Sunday, September 10, 2017

Back to School

This week was yet another first day of school for me. As a life-long learner I've often joked that I'm going to collect a bunch of certifications rather than just one focused degree, and this week started me on the road to another new certificate!

Thanks to my dear friend who insisted on capturing my first day!

This is one of those occasions in life that just seemed to fall into place. Part of my trip to Paris last Spring was a time to do some reflection on the past and anticipation of what the next season of life might hold for me. As I started to pay attention to what I talked about and read about, I realized FOOD is always on my mind! Yes, I love to bake (obviously), but more than that I noticed that not only was I reading cookbooks (which I've been told isn't "normal"), but I was also reading about food systems, soil health, naturopathic treatments for various ailments, and using food to prevent and remedy illnesses, and overall holistic health. 

Then, over tea one day, as I was lamenting to a friend my frustration with yet again not knowing what I wanted to do next in life, she mentioned this school that some of her colleagues were attending and suggested I may find it interesting.  As you may or may not know about me, I am a researcher by nature, and so I started researching not only this Nutrition Therapy Institute (NTI), but also many other independent schools as well as nutrition programs at various colleges and universities. However, I kept coming back to NTI. Not only are they located here in Denver, but they have a holistic approach to nutrition that encompasses mind, body and spirit. And so, I started the enrollment process, was accepted and now have started my first class... Anatomy & Physiology! A bit intimidating, but also fascinating.

Not only does this program compliment what I was independently reading and learning, but it seems to be such a natural next step for me, both personally and professionally.  I am excited about this new season and the myriad possibilities ahead! 

Saturday, April 29, 2017

April in Paris

I recently made a trip to France - initially because I had been feeling a little homesick and I was eager to reconnect with friends and visit the city that captured a bit of my heart. But more so, because the plane ticket was so cheap I couldn't NOT go! And, it's Paris, in April. Need I say more?!

I spent a few days back in Rambouillet, hanging out with friends and strolling down memory lane. The apartment I rented was perfectly situated down town, right next to a pastry shop. It couldn't have been a better location for me!

The entrance to the courtyard of my apartment is tucked under the awning of the pastry shop

The courtyard behind the pastry shop - my apartment was just on the right

The Farmer's Market was always a favorite Saturday morning activity

The Chateau at the school where I lived and worked - so many memories here

A medieval laundromat!

After catching up with friends, I headed in to Paris for a week of roaming about the city on my own. This was a much needed personal retreat - a time of solitude and reflection (anonymity in a crowd can be the perfect place for this). I had researched several non-typical, non-touristy things to do, so that I would have options and some sort of destination to wander towards as I meandered through the streets. This is the way I prefer to travel and explore - having options that allow for spontaneity in the moment, depending on the weather and what I'm in the mood for. I made it to most of the places on my list, and stumbled upon some pleasant surprises along the way.

A perfect lunch spot with a view of Notre Dame

An unexpected view from the rooftop of the Galleries LaFayette 

Some lovely street music

Canal St. Martin - the "other" river in Paris, in a quaint, artsy neighborhood

There She is - always making an appearance at the most unexpected times

The square and church near my hotel

Le musee Cluny (the museum of the Middle Ages) was fantastic and full of surprises

Le Jardin des Plantes (the botanic gardens) was impressive

This was a delightfully quiet, non-touristy church with a spectacular organ

The Rodin Gardens are calm and secluded in the heart of the city

Stacks of flowers at one of the oldest markets in the city

The view from the beautiful Pere-Lachaisse cemetery
This street performance satisfied my hopes of seeing a Jazz concert in Paris

One last walk along the river
My time was filled with  plenty of sightseeing and lots of walking, interspersed with many stops at cafes, creperies, patisseries and brasseries. I mostly survived on cheese, pastries and crepes washed down with plenty of good wine.  I left with a satisfied stomach and a full heart - thankful for the time I had to see friends and reacquaint myself with the city. In so doing, it seems I reconnected with a part of myself that had gradually been muted over the past several months. A lightness and freedom has returned to lift my spirit and carry me forward into this next season of life.

So long Paris. I'll return soon.

