The close of the year is an opening to a new one. The recently passed solstice, the turn of the calendar both call us to shift our cycles. What can you let go of? What will you embrace?
I intended to write about the light-dark / ending-beginning of this month last week on solstice, but I felt called instead to make space. I stepped away from the computer a lot. I read. I brought my hands into a warm ball of dough and baked bread. I breathed deep in the twinkling light of the tree and the flicker of the fire. I read some more.
With all the to-dos of this month behind me, but a little more celebration and family time to go, I’m sinking into the open space I deliberately created—no work in this interholiday week of school vacation.
2015 Year in Review
Back in January, I set open as my word of the year. Aside from this open space here at the end of the year, how else did I open?
I opened to new ideas about my work and ended up with this. I don’t know why I resisted change for so long, but I’m loving the ghostblogging/content management world I’m thriving in.
I opened my door each morning and stepped outside. I looked up at the trees and the sky. I counted crows, black spots against the blue. I found the lingering moon and noticed pink-gold streaks. I felt the ground firm but yielding beneath my feet. I opened my eyes to notice.
I opened up space in my schedule for writing that I felt called to do. I was consistent with it for a while. I need to step back and re-open that space.
I opened to hope, as I do each spring, and to being in the moment with my kids.
I opened to possibility, to figuring out how instead of saying I can’t. In the past, friends would post about trips they had taken and I’d wonder how they managed. Who watched their kids? How did they afford it? How did they find time in a schedule that seems always too full? But when an old college friend asked a small group of us to get together, I was open to making it happen—and I ended up soaking up the quiet and the deep conversations in Tucson.
I opened to adventure, the kind I haven’t had in years.
I opened to the fullness of my experience in December as I do each year—and got surprised.
I didn’t open my body with yoga like I intended (though I have a plan for next September when I have two kids in school full time).
I didn’t open up more space in my house the way I wanted to. Clearing out clutter has been a molasses slow process, and the open space I create seems to fill in almost immediately. I’m still working on that one. It’s a good goal for a new year.
The year is closing, but a new one opens. I’m thinking about what I want that year to feel like and staying open possibility.
What openings did you create last year? What openings do you see coming in the new year?
My girls and I put up the Christmas tree the other day, and I love to sit in its gentle glow. Ever since I was a kid, I loved decorating the tree, finding favorite ornaments, telling the stories behind them.
Our tree has some ornaments that came from my childhood home—felt animals sewed in a childish hand, the delicate glass snowman and balloon a teacher gave me, a simple red ball with my name and the year of my birth.
Our tree has ornaments I’ve given to my husband or our family over the years—a geologic survey marker for Mount Washington, a wheelbarrow for all the gardening we do together, a green canoe and a toboggan from the years we bought those items to enjoy.
There are ornaments I’ve made for my girls, like the ladybugs from when they turned four and two with corresponding spots and the felt hearts with their names.
If you look, you will find a lot of cardinals. Glass balls with painted red birds, plump birds sewn from felt, a felt heart with a cardinal cut out of birch bark overlay. And the red birds from other babyloss mamas: the needle felted ball from Jenni, the paper circle from Amy, the cookie cutter tree with a reddish feather from a bird nicknamed “the desert cardinal.” It’s not surprising to find cardinals at Christmas, but mine are for Henry.
When Henry was in the hospital, somebody gave us a stuffed cardinal, the kind you squeeze to hear its call. My dad still talks about how it got Henry’s attention, whether the news or the bright color. The cardinal link started there, but it was seeing a cardinal, all red, streak across the bleak landscape that solidified it for me. That sudden brightness reminded me of Henry’s smile, the way it lit everything up, the way it made me smile.
People tell me about their cardinal sightings and let me know they’re thinking of Henry. That makes me smile too. Some days, just when I need it, I catch a glimpse of that flash of red. so bright on a dark day.
Last night, after stories, we turned off the light and sat in front of the fire looking at the tree. I sang my girls their songs, my chin resting on a blond head, my cheek against a nearly five-year-old cheek.
I thought the dark was going to rise up: the missing, the would-be eight year old not here. But instead what bubbled up was love, stretching me tight, expanding me. For a moment, it wasn’t dark and light, here and not, life and death, all those forces that pull me in two directions through this month. I thought it would be, but instead I expanded with just fullness, just love.
“It’s no fair!”
We get a lot of that around here. This time, my big girl was disgruntled that the cooking class in the school enrichment program was only for bigger kids.
So we had our own cooking “class.” We invited some friends, and although we ended up with a smaller group than we hoped, we had fun with apples.
The kids peeled, cored, sliced, and grated apples. They measured sugar and spices in between playing with Legos. Then while things cooked, they became ninjas and butterflies. I’m pretty sure that didn’t happen in the regular cooking class.
