-1/2 cup of mini dark chocolate chips
In a large bowl, sift and whisk together the flour, baking soda, sugar, and salt. Set aside.
Pour 1 cup of soy milk into a measuring cup. Add the vinegar and ground flaxseed, and whisk vigorously with a fork to combine. Let sit for five minutes to congeal slightly.
Pour the milk/vinegar/flaxseed mixture into the center of the dry ingredients. Add the remaining 1/2 cup of soy milk, oil, and vanilla, and use a spatula to fold everything together. Stop when no clumps remain — don’t go any further!
Using the spatula, stir in the bananas and chocolate chips. Again, be careful not to over-fold. Cover the bowl with a dish towel and let the batter set for 15 minutes.
Meanwhile, heat a nonstick pan over medium heat. Do this at least five minutes prior to pouring in any batter — you want the pan to be hot!
Using a 1/4 cup measure, spoon rounds of batter into the pan. Don’t overcrowd — I found that two individual scoops was best. Cook for 4 minutes, or until the top begins to harden slightly, bubbles form, and the bottom is golden brown. Gently flip, and continue cooking until no longer liquid in the center, about 2-3 minutes.
Remove and repeat with the remaining batter.
Serve hot with maple syrup, jam, and/or peanut butter, or store in an airtight container and reheat in a toaster for later consumption.
What are your favorite pancake add-ins? Leave me a comment here or on Facebook and let me know! 🙂
Tags: Allergy friendly, bananas, breakfast, chocolate, dairy-free, delicious, easy, healthy, nut-free, pancakes, vegan
May 22, 2016
I remember thinking about this day from the time I was small. Eighteen seemed so big, so distant, something I would never touch with my chubby little hands. But as I’ve gotten older, time seems to have only gone by faster and faster, and now here I am, turning eighteen tomorrow.
It’s so strange to be so aware of your transition, to sense the shifts unfolding in the people and environment around you. In the past year especially, I’ve seen and felt so much change, both in myself and in my peers. I’ve seen friends reveal pieces of themselves they guarded fiercely in the past; friends pick directions for their futures then rotate them 180 degrees three times in three days; friends shutting doors to their hearts while others throwing the windows to their souls wide open. I suppose all times in one’s life are turbulent and fuzzy on occasion, but I think late adolescence is one of the first moments when you’re conscious of the change and able to process it with some level of meaningful contemplation.
I can’t tell you how many times in the last twelve months I’ve changed my mind about where I want to go and who I want to be. There have been solid weeks or months where I’ve remained fairly consistent and confident; there have been solid weeks or months where I’ve felt as if I was trying to paint a self-portrait and only yielding a blank canvas with a speck of red in one corner. There have been days where I’ve been on top of the world, my curls bouncing with every step I took; there have been days where I’ve remained buried beneath chunky scarves, catching tears I kept to myself.
But through it all, I’ve learned, I’ve stretched, I’ve grown. Though there were times I was swallowed by doubt, hatred, and apathy, there were times I was embraced by assurance, love, and passion, and I’d argue that both were critical to my development as a young adult. With every experience you take away a tool, a skill, a lesson you’ll need or apply one day.
Since I enjoyed doing this so much last year, I’m going to share eighteen more lessons I’ve picked up in not just the past twelve months, but my eighteen years hanging out on this planet, breathing and feeling and observing and learning and sharing within myself and with others. I hope you pick something up along the way, too.
- Say yes.
Some of the best decisions I’ve made in my entire life have been because I said “yes” to things I was hesitant about, or things I was initially afraid to do. I made the leap to spend a month abroad with a homestay family in France, even though I had never been away from home for that long before and was nervous about how comfortable I’d be communicating. I packed up my things and made the three and a half hour long journey out to the East End of Long Island to volunteer on a farm last summer. Despite having a previously horrible experience with AP social studies classes, I decided at the last moment to take AP Government and Politics, even though it meant more work for an already jam-packed senior year. The fear and jitters I pushed aside led to near-fluency in French, a new passion for agriculture, and one of my favorite classes and teachers of all time, things and memories I’ll carry with me for the rest of my life. Even though doubt may cloud your mind, if you know something could yield a positive benefit, just do it. You won’t regret it 99% of the time, and regardless, you’ll have learned something along the way that will enrich your human experience, which in my mind is always an asset.
2. Say no.
Just as there are times to say “yes,” there are times to say “no.” Life is not a skew in one direction; rather, it’s a balancing act between extremes and what lies in the middle. In your life, there are going to be times when your plate is full, when you’re exhausted or uncomfortable, when whatever is being presented to you isn’t a productive use of your energy. In those situations, do yourself a favor and say no. There will be infinite opportunities in your life (if you are open to them), and if you said “yes” to all, you’d have no time to reflect and relax, both of which I’d argue are critical to being a healthy human being. Just as traveling the world, trying new things, and learning about new subjects are important, so are staying at home, following a routine, and revisiting the things you love. It’s not something you have to beat yourself up over, either: accept that saying no is all part of the holistic package that is you. So get some sleep, take a bath, be lazy, because sometimes, you need to give yourself a break.
