Missing Boulder

Every once in a while it will just hit me. Oh yeah, there was that one time when I lived in Boulder. There was that one time I woke up pretty much every day and it was sunny and beautiful and I could walk a few blocks and start climbing a mountain. It really feels like a dream because it was so short, yet so impactful and so needed.

It wasn’t like I went there to join some hippie commune or study naturopathy at Naropa or train for climbing Everest. I went there as a completely average person who took a cool job at the newspaper. But at the time I was one miserable and confused person. All I knew was that I needed to get out of Iowa and try something different. Be somewhere different until I could wake up for once not terrified.

I’m not sure what kept me awake until dawn so many nights or sent me to the doctor so many times just sure I was dying. I think it was just fear that even though everything appeared right, it was not right. And it just kept getting more wrong by the day. I couldn’t stand one more day straining to read HTML code. I couldn’t bear the thought that I’d lost Mike. I didn’t know how to feel about the fact that I didn’t go to New York.

I’m so proud of myself for stopping it. I’m so proud of myself for taking a part time job with no benefits in another state that paid zero moving expenses. Even knowing that I would lose my job 10 months later I would do it over again a million times. As soon as I got there I felt different. Like the cloud had lifted.

No one had to convince me to smell the roses. I smelled the roses, the microbrews, the bulk granola, the dogs, the coffee, the burritos, the hippies, the money. I smelled the dirt, people. I soaked it all up.

Of course I got lonely and broke. And pretty soon I transferred my anxiety to wanting Mike to join me. There were some hard days.

But there are times I have to admit just how much I miss it.

I miss face-sized biscuits at Burnt Toast.
I miss the sometimes Chinese/sometimes breakfast restaurant in north Boulder.
I miss Whole Foods.
I miss running really slowly on the Boulder Creek Trail.
I miss hiking Mt. Sanitas.
I miss interviewing people who complete unbelievable feats of athleticism on a regular basis and then seeing them quoted in Outside later.
I miss biodiesel buses and bike lanes.
I miss Chinese food menus with brown rice and vegetarian egg rolls.
I miss the raccoon who ate pizza out of our dumpster.
I miss playing Pickle Ball with my co-workers.
I miss Jennie and Pete and Jim.
I miss working on Pearl Street.
I miss outfitters dedicated to women.
I miss the guy with the “John Kerry throws like a girl” sign.

I don’t miss drunken college students. Or the Denver airport. Or not having air conditioning.

I am truly afraid to go back because I am afraid I’ll strap myself to the nearest Aspen tree and never leave. But my life is here and my life is now. I’m just glad I sniffed the dirt while I had the chance.

3-Bean Chipotle Chili

You’d never believe a dish this hearty was vegan. Well, until you put the crackers and cheese in it, but who’s counting?

I think we planned to have this last week because it was so damn cold. Again. We just needed as much comfort food as we could get. But then we ran out of time to cook it and had to make it today when it was sunny and beautiful.

The secret, I think, is to use crushed tomatoes instead of whole or cut tomatoes. And then mix in a few chipotle peppers in adobo sauce, as many as you can handle, for extra flavor.

3-Bean Chipotle Chili

2 T. olive oil
4 cloves garlic, minced
1 onion, chopped
1 red bell pepper, seeded and chopped
1 green bell pepper, seeded and chopped
1 zucchini, chopped (peeled, if you like)
1 carrot, peeled and chopped
1 15 oz. can dark kidney beans, drained
1 15 oz. can black beans, drained
1 15 oz. can chili beans
1 28 oz. can crushed tomatoes
1 7 oz. can chipotle peppers in adobo sauce
1 T. cumin
1 T. chili powder
1 t. oregano
1 bay leaf
Salt and pepper to taste

While the oil is heating in a big saucepan over medium, chop up all the vegetables.

I usually throw the garlic and onions in first, followed by the peppers, then the other veggies. After they’ve cooked about five minutes, mix in the spices, salt and pepper and bay leaf. Once everything is combined, add the tomatoes and beans and put a lid on the pot.

While that simmers, take out as many chipotle peppers as you want. If you don’t like spicy foods, I would take one or even one without the seeds. Those suckers are hot! I use three, but I had to work up to that. Put the rest in a container in the fridge until you need them again. Chop the chiles super fine and add them to the pot.

Simmer over medium-low heat for 30 minutes, remove the bay leaf and serve with cheddar and saltines.

Vegetarian Cassoulet

I’ve tried a number of so-so vegetarian bean soups, hoping they’d turn out to be regulars in my arsenal, but this one finally hit the spot.

I’ll just let you go there for the recipe (complete with gorgeous photos), plus some tips on how to cook beans from scratch. I really think that might have made all the difference somehow.

Instead of making the breadcrumbs, we just dropped or dipped chunks of baguette into the soup and were plenty satisfied with that. I made some other adjustments (a little more tomatoes, dried herbs instead of fresh…), but overall the recipe is solid.

Can I get a little rock chalk?

As a lifelong Jayhawk, raised in Lawrence, Kansas on a steady diet of granola and men’s basketball, I just had to say…

ROCK CHALK BABBBYYYYYYYY!!!!!!!

