The Summer Playlist 2019

Today would have been my grandmother’s birthday. Each and every year, we have celebrated her just before my favorite turn of the seasons. When the sun gets bright yellow like egg yolk and the pavement is hot enough to fry.

For those of you who don’t remember, my grandmother passed away last summer. It felt unexpected, but truthfully, she had been mentally gone in that nursing home for a long while.

I suppose I just thought she would be there forever. I wanted her to always be around.

But, you know, I am grateful to have known someone I felt that way about.

She hated having her picture taken, so a lot of the images I have of her look something like this. I like my people with a little personality. It’s so strange to think I wasn’t even alive when this one was taken.

But this was her.

And so, with the fresh waning of the moon and the shift of spring to summer, here we are. Playlist in hand.

(Her favorite song is toward the end of the list, and I know like I know she is waltzing to it somewhere.)


Hawaiian Guava Cake

God, I don’t even know where to start. It’s my mother’s sixtieth birthday today.

Thirty years ago at this time, she was about to pop. In fact, I stayed ten days late. Our birthdays were supposed to be five days apart. Finally, she decided to eat some fried chicken, to which I replied “PEACE!” After 24 hours of labor, she brought me into the world. What a powerhouse.

I also want to point out, because she always says that he isn’t around to stand up for himself whenever anyone tries to speak ill (classy af), that my mother raised me.

I remember when she worked and went to school and took care of me, and I think sometimes we don’t know when to high-five a person. Because I don’t think I ever saw her receive a high-five, and she is the most deserving person I have ever known.

She used to eat my pizza crusts when I was a kid so I wouldn’t have to. She would leave notes in my lunch sometimes. Also, she didn’t make fun of me that one time when she found my hidden love notes for Zac Hanson.

One time, I left my teddy bear at my grandmother’s house in Canada, and we realized it when we’d already made the drive home. Y’all, I was shook. I was so distraught.

That bear houses a piece of my soul that needs the most tender love.

(She packed up the car immediately and we drove back to get him.) ❤

My favorite memory is a simple one, though. We were at the grocery store picking out produce and one of us made a derogatory comment and we cracked up. At the SAME TIME, we both snorted, leaned in, and bumped heads.

As I have grown to become who I am now, I hear how much I am like her. We have the same mannerisms. We have the same laugh (and snort). We are both safe spaces for people (often, without trying).

Most recently, she accidentally texted me instead of her boyfriend, and she hushed my, “MUM NO” with, “Sweetie, I am just giving you hope.” And honestly, she is. I want to be just like her when I grow up.

So, I made the most festive cake I could find, delicately pink velvet infused with guava concentrate, topped with nonpareils. Because fancy begets fancy.

Happiest Birthday to my wonderful mama. There ought to be a picture of you in the dictionary next to the word inspiration. I love you!

Macaroon Brownies

Sometimes I feel like the woman in Chocolat, traveling when the winds tell her to.

Most recently, I keep thinking of the air between the mountains in Asheville. The last time I went was over three years ago. My mother had flown in to meet me in Atlanta on Christmas Day after my shift was over and we drove through back roads to get there. All of that, to eat sushi together on the big day and wander around on all the others.

On that particular visit, I discovered that French Broad Chocolates had moved from its previous perch. I remember that moment.

We were emerging from tapas, full of butternut squash soup. I received the last text message I would ever receive, ever, from the person I really loved back then. He told me to travel safely, and I wondered if we would ever traverse the wall that had risen suddenly and painfully. [spoiler alert: nope.]

Anyway, this matters because I remember looking up from my phone and my disappointment and my uncertainty about how to even respond and…I gasped. French Broad was just in front of me.

Its new home is beautiful, friends. Or, at least, those few years ago, I found it to be so. I suppose it isn’t so new anymore.

Every trip to Asheville I have ever taken has involved French Broad drinking chocolates and truffles. One time, perhaps my first visit ever, when they were in the old building off the beaten path with its hidden sign–I snuck one of their macaroon brownies to the movie theater down the street.

And, wouldn’t you know, I have meant to make my own version of that brownie I broke the rules for all. this. time.

This is to say, I looked in the cupboard recently, and I realized–I finally have all the things I need, years later. This was not planned.

I made extra macaroon filling (with mini chips and two types of coconut) to ooze out the middle, and to brown into toasty on top.

You know what that means.

Mission accomplished. The winds are changing course, and I am ready.

Pecan Pie Baklava

Y’all. It has been a MONTH.

Every recipe I have tried to make lately has not worked out. I have been a disaster! I don’t even know what that’s about.

Normally, I am so good at anticipating a recipe. I research and make educated decisions for how to treat the ingredients.

Then, I come up with something inventive that I would like to eat.

For the last month, every recipe I have tried has been a delicious-smelling fail. We’re talking, grapefruit curd soup bars. And maybe Martha Stewart is the only person who can successfully make Martha Stewart’s delicious-sounding polenta cake.

I don’t know.

All I know is, I have made a lot of life decisions lately, and each one has been complemented by a unique and utter kitchen fail.

I don’t like not being good at the things I know I’m good at.

I was honestly worried about another flop when my dear friend, Clarissa, and I decided to do the thing that it seems we have decided we do together: make baklava.

