Category Archives: musings

Lessons from overnight oats

oats

Do you dream of waking up to a breakfast that is healthy, delicious, satiating and already prepared for you?

I used to have this dream too. Then my husband caught on and began serving me breakfast in bed… no, just kidding. I learned how to make overnight oats, and my mornings got a lot simpler. Relaxing. Energizing. By spending just 10 minutes on prep the night before, I can have breakfast ready to go for me the next day without any further work. Yes, you too can experience the time-saving, energy-boosting benefits of overnight oats!

I first came across the concept of overnight oats from the blog Oh She Glows, a wonderful plant-based food blog that I’ve found to be an indispensable resource and inspiration for my own cooking. I started out following her recipe to a T (it’s so yummy!), and eventually, ventured on to making my own creations.

Currently, my morning concoction consists of one smashed banana, 1 tbsp of chia seeds, 1 tbsp of hemp protein powder, 1/4 cup rolled oats, 1/2 cup nut milk, 1 tbsp peanut butter, and a generous dash of cinnamon. Occasionally, I’ll blend a date with my milk to add extra sweetener. I add all of these ingredients to a jar, mix, top with a lid, and stick in my fridge overnight. And that’s it! In the morning I pull the jar out of the fridge to allow it to warm up a bit while I prepare a pot of tea.

I think the best thing about overnight oats is that you can customize your jar according to your own tastes, dietary needs, and pantry. I haven’t even mentioned the add-ins of granola, yogurt, seeds, avocado, dried fruit, muesli… the possibilities are really endless. The second best thing? It takes minimal work, and it’s ready for you when you roll out of bed. If you’re lucky, you can even convince your partner/housemate/family to jump on the bandwagon, making evening prep work an overnight oats party.

Here are some overnight oats recipes that I’m eager to try:

Overnight Oats with Chocolate and Coconut from In My Bowl — On the sweet side, but the list of ingredients make me salivate, and the end result looks divine

Overnight Oats with golden macadamia milk and quinoa flakes from Tastyasheck — Macadamia milk?! I can’t wait to make this nut milk

Matcha overnight oats with muddled berries from Nurturing Kitchen — I love the taste and color of matcha, so I have high hopes for this one

Singing out

guitar“I hear it’s music ringing,
It sounds an echo in my soul.
How can I keep from singing?”

–Robert Wadsworth Lowry

Some of you know that I sing in the Eugene Peace Choir. I joined in September, and it has quickly become one of my favorite things. Every Monday, for two hours, I feel as I do with a pen and paper in my hand: I’m playing. But this play is not the reckless, mindless type. It is disciplined. It follows rhythm and patterns. It challenges me to listen inwardly, to pay attention to what the other voices in the room are doing. If I haven’t already taken the time in the day to really listen to my breath, then I do so when I sing. I straighten my back, hold my body up with the certain belief that my body is capable and worthy of making music. And on top of it all, I have fun. I delight in the words of the songs, in meeting the right note, in seeing the progress that the group makes together week after week.

Since I began choir, some of my friends have said to me, “I didn’t know you sing!” That’s fair enough. They wouldn’t know because I’ve largely kept this interest to myself. The last time I sang in front of people was in middle school choir. Since then, I’ve been a closeted singer (a shower/car singer). I acted in plays in high school, but never auditioned for the musicals. I watched my musical friends sing in choirs, bands, and living rooms and whisper sang (“swispered”?) beneath their voices. My husband, knowing how much I love to sing, suggested that we sing a song for our wedding day, and just the idea of it made me want to jump into the Hood Canal and float out into oblivion.

So why the fear? I’m still figuring it out, but I suspect it was because singing is a vulnerable act, one that subjects the singer to possible judgement and criticism. Not only did I fear this criticism, but I truly believe that I didn’t feel confident enough in my own singing voice to embrace it and share it regardless of what people might think of it. I wasn’t going to learn how to sing in front of people by thinking something like, “I hope they like what they hear” or even “Who cares what they think!” The key for me was learning how to love my voice–and, ultimately, myself–no matter how it sounded or who was listening. Then I could sing with confidence in front of an audience.

