It snowed this week. That was fun. Here’s three things I’ve been doing as I watch the snowflakes fly.
SOMETHING I’M LISTENING TO: DIRTWIRE
You always remember your first time.
Mine was in the auditorium of Western Washington University in Bellingham, Washington. I was ten. Both my mom and dad were there. It was life-changing.
It was my first (non-classical) live music experience. We had traveled up north to see The Earl Scruggs Band and The Nitty Gritty Dirt Band perform together. Both my parents were classically-trained pianists, but for as long as I could remember, my mom had kept a banjo stowed under the bed in her bedroom. It didn’t come out often, but I loved the sharp twang of the strings when it did. Inspired by her father and his West Virginia Appalachian roots, my mom knew how to pick bluegrass on the banjo as well as play Mozart on the piano. Later, she acquired a beautiful mandolin, which I would gingerly take down off its place on her dresser and strum a few woeful, dissonant notes. My young, malleable mind was blown after that concert in Bellingham. The visceral power and impact of live music forever etched into my body and brain. We went back home to Tacoma and I immediately put Will The Circle Be Unbroken on repeat.
So, maybe it’s the hillbilly in me that makes me love Dirtwire so much. Dirtwire is comprised of David Satori, Evan Fraser and Mark Reveley–each of whom create music with other bands (Beats Antique, Bolo, Dogon Lights, Jed and Lucia) as well as with each other. Dirtwire is where bluegrass and blues, Americana and African beats, kazoos and synthesized psychedelia intersect and create a magical soundscape that is uniquely theirs. My yoga playlists are peppered with their genre-defying tracks. Lucky for us all, they are set to release their sixth record, Blaze, December 1st and have given us a sneak-preview with their single, “Stranger”, which you can download or stream here. Even better, Dirtwire is on tour now and will be riding into Seattle November 15th for a show at the Nectar Lounge in beautiful downtown Fremont. Snatch up your ticket here and maybe I’ll see you there.
My mom loved Bach, Jim Morrison, Leonard Bernstein and bluegrass. If she were still here today, I’m pretty sure Dirtwire would be on that list, too.
SOMETHING I’M COOKING: BREAD AND SOUP
Those of you who know me well know that I take a deep dive off the high board into my nesting right after Halloween. I try not to travel much between Halloween and New Years. My music-scene exploits become fewer and farther between and it takes some creative coaxing for me to venture out, especially in the evenings. I create hygge at its finest, if I do say so myself.
So when the surprising autumn snow began to fly on Friday, I took it as a sign to get busy. Inside. In my kitchen. With my two cats nestled together at the foot of the fireplace. I had recently come upon a recipe for what was touted as the best bread ever eaten–Kindred’s Milk Bread. This bread is served at Kindred Restaurant in North Carolina and is, allegedly, what dreams are made of. Do you ever read a recipe and feel an overwhelming compulsion to try it? No? Well, that’s what happened to me on Friday when it began to snow.
There’s something about baking bread that is just so wonderful. Baking bread is a full-on sensual experience that takes time. Lots of time. Sometimes, too much time. But it was Friday and I had nothing else distracting me (except writing this blog) so I pulled out the kneading hook of my trusty KitchenAid mixer and went to town. Milk, yeast, honey, eggs, flour. I followed the recipe to a “t”. My house was warm, but maybe not warm enough to warrant an outstanding first rise of the dough. Or second rise, for that matter. Nonetheless, hours after I began, the loaves went in the oven. The house smelled like magic. Forty-five minutes later, I pulled them out looking less-than-lofty but hoping for the best.
I mean, how bad can homemade bread be?
Not that bad, it turns out. But not outstanding either. Maybe a longer rise time was needed, maybe I killed the yeast, maybe it just wasn’t my bread baking day. However, it turns out Kindred’s Milk Bread makes fantastic toast on the morning after. If you bake some, let me know all your secrets to success.
Along with the bread, my plan was to stir up some Smoky Pumpkin Soup–a recipe sent to me from a dear pal with encouragement that the soup was foolproof and delicious. Turns out it was British, too, with instructions and measurements written in a charming UK flavor. Super simple, it required roasting almost all of the ingredients on a sheet pan for about an hour, blending it up and then heat and serve. Easy-peasy. The bread was in the oven when I brought my two sugar pumpkins in from the snow. Pumpkins are slippery little devils with thick, unyielding skin. Visions of amputated digits danced in my head, causing me to swap out my sharpest chef knife with one of those small, serrated jack-o-lantern carving knives from the grocery store. Still, gutting and cubing two pumpkins took an inordinate amount of time. I left the tough skin on while roasting–mostly because I was exhausted and thought it best to put my knives away.
Pumpkin, carrots, onion and garlic covered with slices of thick, smoky bacon, drizzled with olive oil and dusted with sage, thyme, red pepper flakes and smoked paprika. Again, the kitchen filled with the smell of magic.
Once out of the roasting pan, the pumpkin skins slid off effortlessly. I dumped the whole mess into my cast iron soup pot along with a quart of chicken stock and went to town with my immersion blender. You could always toss it in a regular blender or food processor if that’s more your style. The result was a brilliant golden-orange puree of smoky delight flecked with dark, caramelized roasted bits of veggies and bacon. I stirred in a splash or two of cream at the end, but even without it, this soup’s a winner.
And I definitely didn’t need two sugar pumpkins. All that hazardous work slicing and dicing resulted in double the amount of pumpkin the recipe called for. I tossed the leftovers into the freezer because I’m pretty certain I’ll be slinging more of this Smoky Pumpkin Soup before my nesting time is done.
SOMETHING I’M DOING: GUARDING MY GATE
“Go into yourself and see how deep the place is from which your life flows.” ~ Rainer Maria Rilke
Every November, I begin to encourage my yoga classes to imagine how they would like their final two months of the year to play out. Whether or not you observe any of the traditional holidays, November and December can be rife with sparkly distraction and too much to do. Before you know it, “Auld Lang Syne” is being sung as the champagne corks fly and you feel like you’ve been hit by a Mack truck. Everything of the past month is a blur. Create a vision and be intentional with all your choices, I suggest instead.
So imagine my delight when one of my favorite yoga teachers, Christina Sell, showed up in my inbox with a month-long program called “Shelter From The Storm.” Each day in November, I get a lovely reflection to meditate on, sometimes a recording of a guided meditation, other times a short physical practice. All with the intent of guarding the gate of our inner life. How do we hold onto the truth of ourselves when our awareness is constantly being diverted outwardly?
Distraction. It’s a motherfucker.
We allow ourselves to become distracted when we’re trying to please others more than ourselves. We allow ourselves to become distracted when the discomfort of being present within outweighs the inconvenience of the outward distraction. Sometimes distraction becomes a way of life, seeping in, bit by bit, getting so deep that one day we wake up and realize we can’t find our way out. When we begin to define ourselves by external influences, we risk losing ourselves in the chaos.
So, guard your gate.
What this looks like is choosing to sit in silence in meditation or prayer before logging onto social media each day. It means being as deliberate and intentional with what you feed your brain as you do with what you feed your body. Be wise when choosing your sources of news and how you spend your free time and with whom. It means extracting yourself from the hustle and bustle of the holidays and asking yourself “what’s important to me?”
Being the guardian of your inner life and honoring your inner truths is not selfish. Being present for yourself–your deepest self–naturally fosters the ability to be present for others.
And honestly, I can’t imagine a better gift to give to and receive from the people I love the most.
Well, unless it’s a pair of John Fluevog shoes.