I figured that I would break this list up, partly because it’s a bit overwhelming to list all 35 things in one post, and partly because I have not actually come up with all 35 yet, so here’s part one.

Now, I had mentioned that I invited my birthday guests to write down what my 35 goals should be. Here were some:

  • take a hot air balloon ride
  • fly to the moon
  • go blonde
  • swim with sharks (I got that one twice)

While I am adventurous and want these things to push me out of my comfort, I also want them to introduce more fun and reveal more dreams (big and small) that I already have. So after some thought and with some initial brainstorming with friends, here is my first stab.

  1. Get something published
  2. Pick a cookbook and make every recipe in it
  3. Go to an archery range
  4. Sit in the Timbers Army section at a Timbers game
  5. Run a 10K
  6. Adopt a child*
  7. Roast a duck
  8. Work at a food cart
  9. Visit a continent I haven’t been to yet
  10. Learn to roast my own batch of coffee beans
  11. Dress up and do the Portland Zombie March/Walk
  12. Go one day without electricity
  13. Have a gluten-free week
  14. Participate in a winery harvest
  15. Color something I have never colored before

I have done a few things on the list so far. The first thing I felt propelled to do was to self-publish a cookbook for my staff and other close friends. I have been talking about the idea for years, but always had a reason why it shouldn’t or couldn’t be done. I documented some of my most used and group-friendly, budget-friendly recipes and used blurb.com to make it into a small book called Feeding Community.

I went without electricity all day on Earth day last April (although I still used my iphone and ipad, but I didn’t charge them on that day). It was a delight to go out for a picnic welcoming dusk and end the day in candlelight.

I did a week without gluten and I didn’t feel the extra energy and less achiness that many people profess. I guess I don’t have celiac disease. Or maybe all the energy that I gained from eating no gluten went to making food that had no gluten. It’s a lot of work, and at the end, I just wanted a croissant. Or a cookie. Or most of the food that I usually eat. That will not be a new lifestyle for me.

I had a dream job in the fall after I left my job of 13 years with a Christian non-profit in July. I was the chef for the harvest crew at a winery in Newberg. For 6 weeks, I went in every day and got to cook for 10-20 hungry people and join them for these moveable feasts around the vineyard, following the sun, drinking incredible wines and sharing it with amazing people. It was the best way for me to work a harvest, because I am not physical enough to pick grapes or labor over big tanks of grapes. But to cook and feed many people, overseeing the whole process around me, it was a dream.

And #5 and #6 are in process. I am training for #5, and Birch and I are filling out many pieces of paperwork for #6. It is exciting and funny that adopting a child is on the same list as roasting a duck. But I have wanted to do both, and both required some guts, research, and a varied level of risk. The duck turned out well. The adoption will take longer and we’ll see how it turns out.



In a book I read last month, the author pondered what our one word theme would be for the year, in lieu of many complex new year’s resolutions. Hers was “Bigger.” I didn’t have to think long for mine:

Forward in the dreams that have been dormant or waiting. Forward in taking risks and breaking through fears. Forward in a new season of life, leaving behind a painful year.
I have never thought of myself as a fearful person, or one who relies on circumstances to determine my outcome. But these last few years, I found myself waiting, sometimes because the right thing did not seem very obvious, or because it wasn’t up to me and I was waiting for God to change things, or because I simply didn’t want to take responsibility for my life and the potential failure that might ensue. I was not ready to move forward.

But 2013 is a year of FORWARD. I have a new job that I love and is so different from my last job. I get to create with my hands and stand on my feet all day. We are moving forward with adoption finally (no more research, no more info meetings!) I am grabbing my life with both hands and with urgency, I am determined to be content.

My sister died last May at the tender age of 38, and the last 10 days of her life, she was ripped of the things that mattered most to her: her sight, then her speech, then her dignity, and finally her breath. I watched and sat and tried to cover her. Her friends and family surrounded her, loving her to the end. She and I were very similar in a lot of ways, but our differences were accented in the last five years. But one of her most enviable qualities was her joie de vivre, her joy in life, her ability to seize life by its collar and dance.

It is her joie de vivre that partly propels me into this new year. It is her death that reminds me to not be held back by stupid things, to have perspective on what is most important and to go for it.

When I went to the hospital in May, she just lost her sight and was so disoriented from the stroke. But her first question to me was: “How is your birthday list going?” She had flown in for my birthday surprise, our last family trip together, a few weeks before our time together at the hospital. For 6 months after, I admit I felt frozen in creating this 5 year list. But I am ready to move forward, in this blog, and in this list. For Maggie.


In the last year or so, I have had many stops and starts on this blog, but none of it made it past the drafts. I don’t know what happened. Perhaps I didn’t feel like there was anything close enough to finished to be worth publishing. All I know is that this last year of my life has been an apparent season of being unfinished, in transition, processing and not quite landing.

But I just celebrated my 35th birthday, and decided to restart my blog. My new mantra this year is “Start before you’re ready.” As a mild control freak, this feels both impossible and freeing at the same time, and an invitation to step forward into life without guarantees. The wise ones will tell you that you were never in control, you were never ready, that life is a daily risk. But I would like to pretend that every once in a while, I knew what was going on.

For my 35th birthday, I decided to start a new list of things to do, but instead of having one year to do them, I have given myself 5 years.

35 things to do before I turn 40.

In anticipation of my birthday, I started feeling anxious about whether I should continue this tradition or not. I didn’t want to put anything on it that I couldn’t actually do, and yet I had a very hard time coming up with 35 things that I could actually do in 1 year (well, and not have them be lame things like “Eat an orange.”)