Reggie says…

I brought you my toy first thing this morning and you didn’t even care.

Onion and Herb Pasta

This weekend the fridge was pretty bare so I made this pasta dish, which I can pretty much make anytime with stuff I already have.

Originally, this dish was a Betty Crocker recipe for herbed chicken, but as I don’t eat the chicken anymore, I had to adapt.

You can make it with any kind of pasta, and usually I make it with linguine or spaghetti noodles, but this time I made it with penne and liked it better. We’ve been eating Barilla Plus, which has some whole grains in it but doesn’t really change the taste.

Onion and Herb Pasta

1 pound penne pasta
2 T. butter
2 T. vegetable oil
1 red or yellow onion, chopped
3 garlic cloves, minced
1/3 c. lemon juice
3 T. Worcestershire sauce
1 t. dried basil
1/2 t. dried marjoram
1/2 t. dried oregano
Parmesan cheese to taste

Boil the pasta while you prepare the sauce. In a deep skillet, heat the butter and vegetable oil over medium heat. Add the onions and garlic and saute until the onions are translucent. Add the lemon juice, Worcestershire and herbs.

Bring the sauce to a boil, then reduce heat and simmer for about 10 minutes. I usually add 1/4 cup of water at this point because the sauce can be a little tart.

Drain pasta and toss with the sauce in the pan. Serve in bowls with cheese sprinkled on top.

Make it meaty:
Melt the butter and oil in the oven in a 9X13 baking dish. Then add the rest of the ingredients (except the cheese) plus 4 boneless, skinless chicken breasts. Bake for about 40 minutes at 375 degrees, turning once during cooking. Serve chicken breasts and sauce over pasta.

Loving: Snow & Graham calendar

As I was flipping my office calendar to April I was just thinking, once again, how much I love my Snow & Graham 2008 calendar.

The patterns are so pretty I could almost eat them. I ordered it from Delight.com, which is basically a vacuum for my paychecks. I gave them lots of my money right before Christmas, but I don’t regret any of my purchases. I am pretty much their number one fan. But not in a creepy way.

Rediscovering: Sylvia Plath

Last weekend “Sylvia” arrived from my Netflix queue. Gwyneth Paltrow plays Sylvia Plath and Daniel Craig plays her cheatin’ husband. It wasn’t the greatest movie ever made, but I did like it, and it did get into how she never really got the help she needed for her depression.

Anyway, it got me thinking that I had a copy of “The Bell Jar” around the house. I must have read it for a class in college, because the copy I have is pretty aged and has one of those ‘used’ stickers on it. But I cracked it open last night and have been enjoying it for a second time. I really like her writing style – she has great descriptions. And the subject matter (working at a magazine in NYC) of course appeals to me.

Brianne also let me borrow a book of poems I had never read.

I was telling Mike that I reread a lot of books – half of them because I never quite got them in the first place (or I read them in 10th grade, long before I could really understand their meaning) and the other half because I just get so much pleasure out of reading them. Some books I could read every week and still be happy; I just tear right through them.

Anyway, if you’ve never read any Sylvia Plath, I would definitely recommend it.

What I needed to hear

Yesterday I met with someone who can probably bring more healing to my life than any doctor I’ve seen in years, and that’s a financial advisor.

I’ve been really afraid for a while now that someone would take a look at my finances and go “hmmm, I think you should, hmmm.” But this guy didn’t. Not even close. He scribbled out the messy details of my income, bills, debt and did more math than I’ve done since high school in about 5 minutes. And at the end of that he pronounced me not in a great place, but moving in the right direction. He said things like “this is not that bad” and “I can see you’re ready to do this” and most importantly “I see more teachers retire with a lot of money than actuaries.”

Uh, what?

Apparently people who have a nice income know how to spend it and people who have to scrimp and save become good savers. So, seeing how I’ve chosen journalism as a career I’m gonna go ahead and guess I’ll be in the column with the teachers.

I expected to get a lot of information out of that appointment, but I really didn’t expect to get confidence. All you hear and read about is how poor the economy is doing, how bad our spending habits are, how expensive gas is going to be. Nobody ever says, you can do this! You can pay off your debt, you can save a little, and you can actually pay for a vacation when it comes up.

That was a big thing, too. He reminded me that this is supposed to be the best time of my life, the most carefree, and if all I think about when I’m on vacation is how I will not be able to pay for this and that, I will never really enjoy it.

The financial company gave this presentation to my office a while back and they said that Americans have these houses with rooms that have no furniture in them, no curtains on the windows. I’d never really paid attention to that, but it’s so true! We buy big houses and big cars and then we don’t fill them because we can’t. I think I’m finally starting to see the light in that sense. If you’re gonna want something and sink a bunch of money into it, at least use it. At least get something out of it. I have absolutely no regrets about taking a trip to Europe when I didn’t have the money because I will never, ever forget the incredible things I saw. But I resent that $140 pair of shoes I’ve only worn 4 times. What a waste.

So, things are starting to click. It’ll probably get worse before it gets better. But for once in a long, long time I feel good about my money and my ability to handle it. And that was at least worth the sum total of my 401k.