strong, soft

i think we think that we are afraid of death, but really we’re afraid of being alive.  because to be alive is to hold heartbeat in your hands, and to hold on is to allow for the possibility of letting go.

letting go, if you aren’t already in the know, is one of the hardest things for a human to do.  but it’s totally essential to being a happy human.  there is a mary oliver poem about this – letting go.

the thing is that we hold on so tightly, probably to compensate for the fact that we have little control.  our grip isn’t what determines staying power.  we know this, deep down in the knotted core of us, but we squeeze tighter anyway.  what else are we supposed to do, surrender?

hahahahaha.

in my work with youth, which i am loving, i am learning how little control i have.  it is freeing and empowering.  i am only one piece of their support system, our program is only one piece of their support system.  there are so many other forces at work in their lives.  to really recognize that means my energy can be spent in the moments and hours i have with them, and outside of that time i can connect with other people in their lives to best support these youth in being awesome humans.

maybe it sounds weird, but now that i am getting okayer with having less control than i would like, i am able to be a stronger force of goodness in their lives.  i read the other day, the strongest is the softest.  i really think this is true.

there is a teen who comes to our program, and he is a sweet kid, troubled, who sometimes goes to an angry place.  when he is there he is unreachable.  i was thinking about strong and soft when i was thinking about him.  i was thinking about how everything strong started soft.  like, all of the places in us where we’ve built up a strong defense?  we needed that defense because something felt vulnerable, goopy, exposed.  and then i was thinking about nature.  seeds.  husks.  bark.  roots.  petals that open only when the sun is out.  branches that give enough to let wind rush through them.

it’s not good or bad or strong or soft, it’s strong and soft.

anyway, i came here to write about how i don’t want to be afraid of death.  that’s what i was thinking yesterday.  but then i realized, i want to be unafraid of life.  that’s a funny thought – being afraid of life.  the one thing we have.  the one thing we’re doing, amidst all the other junk we’re doing.

life is really it.  it’s all we have, and we don’t have anything anyway.  we’re all on borrowed time, and we don’t get to decide when it’s over or when it begins or what’s next.  i want to be okay with that.  you know, god’s time and all that.  i think letting go of all of the unknowns (of which there are so fucking many, you guys!) will help me get out of the way and live.

i want, so much, to get out of the way and live.  i want to be so alive that when i die my cheeks are flushed and my heart is full.  that’s what i want.  just that.  only that.

rings

I went on a walk yesterday.  The sky was gray and soft, and everything was quiet.  Winter is beautiful because you can really hear.  My rain boots made rings on the swimming-pool sidewalks, and the slosh was like bells or the song of tiny chirping birds.  Frothy water was frozen at the lake’s shore, and the air was cold enough that I could see my breath, but not so cold to take it from me.  I saw circles in the cores of trees, and spirals in the water rushing around the city streets, and I thought about age and time and the journey.

I was thinking about rings because I am 27 now.  I’m excited for year 27 – it’s a magic number for me.  On a 27th I flew to Hungary to teach ESL and learn about pain, paprika and how to be at home anywhere.  On another 27th I flew back to California to unpack in all the ways one can unpack and to start and then stop a jam-making business, and on yet another 27th I hopped in my car and moved to Vermont.  And now, here I am.  27 years on this earth, this time around at least.  More rings on my tree.  More trips around the sun.  I’m getting closer to something.

Although the day itself felt uneventful, I am excited about this new year.  I just have a good feeling about it.  And while I didn’t really make resolutions, there are a few things I want for myself in 2014.

 

I want to let things come to me, and I don’t want to need much.

I want to harness that calm and forward-moving energy, especially at work.

I want to accept things for what they are.  This includes me.

I want to move my body more, and I want to sweat.

I want to sprout and brew and ferment and experiment more in the kitchen.

I want to write and sing and strum more.

I want to nurture my relationships.

I want to let go of everything that does not serve me.

I want to get out of the way.

I want to stop judging so that I’ll have time to love.

 

Here’s to a year of love, growth, and getting out of the way.  I know we’ll get everything we need.

 

gluten free maseca pancakes

gluten_free_maseca_pancakes

It’s Saturday morning, let’s make pancakes!  Now there’s absolutely nothing wrong with our traditional old-fashioned pancakes, but if you’re looking to switch things up, try these corn flour pancakes.  They’re sweet, but not too sweet.  They are moist and chewy.  And they’re gluten free!

