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A year to remember.

2011 was quite a year.

I left my first post-college job in DC. Ok, that was 2010, but November 2010, so close enough. I went to another job. I became sad. I blamed it on a quarter-life crisis. I got into LSE. I decided to go. I quit my job and booked a one-way ticket to South America. I made flower beds out of poo on a Hare Krishna farm. I perfected my yoga handstand. I temporarily gave up alcohol and caffeine…for the most part. I witnessed absolute silence in the driest desert in the world. I became happy. I broke my foot and spent a summer in Chicago catching up with old friends and hobbling around with my family and my dog. I flew to London. I fell in love with a new city. I started classes. I learned how to juggle school work, consulting work, internship work, and pub work. I met a group of wonderful Latinas + non Latinas. I became comfortable speaking in Spanish for the first time ever. I went to Sweden and ate the best fish. I went to Belgium and ate the best chocolate. I knitted my first scarf. I went to NYC. I went to DC. I turned 27.

I’m not where I thought I would be a year ago, and I’m grateful for that.

My 2012 “Resolutions”

1. Do Zumba once a week. It’s baller. Also, say baller a lot.
2. Read at least 3 articles in the FT every day ALL THE WAY THROUGH WITHOUT CHECKING FACEBOOK/TWITTER/EMAIL.
3. Pass my exams with minimal time spent freaking out.
4. Get a job in London. Or anywhere.
5. Learn how to travel with progressively less stuff.
6. Stop worrying about the Mayan 2012 prophecy.
7. Stop worrying about “getting closer” to 30. You still get carded all. the. time.
8. Say hi to people in class you don’t know except via Facebook. Dumb. Make an effort.
9. Keep doing something with this blog. I don’t know if a baking blog is feasible, given a) lack of understanding of Celsius and symbols on oven and b) lack of funds to bake goods. Perhaps there is an alternative thematic solution. “Adventures in dissertation” writing. No. Ideas welcome.
10. Continue to be happy.

Happy New Year’s friends.

xx <—British influence

Megan

So I’ve completely neglected my blog this month, but I can’t honestly say why. It probably has something to do with the fact that I haven’t really baked anything. Nada. Maybe there’s some psychological thing going on, or maybe I’m just eff-ing lazy. Maybe it just feels too hot outside to use the oven (true). Maybe I’m just more interested in eating delicious summer tomatoes while I still can (also true).

I’d like to continue this blog, but I’m not sure what direction it will take, or what the focus will be. All of my baking supplies are currently in storage in my aunt’s closet and will probably remain there until I move back to DC (wishful thinking). Although I have a gut feeling that poor student in London ≠ healthy baking spree, who knows…things could change. I could get my baking groove back. Until then….I’m going to look at this photo and become inspired by chocolate chip cookie dough and want to eat it.

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And suddenly, just like that, I am back in the States. Chicago via Miami via Buenos Aires. I am back…but not in DC, my home of the past four years. Rather, I am back back, sleeping in a bedroom filled with high school yearbooks and Sweet Valley High books, and it feels like I never left.

Weird. I am 26 and 16 and confused.

But for now, I will focus on simply getting adjusted to summer weather. I will remind myself that I don’t have to wear flip flops in the shower, or race to the hostal kitchen by 11 am to get free cornflakes and stale coffee.

I wish I had some intensely insightful thing to say about my trip, but really all I can say is that it was wonderful, too short, and just right. I feel blessed and content. In lieu of profound thoughts, here are some “stats.”

  • number of hours spent on long-distance buses in South America= 71.
  • number of alfajores consumed in Argentina and Chile= ∞.
  • best alfajor= bought and consumed near Plaza Anibel Pinto, Valparaiso, Chile.
  • best choripan= identified by taxi driver in Buenos Aires; bought and consumed in grateful silent companionship at approximately 3 am.
  • highlight of trip= biking through the silent desert in San Pedro de Atacama.
  • lowlight of trip= spraining (EDIT: acquiring an incomplete break in) my foot whilst falling off a wooden bunk bed in Buenos Aires.
  • items lost=iPhone, travel hair brush.
  • items found=knitting, new friends all over the world, prolonged yoga headstand, black boot on left foot…

Hola, che.

Somehow I’ve been in Argentina for almost two weeks now, so I figured it was time for a little blog update. It is a glorious fall Saturday at the Eco Yoga Park, and we’ve just finished our outdoor work duties for the morning. Today’s work consisted of spreading manure and dirt around the flowerbed, planting marigolds, pulling weeds, pushing more dirt around, etc. The same gentle song is playing in the kitchen like always. Here, let me “sing” it for you. It goes like this. Hare Krishna, Hare Krishna. Krishna Krishna, Hare Hare. Hare Rama, Hare Rama. Rama Rama, Hare Hare. Repeat 100+ times. Needless to say, I find myself humming the mantra unintentionally throughout the day. We all do.


And yet…despite the absence of caffeine, meat, eggs, fish, and alcohol in my diet, the stinging ants in my shoes and the relentless mosquitoes in my room, the four hours of manual labor every morning, the swarms of flies in the kitchen and the cow poop on my shoes, I’ve never felt more relaxed in my life. Here’s a basic overview of what daily life has been like for the past two weeks.

