Spelt Belgian Waffles [+ a new blog design!]

spelt belgian waffles

A few days after I came back from Oregon, one night while Tim and I were working side by side, I told him I didn’t know if I wanted to blog anymore.

It was weird—not just because we’re in the midst of working and talking about wedding plans but because I love blogging. I’d be the first to tell you there’s nothing like the feeling of sitting down to write precisely what you want to say, organizing the chaos of life into cohesive sentences and paragraphs, feeling that satisfaction of yes! that is what I mean! when you hit publish and receiving feedback in the form of comments from people who have become your friends.

But I’d wrestled with these thoughts while I was in Oregon, surrounded by big bloggers with book deals, international press trips, specified knowledge so out of my world that they’d literally left me speechless when they talked, and really, I’d been thinking about it before then. I find new blogs I like every week. I’m so impressed by the talent—by bloggers who put hours and hours into crafting original, interesting, beautiful material on the Internet for the rest of us to enjoy—and when there’s so much out there already, I wonder sometimes why I want to add more.

We’ve talked about it a few times the last couple weeks, in between drafting seating charts and making homemade ravioli for dinner and pinning table decorations and beginning to move Tim from his three-year bachelor pad to our future home. When he brought his waffle iron sometime last week, we ate spelt Belgian waffles topped with sorghum for breakfast and liked them so much, we made them again, with strawberries, for Sunday night dinner with friends. We’re doing the everyday things of life even as we prepare for the great event of ours, with my giant white dress hanging in my house, our honeymoon booked, plans for me to fly home tonight.

And thinking about that right now makes me glad to have this blog to remember it. Because while I expected, ten days before our wedding, to be telling you about the pumpkin cake my mom’s making or the cookie table our friends are contributing to or how excited I am that it’s all really happening, the thing I most want to say now is this: I am thankful to be marrying someone who, in the midst of it, set aside time to talk about issues as in-the-grand-scheme-of-things-unimportant as blogging, who helped me decide to keep doing it and, thanks to his WordPress genius, showed me how to give it a facelift that makes me excited to come back here next month.

Anytime I start to wonder if blogging is worthwhile, I’ll just remind myself: it brought me Tim.

See you soon.

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A Weekend with Travel Oregon

You could go to Oregon for the natural beauty—the majestic mountains, the thick woods, the rivers, the flowers, the waterfalls, the streams.

Oregon trees

Penner-Ash Wine Cellars

black-eyed susans

waterfall

You could go for the history—maybe to see the Timberline Lodge, a towering structure built in the 1930s as a product of President Franklin D. Roosevelt’s New Deal policies, and to stand under its 98-foot-tall fireplace constructed mostly by Italian immigrants.
timberline lodge
fireplace at Timberline Lodge

You could go, as part of a blogger weekend, to meet new people—to hear about their passions; to be exposed to new stories; and to then come home, after a few days with them, with a whole list of new blogs to read, while you think more about the world of blogging and bloggers and how/when/why you want to continue yourself.

People like:

Kind and friendly Andrew from Eating Rules
andrew from eating rules

Fascinating and inspiring chef/traveler/urban gardener Janelle from Talk of Tomatoes
Janelle from Talk of Tomatoes

The always lovely Danielle from Beyond the Plate (aka, the most beautiful blog ever)
danielle from beyond the plate

Charming Bea from La Tartine Gourmand
beatrice from la tartine gourmand

Paula from bell’alimento (left) and Carolyn Jung from Food Gal (right)
paula and carolyn

The best travel buds you could ask for, Cheryl of 5 Second Rule and Leela of Apartment Therapy

cheryl of 5 second rule
leela cyd of apartment therapy

(And others: Rika of Bella Bonito // Gwen of Bunky Cooks // Nick of Departures // Stefanie of Endless Simmer // Georgia of GeorgiaPellegrini.com // Nicole of Pinch my Salt // Sean of Punk Domestics and Hedonia // Tami of Running with Tweezers // Linda of Salty Seattle // Debra of Smith Bites // Susan of Sticky Gooey Creamy Chewy // Helene of Tartelette // Richard of The Passionate Foodie // Liz from The Toronto Star // and Gaby of What’s Gaby Cooking?)

You could go because you’d always wanted to see Portland.

You could go because it’s a break from wedding planning.

You could go, mostly, for the food.

Oh, the food.

This post, you’ve probably gathered, is about the recent long weekend I spent in Portland, Oregon, and the areas surrounding it, on a press trip for Travel Oregon. (Here comes the disclosure: All elements of my trip were hosted and arranged by Travel Oregon. While I was not paid for going on this trip, everything I experienced and participated in was covered for me.) While we did a lot of touring and sightseeing, the predominant theme all weekend was food—lots and lots of food. Food at wineries, food on city rooftops. Food classes, food demonstrations. And every one of the photos I took is from my iPhone because, WouldYouBelieveThis!, my camera is broken. Broken. I found out the first night there.

Yeah.

Thankfully, not even a broken camera could ruin Oregon’s bounty though, especially the way the Travel Oregon people chose to show it off.

