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Fun Has [Not] Been Cancelled

Thoughts from May 17th, 2020 - This is an oldie from my drafts. I wrote this on Sunday morning, initially just to get my thoughts out but t...

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Fun Has [Not] Been Cancelled

July 29, 2020

Thoughts from May 17th, 2020 - This is an oldie from my drafts.



I wrote this on Sunday morning, initially just to get my thoughts out but then it turned out to be a good theme for the Sunday morning yoga class that I teach. I thought I'd share it here, in case it resonates with any of you. As always, take what sticks and leave the rest.

I went to the farmer's market on Saturday and while waiting in line to be allowed inside, there was a volunteer explaining the social distancing guidelines to us. A few sentences into their spiel, while recommending that only one person per household be shopping, they said that this is not the time to meet up in groups because, (and I quote), "fun has been cancelled".

That comment really struck me and I've been turning it over in my mind since. Not only was it said in a very firm, almost aggressive tone, but it's also just an incredibly staunch way of looking at this whole situation that we're in. My brain likes concrete concepts, so let's get literal for a second - Merriam Webster defines fun as "someone or something that provides amusement or enjoyment"; "a good time". Now let's dissect that.

Can fun really be cancelled? If fun is someone or something that provides amusement or enjoyment, I can think of a slew of things that I've been doing these past few weeks that fall under that category and still abide by social distancing guidelines. How about reading a book? Watching a pet play? Watering your plants? Eating a meal you made with your own two hands? Moving your body in an intuitive way? Having a good laugh with a partner or friends? Trying or learning something new? Sure, this pandemic has certainly put most of us more-than-a-little outside of our comfort zones, and a lot of us haven't been able to do things that normally bring us joy, like spending time in person with friends, going out to eat, or going to concerts. But even when a concert gets cancelled, the music still exists for you to listen to wherever you are.

Before I get too high on my soapbox here, let's bring the yoga into it. This physical practice that we do on our rectangles, it takes discipline. It requires showing up, and lately, setting up an actual space for yourself to show up in. Some days, that effort can seem enormous and heavy but we do it anyway. Why do we do this? I like to think y'all show up here for me, but I've said this before and I'll say it again, you are here for yourself. You show up for yourself because you know that on these rectangles you learn valuable lessons and, dare I say, you have fun! What are the concepts that keep coming up again and again in this practice? Mindfulness. Awareness. Being present. The three most valuable lessons you can take out into world with you. They serve us well on our rectangles but they serve us even better when we're nowhere near our rectangles.

Fun hasn't been cancelled, it just looks different these days. It requires a little more discipline, a little more awareness, mindfulness, and strength in being present. Showing up for the smallest of moments because those could be the ones that bring you joy today. This practice that we're all eternal students of, it teaches us how to endure, how to adapt, but most valuably, how to be present. In this presence lie the tiny sparks that set your heart on fire.

So thank you for showing up today, and every day. I know it's not easy, and sometimes it feels downright impossible, but you're doing the work and that in itself deserves recognition.


A few things I've been doing for fun these past few weeks:
  • Taking walks around the neighborhood at different parts of the day and noticing new things, or how things look different day to night. Meeting neighbors in the process.
  • My dad sent my siblings and I each this game and Shawn and I are now converts.
  • We can't go to karaoke, but we can certainly pull up a song on YouTube and karaoke in our kitchen! I'm not sure how much our neighbors appreciate it though.
  • I've been reunited with this game which used to entertain me endlessly when I was growing up. Truth be told, I'm more of a builder than a player.
  • Watching the cats play - that's entertainment for hours!
  • Teaching livestream yoga classes. It's a big part of what has been keeping me sane.
  • Meeting up with friends outdoors and enjoying each other's company from 6-feet away- sharing laughs and swapping quarantine horror stories.
  • Cooking/baking new recipes... though admittedly doing all the dishes afterwards is no fun.
  • Reading all the books.
  • Making random crafts with what we have around the apartment.

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One Pot Pasta

May 13, 2020

This recipe gets a lot of show time at our house - I make it at least once a week. It takes almost no time at all to come together, and you likely already have almost every ingredient in your fridge and pantry. I honestly don't know what the best part of this pasta is - the fact that it's a perfect meal for those days you don't know what to make and don't feel much like cooking, or the fact that you get a full meal without having a sink full of dishes to clean afterwards. Especially these days, take it from me, anything that says "one bowl ____" in the title is at the top of my list... let's just not even speak about quarantine dishes.

This makes a basic creamy pasta - think mac n' cheese but without all the cheese. I love the addition of greek yogurt; we always have some around because we use it in lieu of sour cream, and it really shines here. It acts as the sauce, coating each noodle perfectly and adding a touch of acidity as well. Make sure to check out my note at the end of the recipe about other things you can add in for a heartier meal!

One Pot Pasta

(adapted from The Kitchn)
  • 10 ounces of large pasta (like penne, fusilli, etc) *
  • 4 cups of water
  • ½ cup plain greek yogurt
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 tablespoon dijon mustard
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • ¼ teaspoon black pepper
  • ½ cup pecorino or parmesan cheese
  • additional fixins **

In a large pot, combine all ingredients except for the cheese. Bring the mixture to a boil and then let simmer, stirring occasionally to keep the pasta from sticking. Continue to boil the pasta uncovered for 8-10 minutes, until most of the liquid has absorbed. Take the pasta off the heat and stir in the cheese and any other fixins. Leftovers keep for a few days in the fridge, just reheat with a little water added in.

