When Tim and I came home from Maine, it was with three or four local publications in tow. Between the food festival, our hotel, and a few Portland kiosks, we’d managed to wind up carting around copies of The Portland Press Herald, Down East Magazine, Green & Healthy Maine, and, amongst some other pamphlets, information packets, and a city map, the source of today’s recipe: Northeast Flavor Magazine. This was partly because people kept giving us the content and partly because I can’t turn a glossy magazine or fresh newspaper down. I’m a sucker for pretty packaging, I’m not ashamed to say it, which is at least part of what’s drawn me so deep into the blogging world, as well as why walking through Anthropologie is my idea of a good time.
A few notes from here in Nashville, here in this first week of October:
1 / An autumn that’s all big mums and our neighbors’ porches filled with pumpkins, right alongside bare feet and sundresses.
2 / A few blog updates, some obvious (design changes) and some not (new hosting). If anything seems wonky when you stop by this space, it probably relates to one of the things we’ve changed, and we probably don’t know—so please tell us.
3 / A a new library book I’ve been waiting for, an interview with its author (posted here) and my favorite quote from that interview: “My description of this room will differ from your description of this room will differ from everybody else’s description of this room because we are limited and graced by our own pair of eyes, the things that we notice in the foreground versus the background—That’s the beauty of creative work.”
4 / A good chunk of time thinking about this story, especially because of one line about always wanting everyone to understand what you do, and why you can’t and they can’t, so just stop: “For several years I felt this overwhelming need to explain ourselves and the decisions we made as a family to other people. I hated that I lived in that trap, and yet I couldn’t seem to get out of it. But God slowly freed me of that in Oklahoma.”
6 / Extra work hours, new projects, more social activities and several upcoming trips—and how all of these things, with the tighter schedules they bring, are good things we are being given right now.
7 / Remembering August, when I cried in the middle of Wal-Mart, by myself, walking the aisles to buy copy paper so we could print out paperwork to try to get back earnest money from a house we thought we’d buy, but lost.
8 / Remembering last night, when I cried in a Goodwill parking lot, next to Tim, out of sheer and overwhelming joy at how shockingly we have been comforted and encouraged since then.
9 / Words like these, from Naomi Shihab Nye : “I want to be famous to shuffling men who smile while crossing streets, sticky children in grocery lines, famous as the one who smiled back. I want to be famous in the way a pulley is famous, or a buttonhole, not because it did anything spectacular, but because it never forgot what it could do.”
10 / A mug filled with creamy, frothy pumpkin pie you can drink—recipe below.
You would think, after nearly five years of regular blogging, a person would become immune to the kindness in the blog community. At least that’s what I keep thinking this week, after publishing Tuesday’s post, and hearing such kind, thoughtful responses from so many of you. You would think I would be used to this and, accordingly, that it wouldn’t mean much, but, in fact, the opposite is true. You guys. Thank you. Thank you for reading here, caring about what’s said, and writing quick notes in response. More and more, I see that it’s a gift for bloggers to let the world into their lives, to be “publishing parts of [our] li[ves] for the world to read, [thereby opening ourselves up] to judgement and critique,” as Kelsey put it. But, like she concluded, I also see that it’s a gift that people do, in fact, read. It’s a gift that you come to this space. I might not ever get over the fact that friends and strangers listen to our stories, or the fact that you’re reading this one, today, but thank you.
Around here, in the world of “cooking my feelings,” it’s been a round-the-clock-kitchen week of buckwheat chocolate chip cookies, vegetarian pot pies, haphazard salad dressings made with whatever I throw together in the Vitamix, summer rolls, peanut sauce, beet greens, roasted beets, bananas topped with peanut butter, Dutch baby breakfasts and, I could keep going, but I think you catch my drift. Also, Sunday, after we listened to someone talk about the idea of grace, which is, put simply, undeserved goodness, we came home and made these Sambal chicken skewers from Bon Appetit.
I realize two days before Thanksgiving is not exactly the ideal time to post a Thai chicken recipe, not when the majority of cooking America is, at this very moment, abuzz with turkey, mashed potatoes, dinner rolls and pumpkin pie. But, forgive me, I have this habit of assuming all of you out there aren’t so different from me, and so I figure maybe you’re also two days away from attending a delicious Thanksgiving meal in another state, one that’s so completely out of your hands, you already know all that will be expected of you is to show up, maybe chop a vegetable or two. In that case, finding another Thanksgiving recipe is not the pressing issue on your mind, but, what to make for dinner tonight, the night before you fly home, is—and so here’s something easy and quick.
