A Year of Turning Inward

This year of 2017 has been interesting. I've made changes in how I live my life, and am very much "settling down." A direct result of this inward work is that I don't blog that often--I just haven't felt like sharing, or haven't felt like writing because that's what I do every day at work. But I do want to check in and mark the turning of the year, and recap a little bit of what 2017 has held. I'd love to hear from you too, whether in the comments here or in person!

I quit a lot of things.


I quit using Facebook. I still check occasionally for postings in groups that I'm a member of, but I no longer post on my page or read through my feed.

I quit coloring my hair. (Well, I quit asking my stylist to color it.) I want to see what my hair really looks like. Turns out it is brown with a touch of gray (kind of suits me anyway).

I quit drinking alcohol. This is a long story, but the short version is that drinking was making me feel bad about myself. I'd been struggling for several years with a deep-seated urge to stop, but it was harder than I imagined. I finally figured out the tools I needed to make it happen for longer than about a week. I quit on July 31, 2017.

I quit wearing contact lenses. (I still wear them to run, but then I take them out again.) I have a cute pair of purpley-pink glasses that go much better with who I think I am.

I quit going to therapy. This just happened a few weeks ago. Having a therapist was helpful for a time, but I'm looking forward to trying other things in 2018.

I quit subscribing to makeup kits. I love them, but I don't need all the stuff.

I also tried some new things.

I went on my first retreat. Wilder was all the things I love--writing, running, and eating good food, plus exciting challenges like meeting a personal hero (Lauren Fleshman!!!), making new friends (I am shy and seem to be getting more shy), sharing my writing out loud, and yoga. So so cool.

I visited Vancouver Island for the first time! Being half Canadian and having family living there, it was really ABOUT TIME.

I took up nail art as a hobby. Oddly, this has been a nice substitute for a glass of wine--it's calming and pointless.

I moved out of my office at work. This just happened recently, but I love changing things up sometimes and rewiring my brain as a result. I now sit with a small group of people in a bright, open spot and can actually see outside from my desk.

I tried yoga. After meeting Erin Taylor at Wilder, a yoga instructor who specializes in yoga for runners, I subscribed to her online site Jasyoga and I'm trying to keep up with it when I can. Next goal: attend a real-live class where I live.

I'm trying out Writer's Oasis. Another jewel from Wilder was working with Jennifer Louden, a marvelous writing teacher. But she's much more, offering coaching and tools for self-discovery through a weekly call and a lively website that I've been sampling for the month of December (thanks to Jen's generous offer to anyone who wanted to try it out!). So far the calls alone have been incredibly helpful and inviting, both for writing and for working on my inner self, which is something I want to do more in 2018.

Last of all. I READ 30 BOOKS!

I track my books on Goodreads, and you can see in these yearly stats that after my son's birth in 2010, my reading took a bit of a hit. (I used to read about a book a week.) But now I'm back, baby!!

30 books makes a nice grid—here is a screenshot of all of them, from Ariel Levy's The Rules Do Not Apply that I finished last Sunday, all the way back to Tad Friend's Cheerful Money that I finished in early January 2017.

It is no coincidence that only 8 of these books are by men. In fact I have only read books by women since June. I figure that men have had their say, and I'm tired of hearing it. Let someone else talk for a change, jeez!

Memoirs: Rosie Schapp, Carrie Brownstein, Debra Gwartney, Sarah Payne Stuart, Madhur Jaffrey, Patti Smith, Moira Hodgson, Anjelica Huston, Cat Marnell, Christine Vachon, Viv Albertine, Jen Agg, Ruth Bader Ginsburg (actually her collected writings, not quite a memoir), Glennon Doyle Melton, Ariel Levy

Biographies: Margaret Wise Brown, Blanche Knopf

Women writing about their parents: A.M. Homes, Francine du Plessix Gray

Happy New Year to you!

