Saturday, November 21, 2015

Failure is simply part of the adventure

I've been in my own place now for almost three weeks. Which means there's been lots of unpacking of boxes, sorting, purging and finding the right place to put things away. The amazing thing is, I'm back in my same adorable place that I was living in before I left. Yes, that's right, as fate would have it, it became available the same week I accepted a job. So, two months after returning to Denver, I now have a car, a job, and a place to live!

My little car and my neighborhood

The view from my office window
To settle in and really make it feel like home, and to have a good excuse to take a break from unpacking, I've been doing a bit of baking. Last Friday, after I heard the news of the horrific tragedy in Paris, I was in shock and unable to focus on anything as I waited to hear from friends. As I waited, I decided I would bake a batch of macarons - something I learned to bake while living in France and something minor that I felt I could do to connect with and honor my French friends. Since I don't yet have a food scale, I spent some time converting the recipe from grams to cups and was hopeful it would work. Sadly, it did not. Here is failed attempt number one at baking french macarons at altitude.

I didn't get the air out of the meringue, so they cracked when I took them out of the oven

I didn't cook them long enough, so they turned into a pile of chocolate crumbs as I tried to get them off the paper

Don't worry, I didn't throw away all of those chocolatey macaron crumbs, instead I made a crème anglaise and created a little trifle adding fresh blackberries. Sorry, no picture of this one, but round two of macarons will commence soon!

Shortly after returning to Denver, a friend ordered a pie to support my baking addiction, and patiently waited while I figured out which end was up and got reestablished. So, earlier this week, I finally fulfilled that order and made a salted-caramel apple pie. This one is always a big hit and has earned me more than one marriage proposal over the years! It's the perfect blend of flaky crust, crisp apples and crumbly topping, with the creamy caramel holding it all together.

Salted-Caramel Apple Pie

A few days ago I was headed to Boulder to spend an evening with new and old friends and wanted to bring a little dessert to share, but didn't want to make a trip to the store. So, scouring my pantry (thanks to some dear friends who generously re-stocked my pantry with baking supplies), I found the things I needed to make a gluten-free pumpkin cheesecake! The balance of the crunchy nut crust with the smooth pumpkin cream seemed to be greatly appreciated by all.

Pumpkin Cheesecake with a nut crust
As I was looking at my sad pile of macaron crumbs, I was reminded that while things don't always turn out the way we expected them to, it doesn't mean it's a failure, it's simply part of the adventure, and an opportunity to creatively explore new ideas.  As I continually work to adjust my perspective and expectations, whether in the kitchen or in life,  I often find new surprises and hidden gifts where I least expect them.

Thursday, October 22, 2015

Exploring Denver with a fresh Perspective

Denver International Airport
The beauty of the Denver skies welcomed me home nearly two months ago. It's hard to believe it's been that long, but I just counted out the weeks and, it's true, I have just concluded week eight of being back in Colorado. It has been an absolutely beautiful Fall here, with glorious sunny days, colorful leaves, and bright blue skies. And, in this time of transition, I have been blessed by generous and gracious friends who have provided the time and space I needed to readjust to a life that is somewhat familiar and yet so foreign. As part of my transition process, I have been able to explore the Denver area like it was all brand new to me. I brought the joy and wonder I had while exploring European cities and discovered a whole new beauty in Denver.

Look, Denver has it's own "Arche de Triomphe"

The beauty of details
A fountain reminiscent of my time in Aix en Provence
While parts of the city have reminded me of Europe, this huge outdoor fireplace is such a Colorado thing - it made me smile. I was sitting in a little park/outdoor café next to a crepe stand feeling like I'd been transported back to the Luxembourg gardens, when I turned around and noticed this gigantic fireplace and was caught in this liminal space between cultures - it was so fun to get to experience the gift of being present in the moment and enjoying memories of being present in another place at another time. This experience reminded me that we all have filters through which we see and experience the world. With France freshly imprinted on my soul, I now see Denver with a fresh, new perspective  - one that isn't expecting it to be Europe, but simply makes it come alive in a whole new way.

"Climb the mountains and get their good tidings. Nature's peace will flow into you."

In my opinion, one of the many great things about Denver are the bike paths that wind through the city, and I recently had the luxury of spending a pleasant, sunny afternoon exploring the city, taking in the views from my bike seat.
Confluence park

Some new street art in the process of being created

The Dancing People

Cherry Creek - a quiet place in the city

And so, the city has embraced me and welcomed me home, reminding me that it is full of beauty and wonder.

Tuesday, September 29, 2015

So, what are you doing now?

Life has a way of moving forward whether we want it to or not. Whether we are holding on to the old and resisting the new, or we are denying the past and worrying about the future; whatever it is, if we are not living fully in the present moment it disappears before we know it, and then we discover that we haven't really lived at all, but we've been looking back or looking ahead, waiting for some vague image of a dream or a memory.

One day last year I realized that I was ready to embrace the present - to stop trying to manage outcomes and control my future, and to step out of the tiny box I had squeezed myself into in the past. My safe and comfortable life was no longer satisfying. There was something just a bit hollow and empty, and I could no longer deny the restlessness in my soul. And so, as I admitted this truth and opened myself to the possibilities, I found myself quitting my job, selling my car, packing a couple of bags, and putting everything else in a tiny storage unit, so that I could get on a plane to an unknown future in France. This blog began as a way for me to share my journey with you as I embarked on this new adventure, and what an adventure it has been!

