The Meaning of Heartache and Moving Forward

*Taking a break from my usual content to write about what I am feeling.*

I am very lucky to only have experienced true, physical heartache a few times in my life. I remember the shock of it the first time, when a wonderful, bright, young friend of mine was killed in a car accident. You read the words heartache and think of it only as an expression, but the words do not stem from nothing. It’s entirely possible to feel this ache in your heart, a heaviness in your chest. I’d read the word heartache hundreds of times and it took a truly horrifying and shocking event to make me truly understand it. Heartache is a physical manifestation of misery and helplessness. I feel it now, because yesterday a fascist, sexist, racist man was inaugurated into the highest office in the country I was born and raised in, in this nation I believed in. It has profoundly affected me and my heart aches for this nation. I am solemn and depressed. On November 8, 2016 my worldview was shattered; everything I thought I knew about the people in my country, the truths of human spirit I held so dear, a core belief in progress and humanity, everything was tossed into the air and I watched as it felt to the ground, cracked, and splattered.

I didn’t realize how much this election meant to me until election night, possibly because I simply never considered the eventual outcome to be conceivable. I woke up on November 8th surprisingly elated, but with a strange knot in my stomach. I was incredibly exhilarated about the idea of finally welcoming a female president into the White House, yet a lurking fear of the other possibility haunted me. My entire life I have been told that women are powerful creatures, equal to men, and fiercely capable. A woman in the Oval Office would epitomize that belief. I have been taught – like most of America’s students – about the feminist movement of the 1970’s. The manner in which I was taught about this movement, stressed the success of feminism, the accomplishments of the generations before me, and the true equality of men and women. As I’ve grown from child into adult, these lessons I was taught, these core beliefs I was raised with, have slowly begun to break down. We need to rethink the way we raise our children, to retool the education we give them, because if there is one thing this election drilled into me, it’s that all this talk of equality is a fucking lie.

Women and men are not equal. Women and men are not raised in the same fashion. Women and men will absolutely not have the same opportunities. I’ve learned this time and time again, yet it wasn’t until this election that I finally unwound the last layer of cloth covering my eyes. Sexism is rampant in our society. This election proved that in so many ways. Today’s inauguration cements it in our future. Personally, I don’t think my own self-worth has ever been so decimated.

On the evening of November 8th I was solidly in denial. The numbers were coming in and I simply could not comprehend the idea of anyone but Hilary winning that night. I excitedly told my cousin’s eight year old daughter about how monumental this night was, how thrilled I was to celebrate the election of the first female president on the heels of the first African-American president. I went to a friend’s house as the final numbers came in and watched as the women around me wiped tears from their cheeks. I went home when things were more or less settled, still in denial, still believing in my heart of hearts that something major would come about to change the preliminary outcome. That night I took a shower, listening to live updates from CNN on my phone. When I changed into my pajamas, Trump was giving his victory speech. I watched, terrified and alone, making it only through the first few minutes before bursting into panicked sobbing.

I’ve survived these last months in a daze, addicted to the News app on my phone, reading articles with a sadistic fascination in the pain it caused me. This world we entered today is one so repugnant to me. I feel betrayed, I feel scared, but most of all I feel a deep hurt and disappointment. I knew sexism existed. I knew I’d run into it over and over in my short lifetime, in my career, with my family, with my friends. Yet, watching this under-qualified man whose main rhetoric towards women is disparaging and abusive ascend into America’s highest office made me realize how little these issues mattered to the people of this nation. That is what hurts me at the deepest level, the honest realization that the society I trusted in does not care about women. This overwhelming feeling of loss of power and worth washed over women across this country and it disturbs to me.

I grew up surrounded by powerful, independent, and delightfully inspiring women. Both sides of my family are heavily female dominated and I never doubted a woman could be anything she wanted. I knew so many women who succeeded in so many ways and as a child it never occurred to me how much sacrifice and fight when into these accomplishments. I know so many single mothers who never cease to amaze me. I know women who own large companies and command not only the respect of their employees, but truly, their admiration. I find all these women in my life so inspiring; I feel lucky to know them all and have them in my life. I just wish there was one thing all these women would tell me: how much harder they fought for their accomplishments, because of their gender, because equality is a lie.

