Books · food · Life · travel

How YOU doin’?

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It’s been a little while since I’ve posted, so I thought it would be good to check in. I’ve been super busy lately with work, as this is our busiest time of the year. Between the extra hours worked and the stress of it all, I often come home and act like a giant slug in the evenings. Fortunately, we only have about two more weeks of this nonsense and then things should be returning to normal.

Despite the craziness at work, I’ve actually been feeling a lot better lately. I’ve been incorporating some alternate forms of medicine into my routine, plus more daylight hours means I have more capability to get outside and exercise. Winter is a rough time for people with depression, but fortunately I think I’m pulling myself back out of it again.

Boyfriend and I took an overnight trip to Raleigh this weekend for some exploring and shenanigans. The majority of the trip was spent consuming ridiculously delicious food (Morgan Street Food Hall is amazing!) and going to the Museum of Natural Science. Of course, we also paid a visit to one of my favorite independent bookstores, Quail Ridge Books.

 

What I’m currently reading:

Books · food · Life

How You Doin’?

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This have been rough lately. Two people that I know passed away last week, both somewhat unexpectedly. My heart aches for the families and people affected by the loss of both individuals. It’s a very discouraging feeling when you want to help someone who’s grieving, but there’s little you can do other than say “I’m here for you.”

On top of such heavy news, the weight of my own personal issues have been dragging me down quite a bit. My mood has been pretty low lately – the familiar feelings of loneliness, anger, and insecurity brought on by depression settling in the cracks that they had temporarily vacated. As always, my eating disorder likes to sneak appearances in, as well, particularly when (or because) I’m already down. Every morning he rears his ugly little face out from the folds within my closet, or at the edge of the mirror, and whispers nasty things in my ear that make me feel horrible about my appearance and my worth as a human being.

*sigh*

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It hasn’t all been bad, I guess. I went to cat yoga a couple of weeks ago and really enjoyed it. I plan on going back either this week or next and incorporating it into my regular repertoire. I’ve also been working on a new routine for a dance show that’s coming up soon and planning for my solo Spring/Summer trips. Of course, I’ve also been playing around in the kitchen, experimenting with new foods and recipes. There have been multiple trips to the Asian market recently, so I could find new ingredients to play with and to feed my obsession with steamed buns and mochi ice cream.

What I’m Reading:

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How YOU doin’ this week? What are you currently reading or working on?

Books · food · Life · travel

How YOU Doin’?

I realized the other day that it’s been quite a while since I’ve done one of my Monday How You Doin’? posts. For a while I didn’t feel like I really had that much to share, so I just put HYD on the back burner for a little bit.

A Beautiful Escape

This past weekend I drove to Asheville. I’ve been experiencing a ton of kidney pain lately and it’s been making me one cranky bitch, so I figured a visit to one of my favorite places would cheer me up. And it did. I paid a visit to my favorite bookstore, ate soup dumplings, and had fun wandering around all the other funky shops and art galleries. Driving through the mountains always gives me inspiration and helps me to clear my head. How can such a beautiful view lead to anything but feelings of contentment?

 

Cat Yoga

In an effort to improve my physical and mental health I’ve gone and done something out of the ordinary. I signed up for yoga. *horror movie scream* There’s nothing wrong with yoga, but it’s never really been my thing. I appreciate it as a form of exercise, but it’s always looked somewhat boring to me. That and I really don’t like the spiritual side of it that often gets shoved at you. In the last few months I recognized how much my flexibility and strength has decreased now that I can’t do my pole exercises as much. I’ve been stretching a little at home to try to improve this, but I don’t feel like it’ll be enough. About a week ago I saw that the local cat cafe does yoga classes once a week. You get to do yoga and socialize with kitties at the same time. Perfect. Even if I’m a little bored with yoga, at least I’ll have the cats as a motivator to keep showing up.

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I must confess that I am not the most graceful person. My first cat yoga class will be this evening and I am expecting to fall over and embarrass myself a few times.

What I’m currently reading

 

So…how you doin’?

food · Life

Kiersten Bakes Stuff

You guys know I love to bake. As the former owner/cake baker/master of madness of a small dessert company, obviously my love of all things sweet and carb-y runs deep in my veins. When I’m not reading or writing, I’m either experimenting in the kitchen or obsessively watching the Great British Baking Show, plotting what to make next.