Wednesday, March 29, 2017

Family Weddings

You guys, I have not one, but THREE nieces getting married this year, and I just got home from the first wedding. This was a quick trip to SoCal for a few days to hang out with family and then to celebrate, and celebrate we did!

The weather was predicted to be cold and rainy most of my time there, but the sun made a few appearances and I did my best to take full advantage of it. My brother's back yard, with the lake and the fountain, is one of my favorite places to sit and ponder life.

Back yard view
Boat ride with my Pops

The rehearsal was a great time to catch up with family, and for the bride and groom to get some last minute advice from GPaw.

Rehearsal family fun time

Last minute details

In between events, I found a new hang out partner, which came as quite a surprise. For those of you who know me well, you know that I'm not typically a "baby person",  but this little guy, my great nephew, melted my heart and became my best buddy. It's always hard to say goodbye to family, but especially to this little one who won't remember me next time I visit.

Great Auntie with my buddy

And then there was the wedding and more family fun time. GPaw officiated, and had everybody laughing and crying throughout the ceremony. Just ask him about the symbolism and significance of wedding rings and see if you don't end up in tears too.

Me and my Pops

Me and the boys 


My niece Nichole

My niece Kara
My niece Wendy

GPaw with the ladies

The Happy Couple - Melissa & Cody

I don't have a lot to say this time around, but wanted to share some pics from the trip.  Deep thoughts will be coming later....

Friday, February 24, 2017

Red Velvet Cake

I've never been a fan of red velvet cake. I'm a skeptic. What's it supposed to be? It's chocolate, but it's not. It's bright red, but it's not fruity. And everyone says that they love the cream cheese frosting but, you can put cream cheese frosting on so many other (better) things - like carrot cake or brownies or zucchini bread or pumpkin cookies, or.......anything else really.  Anyway, I've just chosen to avoid it. And honestly, I'm much more of a pie and pastry kinda gal anyway.

Some random pies I made this winter
However, as fate would have it, I was recently asked to bake a red velvet cake for an office birthday celebration, which sent me on the hunt for a creative alternative. After much searching, trying to warm up to the idea of red velvet, I found this stunning recipe for Red Wine Velvet Cake from one of my favorite food bloggers, +smitten kitchen.  No red dye, a simple ingredient list, and, half a bottle of red wine! How could I go wrong?!

I didn't get any pictures of the process because, not only was my kitchen covered in splatters of red wine, cocoa powder and icing sugar, but my hands were too, which is NOT conducive to picture taking. So, you'll just have to use your imagination. However, I did capture the finished product. Each layer came out of the pan beautifully, and it went together surprisingly easily. I like the rustic, open sides, but was trying to make it a little fancy, only to realize that I should stick to pie crust and not cake decorating.

Red Wine Velvet Cake

As you can see, the half bottle of red wine sadly, did NOT make it a red cake. Either my cocoa powder was too dark, or my wine was too sweet?! Regardless, it tastes exactly like you would imagine a rich, chocolaty, red wine soaked cake, with whipped mascarpone frosting should taste, and it was a big hit in the office!

Cake stands are a beautiful luxury

Also, check out this fun cake stand. A friend of mine knows a lady who makes these from reclaimed dishes she finds at thrift stores. She uses sundae glasses or vases or candlestick holders, and mounts them to platters. I was delighted to receive this as a gift.

While I'm still not a converted red velvet cake fan, I'm glad I gave this a try, and may even make it again sometime!

Wednesday, November 2, 2016

A Year in Review

It's hard to believe I've now been back in Denver for an entire year! In some ways it seems like I never left, except that many of my stories sound pretentious because they begin with "When I lived in France...."

My first view of the Eiffel Tower

When I made the decision to go to France, I thought of it as a sabbatical year - a year away to breathe deeply, immerse myself in a new culture, learn a new language and take some intentional time to focus on my spiritual journey as well.  However, the reality was so much different than my expectations - while my year in France was a fabulous experience, it was definitely not restful or introvert-friendly!

The chaos of Montparnasse train station where I started and ended every trip into Paris

Now I've been home for a year, and as I reflect on this year of transition, I see that, just maybe, THIS has been my sabbatical year - my year of rest. I have been truly blessed by so many wonderful friends who have companioned me along this journey - providing safe places and offering me lots of space to process (one of my favorite past-times) and to figure out who I am now. This year back in Denver I've been able to breathe deeply, immerse myself in my neighborhood culture, develop my new language skills, and continue on my spiritual journey.