5:00 am: Dogs begin to whine and whimper, cows moo, mosquitoes buzz in my ear, alarms go off.
6:30 am: Wake up for real and head to the kitchen. Stand in front of the fire outside to warm up.
7:00 am: Prepare breakfast with other volunteers. This is almost always an apple tart, but once we got a plum tart. That was a good day. Diversity is not the catchphrase here…
8:00 am: Eat breakfast, drink tea, chat with other volunteers.
9:00 am-11:30 am: Volunteer duties begin! Hoe, weed, or plant in the garden, often pausing to chismear (chat/gossip) with Maria, the petite, strong, and savvy Bolivian keeper of the garden. Sometimes I slap mud on the eco-friendly treehouse and drink mate with the men, but usually I stick to Maria and the garden.
12 pm: Go for a run, shed dirt-clogged clothes and shoes, take a glorious shower.
1:30 am: LUNCH, which is almost always a squash-based meal with remolacha (beets) acelga (rocket lettuce) and rice/bread. Most of the things we eat come from the garden.
Afternoon: Read, journal, reflect, sunbathe, sleep, movie.
4:30 pm: Yoga in the temple.
6:00 pm: Merienda (snack) and chat time.
8:30 pm: Help to make dinner. Tonight is pizza party night. Amazing.We don’t get to eat dairy that often, so a cheese-based meal is gold.
10:00 pm: BEDTIME!

I suppose this schedule may sound monotonous and almost severe at times, and it is. But for two weeks, I am solely focusing on manual labor for the first time in my life, and it feels pretty damn good. I feel the roughness of the hoe in my hands, the wet dirt beneath my feet, the heavy sun on my face. I smell, hear, and observe the world better. I wake up and catch the sunrise every morning, without a slight hangover or stress headache. I’ve met amazing people from all over the world and have made new friends. Despite the strangeness and lack of modern “comfort”, it’s a wonderful place. I just hope I can carry the mindfulness I have here with me as I move onward…

I’m leaving the Park on Tuesday with some of the other volunteers. Our current plan is to hang out in Buenos Aires for a couple of nights (party! maybe, if we can actually stay up late enough) and then make our way to Mendoza, Argentina’s version of Napa Valley. After Mendoza, I’m crossing the Andes by bus to the one and only Valparaiso, Chile. I can’t stay away from Chile, it seems. After Valpo, who knows. I’ll probably head north to the San Pedro de Atacama desert, then swoop back across the Andes into northwest Argentina and travel down to BA with stops along the way. A triangular journey of sorts.

Well, that’s it for now. I think a new Hare Krishna song is playing. Crazytown.

Adios por ahora, amigos.

The inevitable freak out.

Hello, baker friends and family! It’s been a while.

Warning: this isn’t a baking post. This is a bona fide journal entry. Oops.

Almost a month ago, I made a fairly confident decision to leave my job, my apartment, this wonderful city, and my even more wonderful friends for a longstanding daydream. Spending time in South America before graduate school had been in my “idealistic life plan” for years. So I made several important decisions within a relatively short time frame. I accepted the offer from LSE. I quit my job. I booked my flight. I bought a backpack. I found some hostel(s). I went for it. And it felt really good.

This past weekend, however, I became somewhat terrified. Ok, completely terrified. There, I said it. Nervous butterflies are still dancing an angry Irish jig in my stomach, and a tiny but aggressive voice in my head seems to be screaming at me: WHAT ARE YOU DOING!?!? Why are you going all the way to Argentina to work in a garden and do yoga and abstain from alcohol and then hang out in a new city when you don’t really know a single soul in the entire country? Why are you leaving a beautiful DC spring for the onslaught of autumn on another continent? What will you do when you come back to the States? How will you afford living in London come September without a summer job? What makes you think that you can do this? What? Where? When? Why? Why? Why.

As I pack up my tiny studio apartment, give away books and appliances like old Halloween candy, sell my furniture on craigslist, say goodbye to my friends, and meditate on the reality of what is about to happen, I feel an extremely potent Long Island cocktail of emotions brewing inside me. I am uneasy, overwhelmed, excited, sad, paralyzed, and scared, all at once. And for a while, I found myself sinking under the self-imposed guilt of feeling ambivalent, like a paperweight pushing down on my chest. Incredibly, I stopped feeling lucky and grateful.

But yesterday, I allowed my mind to wander back to those last blissful days of college, and I remembered. Oh yeah. I’ve done this before. I’ve boarded a plane for a strange city, and I survived. Four years ago, I said goodbye to to amazing lifelong friendships, my family, and wonderful memories in Evanston. I also said adios to plenty of mistakes, painful memories, and lessons learned. Four years later,  I’m packing it up again, saying goodbye to new but similar memories, best friends, and lessons learned, and it occurs to me that the two moving situations are actually somewhat similar. Hell, I spent my very first day in DC opening up a bank account in an almost entirely Spanish-speaking Mt. Pleasant BofA branch. It was a typical nasty-ass 95 degree day, the airline lost my one piece of luggage with all my clothes and toiletries, I felt flushed and confused and lost and totally gringa, and I was happy and excited. It was one of the best summers of my life.