Say what you want about the Millennial generation, but we are the way we are, because of the people who raised us. In some ways this gives me hope – vastly more millennials voted for Hillary over her opponents. In other ways I must acknowledge our shortcomings. The millennial generation has been told ad nauseam that they are special, that they can do and be anything they want, and that they are equal because generations before have fought the battles over civil rights. We need to abruptly transform this ideology and begin a new conversation, because none of these things are true. You and I – and everyone else  -out there are not special. There are millions just like us. You cannot do or be anything you want. You may strive for something, but many circumstances come into play that are entirely out of your control. Equality is the biggest myth of all. Battles have been fought, but these wars are not easily won. Ask any woman about times she’s faced inequality and she may be too afraid to even give you an answer.

We live in a world where sexual harassment, sexual assault, and rape are present constantly. In this world, boasting of these horrific actions may be considered harmless “locker room” talk. That must change. We live in a world where women are valued on their looks and girls are taught that being pretty and silent is preferable to being intelligent and confident. That must change. We live in a world where a man may stand ominously and uncomfortably closely behind a woman while she speaks. This clumsily obvious attempt at physical domination is so common in interactions between men and women, it does not even faze her and no one asks him to step back. That must change. We live in a world where a woman’s integral right to control her own body is dismissed by those who claim her life is not as valuable. That must change. We live in a world where women are taught to fear and distrust each other as they are all in cruel competition. That must change. We live in a world where so many can overlook the disgusting truths of one man, only to believe in the vicious lies told about a woman. That must change. We live in a world where women must work harder, better, and longer than a man in the same position in order to receive less recognition and compensation. That must change. We live in a world where all 45 of the Presidents of the United States of America have been men. That must change.

To enact any change, one must first acknowledge the problem and openly discuss it. So here I am, writing about this in the hope that we can all admit this situation exists and we must do something to combat it. I know now and can say with confidence, there is a huge fight ahead. I must throw myself into that fight and give it everything I can, but I also need to appreciate the great difficulty of this battle and sacrifice it requires. With this recognition, I can admit that I will only survive with the support and encouragement of others. As a woman, there a circumstances that exist that may directly prevent me from reaching my goals, but that doesn’t mean I will not strive for them. That’s why today you will find me at the Women’s March here in Portland, OR. I will be out there standing up for what I believe is right and I will be out there loudly shouting that we have farther yet to come. There will be progress yet to make even long after we welcome the first female into the Presidency of the United States of America. I believe in this and I can only hope it will happen in my lifetime. I have not given up, I will never give up.

 

Colorful Spring Crostini

You remember my birthday party spread? Delicious spring ingredients and lots of finger foods!

 

Party Food | Land of Laurel

 

I am mildly obsessed with crostini. You’ve seen my fall fave, Pomegranate, Butternut Squash Crostini, and I’m here today to share some delightful spring combinations! This isn’t an exact recipe, but rather a guideline on a great, easy, and colorful way to make a huge variety of crostini.

 

Colorful Spring Crostini | Land of Laurel

 

For my party, I started with a few basic crostini ingredients: baguettes and spreads. I knew I was going have quite a few people over, so I thinly sliced two baguettes and toasted the little pieces in the oven at 425 degrees Fahrenheit for 5-7 minutes. I wanted them to be golden, but not browned at all and just perfectly crunchy. While they were toasting, I made my spreads. Since I was doing many different flavor variations on the toppings, my spreads were basic. I used about 12 ounces of ricotta per baguette, mixing it with a bit of cream so it would spread more smoothly. I then took half of the ricotta-cream mixture and microplaned in the rind of one lemon as well as the juice. You could easily add some chopped fresh herbs at this stage too. After that it was all the toppings! The night before I’d roasted my veggies for about 10-15 minutes with a little salt, pepper, and olive oil, leaving the vegetable-y taste: cherry tomatoes, thin slivers of zucchini and carrot, red bell pepper. I whipped up a little caramelized onion: letting it sizzle gently on the stove for just under and hour before adding a bit of water and some balsamic vinegar. I also boiled some asparagus for about 5 minutes until it was just cooked, but still had a bit of a crunch. Other toppings I used included toasted almond slivers, walnuts, and pinenuts, avocado, and cucumber. After that, it was just a little more flavor with herbs: fresh mint, basil, and dill thinly sliced and sprinkled on top. On some crostini I gently drizzled a little honey to bring out a bit of sweet flavor.