Here are some highlights:

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Fennel Nettle Iced Tea

fennel nettle sweet tea

Today is September 2. September 2! Tim and I are getting married in 44 days, as in next month, six weeks from tomorrow. Yesterday, September 1, I went to a dress fitting. I stood in front of a wall of mirrors and looked at myself, standing next to a tall blonde woman with a thick European accent who tried to sell me a $350 veil, and I thought, look at me! I’m wearing a big, white dress! And then I thought, look at me? I’m wearing a big, white dress?

bulb of fennel

Tim comes over most nights and we make dinner together. Wednesday, it was brown rice pasta covered in olive oil, chopped heirloom tomatoes and lime basil (thank you, Angela!), hunks of sheep’s milk feta that melted into a cheesy sauce, salt and pepper. Last night, it was a roast chicken and broccoli, and now I have stock simmering on the stove. After we eat, we sit on the air mattress I have set up in my living room as our makeshift sofa, and we watch TV on the flat-screen my brother gave us (!!) and fall asleep until a show ends and wakes us up, and Tim leaves, and I go to bed.

fresh fennel

A couple times this past week, I’ve been woken up (at 1 AM, at 4 AM) by my late-night upstairs neighbors arguing. The first time, it was so startling, so surreal, I just laid in bed, my heart racing, wondering if what I was hearing was really happening. The second time, I realized it was, and I wished someone else were hearing it, too. Last night, I recognized that someone was crying.

fennel tea

We have a to-do list, me and Tim, a long one. It’s filled with tasks to accomplish before the wedding, and every time one of us says or thinks, man, I wish we were just married already!, I remember the list and think of all the things separating us from then, and I say something very unhelpful to Tim like, Why didn’t we elope?

making tea

And another night goes by, and another day, and I go thrifting with my future sister-in-law and find a $7 chair and a $9 chair and a gorgeous $7 crock for our future umbrellas, and our house becomes more and more of our future home, and Tim and I make another dinner, and we bake another batch of cookies and, we make reservations for our honeymoon.

fennel tea

It’s in this new almost-home that a company asks to send me some fresh fennel and then surprises me with an entire case (!!), so then there Tim and I are, standing side by side, making a big salad and cooking the leaves in a tea, while he’s talking about the health benefits of fennel and how it’s good for your immune system, your colon, women’s health.

And it’s in times like those that it hits me, just like when we’re eating dinner on our hardwood floors or laughing about how we have to jiggle a toilet valve every time we use the bathroom, I don’t want to forget this. Any of it.

Someday far from now, when we have furniture and a garden and a long history of sharing the same last name, when we’ve already done holidays with both families, when these simple beginnings feel faded and almost not real, I don’t want to forget how nice it was to be at the threshold of sharing life together. I don’t want to forget how all the changes—in the pain as much as the bliss—were so new, so unexpected, so constantly surprising. I don’t want to forget they were good.

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super easy oat bread

super easy oat bread

Here’s the thing no one tells you about change: it affects you, and in ways you might not plan for.

Every day, we’re surrounded by the details of our life, be they people or objects or geography, and, even when it’s by your own choice, when you start moving around a lot of those details—whether city, job, church, relationships, house, diet, marital status or say, all of those things—it can unexpectedly, out of nowhere, hit you hard.

Because when enough things around you begin to disappear, you may start to feel like you will, too.

nashville home

This, as you already know, is a post about how I moved last week. It’s the story of how I left an adorable house in East Nashville that I shared with three roommates, a house I only moved into in February and had barely settled into, packed up all of my Tennessee belongings (there aren’t many) and together with Tim and one of our good friends, moved to another side of town.

nashville bookshelves

This new house is nice. It has built-in bookshelves and hardwood floors. It has air-conditioning and a washer/dryer set. It’s the first place where I’ve ever signed a lease and the first rental to earn me my very own library card. More than anything, this house has the distinct privilege of being the first house we’ll live in, me and Tim—the initial place we’ll call home together.

nashville hallway

And, like everything else in my life over the last six months, this house is new. It’s something I don’t know very well. It’s something that will take time to feel familiar.

It’s change.

nashville

There are so many things I love about Nashville: the great food (Marche, Margot, City House, Silly Goose, Burger Up, Baja Burrito, Mas Tacos), the great coffee shops (new favorite: Edgehill Cafe), the rolling hills south of the city, the beautiful cliffs to the east. I love that it hardly snows. I love that it will be warm in November. I love, most obviously, Tim.

nashville home, right side of fireplace

But every now and then, I’ll be driving down a street and wish I saw a Dominick’s on the corner (who says that?). I’ll meet someone for the first time and wish they already knew my name. I’ll see the regular reminders that I’m still new here in my Illinois driver’s license or matching license plate. And sometimes, amidst missing some old details and observing the new, I’ll wonder if I’m not gone, too.

nashville home, through the window

it’s the kind of thing that has me asking, What is it that makes us who we are anyway? Is it our income? Our house? Our family and friends? Do our jobs define us? Our life’s work? Our relationships? Our connections? Our family?

I think I am learning that really, anything that can change isn’t what makes us—not our age or our savings accounts or our things or our hobbies. Not our spouse. Not our friends. What makes us who we are is something deeper than all of those things—something that remains even when all our life details change and however many times they change.

Our identity may often get lost in the details around us, and because of that, it is a sort of gift to lose those details, so at least in the midst of it, you see your soul—that eternal, imperishable part of us that knows it’s made for something more than this life. That’s who I really am, in Illinois or in Nashville. That’s who you really are, too.

Living in my new house, living in the next.

nashville home, view of garage

They took away what should have been my eyes,
(But I remembered Milton’s Paradise)
They took away what should have been my ears,
(Beethoven came and wiped away my tears)
They took away what should have been my tongue,
(But I had talked with God when I was young)
He would not let them take away my soul,
Possessing that, I still possess the whole.

– Helen Keller

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