3. Get comfortable with yourself.
Newsflash: you’re stuck with yourself for the rest of your life. Deal with it. No matter how hard you try, you’re never going to be a glamourous six-foot blonde when you’re a nerdy five-foot brunette in reality. And you know what? It’s okay. If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it: and you aren’t broke, I swear. Instead of trying so hard to change yourself, take what you’ve got and own it. It’s counterproductive to be one more force against yourself when there’s already so much out there taking swings at your head and heart. Alleviate yourself of that unnecessary burden and love yourself. Figure out who you are and what you like. Know your flaws and embrace them. Take your mistakes and use them to fertilize the soil of the garden you’re blossoming into. No, you aren’t perfect–no one is–but you’re perfectly you, and that’s all you need to be. There are going to be times when you’ll be surrounded by a crowd cheering your name, but there are going to times when you’ll be standing alone on a precipice of despair, and in those times, you’re going to need self-support more than anything. Learn it, preach it, do it now and always so you’ll be able to hold yourself with some sense of security when you find yourself deserted in solitary struggle.
4. Life is a practice.
Anyone who tells you that there’s a be-all, end-all solution for your life and its dilemmas is spouting bullshit. In our capitalist society, we want to believe that buying something will somehow fix everything, but in fact the opposite is true. Putting all of your reliance in one external solution only makes the matter worse, for you’re avoiding all of the minute details that need to be addressed in order to eradicate your burden. You don’t scale a mountain by dragging yourself up in one go; you scale it–and surmount it–by taking it a little at a time, so that when you reach the summit, you’ll have the strength and energy to enjoy your surroundings instead of passing out from exhaustion. Life is the same. Take your problems step by step. Be patient, because impatience only hinders you further. Breathe. Recognize that there will be days when you take five steps forward, and days when you fall six steps behind. There will be consistency and inconsistency, progress and regression, success and failure: but it’s all part of the practice that gives your life meaning. And trust me, practice is rewarding.
5. Don’t be embarrassed.
Let’s be honest: we’re all idiots bumbling around blindly on this roughly spherical chunk of rock. We’ve all asked where the butter is when its dish is right before our eyes. We’ve all said something completely stupid to someone we secretly (or not so secretly) worship. We’ve all burped loudly in a room filled with attractive people, tripped over our own clumsy feet, farted at the least-convenient time in the history of ever. Even though there will be times when this embarrassment makes the sneaky transformation into self-depreciation, you don’t have to be ashamed. I’m not perfect, you’re not perfect, not even Beyoncé is perfect. We all make mistakes, we all say things we don’t mean, we all screw up. At times, it’s hard not to beat yourself up over even the most petty of matters, but you don’t have to rip yourself to shreds over every little “oops.” Instead, take that humiliation and make it into something. Turn it into a joke that makes your friends laugh. Use it as a reference point for when you’re making a decision in the future. Hell, channel your shame into pottery: mold a “yikes” bowl and fill it with hard candies, so every time you feel that embarrassment, you can take one and say, “Well, this sucks.” Flip the switch from shame on to game on.
6. Tame those monsters.
We all have a monster hiding in our closet, beneath our bed, or both. The monsters come in all shapes and sizes, but there’s always one there. You know that monster. It comes out at night when you’re tired and vulnerable; it chants, “You’re a failure, you’re a fool. You’re ugly. People don’t like you. You will never be successful. This, that, and the other thing is wrong with you. You don’t deserve love. You’re going to die alone with 10,000 cats.” That’s what my monster says. I don’t know what yours utters to you in those moments just past midnight, but I’d imagine he repeats lines similar to mine. Unfortunately, the monster’s probably going to always be there, but that doesn’t mean you can’t gag him, tie him up in ropes, and make him beg for mercy from the awesomeness that is you. Remember this: you are stronger, bigger, and better than that monster, and you can defeat him. He is wrong. He is the fool, not you. He’s the one stuck inside; you’re the one who can go out into the world and drink up the sunshine. Don’t let him take that away from you. Yes, there are going to be times when the monster wins and terrible feelings will creep into your heart, but be resilient. You’re going to win next time, and you gotta keep going.