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I love them slathered with almond butter and maple syrup.  But you can’t go wrong with a dollop of orange marmalade.

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I burned this batch around the edges because I used to suck at cooking pancakes.  It probably had something to do with patience, or lack there-of.  But this is real life and sometimes the pancake edges burn.  If we have to talk about it, let’s call them “charred.”

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It makes them look rustic, right?  Totally.  Yep.  For sure.

The maseca (corn flour) makes these pancakes.  They’re equally good for a lightly sweet breakfast as they are with chili for those times that you’re too lazy to make actual cornbread.  Don’t tell me I’m the only one…

Gluten Free Maseca Pancakes

Ingredients

  • 1/2 cup Maseca or corn flour
  • 1/2 cup gluten-free flour mix (I used Trader Joe's all-purpose baking mix)
  • 1/2 tsp baking powder
  • 1 pinch salt
  • 2 eggs
  • 1/2 cup plain greek yogurt
  • 1/2 cup almond milk
  • 1 - 2 tbs honey

Instructions

  1. Mix the dry ingredients in a medium bowl and make a well.
  2. In a separate bowl, beat the eggs until frothy. Add the yogurt, almond milk and honey and mix until well combined.
  3. Pour the wet ingredients into the dry ingredients and mix.
  4. Fry the pancakes in oil or butter over medium-low heat. Serve with toppings as desired.

Notes

For a savory pancake, add some Mexican spices, pepper or cheese. I bet diced green chiles would be awesome, too.

You can sub all-purpose flour or another flour of your choice for the gluten-free flour mix.

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Canning 101: lovely labels + painted rings

tangerine marmalade label

Canning’s only half the fun.  Today let’s talk about making our canned goods cute.  As a friend’s grandma says, “Go cute or go home!”

Step 1. Paint those rings!

painting rings

 

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You’ll need paint (I like Martha Stewart’s Glossy paint) and Mod Podge or some kind of sealer.  We love paint and we love jam, but we definitely don’t want paint in our jam.  So seal those babies up!

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peach butter label

If you want your rings to look awesome like this one . . . whisk your paintbrush (and hopefully it’s a bristly paintbrush) lightly back and forth on the ring.  Be gentle and sparse.  Use different colors.  Play. Then, seal!  This is my favorite technique.

salsa label

Let’s talk about labels for a sec.  I love to make labels, and scrapbooking paper is your best friend, even though you might feel like a soccer mom/cat lady when you buy a huge book of it at Michael’s.  Buy it anyway.  To get the perfect size, flip your ring upside down, and trace!  Use a glue-stick to affix your label to your jar.

strawberry rhubarb label

Some of you guys make labels on your computer, and that’s definitely more efficient.  I’m just not that fancy and don’t have a printer.  To speed up the process, buy a circular paper punch or get some label paper.

If you’re looking for labels or label ideas, my favorites are compiled here.  This one is particularly genius!

 

Put a (painted) ring on it!

Jess

12345

i have learned a couple of things lately.

 

1. people come into your life for a reason

1a. and sometimes we don’t know why.

1b. and we don’t know how long they’ll stay.

 

2. love is a bird.  so don’t squeeze, breathe.

 

3. if you do the work of opening up the space, something will come fill it.

3a. usually fists and tears and surrender and aching makes the space.

3b. and then comes the light.

 

4. we’re not in control.  sorry, we’re just not.  like, we’re really really really not.  it helps to laugh-cry.

 

so as you can see, life is good here.  very juicy!  it got jammy sticky seedy for a sec, but i’ve licked the honey from my fingers and i’m going back to being surrendery about life.  how can i live if i am squeezing so hard nothing can breathe?  and if i am squeezing so hard, how can i breathe?

 

which brings me to number 5. fear!  fear can come along for the ride, but love should always lead the way.  i am working so hard on not letting my fears lead me, or keep me from things.  if i don’t move, nothing moves.  if i don’t change, nothing changes.

fear is so huge in a lot of our lives.  it’s the dark room inside of us that we keep the door closed to.  and the monsters grow shadowy and bigger every second we don’t look because our minds are like ripley’s believe it or nots, our minds are black ice and fog lights.  don’t believe so much in your mind.  trust that heart.

