Mt. Rushmore and the Black Hills.

On day four we woke up to birds chirping and the kids playing right outside the camper door.

Center Lake Campground, Custer State Park

They were cleaning their rocks, you see. Completely busy and unaware. The air was clean and the coffee was on it’s way. We fell in love with camping in Custer State Park.

Center Lake Campground, Custer State Park
Center Lake Campground, Custer State Park
Center Lake Campground, Custer State Park
Center Lake Campground, Custer State Park
Center Lake Campground, Custer State Park
Center Lake Campground, Custer State Park
Center Lake Campground, Custer State Park

After breakfast we packed up and headed out for the day. Mount Rushmore was on the schedule, driving through the Black Hills and Custer State Park was probably our favorite day of the trip out west. It was breathtaking and a good amount of time outside of the car at the monument meant the travel time was mostly anticipation between stops.

Day 4: Mt Rushmore

It’s also the only place we have a photo of all 4 of us 🙂

Day 4: Mt Rushmore

We had a great time learning more about how Mt. Rushmore was made, blasted out of the mountain side. How long it took, and what the presidents meant for the country at the time. The kids also spent their souvenir money at the gift shop: surprise surprise, they bought stuffed animals.

Day 4: Mt Rushmore
Day 4: Mt Rushmore
Day 4: Mt Rushmore

We had lunch and learned that President Jefferson was the first guy to introduce ice cream to the states. His recipe was on a plaque – and everyone was eating expensive tourist ice cream. (Except us, oh well!)

That night we stayed in Buffalo, WY at a KAO. There was a creek rustling through our backyard, we had amazing neighbors, and it was the first night we built a fire on the trip.

Buffalo, WY Day 4
Buffalo, WY Day 4
Buffalo, WY Day 4
Buffalo, WY Day 4

Day 5 we started driving through Montana and paying for showers…

12 weeks of freedom

Summer has arrived! And right on time.

Centennial Park
Centennial Park
Centennial Park

Every year since the 4th grade summer vacation has gone faster and faster. I say this because that was the summer I finally understood time passing. Before that the days were an endless buffet of exploring, climbing trees, riding my bike. I didn’t have a concept of time because I didn’t need one. Life was one big Saturday. And this year, this summer, it feels like eating dessert first – and with gusto, on purpose.

Is it our age? Or are we all in at a place where it’s time to savor the slower burn of time? Longer days, sun kissed shoulders. Water sports and beach days and hikes, camping, adventure.

Centennial Park
Centennial Park
Centennial Park
Centennial Park

There’s something about this season, these 12 weeks ahead of us, of freedom from rigorous charts and lists. Maybe it’s the age of our kids and the complete disregard for bedtimes or their ability to ride their bikes for miles at a time. Maybe something just opened up to us that we’ve never had before this summer. A new kind of opportunity.

Where grass stains are the mark of a well accomplished day. Where we keep track of how far our kites can fly and how long it takes for the first bite to bend our line off the end of the pier.

Centennial Park

This summer feels special. A giant red-bow wrapped package of time. And I can’t wait to tear into it.

I hope you’re not looking at me

I’ve learned that I let fear control a lot of what I allow myself to do. My expectations always over-promise and under-deliver, so I stay little. Quiet. I stay silent, mostly.

Chicago Feb 2016

I used to think I took too many photos; why was I creating such a large footprint of things that would otherwise be forgotten, un-tagged, never recognizable?

Chicago Feb 2016

I sometimes feel like a voyerisitic photographer, wanting to capture facial expressions that aren’t saying ‘cheese’, and hands working without anyone noticing. There’s a poetry in the motion of the way we work that I can’t look away from.

Chicago Feb 2016

Chicago Feb 2016

Chicago Feb 2016

Chicago Feb 2016

Chicago Feb 2016

I found a way to keep a record of how I see the world, of how I want to remember it. Daring and with more than meets the eye. Reckless, seductive, deeply meaningful, breathtakingly beautiful. Quiet and still. Safe.

Chicago Feb 2016

Chicago Feb 2016

I’ve been embarrassed about this (you see if fear is controlling me, embarrassment is harassing me).

Chicago Feb 2016

So, I hope you’re not looking at me.
Because I can see right through you.

Thanksgiving wind down

We had a bit of a restless patch in our weekend. The kids had been off school since last week Wednesday and while most of you can understand, there’s always a bit of tension around the Holidays with extended families, we weren’t exempt from that. But everyday we got outside to hike or walk or explore. Either downtown, around the neighborhood, or to some of our favorite dunes and parks.

Adventure: big boots

I ended up finishing THE BOOK that I couldn’t stop writing about (as seen here and here) while we were at the aquatic center with the kids. I took the last couple pages to the bleachers while Aaron and the kids swam around below me. I would get finished with a page and look up to see Aaron racing Oliver through the floating obstacle course, or to see Jessica bravely riding the zip-line into the pool. I would look up to see the reason I was so fired up about this book in the first place. I don’t even know why this specific one unleashed this in me, but it did. And I’m really happy.

And then on Saturday we hiked Mt. Pisgah counting stairs (203), taking every trail we came upon, and releasing the expectations of the weekend.