7. Build people up, not knock them down.
It’s easy to talk shit about other people. It’s entertaining, it’s easy, it distracts us from the more complicated crap going on inside our own minds. But honey, it’s a waste of time. Pushing people over doesn’t make you seem any taller. There is so much negativity in the world that we can’t control; you, however, can control the words you say and actions you take regarding others. You never know what’s going on beneath the surface: someone may be suffering from anxiety or depression, healing from devastating heartbreak, recovering from an illness she kept completely under wraps. Be one less force that’s out against that person, whoever he or she may be. Instead, take the energy you’d put into criticism and make it something healing, something beautiful. Channel your anger, your frustration, your pain into helping someone else. If someone hurts you, do something nice for a friend who loves you. That’s one of my fundamental life philosophies: go against the grain of malevolence and infuse the world with benevolence. While it’s not easy to practice that attitude at times–because, let’s face it, gossip is fun–redirecting your energy into a more compassionate pursuit will make both your life and the lives of others far better.
8. Sometimes it’s better to let go than to hold on.
Maybe you’ve seen this cartoon on this internet. If you haven’t, I’d implore you to conduct a quick Google search after reading this and find it. Basically, it’s a two-panel drawing, one with a person holding a rope and the other with a person releasing it. In the sketch with the rope, the person’s hand is red and swollen, blistered from its pull; in the one without, the hand is unscathed and free from burden. Every time I see it floating around Instagram or Facebook, I am struck by the truth the metaphor conveys. In every relationship, in every pursuit, there are positive and negative attributes, and it’s healthy to regularly check in and see where the matter in question lies on the spectrum. If you find that it lies far more frequently on the negative side than the positive, please consider letting go. Yes, if a friendship, partnership, career, (etc.) is valuable, by all means make an effort to fix it, but know that sometimes, there are things that are unmendable. Save yourself the pain and move onto something you can hang onto without the burden. Rope burns suck.
9. Boys are dumb. So are girls.
I can’t tell you how many times I’ve whined to a friend over tea or massive bowls of pasta about this very subject. Abby’s top three most-commonly uttered phrases of senior year: “I am a potato,” “I just want to go to yoga already,” and, “Boys are dumb.” Holy shit boys are dumb. They break you and make you feel insecure yet have no idea they’re doing either at the same time. But you know what? Girls are dumb too. They’re dramatic and complicated yet constantly feign to be innocent cherubs who “wouldn’t hurt anyone.” Haha. I laugh. Yes, these are oversimplified stereotypes–there are some genuinely sensitive, compassionate guys and calm, sweet gals out there–but the truth is that these people are men and women, not boys and girls. Especially when you’re young, like yours truly, the realm of romantic pursuits is filled with disappointment. But when your non-platonic forays yield no positive outcome, recognize that the person for whom you are destined will come into your life when the time is right. God, I hate that statement with every fiber of my impatient eighteen year old being, but it’s so dead-on. When you’re ready–and when the world is ready–he or she will enter your life and steep your entire world in rainbows and glitter and unicorns. You have to be patient when waiting for this sparkling euphoria, but I promise, the wait will be worth it. You are worth it. Focus on yourself, your friends, your family, your pets, your passions, and one day, a surprise will come knocking at your door when you least expect.
10. Spread your love like Nutella.
Sorry if you’re allergic to nuts. (*Snorts immaturely because I’m five inside still.*) Substitute it with butter or ripe avocado or whatever other smooth condiments you enjoy. Anyway, jokes aside, put love on everything. Don’t do it lightly. In the words of my best friend Jeromy, “Go HAM.” Don’t you realize how many awesome people there are in the world? Don’t you realize how little credit they get for being the awesome duckies and potatoes they are? Show them! Let them know! Do it often! Write appreciation notes for your favorite people. Get random presents because hey, who says September 2nd or April 17th isn’t a holiday?! Bake your pals cookies. Who doesn’t love cookies? Go and see your little brother’s interpretive dance recital or your friend’s noodle art exhibition (THE PASTABILITIES ARE ENDLESS): people work hard and their work deserves to be admired, no matter what medium it is. Don’t give a rat’s ass what “society” thinks about your affection: society is a judgy bitch and you are a stunning superhero! Tell your teacher he’s the coolest person on earth, because it’s true! Tell the waitress at the restaurant her outfit is flawless! Tell the guy in the park making balloon animals that he has a wonderful smile! Filling the world with more love is never a bad thing.
11. Don’t like it? Don’t eat it!
This comes from one of my most profound childhood memories. It was a Sunday night when I was seven, maybe eight, and I was watching Food Network Challenge with my dad on our couch downstairs. That day, the show brought together two Italian families (chefs and their parents) to duke it out in the kitchen.The father on one of the teams was quite sassy. During the appetizer round, his culinary school-trained son suggested that he adjust the seasoning on his soup for the judges’ taste. To this, the father replied–verbatim, yes, I memorized this line–”I make the soup my taste. They like it, they like it. Don’t like it? Don’t eat it!” I thought this was absolutely the funniest thing on Earth–so funny to the point where we DVRed the episode and I’d watch it over and over again, erupting with giggles every time. I guess the message got implanted in my head, because today, I consider this line another one of my fundamental life philosophies. You gotta make the soup your way; you gotta be you. Some people will love your soup. Some people won’t. That’s just how it is. Don’t exert so much energy into getting people to like it: own your soup, because your soup slays. People are picky. People are close-minded. People are snotty. That doesn’t mean your soup stinks, though.