I learned to love my voice by joining a choir. I’ve rediscovered the joy I felt as a teenager singing in choir, but this time I don’t try to shrink myself and melt into the group. No one ever benefits from trying to make themself small, least of all yourself. I’ve grown so much in my confidence that I’m even singing with another member of the choir outside of choir. We’ve been meeting weekly since November, practicing songs that we will eventually perform at various open mics. When performance time comes, I know I will be nervous. I might even think up an excuse not to do it. But I will remember to think about the journey, the courageous steps I’ve taken that have brought me to that place. Don’t shrink, stand tall, love your voice. Sing.

Intentions

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In less than a month, I will be a student again. Not a student of life–I’m already one of those. I’m talking about a university student. Come January, I will commute to Seattle twice a month to take editing classes at the University of Washington. For those who don’t know, I moved from Seattle in July, so it’s kind of a funny situation. Even though I know I will get tired of it month after month, I’m looking forward to my initial trek on the train, where I will have a lot of time to stare out the window and write, and eventually, work on homework.

But most of all, I’m excited to delve into these classes. I decided earlier this year that going back to school to brush up on my editing skills would be a logical step toward establishing myself as a professional editor. It’s a reputable certificate program, low cost, and only 9 months long. Plus, the program is part online/part classroom instruction which is great for my learning style and schedule. A great fit for my life, all around.

As the end of the year draws near, I can’t help but reflect on some of my hopes for the next year. 2015 was a big year with my 3 month road trip, move to Eugene, and new commitment to writing and editing (and starting this blog!), and I expect 2016 to be just as ambitious. I’ve learned after many attempts that New Years Resolutions aren’t effective for me. Instead, I like to set intentions. Rather than think of the new year as a blank slate (it’s not!), I prefer to think of it as a continuum of the past year and set my intentions accordingly. My reflections look something like this: this past year, I made a few new special friendships. I’d like to grow more of those this year. And: this past year I acted bravely and joined a choir. I want to keep practicing courage this year. Another one: this past year I tried developing my own recipes. I want to continue to create and experiment with food.

This next year I hope to dive fully into my new student role and make the most of my classes. Even before it’s over, I hope to use what I learn on actual editing projects. I already have a couple projects lined up, which I’m soo excited to get to. I’m making business cards and setting up a website like I actually believe I can do this. I’m slowly learning how this editor business is done, and I’m humbled (and at times, overwhelmed) by all there is still to learn!

Embracing the weird

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I’ve been kinda scaring myself lately. Maybe because it’s close to Halloween, and I’ve been watching a lot of Hitchcock and reading Amelia Gray, but the stories that I’ve been writing have been pretty dark and weird. In one story, a woman falls in love with a mannequin that has taken her job at an auto dealership. In another, a man receives a severed tongue from his gift-giving-obsessed mother. My latest and favorite story is about a man whose only friend is a bird clock on his bedroom wall. All these stories weave humor and dark elements together to explore the strangeness of human relationships and expose the dangerous effects of isolation and capitalist society. Ooo. Maybe I’ve found my writing niche!

For a little while I’ve been telling myself that this is a new style for me. But then I put aside all the writing that I did as a college student, or essayist, or travel blog writer, or as a house manager at a transitional house for homeless folks (pheewwp! it’s on the shelf!), and I took a good long look at what I wrote about as a kid and teenager, and there it was–the silly, the bizarre, and yes, the creepy! I even wrote an email to a good friend today to tell her of this revelation and thank her for sharing in and supporting my little weird self. As a kid, I spent hours writing and making up stories that explored sexuality, weird bodily fluids, things that don’t make sense, things that people don’t say or do around other people because it’s not expected or accepted. I put strings of words together like “curdled” and “toe jam” just because they sounded fun and made me and my friends laugh. I’m sad that as the years passed, so did that awkward, fresh sense of play and imagination that I used to let run rampant on the paper.