Despite how confident I usually am as a baker, one area that has always intimidated me is yeast doughs. For a long time I absolutely hated making anything with yeast because I felt that they never turned out well. After years of shunning yeast and breads, I feel like I’ve learned enough about the process that I’m beginning to test the waters again. This past weekend I made a successful batch of hot cross buns (with raisins and dried figs) that I was super proud of. Check them out, plus some of the other yummy things I’ve made lately:

Hot cross buns

Banoffee (banana + toffee)  roulade 

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Swedish cardamom buns (another successful yeast recipe!)

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Hazelnut croquets 

Anyone else been creating fun things in the kitchen lately? Tell me about them!

 

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Books · food · Life · travel

New Orleans: Where you Beignet All My Life? (Part 2)

My second day in New Orleans was an early one. I woke with the eager anticipation of a child on Christmas morning, only it wasn’t presents I was looking forward to. It was something better: Beignets! Cafe du Monde had been on my list of places to try for about 15 years now. Yes, it sounds touristy of me to say that one of my favorite things about NOLA was Cafe du Monde, but I don’t care. If there’s something wrong with eating hot, crispy French doughnuts covered in powdered sugar than I sure as hell don’t want to be right.

Strolling around the French Quarter in the morning is quite a different experience than it is during the afternoon/evening. There are less people about, making things a little more laid-back and quiet, which is always preferable. I loved strolling along the canal early in the morning, watching the ferries in the distance while the smell of beignets fresh out of the fryer filled the air. I could certainly use more mornings like that.

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Mid-morning I hopped on a streetcar and rode out to the Garden District. The Garden District has quite a different feel than the Quarter. It’s more of quiet, residential area, with picturesque homes, tree-lined streets, and old cemeteries. The first (and probably my favorite) cemetery I visited was Lafayette Cemetery No. 1. I’ve mentioned before how I’m a little obsessed with cemeteries, especially ones with lots of character. Lafayette was by far one of the coolest cemeteries I’ve ever visited. I took so many pictures that it’s hard to pick out just a few to share!

I even made a friend while I was there. 🙂

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After the cemetery, I paid a visit to another local bookshop, Garden District Books. It was a great shop with a nice variety of genres to choose from. Small as it was, I still probably could have spent a few hours wandering around there. I ventured a few  blocks over to Magazine St., to check out the shops, art galleries, and (of course) the food scene. On my way there I paid a visit to author Anne Rice’s house. (I now realize that I should have gone in the evening to see if I could catch glimpse of any vampires.)

That evening, I took part in a Haunted History tour that took us all around the Quarter, pointing out various locations that were rumored to be haunted by ghosts. I don’t really believe in ghosts, but it was still fun, nonetheless. I enjoyed learning more about the history of the city and hearing about some of the creepy/disturbing things that have happened along the way. (For all you American Horror Story fans: Part of the tour was the infamous Lalaurie mansion, which just so happened to be a couple of blocks from my hotel.) I definitely thought about sleeping with the lights on that night. Hehe.

My last day was filled with more wandering, both in and outside the French Quarter. I was truly amazed that even on day 3, I still came across places I’d yet to discover. There were street performers, musicians, and all manners of folks out and about, simply enjoying the weekend. After spending a few days eating and sight-seeing my way across the city, I was quite sad to leave. I realize now that my original perception about New Orleans was not entirely accurate. New Orleans isn’t just a city where people go to get drunk. It’s a place to celebrate beauty, culture, and the art of being alive.

food · Life · travel

New Orleans: Where You Beignet All My Life? (Part 1)

Greetings, friends! After three exciting, fun, and exhausting days in New Orleans, I am back home.

I’ll be honest with you, I was a tad nervous my first day there, as I always am when arriving in a new city by myself. I wasn’t about to let fear ruin my trip though! After a quick check in at my hotel, I took a stroll around the French Quarter to combat any doubts that had been lingering. Within minutes I was in awe of the beautiful sights the city had to offer and immediately felt more at ease. Everywhere you look in the French Quarter you’ll find stunning architecture and art. Every building, whether a small business or large mansion, is resplendent with balconies and galleries framed in cast iron railings, colorful facades, and arched windows. There are hidden courtyards with tables and chairs, elaborate fountains, and classical statues. Every nook and cranny has as much art and beauty as you’d find in any museum. It’s like stepping back into a piece of history every time you walk down the street.