 

oh excuse me, were you here for recipes and not for bathroom-book-life-advice?  my apologies.

on a food-related note, we have a giveaway winner!  and i’m so super sorry it has taken me a million years to announce it, i’ve been busy learning all these lessons to share with you.  the winner is sarah with an h!  yay!  contact me to collect your prize.

love y’all.

nameless tribe

sometimes i feel like i don’t quite fit anywhere.  my edges are too soft, or perhaps i’m not edgy enough.  i sometimes shave but i’m not really committed to hippie-hairy-chic or clean-shaven-babe.  i have a nose ring but no crayola colors in my hair.  and i make jam but i don’t brew kombucha.  i’m somewhere in the middle of clean jean and dirty hippie.  i’m so well rounded i splay out everywhere, like soft flesh, like water.

it’s not so bad, to be water.

but sometimes it’s lonely in this nameless tribe.

what irks me is that so many of us feel the need to be known as something.  to wear some kind of costume or mask.  to talk about who we are instead of just being it.  this is one of the red flags i’ve recently discovered.  if you feel the need to tell me how good you are; how you do what you can, when you can, for who you can – i’m over it.  if you are goodhearted (and we’re all goodhearted, truly, i don’t think hearts know any other way to be) i will feel it when i am near to you.  i will see it in your eyes.

we tell the kids at the teen center sometimes, when we catch them in moments of so-called misbehavior: “i know you are a good kid.”  i think a lot, lately, about the power of our words, especially when working with kids.  especially when working with teens, who are playing one long pimply gangly angly game of dress-up.  trying on different clothes and social groups, attitudes and interests.  i love to be able to see through it and see who they are at the center.  this isn’t to say i know exactly who they are (nor do i know exactly who i am) but that i can see through the armor and makeup and into the goodness.

there is something so beautiful about being seen for the source of who you are.

for the water, the pure and bubbling source, before it’s diverted or diluted.

who we are is a complicated question, but only because we always seem to be confusing what we are and where we are and what we like with who we are.  but i think who we are is answered in the stillness.

who we are, or who i am anyway, might be nameless, but as true as breathing.

we are loving, infinite, kind.  we are fluid—breath, stars, and water.  we are the source.

though we can spend our lives looking for the source, we are the source.  we are thirsty and we are the water.  we feel empty but we contain everything that can fill us.

so maybe it’s lonely sometimes, feeling nameless, but i don’t want to need names.  i feel my heart beating true, a reminder to come back into the present with every gentle beat and breath, and this is enough.  let this be enough.

a food-blogger manifesto: messy kitchens and all

i’m in this place where i hate food blogs and pinterest and perfect photos and rustic tablescapes (can we stop for a sec and just think about how ridiculous that word is?  tablescape?!) and mouth-feel and locavore and small-batch and tea towels.

i’m bombarded by picture-perfect pictures, and i’m sick of it.

there is this ani difranco lyric, “i’ve got the kind of beauty that moves” and i think we are stilling and distilling our food (and our lives, for that matter).  it’s like we’ve put costumes on it.  the lighting has to be just right, the kitchens immaculate, the pieces of cake crumbled to perfection.  do you know for cereal commercials they use gluey water instead of milk?

i just like to write and i like to make things in my kitchen and once upon a time i decided to start a canning company.  and now i have this blog and i don’t know what i’m doing.

sometimes i have things to say that have nothing to do with food and have more to do with my feelings.  i don’t know who wants to read them, or how they want to be shared.

but this now-now-now world of instagram and instant sharing, of liking and following, of photo-shopped perfection and flour-dusted everything is making me crazy.   marketing and giveaways and amazon affiliate accounts.  i am drowning in it and losing myself.

i have already ranted about this, about not feeling enough.

this doesn’t really feel like gather round kitchen anymore.  and i am not canning so much lately.  it’s kind of weird.  i think i needed canning to be my “thing” and now i don’t.  maybe i’m having a temporary identity crisis, or maybe this blog is.

i guess part of it is that the work i’m doing through my americorps service at this awesome non-profit feels more important than beautiful photos and yet another small-batch! quick & easy! 5-ingredient! fall-flavor! recipe.  these kids break my heart and inspire me and teach me so much every day.  my heart and mind are more focused on being a container for this work.

the other part is that i just love writing so much, and think that in perfect worlds we get paid somehow for what we love and i thought this blog might somehow be that or lead to that, but i need to put my hands back on the pulse of why i am here and what i’m doing.

