Settling into home

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We are thick in the middle of fall and its darker days, but I'm feeling a little more optimistic than normal. Winters are usually tough on me. I feel cooped up and shut down and unmotivated. This year feels different. Maybe it's because we're coming up on the anniversary of our new home and I know just how damn cozy this place can be.

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This was a stay-at-home summer for us. We had a few key projects that we wanted to complete and so we opted most weekends to stay close to home and put lots of time and love into restoring and improving our house. Painstakingly, we removed the old storm windows, repaired or replaced the rotten sills on almost all of our 20 windows and then scraped, primed and painted the window trim. We climbed up dangerously tall ladders to reach all of the pointy spots of our quirky tudor and repainted all of the stucco. We (well, mostly Chris) scraped and re-coated part of the roof. Just last weekend we installed 20 new storm windows and are officially hunkered down for the cold. We also paid some people to remove a tree, move our driveway and fix our front steps.

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I understand the complaints about houses and homeownership. Every fix is more expensive and takes longer than you think. There's always a project that needs doing. But I've got a heart full of gratitude that we found a quirky little place with a red door and fairy tale vibes, with a working fireplace, a laundry chute (!) and a sun-filled bedroom. We are so lucky to have been able to buy this house and to spend time and money on making it the home we want it to be. And if I have to be trapped inside much of the winter, I'm glad it's in this place.

Next up:  pretty up our kitchen a bit, install some lights on the garage and new window treatments in the living room. Or read quietly on the couch with a hot cider. There's room for all of that.

Life is beautiful

I was glad to re-discover some of these TED talks tonight, because yes life is beautiful, even when you forget it.

If you have time to watch only a few talks, may I offer a suggestion? First, Sarah Ka's spoken word masterpiece "If I should have a daughter," then Shane Koycza's poem to the bullied and beautiful, followed by the one and only Brené Brow's talk on the power of vulnerability and finally end with the delightful talk-and-classical-piano-lesson by Benjamin Zande.

We are the luckiest that these and others are willing to stand up and share their genius with the world. I think everyone has a good TED talk inside of them, just as I think everyone has a blog or book or speech inside of them to share with the world. So let's all share. More sharing, more caring, okay?

My top three veggie burger picks

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In case you haven't been following as closely as I have, there's a new speed record for hiking the Appalachian Trail. It was set by favorite vegan ultrarunner Scott Jurek in what he calls his "masterpiece" and likely last long distance feat. The dude's endurance and willpower is incredible, and his recent AT record had me re-read his memoir Eat & Run for some additional inspiration. Even though Chris and I both read it a few years ago, we're only now getting around to trying some of his recipes. First we tried his red curry almond sauce, which blew our previous curry attempts out of the water with its vibrant flavor. That recipe also forced me to finally open the shiro miso I bought last year and convinced me that it tastes better than its cat food-like appearance. Next we tried Scott's Lentil-Mushroom veggie burger and it easily takes its seat among our top three favorite burgers of all time. Also dabbled with the chocolate adzuki bars and his "Western States" faux cheese spread, named after a 100-mile race he won several consecutive times.

Ultrarunning isn't for everyone, but I loved every moment of my re-read of his book. If nothing else, it reminded me to keep seeking an edge and to live outside my comfort zone. It prompted me to go running a few extra mornings before work, to revisit what I think is possible and to revel in the natural world and want to explore it more. Scott's philosophy also ties together the natural movement that our bodies are meant for and the ways we can best nourish them through food. 

In honor of Scott's new AT record and our shared love for plant-based meals, here are my favorite homemade veggie burger recipes. 

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Beet & Brown Rice Burgers
Still a go-to recipe, if you don't mind dealing with messy beets. An added bonus if you are trying to win over meat-eaters is that they sort of look like hamburger, with their red hue and texture. 

Find the full recipe here.

Cumin-Scented Black Bean Burgers
From one of my all-time favorite cookbooksThe Heart of the Plate by Mollie Katzen. We've made these so many times over the past year or so and they never get old. Pay particular note to her serving suggestions; the pickled red onions are quick, easy & absolutely delicious. Trust me, I didn't think I would like them but they are the new preferred sandwich topping in our home now. 

Lentil-Mushroom Burgers
From Scott Jurek's Eat and Run. He claims these will convince even the heartiest of meat-eaters, and I'd join him on that bet. They are awesomely flavored, with a great, nutty texture. This recipe is the most complicated of the three and it calls for the most ingredients, but don't let that scare you off.

See the full recipe here.

What do they all have in common? They're hearty, protein-packed and the perfect dinner for a summer night. You can also freeze pre-formed burgers for an even quicker meal during the week. You're welcome.

Daring greatly

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The other night I began re-reading the book Daring Greatly, and posted on Instagram:

Re-reading a most important book tonight. Brené Brown's research on vulnerability & Wholeheartedness is life-affirming and necessary and miracle-making. If I haven't already given you a copy, let me know and I will. It's that good. Pairs beautifully with a Sunday night IPA or iced tea.

Brené researches vulnerability, courage, worthiness and shame. She delivered an amazing talk on the power of vulnerability at the 2010 TEDx Houston conference and presented on shame at the 2012 TED Conference. Her research is game-changing and its relevance is universal.

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I'm a complete devotee and student of Wholehearted living, as Brené outlines and teaches through her research and writing. I've underlined far too many sentences and written far too many words on her work for one post, so let's start a bit of a series, shall we? Reflections on daring greatly and living wholeheartedly. Not quite a book club, but if you'd like to read or re-read along and chime in with your own thoughts and responses or write about them elsewhere, I'd like that.

Today, we introduce the concept of daring greatly. The phrase comes from a 1910 speech by Teddy Roosevelt, ol' rough-ridin' TR:

"It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. 

The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, 

because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; 

who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly...”

Daring greatly is everything. It's imperative. Daring greatly doesn't have to mean living loudly or acquiring fame and wealth and Instagram-worthy travel photos. Daring greatly happens at home with family and every morning when you wake up and look in the mirror. Daring greatly is being present with a friend in need. Daring greatly is taking a chance and putting yourself out there.

Whisper along now, "Give me the courage to show up and let myself be seen." 

Thanks for indulging, and happy 4th of July! I've had this posted written for weeks, but didn't have the chance or the bravery to post it until this morning after quietly reflecting with my Saturday cuppa coffee. Let's talk more about comparison and vulnerability and creativity and leadership and growing mint for mojitos and buying charming little houses and everything else that goes on in our crazy beautiful lives, ok? 

Mojitos in training

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Earlier this spring, Chris and I made a promise to each other:  we will not start a vegetable garden this year.

We will not start a vegetable garden this year. We will not start a vegetable garden this year.

It's tempting. You know how we love our fresh veggies. You may not know how quickly a list of fun projects can overwhelm me, though. And sometimes even how heaps of fresh veggies can overwhelm me. We decided that there are plenty of other projects we'd like to work on this summer without the designing and planting and maintenance of a vegetable garden looming over us. Maybe another year, but for now you can find me outside puttering around at a leisurely pace and taking frequent, substantial reading breaks.

In lieu of a vegetable garden, we've dedicate a few pots to our favorite herbs starting with a container of luscious mint or "mojitos in training", as I like to call them. Perfect for adding to your water bottle or muddling into a house mojito.