Build-a-Bowl Chicken Noodle Soup

A brisk day in late autumn. The leaves fell and were raked away long ago. A few snowflakes have been spotted. A huge container of mittens and hats and scarves sits by the front door, waiting to be decanted into the Hat Basket for easy access all winter long. Jacket weather is gone but I still refuse to wear my winter coat... not yet.

It's a chicken noodle soup kind of day.

I realize that my cooking legacy to my children may not be teaching them in person in our home kitchen. It might instead be this blog. Here is where I record my recipes and tips and tricks. I hope the Internet is still working when my children want to look up what I wrote. (I love you, future-children!)

My main trick for this soup is to cook the noodles separately. This makes the soup less starchy overall, and helps the noodles stay more intact. To serve, I "build" the soup by spooning the hot liquid part over the cooked noodles, mixing them right in each bowl.


1 T butter
1 T olive oil
1 small yellow onion, chopped
2 cloves garlic, chopped or minced or crushed
2 breasts of chicken, cubed
2 celery stalks, chopped
3 carrots, chopped
1 box chicken broth (32 ounces)
pinches of oregano, thyme, basil and/or sage
1/2 cup frozen green peas
6 ounces egg noodles (half of a 12-ounce bag)


1. Heat butter and olive oil together in large Dutch oven. Add onion and sauté.


2. Add cubed chicken and stir until mostly cooked (white) on all sides, about 5 minutes.

3. Add 1 clove of the minced garlic, and all of the celery. Stir together for another few minutes.

4. Add carrots and broth. Bring to a simmer.

5. Add herbs. Simmer for 20 minutes until carrot pieces have started to soften.

6. MEANWHILE, start heating a large pot of water for the egg noodles.

7. Add frozen peas to chicken soup. It can hold and simmer for as long as needed while the noodles are cooking.

8.  When noodle water boils, add salt and then noodles. Follow directions on package to cook (boil about 9-11 minutes).
9. Drain noodles in colander and toss with some olive oil to prevent sticking. Keep in colander until ready to serve (can cover with a lid).

10. Add the second garlic clove to the almost-finished soup. (This allows a fuller spectrum of garlic compounds, because the second clove will not get cooked as much.)

11. When you're ready, build each bowl by starting with a serving of noodles.

12. Ladle the soup on top and you're done!

This method lets the broth keep a consommé-like clarity, as it is not gummed up with starch from the noodles. It tastes light and veg-forward. However if you like a thicker soup, you can cook the noodles right in the soup by adding them at around Step 7 above.

This also makes great turkey soup, ideal for post-Thanksgiving. Just leave out the chicken, and instead add chunks of cooked turkey when you put in the broth.

Happy December!

First Frost Pesto

If you have an herb garden, you know how frost will kill delicate basil overnight. Don't waste those pungent leaves by letting them die. Instead, when that first frost warning comes, make pesto!

I pulled up my plants and cut off the roots, then covered with water.

Next, I pulled off all the leaves—getting everything healthy and green. My 10-ish basil plants yielded about one generously packed cup of basil leaves.

I followed my favorite 5-ingredient recipe for pesto, adapted from my memory of a Cook's Illustrated article from the 90s.

  • Basil leaves
  • Garlic cloves
  • Pine nuts
  • Olive oil
  • Parmesan cheese (grated)

The amounts of everything depend completely on how much basil you have and how much you like garlic. Please wing it!

With this recipe, there are three important verbs for the key ingredients. Attend them well.

BLANCH the garlic.
TOAST the pine nuts.
BRUISE the basil.

I used 2 cloves of garlic for this amount of basil, and placed them in boiling water for 30 seconds, then ran under cold water to stop the cooking.

My assistant toasted about 1/2 cup of pine nuts by continually stirring them over medium heat until they started to brown and smell nice, then he pulled them off the heat to slow cooking.

I squeezed the basil leaves as I placed them into the food processor to release the oils and kickstart the pesto flavoring.

We added the garlic and pine nuts to the basil, and put the lid on.