12. Be a renaissance woman (or man!).
My teachers have frequently called me a renaissance woman. (I always laugh a bit when they say it because it just makes me picture myself as a stern woman in an oil painting.) The reason why I suppose is that I’m interested in basically everything. To me, the world is such a fascinating place filled with so many wonderful things to learn. I’ve been a bass clarinetist, a doodler, a poet, a baker, a photographer, and everything in between. I love talking with people about politics and philosophy. I love reading, and I’m down for pretty much anything. Memoirs. Historical fiction. Fluffy romances. Words are awesome. I’m always looking for new things to try, and though I know I’ll never try everything, that doesn’t stop me from constantly looking to expand my horizons. I think this life is much more exciting when you’re open to culture, when you see art and seize it. Don’t be that person who spends his or her free time playing games on an iPhone. Be that person who reads the newspaper. Visits the obscure modern art museum. Plays the banjo. Cooks authentic Chinese food. Goes on nature walks and dries the flowers for souvenirs. Enrich yourself in the gifts this life has to offer.
13. Define your own version of success.
Most people you’re going to meet in your life will define “success” as this: undergraduate and graduate education at a prestigious university, steady, high-paying job (preferably in a field of medicine, law, or business), attractive yet financially competent partner, large group of demographically-similar peers, vacations to the usual places, perfect model children who are conceived at some socially-acceptable age. I’m not saying any of those things are bad or wrong, but me? I say bullshit to that definition of success. To me, success is doing what you love and believing what you believe regardless of what everybody else says and thinks. That’s the only way you’re going to feel satisfied from the core, not just on the surface. The happiest people aren’t the ones who have the most money, the ones who fit in, the ones who got what they wanted right away. The happiest people are the ones who follow their passions, the ones who stand out, the ones who worked hard and earned their success. If you want to be a doctor, lawyer, or hedge fund manager, by all means do it. But if you want to be a teacher, artist, or writer–or anything else, really–go for it. Some people may not understand why you’ve chosen your path, but screw ‘em. The people who love you–the people who matter–will support you through and through, even if they might not understand. The world needs all different types of people in order to be whole, and if you follow your heart, it will all fall into place. You will be successful; it’s up to you how you want to characterize it.
14. Be a child.
I have a task for you. On the next nice day, go to the park–preferably one with a playground–and watch children play. Don’t be creepy, just be an observer of this life and the beautiful people in it. You learn a lot by watching kids. Yeah, they get upset over trains and haven’t read chapter books yet, but kids are smart, and they know how to live. Children don’t care if they’re loudly singing the wrong lyrics off-key. They don’t care what their playmates look like. They don’t care if they’ve already had two desserts today: if there’s a chocolate cake in front of them, gosh darnit, it’s going to be dessert number three. Should we all act like we’re five all the time? No way. But should we emulate some of these childish qualities? Absolutely. Dance and don’t give a damn who’s watching. Pick your friends based on their kindness and quality of fart jokes, not their looks or status. Give into your pleasures and enjoy yourself. Disney movies are wonderful, watch them sometime. Nothing cures the blues like Goldfish. Be a princess. Be a pirate. Be an astronaut. There’s nothing like staining your hands with sidewalk chalk. Life is filled with simple joys: soak them up.
15. Be a crazy tea-drinking old cat lady.
Old people know how to live. They’ve been here longer than the rest of us, so they’ve got this whole life thing figured out. Traveling and partying and staying out until the crack of dawn are all fun, but so are staying at home and having sit-down dinners and going to bed before ten o’clock. I am an “old soul,” so I can attest to all of this with confidence. Life is delicious when you take it in thoughtfully, when you treasure your memories and divulge your stories with others. Drink tea. Coffee speeds you up too much, tea slows you down in just the right way. Nothing is better for the soul than a good book and a solid night’s sleep. Bring a sweater when you’re going out: it’s better to be warm and prepared than cold and neglectful. Write letters using, yes, an actual pencil and piece of paper. Don’t go for a run, go for a walk today. Enjoy the trees and the flowers. Call a friend instead of sending a text. Share your wisdom with those who are younger. We go too fast too often; take a moment and hit pause. Be here and remember where you came from.