 

I spent most of my first day just exploring and people-watching. I took a ten minute stroll down Bourbon St. (the famous street in New Orleans where everyone goes to get drunk and party) and quickly decided that it was not my scene. Even while avoiding Bourbon St., I found plenty of things to keep me busy. There’s so much to do in New Orleans, that it’s impossible to even make a dent during just one visit.

 

I paid a visit to Faulkner House Books, the former home of William Faulkner, where he wrote his first novel. It was a tiny little shop, but it was packed floor to ceiling with classics and rare editions. They didn’t have much in the way of the genres I like, but it was still cool to check out anyway. I discovered lots of other fun and quirky shops, the French Market (an airy, outdoor market that was half specialty stalls and half flea market), Jackson Square, the wharf, and, of course, restaurant after restaurant.

For me, no trip is ever complete without me sampling as much of the local cuisine as I can. One of the biggest reasons I’ve always wanted to visit New Orleans is because I’ve heard how amazing the cuisine is. “Amazing” doesn’t even cover it. The food I had there was probably some of the best I’ve ever had. It’s not all about the fancy restaurants either, even a po’boy from the corner deli is carefully crafted and packed with more flavor than you can imagine. I ate SO much during my trip and it was worth every freaking calorie. 🙂

Part 2 to follow!

Books · food · Life · mental health · travel

Reasons to Stay Alive (2018)

I wasn’t going to do a reflection post on 2018 this year. With all the “Top 9s” on social media, the New Years resolutions, and the look backs, I figured that everyone would be growing kind of sick of hearing about it at this point. This morning, however, I had a change of heart. You see, today was the first day back at work after a four day weekend. (Even longer for those of my co-workers who have been off since Christmas.) Like any day back after a mini vacation, I expected work to suck today. Surprisingly, everyone was in a cheerful mood – wishing each other a happy new year, talking about how they spent their holidays, and just generally pleased to see each other. What surprised me even more was that I was one of those people.

LIVE

This time last year I was really struggling. I’d been in therapy for a few months, but hadn’t clicked well with my therapist. Rather than make any sort of progress, I felt myself slipping further and further into the abyss. While everyone else was wishing each other a happy new year, I was walking around feeling angry with everyone and hating myself. Shortly after the start of the year I started to have all sorts of health issues. I injured my shoulder and had an almost non-stop kidney pains/infections, which would last for almost six months. My eating disorder still had a strong presence in my life, despite all the weak attempts I made to kick it back. I was eating, but not always enough. I was so focused on my weight, what I was eating, and being “good enough,” that every time I ate a meal I practically burst into tears.

By Spring I was reading books and articles expounding on all the reasons that I should not kill myself.

I was certainly not the “New Year, New Me” poster child. Slowly, I kept dragging myself along anyway until one day I began pulling myself out of the hole I’d dug. One inch at a time. With the help of my therapist, medication, and a lot of hard work, I began to understand what I needed to do to really help myself. In June, I took a huge leap outside of my comfort zone and took a trip to New York all by myself. The trip itself wasn’t wholly responsible for the transformation I made, but it definitely set the wheels in motion. During that trip I rekindled my passion for life and food, and discovered my newfound love for travel. (You can read more about that trip here.)

Since then I’ve done so many things that I’m proud of. I’ve put a ton of effort into writing my first novel (Something I’ve dreamed of doing ever since I was a child). I’ve faced my fear of doing things alone and learned to enjoy my own company. I traveled to Portland, OR and began planning future solo trips. I’ve taken charge of my health, despite my eventual diagnosis of chronic bladder/kidney problems. I’ve read the books I wanted, made more time for the things I enjoy, and spent more time with friends. I jumped back into the kitchen with abandon, trying everything I can. I’ve made things (like my holiday Buche de Noel) that sent me through the roof with joy. I started living my life again.

Of course, life will never be perfect. I’ve still had my moments of frustration, doubt, fear, and anxiety. I’ve had setbacks and bad days. About one month ago, I had to say goodbye to my dog, and best friend, of fourteen years. It was hard and I still miss him every single day. But, I know that loss is a part of life and that Beaker will always be with me, even if it’s only in my heart. Despite the setbacks, the bad days, and my grief, I am still ten times better than I was this time last year (even on my best day).

I’ve come quite a long way since the start of 2018. I not only endured and pulled myself through, but I found at least a dozen reasons to stay alive. I can’t wait to find a dozen more this year. Here’s to 2019.

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