More verbs: You want to BLEND and EMULSIFY at the same time, which means drizzling in the olive oil while the food processor is on. Aim for the thinnest stream possible, and stop and scrape the contents occasionally. Check consistency.

We like rather dry pesto so stopped adding oil earlyish, but you could keep going if you want to aim for a juicier mix.

When it's an even, fine consistency, scrape out all the pesto into a container. Then mix in the parmesan. We put in about half a cup of finely grated cheese (we always add more later when it's hot).

You can also skip the parmesan at this point for a vegan option or to add later. If you freeze your pesto, I suggest adding the cheese later once it's thawed.

We used our pesto on pasta, and also made pesto pizza on my NEW pizza stone (blog post to come!).

Do you make your own pesto? Do you live in a zone where your garden freezes--and how do you deal?

5 Trail Race Essentials

I'm getting ready for my 4th trail race of the year tomorrow (Pisgah Mountain 23k), so I'm putting together my essential trail race items. No matter what brands or products you prefer, I think these are some key categories for a casual trail racer.

1. Trail race hydration & nutrition

This is a big category, but GU Roctane makes it easy for me since their mixes are hydration and nutrition in one. For the past two years I've been using a hydration vest with 2L reservoir, and the combination really works well. The vest also has pockets for phone, tissues, lip balm, sunglasses, etc.

SUMMIT TEA is delicious.

2. Trail race skincare, including SPF

Long-distance running usually means chafing where fabric rubs skin for mile after mile (or where skin rubs skin, ouch). I prepare with anti-chafing balm in key spots. Sunscreen is also a very good idea.

3. Bandana and/or trail race headwear

I hate the feeling of sweat dripping down my face. I carry a bandana in my hand (or tucked into my hydration vest if I'm not too sweaty) to literally mop my brow during a race. Also, think about whether you'll need a hat (for shade or for warmth), neck gaiter, gloves, and so forth.

4. Trail race camp chair

I learned this the hard way after races where I'd want to socialize and eat delicious food, but was SO tired of being upright. Bring a chair! Here's my setup after the Vegan Power 25k last June: water, vegan pizza, and super comfy chair. (Thanks mom for the Christmas gift!!)

5. Complete change of clothes including comfy shoes

I assume I will be soaking wet at the end of a race (from sweat or from pouring water over my head or both). There is nothing more delightful than stripping off the grimy race clothes I've worn for hours and slipping into something clean and dry. Loose slip-on shoes are also heavenly. Bonus: Bring a damp washcloth or sports towel for a little faux shower in the back of the car, or ideally in a spacious restroom right by the finish line.

Do you have essentials for the trail--races or hikes? Please share in the comments!

Enjoy these last few days of summer!

Lately: Catching up on June & July 2017

Hello friends! Summer is flying by! We have been busy bees. Here are a few photos from June & July.

I ran the Vegan Power 25k again. There was an awesome heavy metal band called "Tomato Soup" at the start/finish area. They helped power us along and ROCK.

I was a few minutes faster than last year and came in Third Place for women (and 6th overall). I got this cool sheep trophy. (The Vegan Power 25k/50k is a fundraiser for animal care & welfare.)

Next I drove to Cape Cod to join my family at the ocean side. I love how New England beaches have vast tangles of roses—is it like that on other coasts, too?

Random book in the house where we stayed.


On the Cape one day, six of us took bikes to explore the rail trail, starting from Nickerson State Park in Brewster.

It was a gorgeous day.

Our turnaround point was 2 miles out at the Hot Chocolate Sparrow, a chocolate/coffee/ice cream bar in Orleans. The selection was a little overwhelming!

On another day I had tacos (and sangria) at Guapo's, the tortilla shack outlet in Brewster. So delicious.

The blues of a summer day.

A view of Scargo Lake taken from Scargo Tower. We swam in the lake earlier in the day and it was a nice interlude from the insistence of the ocean surf.

Flash to the Fourth of July. We went back to Old Sturbridge Village for the 1830's style celebrations (with cannon!) and took a full picnic.