The truth is, even if I were in charge of the meal on Thursday, that would only mean remaking a dozen or so of the same dishes my family eats every year: turkey and potatoes and green beans, maybe a gelatin mold and some homemade cranberry sauce. Can you relate to this, too? Last year, my mom added sprouted dinner rolls she found at her natural grocery store, and I’ve heard stuffing has been taken off this year’s list, but, overall, our Thanksgiving meals are pretty predictable. In this social media world of the latest and greatest and newest and best, predictable can sometimes seem like a bad thing, but, in truth, when it comes to the holidays, predictable means the stability and security of annually gathering around the table to do the same thing we’ve done every year—and that’s something I find as comforting as looking through old baby albums or hearing my dad make his coffee in the mornings when we’re home.
Whether you relate to our routine or not, whether Thai chicken must stay off your radar until at least Friday or whether Thanksgiving isn’t even on your calendar, let me offer this recipe today anyway. If you’re leaving town tomorrow and want something foolproof for dinner tonight, this is the recipe. If you’re shopping all day Friday and want something easy to come home to, just have someone turn this on two hours before you do.
But mostly, if you’re that kindred soul I always write to, the one who has also tasted Thai chicken curry—and maybe, like me, for the first time with friends this summer—and found it to be so good, so just-the-right-amount-of-heat, that you regularly find yourself craving it, remembering the slight burn on your throat, you’re going to love this.
The recipe comes from one of my old Nashville roommates, Sara (not to be confused with my other old Nashville roommate, Sarah), who posted a picture of it on Instagram recently, and, in response to my comment, emailed me the ingredients and directions with a, “I hope you make this. like now! It’s AMAZING!” added on.
Tim and I ate it last week, shared some with a friend, and, then, ate the remainder for lunch the next day: every time, it had us reaching for water glasses with smiles on our faces. Quick and simple, with the fire of the curry paste, the kick of the ginger and the cool splash of lime squeezed on top, it’s going to be my go-to Thai curry recipe every time the craving hits from now on (and, Thanksgiving week or not, that’s always now).
Happy holiday weekend, friends! Hope you know how thankful we are for each of you.
The day after we arrive in Florida, we’re laying by the water in Bradenton Beach, listening to the sounds of the waves and the seagulls, our four chairs propped up in soft white sand alongside a tall umbrella and a cooler and bags packed with books and snacks and iPhones, and I think to myself, you know, there’s just something about the ocean.
We’re here on a four-day getaway with our friends Terry and Carrie, who had a client who had a house who’s now sharing it with us, giving us her keys and her fridge and her pool and her king-sized beds and balconies, and, free of charge, letting us call them home for the weekend. This vacation, a sort of a belated birthday present for Tim whose one birthday request was a trip with these friends, is the longest vacation and first time we’ve been back to beaches since our honeymoon, and we almost can’t believe it’s happening.
The thing I always feel when I stand next to the ocean, hearing the lapping waves and staring out at the unending blue-green waters, is how small I am compared to it, how barely noticeable. It’s like driving through a hailstorm or watching a flood: what you’re looking at is so much bigger than you are, it’s almost overwhelming—but in a way that humbles you and makes you feel grateful rather than make you feel insecure.
I say to Tim when we’re driving in on Wednesday, It’s weird to think I lived here once, for my entire freshman year. We go up to Clearwater Beach on Friday, the beach I used to drive to with friends, and I think of my old Volkswagon Jetta, the one with maroon paint and a broken bumper that I’d have to pull off the road to re-duct-tape when it came loose in the wind. We find the spot where Terry and Carrie got engaged, and it’s just behind Leverock’s, a now-closed restaurant in St. Petersburg that I used to go to when out-of-town friends came in to visit, long before I knew them, before I knew Tim. We drive through my old campus, and I see the dorms that gave me bed bugs and the dining hall where I made waffles and the field where I watched soccer games my roommates’ boyfriends played in.
