Kefir Drinking Chocolate

It’s morning, but there’s little light, the rain and clouds hiding the bright early sun, so even though the clock says 7:30, it feels like we should crawl back under the sheets, where at least we’ll be cozy and warm and protected from the dark, dreary day that awaits us.

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After weeks of three-digit temperatures—not just here but in Chicago and Wisconsin and maybe where you are, too—Nashville has finally received what all the farmers have been praying for: days and days of gray skies and wet grass and the blessing of rain that turns acres of dry, brown land back into green.

frontwindowrain

The last couple days, I’ve worn long sleeves again (who would’ve thought!) and worked on my computer from beneath a big, wool blanket.

livingroomrain

I’ve stared out at the wet world, watching the raindrops stick to the windows, hearing cars splash puddles as they drive by, feeling the drips on my cheeks and my arms when I escape to the mailbox in the middle of the day.

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And I’ve given thanks for God’s life-giving sky, for how much better it waters the earth than our hoses and irrigation systems and sprinklers.

I’ve felt, again, how seemingly powerless I am, even compared to something as simple as the weather, which can change farmers’ livelihoods and affect prices at my grocery store and alter what’s in my weekly CSA in a way I could never do. I’ve looked at my neighbor’s flowers—the ones she’s been trying to save with her faithful watering and weeding and steady hours outside; the ones that have become such a desert, wilted and parched and sad—and seen how days of downpour can change them, can bring them back to life.

And then, from the comfort of my little house where I’m watching this happen, I’ve cradled cups of drinking chocolate, sipped while we work in the dim light of our dining room, sweet and rich and strong.

cacaobananas

The idea for this drink is simple: combine kefir (or yogurt) with a heap of raw cacao, a banana and a little honey; then, blend until smooth.

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What results is a thick and creamy drinking chocolate that sticks to the sides of your mug the same way that it clings to your teeth and your tongue, dark and frothy, luxurious and decadent.

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It’s a real pick-me-up—just like for us these days, are afternoons of rain.

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Coconut Dreams (raw, gluten-free, honey-sweetened)

When we go home, it’s not five minutes before I’m bounding up the stairs to my room, the room with mocha-colored walls that my dad let me pick the paint for, where the bookcase is still filled with my books and the windows overlook a backyard I’ve watched, year after year, turn from green to brown to white winter snow before my eyes.

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I plop down my bags and head back to the kitchen, a kitchen where the fridge holds unending options, from last night’s leftovers to fresh cherries and strawberries to kombucha. At night, Tim and I share the big wooden sleigh bed I’ve had since eighth grade, and we hear my parents’ voices in the room below us before we fall asleep. My brother makes us banana pecan pancakes for breakfast, and my mom bakes a chicken pot pie from a book I love, and Tim pulls together spinach-ricotta gnocchi, and I chill a tray of coconut dreams.

coconut dream

More than anywhere else we go, maybe because it’s familiar, maybe because of who’s there, home is refreshing, a place where I’m not just telling myself to relax but where I actually do. There’s no work. Nothing to clean or water or respond to. Nothing pressing. Four people who love me are an arm’s reach away. We drive up north, and it’s OK when my Internet stops working. I don’t have to stay on top of email. Everything slows down.

What’s so wrong about spending peaceful hours on a porch swing, cuddled up with your husband, listening to the wind rustle the trees, hearing the frogs and the birds and a boat buzzing by on the water?

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lightwoods

Our grand plans each day involve friends to see, recipes to play with, places to take pictures of, stores to visit. Some days, we’re just sitting around, me and Tim and my family, watching movies or reading books or, even, thinking and being still.

Between the two trips, when we’re back from Wisconsin but still with a few days in Illinois, I read this New York Times article (via Joanna) on busyness, about how our culture of iPhones and emails and pressure has turned us into tense, high-stress people caught up with how important our work is (be it writing or administrating or Web designing), perhaps in an effort to make ourselves feel like we’re important, perhaps without realizing what we’re doing at all. And I think how much I relate to that, even from the perspective of half a week away.

In it, author Tim Kreider says this:

Idleness is not just a vacation, an indulgence or a vice; it is as indispensable to the brain as vitamin D is to the body, and deprived of it we suffer a mental affliction as disfiguring as rickets. The space and quiet that idleness provides is a necessary condition for standing back from life and seeing it whole, for making unexpected connections and waiting for the wild summer lightning strikes of inspiration — it is, paradoxically, necessary to getting any work done.

plantsinthewoods

Necessary to getting any work done. This is not the idleness of laziness or sloth, the idleness that means doing nothing; rather, he’s describing the idleness of being quiet, being still, giving your mind space to see. I keep thinking about that, about how we all need this kind of time to think and to process, whatever or personalities or job titles or geography. We need to find regular ways to disconnect—and in a world that makes it incredibly hard to do so—if we are to have any meaningful connecting at all. It’s the first time I’ve ever really considered getting rid of my iPhone, much as I love it; or finding a way to abandon Facebook and help myself remember to pursue real connections in light of the quick-contact perceived ones.

Could it be that the rest I enjoy when I go visit my family, the ability to put other things aside for a while, is a rest my body, and my mind, needs more often? Could it be that there’s a way to find that in regular life?

lightintrees

I’m still thinking about it.