to write and to live, messy kitchens and all.

to be with kids.

to always write what’s true.

i guess this is more of a manifesto for me, a promise to quit with the bullshit and always write the truth.  an oath not to give a shit about how many followers or facebook likes, how many comments, page views, or re-pins.

none of those things are good reasons to write or share.  none of this has anything to do with why i’m here, or why you’re reading.

what did i say was the point of all this again?  oh yeah- to write and to live, messy kitchens and all.

let’s do it.

the homemade pantry cookbook giveaway

Pumpkin chocolate chip bars are in the oven and it’s giveaway time!  I’m doing that really annoying thing people sometimes do when it comes to presents.  This is a cookbook I really want, but instead I’m giving it away to one of you.  This should work out for you, though, since you probably like baking, cooking, and domestic god(dess)-ness in general.  I mean, you are reading this, after all.  Or you just like me.  Either way, let’s get to the goods.

the homemade pantry

One lucky winner will receive a copy of The Homemade Pantry: 101 Foods You Can Stop Buying and Start Making by the awesome Alana Chernila, blogger of the soulful and sincere Eating from the Ground Up.  Recipes in this book range from granola to ketchup, preserves to sodas, mozarella to pop tarts.  Pop tarts, people.  This book truly has it all, and the recipes are wholesome and way less processed than what you’d buy in a package.  Think of all the bonus points you’ll get for bringing these dishes to parties!

homemade pantry giveaway

Here’s how to enter the giveaway:

Step 1. Follow/subscribe to this blog and/or like gather round kitchen on facebook, as this giveaway is for gather round kitchen followers.

Step 2. Leave a comment below letting me know what you like to make from scratch, or what you’re excited to start making from scratch.

This giveaway will close Saturday, November 2nd at 10 p.m. Eastern time.

For good karma and virtual bonus points, share this giveaway on facebook and pinterest.

Thanks for liking and following me, and for hanging in when posts have been slim as I adjust to my awesome new Vermont life.  And for that time I said I’d post a rhubarb recipe later in the week, and then it happened at the tail end of rhubarb season, when many weeks had passed.

Jess

jessica lately

creeme bliss

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sarah and jess food swap

salad in a jar

beet pasta salad  

october food swap bounty

lately . . .

saw a dog, wanted a dog.  can’t have a dog.  yet.  because of my apartment which has a finger-quotes “yard”.

dreaming of the home i want.  chickens, garden, happy kitchen, lots of light.  maybe bees and bunnies.  dog.

starting all kinds of crafty projects: lavender candles, vanilla extract, infinity scarf.

another food swap, as you can see from photos above.  this time with sarah!  yay sarah!  we made apple chutney and pumpkin woopie pies with vermont maple cream cheese.  bam!  i also threw together a pesto beet pasta salad. it was pink.  everyone brought amazing food, as usual, and i went home with a happy belly.

watched a rugby game, which was basically a girl-on-girl brawl with lots of tackling.

i got bogs!  so now i’m readier for winter and really a vermonter.  i arrived here with rarely-shaven legs, a liberal leaning, and canning/kitchen prowess – but the bogs have really sealed the deal.

life’s good!  i’ve been stressing out a tiny bit (this is an outright lie) about work and i had a date with a weirdo (who referred to the act of spreading lovingkindness as “a delicious rebellion” to which i replied, “isn’t rebellion the antithesis of lovingkindness?” because i was in a bad mood and who saaaays that?  really?  reeeeeeally!) and i am conferenced out (not to mention one conference workshop included balloons, and i have a major issue with balloons because they make me feel really anxious and when the balloons came out i said “i don’t do balloons” [such an american expression] and they women at my table were incredibly concerned – “latex allergy?  how bad is it?  is it only when you touch them?  can you be around them?” so i just said yes because emotionally i am super allergic to latex in the context of balloons.  our whole table of concerned ladies sat out the activity in support of my special need.  i excused myself to pee because my emotional allergy to latex was really heating up even though i wasn’t physically touching the balloons.)

wow. that was a long story.

anyway, i’m behind on blogging.  more canning 101 posts are coming soon, and a giveaway will arrive either tonight or tomorrow, so keep your purdy eyes peeled.

in the meantime, while you’re waiting for the giveaway, might i suggest listening to this song on repeat?

thanks to sarah for the photos, and for being the best.