 

Crostini Close-Up | Land of Laurel

 

Simple right? And oh so delicious. It was a lot of toppings, but the prep was simple and I did most of the cooking the night before. The day of, I took all the veggies out of the refrigerator and brought them to room temperature before putting all the crostini together. It was quick and painless and abso-freaking-lutely gorgeous!

 

Colorful Crostini | Land of Laurel

 

Here are some of my favorite flavor combinations:

 

Lemon-Ricotta Spread, Asparagus, Toasted Almonds, Dill

Ricotta Spread, Basil, Honey

Lemon-Ricotta Spread, Avocado, Dill

Ricotta Spread, Roasted Cherry Tomatoes, Basil

Ricotta Spread, Roasted Cherry Tomatoes, Roasted Bell Pepper

Lemon-Ricotta Spread, Roasted Carrot, Mint

Ricotta Spread, Caramelized Onion, Toasted Almonds

Ricotta Spread, Walnuts, Honey

Lemon-Ricotta Spread, Roasted Zucchini, Basil, Toasted Almonds,

Lemon-Ricotta Spread, Roasted Zucchini, Roasted Carrot, Dill,

Lemon-Ricotta Spread, Caramelized Onion, Walnuts

Lemon-Ricotta Spread, Pear, Almond, Basil

Lemon-Ricotta Spread, Pear, Walnut, Honey

Lemon-Ricotta Spread, Basil, Pine Nuts

Lemon-Ricotta Spread, Pine Nuts, Roasted Zucchini, Dill

 

The best part is an hour and a half of prep with just a little bit of a whole lot of ingredients gets you a wonderful plethora of creative and colorful crostini! At my party I was able to prep some other dishes that involved more knowledge of the recipe, while putting three great helpers on crostini duty. I gave them my list of suggestions, but they enjoyed coming up with their own creative combinations, leading to a delightful, varying snack.

 

What’s your favorite party food? Do you like to prep a bunch of food before hand or cook everything the day of?

Celebrating 24

This past Saturday I turned thirty-five twenty-four and despite my wish to be about ten years older, it was a wonderful birthday weekend!

 

Friday evening I threw a big birthday party at my house. I absolutely love having parties. They don’t need to be formal or a lot of work to be fun! I did most of my party prep on Thursday evening after work so Friday I had plenty time to do the last few things before my guests arrived. Lucky me, I had some wonderful helpers on Friday who helped get everything ready to go in the last few minutes so I had time to shower!

 

I’ll be sharing a few recipes the next couple of weeks, but I wanted to give you a little preview. We prepped quite a spread. My personal food mantra is there is never too much. I’ve inherited a love of food and feeding people from my father’s side of the family. I simply am not comfortable when I have visitors unless there is a drink in their hand and a snack in their mouth. I have aunts who simply will not rest when you come over, unless you’ve eaten a post-dinner snack and have a bowl of ice cream with homemade fudge sauce in your hand. It’s one of the most endearing qualities of my extended family. These are definitely traits that have been passed on from my parent’s generation to my cousins and I. My food table was quickly full!