I didn't take many photos this year—here is a mama hen with her two black chicks. 

Family Movie Night later in the week. Soooo funny.

The garden is looking good!

I tried "frosé" (essentially a slushie made from frozen wine blended with strawberries and vodka). It was "not my favorite," as my son would say.

Inspired by our Cape Cod experience, this weekend we took another family bike ride to Jamaica State Park (in Jamaica, Vermont). Next we're thinking of maybe trying CAMPING.

On Thursday mornings I run up the local mountain with a few others from my running group. I made these punch cards to track our climbs. I'm up to 4 punches now!

How is your summer going?

Race Report: West River Trail Run 2017

Last year I tried the West River Trail Run here in Vermont and I loved it. It's challenging, but not TOO challenging. The first half is essentially flat, then there is a big mountain and a fun dam to go up and over, then 2 more flat miles to the finish. The 11-mile race went well, was nicely organized, and the day was cool and pleasant. This is just a quick photo recap.

This is around mile 5, before the trail starts to climb.

The wooded single-track begins around mile 6. There were a few muddy bits, but not bad at all. Here is Angel Falls, where the trail crosses over the water on some huge sturdy rocks.

The race course goes up and over Ball Mountain dam, using the service road that you can see going up from right to left.

This is taken from near the top of that road, looking up the West River.

The trail on the other side of the dam is a fun set of dropping switchbacks. I like to Z down this side at top speed.

Even with a bathroom stop this time, I was a bit faster than last year. I'm giving full credit to the Strength & Conditioning class I do every Wednesday morning. It's getting me fit in different ways, and also teaching me about endurance and perserverance.

2017 time: 1:53:38
2016 time: 1:56:33

I've got one more race report coming up (Vegan Power!!), then I'm taking a break during the hot months (I think!).

Gardening for Idiots: 4 Easy Steps

It's not that I'm a good gardener or a bad gardener. I am just Not a Gardener.

I do have a small, beloved herb garden that I struggle mightily (in my mind) to plant and tend each year, and that was already more than I could handle.

However, given today's bizarre political and cultural climate, I figured it's time to learn how to grow food for myself and my family... just in case. I have distilled my experiences into 4 easy steps for starting your grownup garden.

1. Visit the children's section of the public library and get a simple book on gardening. I chose My Backyard Garden by Carol Lerner, which is organized by monthly activities and has nice illustrations. The logic of getting a kid's book is that you will not get bogged down with details and possibly never move on to steps 2-4.

2. Plan your garden. Where will you put it? How big will it be? What will you plant? Carol Lerner says 20 square feet is a good size to start with.

Here's my plan. I got a little excited and planned an 80 square foot garden. I decided on lettuce, chard & kale, bush beans, beets & carrots, cucumbers, squash, and tomatoes.

3. Prepare the garden space. I chose a rectangle of space at the southern end of our lawn. Part of it was occupied by the remains of a 5x5' sandbox, which we shoveled out and replaced with bags of topsoil (Moo Dirt to be specific). The rest of the space was grass, which I forked over, hoed apart, augmented with Moo Doo, and raked.

4. Plant! If possible, visit a garden center and get already started plants, then pop them in the ground after danger of last frost (aka Memorial Day). Water. 

Our actual selections at the garden center were pretty much in line with my plan. We did add a six-pack of bell peppers. We also planted some peas that had come home as part of a first-grade project. And I got seed packets of carrots, chard, spinach, and lettuce which I sowed in rows at the far end of the rectangle shown above.

Things are too close together and I'm sure the zucchini is going to riot in about 8 weeks. A bean plant has already completely disappeared. But otherwise it's all very satisfying.

I also put the annual round of herbs into the herb garden on the other side of our property—basil, cilantro, parsley, dill, plus a new Rosemary & a new Lavender to replace the ones killed by the savage winter cold. The sage, chives, rue, mint, lemon balm, and oregano all over-wintered successfully.

What have you been planting? Are you a Good Gardener?