16. You can be completely lost and afraid and have no idea what the hell you’re doing.
Look around you. Everybody seems happy, calm, and collected, right? Wrong. Inside, everybody is probably thinking, “Where am I? Who am I? What am I doing?!” Maybe not all of the time, but certainly a good portion of it. There are very few people in this world who are completely solid and grounded in themselves 100% of the time. You don’t have to be one of them. I know I’m not! Yes, there are days when I feel good, when I know what I want, when I’m confident I’m going in the right direction, but there are arguably more days when I don’t feel good, when I don’t know what I want, when I think I might be going in the most absurd direction possible. And you know what? It’s okay. Part of being human is getting lost so you can find a better version of yourself. You don’t learn anything by sticking to the itinerary; you learn something by losing yourself and winding up at an abandoned alpaca farm in New Mexico with only an elderly sheep dog (named Shep), a unicycle, and an unlimited supply of Whoopie Cushions as your survival tools. You don’t have to feel ashamed for drifting. Drifting takes you somewhere new, and teaches you about yourself and the world along the way.
17. Learn how to cook one solid meal from scratch. Yes, this includes dessert.
Maybe this is because I’m a foodie, but I think learning how to cook is one of the most important skills a young adult can learn. Food is for you, food is for me, food is for EVERYBODY. There are so many big grownup responsibilities we have to learn; preparing a meal is a relatively easy, conquerable one. Pick a recipe for your favorite entree and sweet. Go to the grocery store and buy the ingredients yourself. Make sure you include vegetables, because you’re a grown-ass man or woman and that’s what grown-ass men and women do. Yes, you can buy boxed pasta, but please, if you’re going to have tomato sauce, make it from scratch. It’s so easy and tastes way better, trust me. Get real vanilla and decent chocolate. You don’t have to be Ina Garten, but set some standards for yourself. Don’t be eating no fake crap. If you buy pre-made cookie dough I’m coming to your house and shoving a stick of butter up your nose. Set aside an afternoon and evening to cook. Follow the instructions. Watch YouTube videos if you don’t know how to cut something. Bonus points if you invite a friend over for dinner. Set the table and eat with a fork and a knife. Chew and swallow and engage in conversation. No phones. Do the dishes. Master these recipes down-pat so when you want to impress a date or host friends for dinner after work one day, you’ll be ready. If you mess up, it’s okay. Every cook has had a night where he or she has burned everything or added too much cayenne. The important thing is that you learn and take responsibility for what goes into your stomach.
18. Be a go-getter.
Sometimes, life comes to you. That’s great. It’s also rare. More often than not, you’re going to have to go out there and get life for yourself. Yeah, it’s a pain in the ass, but that’s how it is. You want to be friends with someone? Go out and formally introduce yourself to him or her. Set up a time to get coffee. You want to date? Prince Charming isn’t going to show up on your front porch with a majestic white stallion. Talk to people. Go do stuff. Make an effort to socialize and look nice. You want a job? Put yourself out there and put your best foot forward. You’re going to be rejected. Rejection sucks. I hate it. But you keep going, because eventually, it will click. You don’t need a pizza man. Go out in your pajamas and pick up your godforsaken pie from the restaurant. You are strong, you are independent, you are talented and brave and clever: therefore, you will go places if you try. Believe in yourself and other people will believe in you, baby. Keep getting up when you fall because scars tell stories that make you better. Seize the day, don’t let the day seize you.
So, did you make it through the whole thing? Another 4,000+ words of fun? If you did, I’m proud of you. Thanks for reading my writing. I think that I’m going to write a book one day. A book-book and a cookbook. Maybe just one and not the other. I don’t know. But I’m going to write a book sometime in my adult life.
I want you to be the first to know, because whoever you are, I love you. Maybe you’re one of my close friends who’s reading this out of obligation; maybe you’re an acquaintance I’ve waved to once or twice; maybe you’re one of my teachers who is kind enough to read my work even though I’m no longer your student; maybe you’re a stranger. Whoever you are, know that you are a gorgeous person worthy of love, and you should be proud of yourself for what you’ve gotten through and who you are. Never be ashamed of the beauty that is you and your heart.
Xoxo <3 <3,
Tags: my life, reflections
April 12, 2016
Hello everybody! I’m back from my hiatus! Rejoice!
I wish I could say that for the past seven weeks, I’ve been embarking on a journey of self-discovery on a remote island in Kiribati, or working on some fascinating underground project like all of these other food bloggers. Unfortunately, neither has been the case: I’ve been so busy with schoolwork and overwhelmed with the weight of teenage angst that I haven’t had much time to sit down and write out some recipes.
There are times in our lives when a lot of good stuff happens at once, and it’s a fantastic euphoria party 24/7 for days, weeks, sometimes even months. Then there are times in our lives when bad stuff keeps happening, and while it often makes no sense, it proliferates, and it just outright sucks. Then there are times in our lives which are neither, where you’re kinda like an amorphous blob of mashed potatoes drifting through the expanses of space and time.