The last time we did so, we lovingly followed her grandmother’s recipe, with rosewater and lemon. We even called her parents midway through for guidance. Of course, those little, walnut-y diamonds turned out amazing.

The process takes several hours, during which time we like to talk life over each buttery layer. As the baklava rests in its syrupy throne, we perhaps have an intermittent tarot sesh or take a nice spring walk to the metaphysical shop.

This time around, before she arrived, I hesitantly wrote out what I thought should be the ingredients to make baklava express itself like pecan pie.

We’re talking salt and honey and mini chocolate chips and some quality bourbon that was donated in a jar because I don’t drink ever and there isn’t a point in my purchasing two tablespoons’ worth.

And just like that, it didn’t flop. With the help of an important friend, confidante, and fellow mystic, we encountered a success.

Happiest Birthday to you, Clarissa. I dearly appreciate your friendship, and I am so happy to know you.

Ruby Chocolate Cloud Cake

An Open Letter to the Woman I Was, Leaving Nashville:

You will find yourself omitting coffee early this morning to beat traffic. You will think it is a smart idea to wait until you are outside the city. It is not.

Five hours later, you will finally pass a Starbucks. You will go in, and you will order Blonde Roast, and they will give you Pike. You will never forget the guilty look on the barista’s face when you say before paying that you want your employee discount. You will also never forget that first taste of…fucking Pike.

You will eat yogurt covered raisins when you are hungry. You will be forced to listen to the same few songs, over and over, because your phone is acting funny. You will miss the mountains, years later, and you will always wonder how everyone there learned they needed to put up signs indicating random, tumbling rocks. You will feel the change when the weather becomes just a little bit chillier.

You will keep waiting on the drive for the tears you wanted to cry but did not have time for because you were tired and you just needed to keep going. They do not come. Instead, over the next few years, they will squeak out just a little every day before there comes a time that you realize they have not visited lately. Spoiler alert: this is the moment that they return, because grief is not linear, but rather, it is a button whose pressing changes and becomes perhaps less trigger-able, though nonetheless responsive, over time.

The tears will make their first appearance when you meet the only person who knows in Chicago on the way. You will be standing in front of a Monet, and the soft pink-kissed-yellow makes you long for the time that has now passed. When you headed in this direction, you were not quite certain that you would ever find that space again. The one where you are loved like the softest place on earth. You are right to wonder.

It will hit you the second you sit down in the passenger seat of your own car. The depression. It is not the first time you have felt it, but it is the first time you have recognized it. Old friend.

For this leg of the trip, you will have company to finish the drive home again. It helps, I guess, in some ways. But the depression never goes. It will not leave you for the next few years, as you haul ass to rebuild your life again in Minneapolis without telling anyone what you experienced, what you have carried.

It will be hard. And nobody is guaranteed a damn thing. But there will come a time when you realize that you need to see that you deserve it, even-and, perhaps, especially-if there is nobody else to tell you so.

You do not need to be perfect to receive it. Just decide. Decide right now. Like you did back then, driving away. Because even though there was a tough road ahead you knew that you had to count on there being something better. And I appreciate that. I am looking back and feeling for you, because I know how that was and how hard it has been.

I want to be more like you, back then. Back then, you knew what it should be like, and that you deserved it, and you did all that you could to make it happen, even if it meant braving the void. And back then, you never would have listened to anyone who made that voice a little quieter. You would have breathed through it, because you did, because you knew there had to be something greater. Greater than anything that wanted to silence your voice.

And maybe it doesn’t look the way everybody says love should. It’s just that some things don’t match up with what we have come to know = pink chocolate, cake like a brownie, and where is the fucking frosting, but

I want you to take a second and enjoy the weird and unlike-any-other and pretty wonderful thing you made out of what you had.

Strawberry Chocolate Chip Cookies

Sometimes, when you least expect it, it occurs to you that you have believed a thing or two just a little too long.

I don’t know when I started swallowing this pill, but it dawned on me this morning that I have been telling myself for a long while that I can settle for less than I deserve.

Seasons have passed. Furniture assembled. Love lost and found. Friends made. A home made. Kisses given, stolen, missed, and forgotten. Chances taken. Rearranging. Hellos, and then, goodbyes.

Slowly, surely, I have melted the ice. And, you know

[Nothing blooms, if not for mud.]

Until I get there, I will simply be trying. To know myself, and to embrace it.

Even-and, perhaps, especially-if there are secret strawberries in the mix.

The Spring Playlist 2019

At the start of the New Year,

I showed up for my first-ever 108 Sun Salutations.

Before we began, we were given little cards to write down one word that could be our intention.

I wrote the word “blooming.”

I don’t know that I realized it then, but I see it now: the process, the mayneverquitegetthere, but the getting there.

And there’s the risk, always, ever looming, that you might just fuck it up (without intending).

So now, I am learning. Learning to like it and to take note when those around me do not feel comfortable at the thought that you do not have to be attached to the end, but the process

of trying and maybe failing [or not producing what you thought you would].

And I am telling you it doesn’t matter because all of it is little buds and suggestions of greenery in the ground on the way to what is next.