 

Party Food | Land of Laurel

 

So at the party I wanted to do a few simple things. I prepped a quick version of my delicious, thick, vegan Butternut Squash Soup on Thursday evening. On Friday I quickly heated up a veggie broth, added everything I’d roasted the day before, and pureed it all together. Then my three helpers (my darling sister Bronwyn, and two of my best friends, Hannah & Nicole) put together a small army of crostini, the toppings of which I’d also prepped on Thursday. Now I love a good crostini, they’re delicious! I’ve already shared my favorite fall appetizer, a Pomegranate, Butternut Squash, Lemon Ricotta crostini and these spring versions were just as easy! They came out just gorgeous and oh so colorful! I promise they also tasted as good as they looked. Other foods I served? A delicious (but small) Mango-Mint Salad, a cheese plate, and a Spring Veggie Couscous salad. Yum!  To top off the entire evening of eating, my sister made an absolutely gorgeous chocolate raspberry cake. It was beautiful! Chocolate raspberry is my dream cake so I was in dessert heaven.

 

For my actual birthday on Saturday, I went out to brunch with my parents and sister at a place in North Berkeley called Cafe Leila. The food was alright. I think the pastries are the way to go at that place, but I ordered pancakes. They were a bit undercooked. Oops! Their selection of teas and lattes is pretty amazing though. We all shared one of their cronuts as well. That was flakey and delicious! My parents gifted me an amazing sewing machine that does an amazing number of awesome stitches so look forward to some sewing tutorials in the future! First step? Hemming some curtains for my bedroom!

 

After brunch my parents left and my friend Hannah arrived. My sister, Hannah, and I then all headed down the California coast towards Santa Cruz! We got a super late start, leaving shortly after 1:00pm. We took 92 over the San Mateo Bridge and over into Half Moon Bay. Before we got to the cute town, we stopped at some of the nurseries to see the amazing array of plants. The greenhouses were humid and simple signs reading “Orchids for Sale” did nothing to disclose the amazing sites within. Orchids as far as you could see in every direction. In every color! It was beautiful!

 

Orchids to Die For | Land of Laurel

 

In another greenhouse, there were amazing carnivorous plants (many of which I wanted to buy considering our summer fly problem!) and nestled among them tiny fairy houses. It was so cute! And these carnivorous plants were so interesting and unusual.

 

Carnivorous Plants & Fairy Houses | Land of Laurel

 

Lastly there were the succulents and cacti! Plants to die for! I wanted to take all of them home and slowly kill them (my go-to method for succulent care). They were so beautiful though!

 

Cacti & Succulent Nursery | Land of Laurel

 

After I’d died and gone to heaven at the nurseries we continued the little ways down Highway 92 into Half Moon Bay where we stopped briefly for sandwich snacks at a small deli and creeped on adorable chicks at the cute hay and feed store on Main Street. Some day I will get to go in and buy those baby chicks rather than just looking! Seriously, there is nothing cuter, y’all!

 

Baby Chicks | Land of Laurel

 

After our pit stop, we hopped onto Highway One and continued down the beautiful coast, stopping occasionally to take in the ocean views. At one point we found what seemed to be a wind surfing convention. Literally dozens of windsurfers were winding their way around in the water by this one beach. It was beautiful and so colorful! All the colors of the sails seemed so joyful against the backdrop of the blue ocean and sky.

 

Windsurfers | Land of Laurel

 

By the time we got into Santa Cruz it was already pretty late. We stopped first at Penny Ice Creamery for Bitter Carmel cones topped with toasted marshmallow fluff. If you haven’t tried this yet, do it! It’s the most amazing combination! The only Penny Ice Creamery to have this combo, seemingly, is the one on 41st Street, so be sure to plan accordingly! We walked with our cones down to Pleasure Point where we found a nice bench to finish devouring them. We spotted a pod of dolphins in the distance which made it even more lovely. We walked down East Cliff for a little while, watching the surfers and beach-goers.

 

Santa Cruz East Cliff | Land of Laurel

 

After our short walk, we headed to Pacific Ave for some window shopping before finishing the evening with dinner at I Love Sushi (we got four of the five Vegetarian Special Rolls and split them) and a bowl of soul at Verve Coffee. All too soon it was time to hit the road, but it had been a truly lovely birthday!

 

What do you like to do for your birthdays? Celebrate with a big party? A few friends? Just spend time with your family?