Seeing these old sites is a little like looking at the ocean or, flipping through old yearbooks or, mentally going back in time: they remind me of my small place in this world, of how hindsight often dwarfs things, of how some memories get cloudy with time. It’s also like looking at a former version of myself, one that was terribly unsure of life, of the future, of what she would study or what she would pursue, and feeling glad to be different now, with degrees and a job; yet at the same time, looking at her and feeling sad to be in many ways the same, sometimes unsure, sometimes wondering where I belong.
We visit Tarpon Springs, a town I remember for its historic town square and Spanish moss trees, but today it gives us sponge docks and tourist shops and a wide stretch of Greek cafes that remind me of the Mediterranean. I think about how different things look when you’re 18, when you haven’t traveled much outside of a high school trip and vacations with your family. I think about the gift of learning to explore and how that gift gives you new eyes and perspective, enough that it changes places you thought you knew.
We scout out cool places to eat, from smoothies at Eco Bean Cafe, 501 North Pinellas Avenue, Tarpon Springs, to fresh orange juice from a random roadside stand that puts orange grove in quotation marks.
There’s dinner one night at The Refinery, 5137 North Florida Avenue, Tampa, where the dining room is fully booked but we have our pick of seats at the empty upstairs patio off the bar.
And my favorite meal, hands down, is Saturday night at Mi Pueblo, 8405 Tuttle Avenue, Sarasota, a Mexican restaurant that offers both a traditional and an organic menu, as well as a festive interior of star lights and Mexican tiling and bold colors everywhere you turn your head.
Tim and I split a burrito made of sunflower seed “beans” and vegetables in a citrus sauce, wrapped in a giant collard leaf that makes me feel like I’m eating a garden, and we drink a Licuado de Chocolate made of macadamia nuts, cacao, banana and spices.
We read and we watch a movie and we walk a few blocks from the house to see the sunset along the water, and our pace slows down as life becomes more simple.
And Tim takes my hand and I tell him, I’m thankful for the ways God changes us over time. I’m thankful for the ways He still will.
I started making this milk within the last few weeks, inspired by the tumeric milk posted over at the beautiful Journey Kitchen. Similar to a hot chocolate my friend Carrie makes (milk + cocoa powder + sweetener + heat = bam!), it’s nothing complicated or confusing. It’s hot and soothing—pure comfort when paired with a big down comforter and some online TV, especially when it’s as cold as it has been around here lately. And, because of the powerful spices, spiced milk is actually really beneficial for your health, too:
First, there’s tumeric, the bright yellow spice that colors mustard and flavors curry. Commonly used in both Chinese and Indian ancient systems of medicine, tumeric is one of the most powerful anti-inflammatory spices out there, the same ingredient I heard physicians wax eloquent about at a CCFA symposium I attended with my friend Alicia a few years ago. Because inflammation is connected to so many physical ailments, from Crohn’s to eczema to heart disease, foods that work against inflammation are like nutritional powerhouses, ingredients I want to work into my diet as much as possible.
There are also ginger and cardamom, long considered beneficial for digestion; cinnamon, which helps regulate blood sugar; cayenne, aid to the circulatory system, among other things; and cloves, another anti-inflammatory and also anti-bacterial spice. I add raw honey for taste, but I could just as easily be adding that for the nutritional benefits as well, as raw honey has anti-bacterial, anti-fungal and anti-viral properties.
But all that aside, trust me when I say the health benefits are just icing on the cake for this drink, which is at once soothing and stimulating, spicy and sweet. Going down your throat, it burns just slightly (and of course, you could adjust the spices to your liking if you’re less tolerant of the kick of cayenne) and feels like a kicked-up version of chai tea or some really amazing steamed milk.
More than anything though, to me, it’s been one of a hundred comforts I’ve been tasting over the last few days, I really believe brought to me by the Great Comforter, the one to whom I could barely hang on at the beginning of this month. There have been long talks with Tim, encouraging Bible studies with friends, peaceful nights of sleep, random free tickets to the symphony, the ability to think clearly enough to remember how many blessings I’ve been given. My friend Joanna, in a recent email, told me that the darkest times in our lives are also times covered by God’s love and grace to pull us out of them, and she’s right. I’m tasting that these days, and it is good.
You gave me life and showed me kindness, and in your providence watched over my spirit. (Job 10:12 NIV)