That last one has basically been me since the beginning of 2016. It’s been such a potato time, I have no other way to describe it. Until the beginning of April (!!!), I had no idea where I was going to college, and the ambiguity of it all made me beyond anxious. As a second semester senior, I no longer need to put forth the same amount of energy into my present academic affairs, so school kinda feels like a waste a lot of days. I’ve never really had a cohesive group of friends (I’m a social jellyfish), and the unintentional cliquey-ness that goes hand-in-hand with senior year has made me feel kinda isolated from my peers. Nothing “bad” has happened to me, per say, but all of the waiting and monotonous repetition has been fatiguing, and I want nothing more than to go off to college.
“Soon enough!” all of my adult and older friends exclaim. I nod apathetically and think to myself, “Not soon enough.”
Well, at least I’m now on spring break, and I finally have some time to sleep and cook and just sit around and be a lump. I made my final college decision a couple of weeks ago, and this fall, I will be attending New York University to study Global Public Health and Food Studies. I couldn’t be more excited to explore one of the most fascinating cities in the world and meet people with all different ethnic backgrounds, gender identities, and life experiences. I’ll be taking classes like Food & Identity and Health and Society in a Global Context, both of which are so up my alley. So many thrilling adventures are about to play out, and all I have to do is wait. Ugh.
In the meantime, at least I have these cheesecake bars!
I made these on a whim as I was stressing out about approximately 56,784 things. They wound up being delicious and lots of awesome people got to eat them, so that worked out well!
Just look at these beauties. They’re simply marvelous.
Another? You got it!
DaYUMMMMMMMMMMMM!!! (That’s my new catchphrase. I invented it. You like it? No? Okay.)
Prep Time 4 hr 15 min
Cooking Time 40 min
Yield 12-16 bars
FOR THE CRUST:
1 cup of rolled oats, gluten-free if necessary
1 cup of nuts of choice (I recommend almonds or walnuts)
1/2 cup of cocoa powder
Generous pinch of salt
2 tablespoons of unrefined cane sugar
1 tablespoon of maple syrup
1/4 cup + 1 tablespoon of vegetable oil or coconut oil, melted
1 teaspoon of vanilla extract
FOR THE FILLING:
1 cup of raw cashews, soaked in water overnight
1 cup of coconut cream
2 tablespoons of arrowroot powder
1/3 cup of fresh lemon juice
Pinch of salt
1/4 cup of maple syrup
3 ounces of dark chocolate, melted
FOR THE CRUST:
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees and line an 8 x 8 square baking dish with parchment paper. Set aside.
In the bowl of a food processor, pulse together the oats, nuts, cocoa powder, salt, and sugar until coarse but well-combined, about 30 seconds to a minute. Pour in the maple syrup, oil, and vanilla, and pulse a few more times just to incorporate everything. Take a handful of the crust “dough” and see if it holds together when pinched: if it sticks, proceed. If not, add another teaspoon of oil at a time until it does.
Squish the crust into the prepared pan in a flat, even layer. Bake in the preheated over until hardened and beginning to slightly brown, about 20-25 minutes. Once baked, let cool while you make the filling.
FOR THE FILLING:
Put all of the ingredients (except the chocolate) in a high-speed blender and blend on high until completely creamy, about 2-3 minutes. Taste and adjust for sweetness and tangy-ness as necessary, adding more maple syrup or lemon juice if needed.
Pour out approximately 1/3 of the liquid ingredients into a bowl and add the melted chocolate. Stir to combine and set aside temporarily.
Once the crust is cool, add approximately half of the non-chocolate filling to the pan. Layer about half of the chocolate filling on top, then proceed with the other half of the non-chocolate filling and the other half of the chocolate filling on the very top. Using a duller knife or a few toothpicks, gently swirl the top to marble everything together. Don’t overdo it, or you’ll have a mess!
Bake for 20 minutes, or until the edges seem dry and almost start to change color. Remove from the oven and let cool for at least four hours (preferably overnight) before slicing and eating.
Looking forward to sharing lots more recipes with y’all in the future, since I now finally have time to do so. 🙂
Tags: Allergy friendly, baking, bars, cheesecake, chocolate, dairy-free, delicious, dessert, gluten-free, healthy, vegan
February 23, 2016
(Shout-out to my amazing teacher Emily, who is not only one of the most gorgeous human beings on the planet both inside and out, but also knows me too well and has the best handwriting ever, as evidenced above, and is a great inspiration of mine! xoxo!!!)