Up next: Pumpkins
Easy Apple Muffins
2 medium apples
1 cup sugar
1 tsp. cinnamon
1/2 tsp. allspice
1/2 cup oil
1 1/2 cup flour
1/2 tsp. salt
1 tsp. baking powder
1 tsp. baking soda
- Grate the apples into a mixing bowl. Pour sugar and spices over apples and let sit for 10 minutes.
- Preheat over to 350.
- Mix egg and oil into the apple/sugar/spice mixture.
- Add the flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt. Mix to combine.
- Fill greased muffin pans and bake for 20–25 minutes. (Makes about 18-20 small muffins and 12 medium size ones.) Alternately pour the batter into a greased 8×8 cake pan and bake for 50–55 minutes.)
I love fall foods and getting back into baking after a summer of using the oven less. I love cooking with my kids even when it’s messy or looks a lot more like dress up play. I love that they wanted to share this fun with friends.
What do you love?
Write What You Love is back. I hope you’ll join me.
Looking up from my book, I watched a humming bird buzz the pool. A bright orange dragonfly darted after it. I listened to the quiet, a different quiet from a morning at home. No dog snoring gently, no cars on the street outside. The pool filter hummed on and off. Birds swooped and called as they dashed from fence post to cactus.
Still on East Coast time, I woke early in Tucson. While my friends still slept, I sat out on the patio in the still cool morning sipping coffee, reading a bit, daydreaming. It was delightful. It was restorative. And it wasn’t the best part of the weekend.
As the sun rose higher and the temps soared, my friends came out one by one. A short run. Some yoga. Some lazing. We each did our own thing before breakfast. I made the omelet. Aimee started the bacon. Jen flipped pancakes. Heather and Jemma carried plates and silverware out to the shaded seats on the patio.
I met these women 21 years ago, give or take a couple of weeks, when luck put us in the same dorm during our first year of college. I saw two of these women briefly last year after a long hiatus, but the other two? It’s been nine years in one case, eleven in the other. And in all cases, it’s been no time. Old friends are like that.
We settled into conversations that were years of catching up without feeling like recap. We talked relationships and kids and work. We remembered who we were and figured out who we are.
I’ve been looking forward to this trip all summer, because I needed a break and I was excited to see these friends. I didn’t realize how much I needed to see them.
Being with old friends reconnected me to parts of myself that I had forgotten. I came back refreshed from a full night’s sleep and the quiet mornings by the pool. I came back refilled from the conversations poolside and around the dinner table. I came back refilled by laughter and hugs and knowing these people know me, the Sara I was 20+ years ago, the Sara I’ve been since, the Sara I am now.
Reconnect with an old friend today. Call them, message them, write them. Reconnect with an old friend and see what else you connect with.
Waiting for green coriander—and keeping the pollinators happy
Tick Tick Ticktickticktick
A cluster of tiny green seeds rolls through my fingers into a plastic bowl.
“I think everyone really loves my green coriander pesto,” my big girl says as she strips seeds from the plants I’ve pulled. “Well, except for some of the kids. Because they’re picky.”
She’s been anticipating this moment since early spring when I began finding cilantro everywhere. We noticed the plants getting bigger and sending out feather, carrot-top like leaves. We watched bees buzz the tiny white flower clusters. And we found the first tiny green seeds. Now, some of the plants have gone from full flower to full seed.
To everything its season, and this is the season for green coriander.
Two years ago, I cooked with green coriander for the first time, making the green coriander–marinated chicken from Grow, Cook, Eat. Picking green coriander (and later the dried, brown seeds) became a summer afternoon activity with the kids asking if we could pull one more plant to strip. As long as everyone had their own plant and their own bowl, squabbles were minimal.
Last summer my big girl decided we should make pesto with the green coriander. We talked about the things that usually went into pesto and she picked what she wanted to put in. Here’s what she came up with:
K’s Green Coriander Pesto
1/2 cup green coriander (roughly seeds from 3–4 plants)
1 scant cup parsley leaves
1 clove garlic
1/4 cup chopped walnuts
1/2 cup olive oil
Two good squeezes of lemon juices
1/4 cup Parmesan cheese
1/4 cup Romano cheese
- Run the green coriander, parsley, garlic, and walnuts in a food processor until smooth-ish. (The green coriander will still be a little pebbly, but all the seeds should be somewhat ground up.)
- Add the olive oil and lemon and whiz to combine.
- Stir in the cheeses.
- Taste and add more lemon juice or oil if needed.
This has a crunchier texture than most pesto. We love it on chicken and crackers. We’re less fond of it on pasta. I imagine that the bright green, citrusy flavor would be good with fish or shrimp.
My big girl was so excited to bring green coriander pesto chicken to a pot luck last night. If rosemary is the smell of jealousy, maybe green coriander is the smell of pride.
What are you creating with summer’s bounty these days?