Cherry Creek Bike Trail downtown Denver

City of Golden - one of my favorite spots for contemplating life

One of my favorite yards in the neighborhood - check out the huge candelabra!

My neighborhood park

I chose to return to Denver specifically for Community - it was something I realized is critical for my health, happiness and wholeness. I'm not talking about having lots of friends, I'm referring to a group of people that you do life with. Those people that drop by unannounced, that you can call at any hour,  that don't have to be entertained, but can just be present with you. Those with whom you can share the joys and sorrows of life, those that know your story, those who will help you with chores - just so you can spend time together. Sharing books, recipes, and meals. Having adventures. Having a place to belong. I unexpectedly experienced this in France, and greatly miss the community I was a part of there, and am grateful for the community that has grown around me here in Denver.

Good book

Good drinks

Good food

Looking back over this past year, I never could have imagined the beautiful community that would develop around me. Old and new have mingled together to create the present. Recently, I was walking home from visiting a friend (being able to walk to a friend's house is one of my favorite things, and I now have several friends within walking distance!)  where we sat on her porch and had a cup of tea (another one of my favorite things). The weather was beautiful, my heart was full, and I thought, "I am so fortunate - I love my life!" It was such a spontaneous reaction to all that has been accumulating. True contentment is rare, and I often miss it because I'm so busy thinking about the what-if's and the maybe's, or I feel guilty for enjoying the good when so many others are hurting. But this weekend, as I was reviewing this past year, I was able to recognize and receive the gift of contentment and experience tremendous peace and joy.

Denver Botanic Gardens - an oasis in the city

Monday, March 28, 2016

A Season of Transition: Finding My Roots

I've now been back in the States for seven months, which is crazy to think about. Time sure does fly by and yet stand still at the same time. So, can I still say I'm in a season of transition? How long will my transition home take? I've moved often, and am quite familiar with the tasks and feelings involved in starting over and establishing a new life, but this returning and re-establishing is a new experience. It might seem like a minor difference, but it's actually been quite substantial for me.

I was away for nearly a year and had some significant life experiences which have shaped me and contributed to my continued growth. Returning to Denver, I wasn't sure how the "new" me would fit in and where I would belong, but friends have welcomed me with open arms. Some saved space for me while I was away, and others have made new space for me. What I sometimes forget, is that others also had a year's worth of life experiences that I was not a part of, and so when I can't figure out where I belong or why I no longer have the same place, I have to remember life continues to move forward for all of us.

Beaches always remind me of the fluidity of life

Now that I am back, I find myself struggling with finding my place and purpose in this season. My life looks almost exactly like it did before I left, which can be comforting, and I have received it as a gift; yet, before I left I was restless and dissatisfied, looking for more. So I went away and had a life-changing adventure, which was not at all what I had expected, but exactly what I needed. And now, I find myself with the same shell of a life, but my soul has changed, so things don't fit the same anymore. It's kind of like going back to visit your childhood home after being away for many years - it doesn't seem as big or grand or impressive as it once did, yet it is still so comforting and full of sentiment. You can cling to the memories and be disappointed with the reality, or you can embrace the reality and treasure the memories for what they are and how they brought you to the present.

This sign above the door at a local coffee shop recently caught my attention
In times of transition, I often find myself on an emotional roller coaster - loving the thrill of the new discoveries, the excitement of new routines, and the richness of new relationships; but also the exhaustion of unfamiliar rhythms, the burden of discovering all of the necessities of daily life, and the loneliness of casual acquaintances. In this time of returning and rediscovering, my roller coaster is off the rails as the juxtaposition of new and old, familiar and foreign collide.

I realize that some of my tension comes from trying to keep a foot in both worlds. My dad has often told me, once you make a decision, be all in, don't look back and wonder "what if", because you'll never know. Instead, embrace the decision, and if you don't like the results, make another decision and keep moving forward. So, rather than wondering "what if...." I am continuing to practice being present and making decisions that will keep me moving forward on a journey of growth and discovery, embracing this crazy adventure called Life!

I don't know the name of the artist, but what a perfectly lovely sentiment