At the end of every yoga class, I sit in silence at the top of my mat with my hands pressed in anjali mudra against my heart, feeling the energy of my past hour of practice wash over me in a calming inundation of good vibes. All of us in the room then bow our heads and say namaste, expressing our gratitude for our practice, our teacher, and our fellow yogis.
In Sanskrit, namaste literally translates to “I bow to you,” but depending on tradition, there are many ways to interpret such a loaded word. My personal favorite, though, is this: “the divine light in me honors the divine light in you”…because in this gesture, you are recognizing that both you AND those around you possess a wonderful radiance. Basically, you acknowledge that your entire world is steeped in light, and I think that’s a truly lovely philosophy.
Right now, I’m personally feeling very stuck, slinking through the quibbles and dabbles of adolescent life. I’m not in college yet, but I’m not really in high school, either: this is my last semester, and all of a sudden this pressure that’s been building up the past four years has dissipated into near apathy. I’ve been doing the same routine forever, it seems, and each day simultaneously seems to drag on yet blend seamlessly into the day before and the day afterwards. There are moments here and there where I feel a rush of excited adrenaline for the future pumping through my veins, but most of the time, I’m just sitting, staring into space, being here, wherever here is, and being completely aware of it.
But that is life. Life isn’t about the dazzling heights of milestones like graduating, winning an award, going on a fabulous vacation: life is about brushing your teeth twice a day, feeling up avocados in the grocery store on an early Tuesday evening, stepping in a pile of late February slosh that’s there for the sole purpose of ruining your shoes (pun intended).
Life is about the interactions of each passing “normal” day, and that can make people frustrated and upset, because a lot of days are so humdrum that they seem to stand as boring blobs of blah. Trust me. I get it. But lately, I’ve been trying my darndest to find sparkle and joy in the little moments, because if you shake up your perspective, at least one really awesome thing happens every day. And for me, saying namaste helps me get to that daily place of contentment, if not elation, because even if your circumstances aren’t the most exciting, the people around you always are, if you look closely enough.
So, how can you say namaste not only to yourself, but to the world every day?
1. Give other people chances.
So often, we make snap judgments about the people we meet, the people we interact with on a daily basis. We take others at face-value, because it allows us to filter and simplify our world without giving it much thought. We define people based on what they wear, who they hang out with, the gossip we hear about them through whispered rumors…and while these quick, very materialistic analyses enable us to nicely compartmentalize our worlds, it makes our scopes of human interaction quite narrow.
And as I’ve gotten older, I’ve grown really not to like this approach. I look at the relationships I have, and I’ve found that the ones that mean the most to me are where I’ve given another person a chance despite my first expectation of him or her. I once knew someone whom I thought I’d never be friends with, because my initial conception was that he was mean and wouldn’t like me. But then, I gave him a chance, and I quickly realized that this was one of the most intelligent, honest, loyal people I had ever met, someone I never would’ve known was there otherwise. Today, this amazing person is one of my best friends in the ENTIRE universe, all because I let the world and not my judgment define my reality. (He is also now screaming at me through his phone. Love you too boo!!! <3 )
This has been a common trope in my life, whether it’s been with a teacher or a peer or someone I’ve met at a coffee shop: people can shine a light on you that fills you with the most lovely warmth, if you give them the opportunity to shine that light. Put aside your expectations and walk through the world with an open heart, letting those around you show you and tell you what they’re really like.
2. Be curious about the light all around you.
People honestly ask the most boring, bland questions sometimes. “How is your day?” “How is work/school/family stuff?” “What do you think of this project?” Sometimes we don’t even ask questions and just make blanket statements to fill silence, meaningless observations about the weather or tidbits about other people. Yes, small talk has its place, but I personally believe that we all have the potential to enhance our conversations with so much more sentiment if we give it a whirl.
Last year when I was bored in my U.S. History class, I would take out my rainbow pens and sheets of lined paper and write questions that, if given the opportunity, I would ask to someone I was getting to know. I entitled these lists of inquisitions “Dates and Figs,” and by the end of the year, I had compiled a whopping 800+ unique questions in total. Some were on the sillier side, like, “If you were a rubber ducky, what would you look like?” and “What is your preferred length of sock?,” while others were deeper, such as, “Who in the world can you tell anything to?” and “What is your deepest insecurity?.” My goal was to make my questions as interesting as possible, because there’s so much to be curious about in the world.
What was once a distraction in class became my new philosophy about the world. Dates and Figs inspired me to be fearless when talking to others, peeling past seemingly simple outer barriers to reach the intricacy that I’ve found every individual possesses. Sometimes, you get to this layer of complexity on a first encounter; other times, you’ve got to continually dig before you tap the surface of someone’s heart. But the journey to discover the source of another person’s light is one of the most humbling, rewarding experiences, if you give it time.