* You could also use 12 ounces of a smaller pasta here (like macaroni or ditalini)
** The beauty of this recipe is that it's a fantastic base for any other ingredients you have laying around. Mix in some fresh tomatoes, or sauteed vegetables like zucchini, onion, spinach, or broccoli. Don't stop there- add in cooked bacon or ground sausage, perhaps play with different shredded cheeses or adding ricotta to make it a grown up mac n' cheese. We've also added in frozen peas and some lemon zest. Go ahead and have fun with it!

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Stargazing

October 31, 2019

The tail end of last night’s lingering sunset- boots burrowed into the sand, eyes looking up, searching.

“What do you want to do today?”
“Well, it’s a new moon tonight, so I’d really love to get away from the city and see some stars!”


So we drove 21 miles north with the setting sun soon becoming the only light around us on a long darkening road that felt straight out of a horror movie, keeping our eyes peeled for errant deer. And we parked on the gravel along side the road, underneath the low hanging branches of a tree that grazed the top of my head as I stepped out. “Well, at least we’ll know where the car is.” (As if we weren’t the only car around for miles) Then we walked up the short stairway that led to the empty beach, the river waves quietly hitting the shore.

We looked up, eyes searching, and Shawn noticed the Big Dipper, and as the last remnants of sun faded away, other stars began to twinkle into view. We watched a barge float slowly by, and wondered if they could see us standing there. And as their light slowly faded out of sight, we stood there for a while, legs unstable with the vastness of what the sky held above us- eventually succumbing and laying back on the cold sand to get a more expansive view.

We watched planes and satellites float by, and mused at how close it all looked, as though a ceiling of glow in the dark stars had been erected above our world and the vast universe around us is all just one big illusion.

We lay there silently, for what felt like infinite time, until my stomach growled and I said “Let’s get back home, I’m hungry.”

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Key Lime Pie

September 10, 2019


My first experience with key lime pie wasn't much of an experience at all. My memory may be fuzzy after all this time... but I had never even heard of key lime pie until one afternoon about 12 years ago, when my parents came back from a trip to the Florida Keys with one in hand. But much to my dismay, I was catching a flight back to Pittsburgh that evening and they didn't want to break into it until my brother arrived the next day (since it was at his request they bring one home, not mine). Honestly, if I brought this up now they would probably deny it, but I do believe this story to be true and I still have never tried an actual from-the-keys key lime pie! But I have since tried many others in my quest for the best one.

Whether you have or haven't ever had key lime pie, you'll find that there are many iterations of it depending on where you look. The premise is always the same - a graham cracker crust topped with lime curd (made from key limes and not regular limes, if you're lucky) and finished with a whipped topping. I've found that the whipped topping is where you'll get the most variance - sometimes it's light and fluffy, other times it's thick like cream cheese; sometimes it's spread across the entire pie in big dollops, other times it's piped on carefully just around the edges. Regardless of how it's topped, I've never had a bad key lime pie. My favorite is still the one from the Amish stand at the farmer's market I used to go to back in Philly; it was one of those ones with the cream cheesy type whip piped around the edges, and it had just the right amount of tang and sweetness and coated your mouth in the most pleasurable way.

This is not that pie. I'm still working on figuring out how to recreate that one. This one definitely falls on the other end of the spectrum - rich tart filling topped with light, fluffy, melts-in-your-mouth cream. It's still really freakin' good. It's also not as complicated as it looks, I promise. Trust me; try it, and let me know what you think! And don't be afraid to try key lime pie wherever you can find it... it's my go-to whenever I have the option!



Key Lime Pie

Crust:
  • 1 ¼ cups graham cracker crumbs
  • 8 tablespoons (1 stick) unsalted butter
  • ⅓ cup white sugar
Filling:
  • zest 1 lime
  • 3 large egg yolks
  • 14 ounce can of sweetened condensed milk
  • ⅔ cups key lime juice (fresh, if you can find them, or this)
Topping:
  • 1 pint heavy cream
  • 4 ounces cream cheese
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • ¼ cup confectioner's sugar

Preheat the oven to 350°. Melt the butter over the stove or in a microwave, set aside.

If you have a food processor- Break up graham crackers and run until crumbs form. Add butter and white sugar and pulse to combine.

If you don't have a food processor- Break up graham crackers with a mortar and pestle, or in a zip-lock bag with a rolling pin. In a bowl, combine the graham crackers, melted butter, and white sugar until a coarse crumb forms.

Gently press the crust into your pie pan, making sure to get an even layer up the sides. Use the palm of your hand or the base of a measuring cup to press the base of the crust down. Bake for 10 minutes. Turn oven down to 325°.

While the crust is cooling, in a large bowl beat together the lime zest, egg yolks, and sweetened condensed milk using a spatula and strong hand or using a handheld mixer. Once the mixture looks thick and glossy, pour in the key lime juice and beat until combined.

Pour the filling into your slightly cooled crust and return the pie to the oven for 20-25 minutes. The filling should be set but not browned. Allow the pie to cool completely before topping with whipped topping.

To make the whipped topping, use a handheld mixer to whisk heavy cream to soft peaks. Add in the cream cheese, vanilla extract, and confectioners sugar and continue to whisk until stiff peaks form. Top cooled pie with whipped topping and smooth with a spatula. Enjoy!

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