So, even though I’ve been creeping myself out with my story lines, I’m also immensely grateful that I am, that I’m coming full circle, my childhood self and adult self co-mingling, as they should. There is a quote that I love, that I just discovered by a Google search was said by Flannery O’Connor, and it’s, “anyone who has survived their childhood has enough material to write for the rest of their life.” At this moment, that feels incredibly relevant.

So many words, such little space

sand

Lately, I’ve been reading a lot of stories from online literary magazines like SmokeLong Quarterly, Word Riot, and Every Day Fiction. I read them to discover something, to redefine the familiar, to learn a little more about empathy by walking around in somebody else’s shoes. A well written story is a mirror in which I see humanity in a new or unexpected way. Something that makes me go “aww..” or “hmm!” or “that’s true too, isn’t it?”

All or many of the stories in these magazines are considered “flash fiction” or short short fiction, micro fiction, nano fiction, etc. While the definition of flash fiction varies, even among the specialists in the field, the general qualifier is that the writing must be less than 1,000, 750, 500, or even 100 words. As a relative newcomer to the genre of flash fiction, I have fallen totally head over heels in love with it. I love the possibilities laden in the limitations. Every word is a reminder that I am coming up closer and closer to the finish line, so I have to make every word count! Not every scene or single scene gets to be fully fleshed out, and that is the beauty of it. Flash fiction trusts the reader to reader to fill in the gaps, to realize the meaning of the text without the writer shoving it in their face.

As you can imagine, writing flash fiction involves a lot of careful chipping away, rebuilding, and chipping away and rebuilding. And I looove it. If the keyboard was my chisel, then…LibreOffice is my…stone? In this past week I’ve pumped out 7 short shorts ranging from 950 words to 50 words. Now that I just realized that I feel quite proud of myself! That’s another perk of flash fiction: if you have 30 minutes available, then you can write a 50 word story, and there, you just wrote a whole dang story! In 30 minutes! To see for yourself that it can be done, check out 50 Word Stories. The most recent story, Autumn Memory, will make your heart heave, I guarantee.

I want to wrap up by talking about vignettes, the seed of my inspiration coming from a definition of “vignette” that I found from Vine Leaves Literary Journal:

“”Vignette” is a word that originally meant “something that may be written on a vine-leaf.” It’s a snapshot in words. It differs from flash fiction or a short story in that its aim doesn’t lie within the traditional realms of structure or plot. Instead, the vignette focuses on one element, mood, character, setting or object. It’s descriptive, excellent for character or theme exploration and wordplay. Through a vignette, you create an atmosphere.”

I love the image of a vine leaf. Such a small surface–what to write on it, to leave off? I ask myself questions like that about how to use this blog. My goal is not to take on the world in a single post. I can’t. Every post is essentially a vignette, focusing on a single story or subject, not trying to be anything larger than that. You’d think this would be a simple task. I still don’t know an easy way to chisel through stone.

28 years

bdayflowers

I was born at 6:45 am, 28 years ago today. The day before my birth, my mom was working alone in the printing shop that both my parents worked at, moving heavy boxes and probably exerting herself more than most would at 9 months pregnant. My parents weren’t expecting me for another 2 or 3 weeks. I like to think that my early arrival was my way of saying to my mom, “slow down!”–words I’ve said to her many times since.

This morning I woke early, not quite so early as 6:45 am, to Marcus sticking his head into our bedroom, asking me, “Are we all out of flour?”

“Yes,” I told him, barely two seconds awake. “But you can make oat flour. Just grind the oats in the food processor.”

An hour later, Marcus came back into the bedroom with a huge smile on his face.

“Breakfast is ready! Come on out! The living room is warm for you too.”

With a blanket draped around my shoulders, I stepped into my living room to find a wonderful scene awaiting me: a fire roaring in the woodstove, a sweet handwritten note, and fresh oat pancakes, fruit salad, honey, and peanut butter smiling up at me from my coffee table. My husband is the best!