I’ve realized that you don’t really see the light in other people by asking them how their assignments are going or where they’re headed for lunch. You see the light in other people by asking them what their favorite color is, whether they consider themselves introverts or extroverts, what their greatest passion is. Be bold with the inquiries you pose, because hey, what’s holding you back? Society? BAH, society! (This is such an Abby statement.) You’re going to understand and appreciate people way more and way better if you discover what really goes on inside, because that’s who people really are. Genuineness exists inside everyone if you give him or her the chance to reveal it, so go find it.
3. Recognize that everyone’s light is different, and differently expressed.
Okay, so I’m going to sidetrack for a minute, but I promise it’s still relevant. One thing I’ve been very into recently is Myers-Briggs types. In case you don’t know what those are, it’s a simplification of Jung’s Psychological Types, where Isabel Myers and Katharine Cook-Briggs established 16 different ways that people are and go about the world. While it’s not a perfect science, I personally love Myers-Briggs because the principles emphasize that people work and feel and process information differently, not wrongly. The goal of Myers-Briggs is to articulate that if we work towards understanding where and why we differ, we’ll be better able to form relationships and be successful in all types of environments. Introversion versus extroversion, intuition versus sensing, thinking versus feeling, perception versus judgment: all of these elements come together in various combinations to display that we each are composed of varying patterns of thought and interaction.
(By the way, I’m a hardcore INFJ, in case you’re wondering. You can read more about types here and here, and my favorite personality test can be found here. Let me know what you get!)
This, to me, relates to namaste because by saying that the divine light in me sees the divine light in you, we’re saying that while we understand that we might not be the same, we recognize that we can all find a place of mutual admiration and respect. And that’s pretty powerful…and something I’ve been trying really hard to practice lately.
Me personally, I’m a very emotional, intuitive person, and most of my passions and interactions are deeply rooted in feelings and ideas as opposed to facts and logic. My life is infused with creativity, and if I feel like my imagination is being stepped on, I get grumpy. Happy Abby is Abby writing about her day in her journal, having three hour conversations about human existence, and slaving away for days over a kitchen stove or a crafts project to bring a smile to another person’s face. So when I talk with someone who is grounded in the concrete, who prefers work to introspection, who may be less attuned to the world of emotion with which I’m so intertwined and more in line with the rational side of life, I often become puzzled or frustrated as I try to figure out how to connect.
But I’ve been steadily working towards always remembering that everyone thinks in a different way, and if everyone was the same, life would be painfully boring. Learning about how each person interprets the world is a fascinating experience, and I’ve grown to love picking people’s brains to best understand perceptions and ideas that aren’t like mine. Embracing all of these different kinds of light makes you a more thoughtful, sensitive person, and it not only brings you more friends to love, but also challenges you to reevaluate yourself and develop new ways of going about your life.
Flexibility is fantastic, so again, allow yourself to be open to the rainbow of ways in which people process the world. The best conversations and friendships arise from where you can find connection in similarities and differences, where you see light even if it’s not a type of light you’re familiar with. Let it shine, let it radiate. You won’t be sorry.
4. Remember that YOU have divine light, too!
Namaste has two parts: the divine light in ME and the divine light in YOU. You should always look outward, recognizing that everyone and everything in the world has beauty if you have a gentle enough perspective, but you should never forget that YOU are part of this beautiful world; therefore, you too possess a wonderful kind of beauty. It doesn’t make you narcissistic to see beauty in yourself. Really.
Sometimes I just want to go up to people and start shaking them, screaming, “I F**KING LOVE YOU!!! YOU ARE AMAZING!!! WHY CAN’T YOU SEE THAT?!?!?!?!” (And, as my friends will tell you, I often do this, though usually I’m able to restrain myself from being too extreme.) Yes, everyone has flaws, but it makes me sad and mad and frustrated when people are ashamed, when they can’t see how freaking fantastic they are. I wish I could convince everyone I know how much he or she deserves to love himself or herself for exactly who he or she is.
Please, do me a favor and even when you feel scared or lonely or hopeless, don’t lose sight of the fact that there is light within you, and other people want to see and feel and love that light. Just like you give others a chance, give yourself a chance, too. Understand that in life, you will make mistakes, you will feel uncomfortable, you will sense the quirks in your personality and you may squirm, but don’t let that stop you from loving yourself. You are strong, you are courageous, you are gorgeous and radiant and held by others and this life itself. Let your light shine, because you beam, and you ROCK.
To especially my loved ones reading this, thank you all for being the most wonderful people in the world. Thank you for letting me ask you personal questions. Thank you for listening to my babbling philosophical meanderings. Thank you for talking with me about everything, because I love talking to you about everything. Thank you for sharing your beautiful light with me, because I feel so grateful for the beautiful light you exude every. Single. Day.
Tags: my life, reflections, yoga