So I invited friends and family to insert their opinions at my birthday party–here are some of my favorites:

  • go goth for a week
  • color something i have never colored before
  • explore a new continent
  • do an apple fast (not the fruit, but the products)

I hope to consolidate a list by the end of the month. Any ideas?

Well, technically, as it’s only the 3rd of February, these are not my favorite things of February. These are really my favorite things in January, and hopefully to be enjoyed continuously. *Shrug*

My Oscar contender. Love Colin Firth. Love Geoffrey Rush. Love the British Monarchy.

Watched it twice. Brilliant.


Juanita’s Tortilla Chips are seriously the best tortilla chips ever! They are like crack in my household. We all come out around 10:30 pm with the late night munchies and we inhale a big bag of these without blinking. AND they are locally made and although they taste like they are fried in lard, they aren’t–apparently, good things can come from being fried in just vegetable oil.


Trader Joe’s Soyaki–their tasty teriyaki marinade that I tried a week ago. I just emptied a bag of frozen chicken thighs in a pyrex pan with the marinade, and then when thawed, I popped it in the oven for 45 minutes. I don’t eat a lot of teriyaki, but my husband loves it, so this is a winner. I am going to stock up.


Portlandia. It’s a show on IFC (but you can find it on Hulu). It’s not for everyone, but I personally think it’s quite hilarious. Especially if you live here, and you know that they aren’t actually exaggerating that much…


Today, I got 6 cartons of Dreyers ice cream from Rite Aid for $17.94, and then I got $17 back. Making each carton $0.16 each (And also making me very sick and fat…but that is a different story). The point is, I don’t have the time to scout out every deal out there but this is one website (called Hip2save) that does a lot of the work, and helps me save quite a bit of money on my groceries and toiletries.


Taste Unique is a small Italian eatery that is only open for 2 hours a day for lunch. The couple moved here from Rome and they are legit. After my time in Italy, I longed for real pizza bianca and fresh pasta. This place hits the spot and it’s $9 a plate. If I had my way, I would come here everyday for lunch. ‘Nuff said.

I am starting a monthly post, inspired by The Sound of Music (as all things should be, right?). As I was watching it again on tv the other night, I thought to myself, “If I had to sing a song about my favorite things, what would they be? Not whiskers on kittens, I’ll tell you that much.”

Since I am never one to limit myself to all-time favorites, I will compile a monthly list.

Here goes:


Stila Custom Color Blush

It adjusts to your skin tone, so no guesswork, and no need to change blush when I get intense tans from the Caribbean.



Teal Zeal

The new color of my office! Only it’s a little brighter than this on my wall.



Bob's Red Mill 10-grain hot cereal

It’s my breakfast food, with some diced fresh banana or pear and a drizzle of maple syrup. With this cold weather, I need something warm and cozy in the morning. Plus, it’s super healthy and has 28% of your daily fiber. It’s like a detox.



Presto Cool Daddy Deep Fryer

Hey, I detox to re-tox. Made some beautiful fried sweet potato pies last night with this wonderful Christmas present from my mother-in-law. This is my new toy.



My Winter-grey Prius

I know I’ve had it for more than a month, but as the gas prices have soared like mad this month, I have been so glad that I get 40-50 mpg on my “Percy the Prius!” (that’s a shout-out to Jonah who helped me name my car)

I am pontificating my year as I wait for my lasagna to finish in the oven. We were at a church service last week, and they were doing a conversation with some people about their biggest lessons learned this past year. I thought, “That’s a great idea!” I don’t know about you, but I am always so quick to think about what I want for the next year, that I miss the opportunity to learn the lessons from this year!

Playing bocce ball somewhere in the middle of the ocean

2010 has been an eventful year for me:

-transitioning off sabbatical and into new roles in my job

-becoming the owner of three chickens and receiver of fresh eggs everyday (I love it–highly recommend!)

-decision to eat better, over and over again, leading to my first experience with CSAs (which as much as I loved the idea and the values, it was too hard for me in this stage of my life where I am gone half the time, and I feel overwhelmed by the amount of veggies that goes bad in my absence)

I wish I spent more time reflecting on my lessons for the year, but here are a few:

  1. Small steps towards wonder and whimsy are worth it
  2. Surrender is a consistent reality, not just a one time deal
  3. Reading and looking at inspirational things are good, acting on them much better
  4. Most things gain some perspective with a long walk and a good laugh
  5. It’s very hard to get to the gym, but I will always be glad I went
  6. Be totally real and raw with your closest friends and you will never have to carry a burden on your own
  7. Marry someone who loves your cooking–it makes you feel good about yourself everyday.

What are your lessons from 2010? And how will they affect your 2011?

Happy New Year everyone!

I think my lasagna is done.

I have found a new, free hobby: book signings. I get to listen to incredible authors and learn something new. For example, today I learned that in France, one sign of spring is that the butter is very yellow. Apparently, it is because the cows change their diet from hay to grass, turning the butter to a bright yellow compared to a mild yellowish-white.

I have been reading Dorie Greenspan’s blog for a while now, and she was a good food reference for when we went to Paris almost two years ago. Tonight, I “met” her and she struck me as adorable and unpretentious. I mean, here is a woman who has been a well-published, very established woman in the food world. She co-wrote Baking with Julia, contributed regularly to Bon Appetit magazine and published two of her own cookbooks. And yet she was funny, humble, and very personable as she shared how her recipes are never complete until we have made it our own, adapted to our own liking.

Listening to Dorie (yes, we are on a first name basis) inspired me to start on my cookbook project. I feel so daunted with the hugeness of the project, especially since I don’t have anything written down, and most of my stuff is not super precise. But if anything, it can inspire me to have a consolidated kitchen journal, where I can reference what my favorite things to cook are, and others can learn and grow as confident home cooks.

Maybe I just need some testers…