But along those lines, what I want to know is this: How do you find time for quiet, especially, but not only, in terms of the creative process and work? Do you find it necessary? Is disconnecting a part of your regular routine? Do you schedule it in your days or does it happen naturally?

coconut and almonds

And in the meantime, I bring you those coconut dreams—a raw, gluten-free, six-ingredient recipe inspired by a dessert I love from a local Nashville bakery; one I’ve been wanting to re-create ever since tasting them at The Jam coffee house (which is great! and if you’re in Nashville, go!) but which I only, finally found the uninterrupted creative space for while I was on vacation, in Illinois and in the woods, in the midst of a few days away from it all, resting and remembering what it is to move slowly, embrace where I am and, to see.

coconut dreams

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Blueberry Cookie Dough Truffles (Gluten-Free)

(We’re still away visiting family, but we couldn’t wait to share this recipe with you. With any luck, we’ll be making it again in Chicago!)
blueberries

We’re walking through the grocery store, and Tim’s telling me about this idea he has for using up the case of blueberries in our cart (because apparently it’s an annual tradition).

“It’d be like a cookie,” he’s saying, “but you wouldn’t bake it, and there’d be blueberries mixed inside. Then, we’ll dip them in chocolate!”

I hear my mouth say something like OK even as I’m rounding another aisle on the hunt for flour, but honestly, all I’m thinking about is cracking open a pint as soon as we can get in the car. In the checkout line, when our cashier inquires about our blueberry plans, Tim’s ready. “Well, we’ll bake some, we’ll eat some and then we’ll freeze some!” he tells her, as excited as it were a conveyor belt of diamonds and rubies, not berries, that we are sending down the line.

And minutes later, as we’re feasting on fistfuls of blueberries while exiting the parking lot, talking excitedly about scones and pancakes and smoothies, I think to myself, man, there’s just nobody like Tim.

blueberry cookie dough on tray

We’ve only been married eight-and-a-half months, a time span not quite long enough to complete a school year, qualify for employee vacation time or in most cases grow a child, and yet there are so many things I already find myself taking for granted about our life—like the way we read to each other, in bed at night, on car trips to nearby towns or at the table when one or the other of us finds an article that’s interesting in the middle of our workdays; or the random way we’ll enter deep discussions, like when I ask him “Why do you think people are so drawn to laughter?” one afternoon, driving in the car.

In many ways, Tim is just like me: enjoys reading, a homebody, gets frustrated when something is imprecise. In other ways, he’s not: doesn’t fear what people think, for one; is full of faith, for another. I told our friend Jared a few weeks ago that I think marriage is sometimes like a mirror and what I meant was this: there’s something about the very close, very personal day-to-day interaction with another human being that makes you better able to see yourself. Through eight-and-a-half months of living with Tim, sharing our meals and our work and our weekends, I’ve seen things about myself I don’t like, areas were I lack—mostly because they are areas where he doesn’t.

tim making cookie dough truffles

I, it’s becoming clearer and clearer, am what you might call a cynic, a person prone to suspicion and doubt. I like proof and want evidence and probably won’t believe something until I can see, for sure, that it’s true. You could blame this on authority figures I had who lied to me or to the social environment I grew up in that deceived and hid grace, but the larger issue is me—me and my fear and my doubt. A few years ago, in a Bible study I was in, we were reading about the apostle Thomas, the one who had to see Jesus’ hands, and I starting sobbing when I read Christ’s response: no censure, no condemnation, just “Put your finger here. See my hands.” I think about that sometimes when Tim and I talk about the future and wanting to give more, and I have to rehearse in my mind promises, promises that I’ve seen to be true, like evidence, right before my eyes.

And I think about that when he talks animatedly about blueberries, to a stranger at the grocery store, without inhibition or caution or a guard up, and I think about it when he tells me his hopes for the future, hopes I’d throw away as impossible or too big. What a gift to live life with a man like this, what a gift to rub up against him and feel my faith sharpened, see my hope grow. And what a gift to eat blueberry-filled, cookie-dough truffles covered in chocolate, the ones he envisioned and I couldn’t see, the ones that are crazy, almost unbelievably, good.

 

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Nashville Food Trucks: local meets mobile in Tennessee

[It’s a little ironic to be posting something I like about Nashville right when we are miles and miles away from it, but, nonetheless, while I’m showing Tim that quiet place where time slows down, we’re showing you something about the place we call home. We’ll be slower to respond this week (no Internet at the cabin!) but we’ll be back here as soon as we can.]
wanderlandwsign

Here’s the thing about Nashville: it’s not Chicago. I mean, I’ve liked Music City since the day I came but, besides Tim, there’s little about it that feels like home. It’s smaller and it’s hotter and you can drive 30 minutes in almost any direction and end up in the kind of empty town that feels like someone must be pulling your leg. Everyone’s a hipster. Or a hippie. Or a musician or a writer (!) or a debutante. And there are a lot of times I have someone who’s not from here ask me what it’s like to be from here, and I want to say to them, who me? I’m not a local! except in one case, and this is probably the only case: when they ask me about the food.

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