Now, nearly a year later I find myself back in Colorado, sitting in the uncomfortable liminal space of a whole lot of unknowns, yet being more at peace than I've been in a long time. I've returned to my place of belonging, my community, my support network. As I continue to learn to share my needs, to put more of my weight on the bridge of relationship that connects me to others, I find myself overwhelmed with generous hospitality and kindness. In this, yet another season of transition, my friends and family are patiently and joyfully walking with me.

After a year away, I was hopeful that I would have this great epiphany, that my true purpose in life would blatantly present itself so that I would know without a shadow of a doubt what was next.... but the heavens remained silent, and instead, I've heard the quiet whisper of the Spirit, the gentle calling of the One who created me: Be present. Be patient. Be still. Be open.

So what am I doing now? That's the question everyone asks. If I say that I am simply being present and waiting, people get a bit uncomfortable, because we are a society of doing, not being. We make things happen, we don't take time to watch them grow and develop. And so, the socially correct answer is; I'm looking for a car, a job, and a place to live. I've polished my resume and submitted applications, I'm networking and..... doesn't that all sound nice? And yet, if I'm looking to reconstruct my life as it was, to replicate what I had, then why did I leave? The reality is, I am doing all of the necessary things to find a source of income, to have reliable transportation, and to have a long-term, sustainable place to live.... and yet what's different is my heart. My internal motivations and questions are very different now. As I embrace the fullness and authenticity of who I am, I will find those things that are necessary for me to live a satisfying life, but they will not define me, they will simply be a part of my story.

Friday, September 4, 2015

Solitude in the Loire Valley

I have been grossly negligent in updating you on my various adventures, but you see, I've been busy having adventures! After I finished my studies and work, I took a week-long holiday to the Loire Valley where I spent my days roaming around castles, vineyards, and gardens. It was a week of rest and renewal, and a bit of indulgence as I mentally and spiritually embraced my next season of transition. I had a glorious week of solitude in this valley famous for its castles, which is also an epicenter for spiritual pilgrimages.



Thanks to the help of a dear friend, and the generous hospitality of a new friend, I got to stay in a beautiful home perfectly situated in the heart of the city of Tours. Each day I would go out and explore, then wrap up the afternoon down by the gypsy camp at the river. Ok, it wasn't a real gypsy camp, but it was an outdoor bar with live music and dancing, and all sorts of creative seating overlooking the river.

La Guinguette (The Country Café) - or in my mind The Gypsy Camp
The Game Shack (bus) at The Gypsy Camp

These boats reminded me of the gypsy boats in the movie Chocolat
The outdoor library/study at The Gypsy Camp

One day I rented a bike and rode to the nearby village of Amboise. It was a beautiful but long ride along the river and through vineyards. The chateau was impressive, but I was also intrigued by the many houses built directly into the cliffs. I also discovered wine caves built in the cliffs, which gives a whole new perspective on a wine cellar.


Another day I hopped on the train and went to the village of Chinon. We passed through field after field of sunflowers and more vineyards too.  I enjoyed exploring the village with the comforting presence of the chateau towering overhead.

Unknowingly, I saved the best chateau for the last. I was a bit done with seeing castles, but had heard this was a must see, and I am very thankful I made the effort to go. The chateau of Chenonceau is a grand estate, with all of the outbuildings, flower and vegetable gardens immaculately kept. From every direction the castle takes on a new personality, and I found myself thoroughly immersed in the history of the various women who had lived here, while I soaked up the beauty of the architecture and the landscapes.

This was a week of quiet reflection. I filled up a lot of journal pages as I prepared to say goodbye to France and re-enter the US. It was an ideal location for me to embrace this next season of transition. I was able to revel in the beauty and splendor of the French countryside, indulge in the delicious French cuisine, and simply be present to my heart and soul.



Monday, August 31, 2015

Saying goodbye was not easy.... which is actually a good thing

At the end of July I finished my time at the school in France where I have been studying and working for the past ten months. I had the good fortune of working with some pretty amazing people who were not only colleagues and teachers, but friends. Here is a glimpse of a few of the people who have been a part of my journey this past year. By no means is this everyone, as I don't have pictures of many, but these are some of the people who made this year special for me.

I spent a LOT of time with these crazy guys

Partners in crime and fun

Patient teachers and dear friends

Baking Buddy, teacher, friend - she welcomed me into her life

Dedicated teacher and friend, she always made sure I was taken care of -
 and her kiddos were my favorite English students!

She was our housekeeper, but so much more

Our Chef, who patiently taught me French vocabulary for all things cooking related
This guy... he's an American-Frenchman with a huge heart full of kindness

Hospitable, kind, and super talented - she provided a home away from home

He put up with me day in and day out - providing laughter and balance in the chaos

And so, memories were made and friendships grew, and this is what made it difficult to say goodbye. I'm thankful it was difficult, because that means I was present and invested in relationships which have impacted me greatly and which will be truly missed. Thank you to all of you who were a part of my journey at Planete-Langues, you are now forever part of my story.