So maybe it’s OK to feel so strange and ambivalent about traveling, moving, leaving your “life” behind. And maybe it won’t be easy. And I’ll probably have good days and poo days. At the moment, I am just thankful. After a week of feeling somewhat uneasy and confused, today I feel the bristle of pure anticipation again.

On a less eloquent note, I won’t have internet access at the yoga park so I likely won’t update this blog until late May. Once I’m back in Buenos Aires, I look forward to finding a cafe and enjoying a cafe cortado with my laptop again.

Si todavia estas leyendo esta ramble por cualquier razon, espero que tengas un buen dia…semana…mayo super lindo!

I leave for Buenos Aires three weeks from today. That’s interesting. (Trying not to panic). Luckily, I have already accomplished many important pre-adventure tasks.

  • Purchase of a guide book that I probably won’t bring.
  • Learning the different cuts/types of meat.
  • Accepting the existence of the Obelisk Monument (see picture below). Why the Washington Monument is also situated in the middle of Buenos Aires, I do not know.
  • Other boring administrative things, like making sure I stop paying for electricity once I leave so the cockroaches can have 24/7 darkness until the new tenant moves in (how considerate of me).

The seasons are opposite in South America, so it will be mid-autumn by the time I arrive. My logic is as follows: Buenos Aires will be wonderful no matter what season it is, but en general, the further north I go, the warmer and happier I will be. I am not really into skiing…I hate it…so I won’t be heading south to Patagonia or west to the ski resorts.

My rough itinerary, as of now:

I land in Buenos Aires and leave almost immediately for the eco yoga park about an hour outside the city. There I will learn how to actually grow vegetables, construct things sustainably, practice yoga, and abstain from drinking for two weeks. This will be incredibly challenging for me, but hopefully an amazing experience as well. My sources tell me there is a popular ice cream parlor/bar in the nearest town, but we shall see. The food at the park is supposed to be exceptional, so I’m excited to learn how to cook some veggie recipes with fresh ingredients from the farm.

After that, I’ll head back to Buenos Aires for realz and stay there for at least 2 weeks. I wouldn’t be unhappy if I ended up staying in BA for the whole trip and made a couple of 1-2 day excursions to Iguazu Falls, Mendoza, and Colonia in Uruguay. Otherwise, I’ll fly to the northwest for the last couple of weeks to visit Salta, San Pedro de Atacama (in Chile) Cafayete, and other places… obviously still doing research on this bit.

Then, in late June/early July, I will fly to Chicago.

Ok, enough travel talk. I baked this weekend. I had a bunch of random things in my cupboard–half bags of chocolate chips, almost an entire tin of instant rolled oats, honey, some white sugar, but no brown sugar….so I put it all together and added some peanut butter for good measure. The result: about a million crispy delicious cookies. The photos didn’t turn out so great, but here’s a picture of the dough.

Crispy oat chocolate peanut butter cookies

Ingredients

3 cups old-fashioned rolled oats
1/3 cup whole wheat flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon coarse salt
1 3/4 cup granulated sugar
1/2 cup honey
1 cup unsalted butter, softened
1/2 cup natural peanut butter
2 large eggs
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
2 cups semisweet chocolate chips

Directions

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Stir together oats, flour, baking soda, baking powder, and salt in a medium bowl; set aside. Put white sugar, butter, and peanut butter in the bowl and beat with an electric mixer for about 3 minutes. Mix in eggs and vanilla.

Reduce speed to low. Add oat mixture, and mix until just combined. Mix in chocolate chips.

Drop tablespoons of dough 2 inches apart on baking sheets lined with parchment paper.

Bake cookies until golden brown, about 12-14 minutes.

I’ve always liked the idea of having a blog with a consistent theme, a blog that touches upon a part of my life, but not my entire life. By sharing recipes, posting photos of food creations, and occasionally dipping into my personal life with a ramble here and there, I’ve been able to maintain some distance between my blog and my “life.” More importantly, I’ve maintained some sense of privacy. So over the past year, I’ve tried to restrict Baker Meg to blogging about baking, and that’s pretty much it.

But things change. I love to write. Love. Mmmm love. And I don’t really want to stop rambling just because I’m moving around and can’t regularly ramble about baking for a while. There’s no reason why a blog can’t transform with the fickle nature of its owner’s whereabouts, goals, passions, interests….right? Plus, no one has to listen to me, and I don’t mind talking to myself.

On the to-do list: Tren a las nubes, or train to the clouds, near Salta, northern Argentina (AP)

So for the next several months, Baker Meg will go beyond the world of baking. It will be my place to share my thoughts and photos as a solo traveler wandering around the southern hemisphere for a while and then heading to the UK in the fall. You might see the layout change a little bit to reflect this new focus. You might not.

Of course, I’m still Baker Meg. The second I find a delicious alfajor in Argentina, I will take several photos from different angles and blog about it.

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