Birthdays have always been special to me. I like to acknowledge mine through showing myself some extra love. I took my time deciding on a pretty birthday outfit. Then I went to a coffee shop, where I sat down with a chai and spent some time writing. I stopped at a thrift store in Eugene that is also a cat shelter, where adoptable cats and kittens run around and bring a little cheer to all those who rent houses that won’t allow pets (including guess who!). Later, I will make one of my favorite dishes for dinner: vegan enchiladas with lime cream from The First Mess. It takes some preparation, but it is so dang delicious that it’s totally worth it! I’ll close out the day by taking a walk somewhere with my love. Eugene is so walkable, and I’ve loved slowly getting to know the city on foot.

On my birthday I also like to take some time for self-reflection. I have so much to be grateful for in my life. Today I’m finding myself feeling especially grateful for my capacity to take risks and make choices for my life that reflect the most authentic version of me, rather than the version I tried over and over to make fit my life and just wouldn’t, like a stripped screw that try as you might, just won’t drive into the wood. This time last year, I was so sure that I would be applying for grad school to study mental health counseling. I thought mental health work was the best path for me, despite the huge amount of headache, heartache, and loss of wellbeing it gave me. When I really admitted these things to myself, I expected to feel despair (what am I gonna do now?!). But I felt relief. It freed my mental energy to consider my other gifts and dreams that I’d pushed into the shadows after deeming them incompatible with the direction of my life. Now I’m pouring light over those gifts and dreams and–among other things–paving a writer’s path for myself. There is still uncertainty and challenges ahead, but I’m facing these things with the sense that I’m finally at home in myself.

Hey, it only took 28 years.

It’s writing season

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On Facebook I follow a writers group called Wordcrafters in Eugene. Last week they wrote a post that said, “It’s writing season!” with a link to read about their current programs. Their fall offerings include a ghost story workshop, novel plotting, and emotional-thematic storytelling (I wish I could attend ALL of them!). Last Wednesday I attended their monthly Wordcrafters and Wine event, where every month a different writer gives a talk on a writing topic of their choice. This latest one was on “widening the world around your story”, how to weave details in your stories that hint at the culture, time period, and overall place that make up the world your characters live in.

As I listened, I couldn’t help but think of Ruth, the elderly woman in one of the latest stories I’ve written. In her story, she goes to an opera for her son’s birthday, and it turns out to be a night that she won’t remember…(does it entice you to want to know more? I hope so!). I can see her world in my own mind, but how can I convey it to the reader, without giving too much away, or offering too little? This is a daunting yet inspiring challenge for me, to create a world that the reader can imagine as I intended it to be, with room for the reader’s own imagination and interpretation of what happens there.

It may be mere coincidence, but I’ve noticed that the settings I’ve been choosing for my stories have been damp and chilly with sunny, crispy backdrops…the autumnal kind. I am a person who behaves very much in accordance with the seasons, so it’s no surprise to me that my writing would do the same. Autumn is particularly special to me though. I’ve always associated the season with slowing down and starting anew. I think starting school every year around this time has something to do with it. Summer can be hectic and fast moving with trips, busy weekends, outdoor projects, watering the garden (if you have a garden–you know). When Fall pokes its little cool head around the corner, I breathe a sigh of relief for a change of pace. The flow doesn’t just stop–life remains busy, but this time there’s hot chai, and cozy socks and sweaters, and warm gatherings indoors to look forward to. There are stews bubbling on the stove top, glorious evening sunsets, and serious contemplation of what you’re going to wear for Halloween (just me?). It’s also my birthday season, my husband’s birthday season, and my wedding anniversary season–all occasions that cause me to pause, reflect on what I’ve been up to this past year, and where I (or we) want to keep going.

I’m glad that the Wordcrafters reminded me that Fall is also writing season. I’m looking forward to spending more time indoors to write, pour energy into this blog, and other side projects. I’ve also been developing a couple recipes lately that I am eager to tweak and prepare for sharing.

Happy autumn, yall. Thanks for reading. I think I’ll go make ginger and cranberry scones now.