Mt. Pisgah hike: Thanksgiving hike

Mt. Pisgah hike: Thanksgiving hike

Mt. Pisgah hike: Thanksgiving hike

Mt. Pisgah hike: Thanksgiving hike

Mt. Pisgah hike: Thanksgiving hike

Mt. Pisgah hike: Thanksgiving hike

Mt. Pisgah hike: Thanksgiving hike

Mt. Pisgah hike: Thanksgiving hike

Mt. Pisgah hike: Thanksgiving hike

We ended our long weekend by hosting friends for dinner last night with this menu: Coconut-Ginger-Curry Clams, Roasted Tomatoes with Goat Cheese Polenta, and Banana’s Foster Upside Down Cake. The polenta was a first for me as was the upside down cake and I learned how to flambé but the first time I made clams was last winter during a blizzard over Valentines Day. And I haven’t stopped thinking about them.

The broth has a hint of sweetness from the coconut milk but the salty, zingy flavor of the red curry paste/ginger/garlic and fresh lime juice with delicate clams that open just by steaming: it’s magic. And it’s the best when you dip a pan-toasted baguette into the broth and it runs down your arms.

Eating with my fingers is my favorite way to eat. When you have to lick your fingers and pools of sauces and drippings splatter your plate with each bite. That’s the kind of feast I want to have if given the choice: the one where you’re all in. Where there’s no question as to what you’re doing: you’re eating. You’re submerged in spices and scents and seconds and you just want more.

As we were cleaning up last night and putting the leftovers away Penelope (The Kitchen Beet) suggested I smash the left over polenta into a pan and store it in the fridge overnight: then this morning I should cut wedges and lightly pan-fry them with whatever toppings I wanted for a hearty breakfast.

That sounded pretty tasty.

But last night was a tough one. I was up every few hours with bottomed-out blood sugars pounding orange juice and chasing my lows back to my normals and trying (but failing) to sleep. By six when my alarm went off I was bottomed out again at 54 and falling. So I drank my juice and laid down again until I felt strong enough to get up (the really low numbers make me weak) but by the time the kids needed to get ready for school I wasn’t functioning any better and now dealing with a headache from all this madness. Point is: by the time breakfast rolled around for me I was already on a roller coaster and wanted nothing to do with delicious pan-friend polenta wedges. So Aaron got the kids to school and made sure I was ok, and I got my strength back, and went for coffee. (Priorities)

By lunchtime I was ready to try food: And here’s what worked:

Pan-fried Polenta Wedges with Runny Eggs and Tomato Jam

In other words, left-overs: remastered.

Pan-fried Polenta with runny eggs and tomato jam.
Pan-fried Polenta with runny eggs and tomato jam.
Pan-fried Polenta with runny eggs and tomato jam.
Pan-fried Polenta with runny eggs and tomato jam.
Pan-fried Polenta with runny eggs and tomato jam.
Pan-fried Polenta with runny eggs and tomato jam.
Pan-fried Polenta with runny eggs and tomato jam.
Pan-fried Polenta with runny eggs and tomato jam.

Do you have cast iron pans? Might I suggest that be one of the only things on your Christmas list if not. TJMaxx always has some for a good price, Target has some too. You can also find them used at thrift stores. A quick seasoning of the pan and it should be good as new. ANYWAY: Melt a slab of butter in your cast iron pan (or any pan, but I like to be specific). Measurements are suggestions – so just go with it. I would only use coconut oil here if there is no goat cheese in your polenta.

Flip them a few times – when you start to see a browning crust, they’re warm. Transfer to a plate and now crack your eggs. Fry those up, flip em, and toss them over your wedges on your plate when you’ve reached your preference of “runny” egg. I had left over roasted tomatoes/spinach/garlic so I tossed that in the pan to heat up next. When I was satisfied with the heat I poured it over my polenta and eggs and squeezed a lime over it. Then I went in.

And you guys, she was right: it was good.

It was great even, the whole weekend. The dinner, the left overs, the time.

I don’t want to scare you or anything with my new-found drive to write here, but I’ll be back. I have so much to share with you.

Sanctuary Woods

Finding adventure

A few weeks ago I took Oliver on a hike to Sanctuary Woods.

Finding adventure

look closely

There’s a rhythm of habitual practice to the way I go about my life. I used to be worried about developing habits, I didn’t want to be so predictable. I wanted to be as wild and untamed as I felt inside. I wanted to follow the whims of my demanding temperament.

Finding adventure

Finding adventure

But I’ve learned that I throw myself into predictable chaos to protect myself from the reality of my vulnerability. Only what if every day was a choice to move forward? Regardless of what yesterday left undone? What if every moment was an opportunity to practice acceptance for who you are – right now?

Finding adventure

Finding adventure

Spending time on these trails reminds me to look closely. To pay attention. And when Oliver is with me, the conversation is light, he notices things I can’t even see until I take off all my preconceptions and put my cheek to the ground to see the magic he sees.

Finding adventure

He looks for the adventure and when he happens upon it, he partakes. Like a feast for your soul, he dives in. There’s no waiting to be invited to the table of wonder when you’re a child – you just leap. And I love that about them. I love living that all over again on each adventure. It rips me from my routine. It takes me from my head to my heart and it keeps me here.

Finding adventure

Finding adventure

I take a lot of photos, an overwhelming amount of memories to store and keep. I’m often reluctant to snap because I feel the weight of the responsibility to take them from the lens to the page and in all of those photos are snap-shots of my feet. I’ve been keeping track of the movement of our family for years. I’ve had a camera attached to my hand since I was fifteen, and the only place I turn it on me is down, towards the ground. Where I can prove I’m there. Where I can see that the ground is still there, where I’m planted firmly beneath the moments I keep.

Finding adventure

And the legacy of proof I’ve collected that I’m still here, still standing; Well, it keeps me moving one step forward, one at a time. Leaving old ideas, habits, and routines behind that no longer serve me well. Leaving footprints but still collecting theirs.