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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

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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.

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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.

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gobble.

Oh hey, neglected blog. I promise to update you post-Thanksgiving, once I’m settled into my new job (!) and have my life in order again (?!).

We have a Thanksgiving Day tradition in my family (well, the women at least) to bake cookies all day long before the big dinner. Cookiepalooza. Back in the day I used to be quite serious about it, in a really scary Type A++ way. This year we’re scaling back a bit (1-2 cookie recipes and a pumpkin cheesecake pie versus 10+ varieties of cookies) but I’ll still take photos and share them and get back into baking mode….

Until then….

 

 

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Peachy keen crumble

Today, I made peach crumble.

I adapted the recipe from here. I didn’t have baking powder on hand, so I substituted a teaspoon of baking soda and a half cup of vanilla yogurt, and it tasted delicious. Peaches. are. good.

Bye.

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Today was a wonderfully frigid day for August (65 degrees and windy) and I had the best non-tan beach day ever because I was the only one there. Literally.

Well, excuse me. The seagulls were were also hanging out.

Seagull butts.

Natural sand butt. Seriously, I could “paint” and sell this shit for a lot of money.

Anyway. I took these photos on my plain-jane point and shoot camera, and I’m posting them because I’m trying to convince myself to buy a decent REAL camera, even though the pictures turned out OK for the most part.

After my lonesome beach excursion, I assembled and baked some goodies.

First, I made an asparagus, avocado, mozzarella, tomato and spinach salad, tossed with olive oil, balsamic vinaigrette, and red wine vinegar.

Then I made an apple “crumble” with vanilla ice cream and cool whip for dessert. I chopped up 3 apples into one-inch pieces, added about 3/4 cups of Stacy’s cinnamon sugar pita chips, 3 tablespoons butter, and some cinnamon, mixed well, and baked for 20 minutes in a non-stick tray.

Yum and random.

Hope tomorrow brings sunshine for me and my DC folks.

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I think this may be the first time in my life I have ever consumed a baked good and preferred the non-chocolate version.

I threw in some dark chocolate chunks into my first loaf, per a referral recipe. But because the olive oil adds such a pure, underlying richness to the bread already, no chocolate is needed. I know, it’s weird. And if you bake this, your kitchen will smell good for a long time.

I found spelt flour at my local Yes! Organic Market. I’m pretty sure that Harris Teeter carries it as well.

Green and black.

Rosemary olive oil bread (Recipes adapted from 101 Cookbooks)

(more…)

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