Tacos and the Utah Desert

Sometimes all you need is a trip to Utah with your best friend.

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I had hit my wall with writing. I would circle around a subject, draft three pages of dribble, and then quit without saving. My words fell flat and I blamed it on the redundancy of my life. I would wake up, walk Zep, work 10 hours, walk Zep again, and go to sleep. Of course this is melodramatic. My life is full of baby snuggles and trips to the top of the Empire State Building. But when I sat down to write, my brain went blank.

And then I went to the desert.

As someone who finds peace in being outside, I knew that the national parks of Utah would steal my heart. I had seen pictures and read enough Terry Tempest Williams to know that this part of the world holds an unmatched beauty. Everything around me was painted in red. The spires were as tall as skyscrapers, the canyons as deep as the ocean, and the dry air was filled with the scent of sage and sunshine.

Tracey and I did what you’re supposed to do on vacation, we meandered. When we wanted to hike, we hiked. When we wanted to drink beer, we drank beer. When the thunderstorms rolled in and the thought of setting up camp sounded awful, we got a cheap motel room and acquainted ourselves with the joys of Moab. We read books and made fires. We went to bed early, snuggling deep into our sleeping bags to fight off the bitter cold of desert nights. We chased the sunset at the grand canyon, running in flip flops to make sure we caught the moment the sun dipped low enough to paint the canyon walls a deep purple. On my favorite morning, we drove to Zion as the sun was rising and spent the morning in the Devil’s Garden. Scampering up rocks and wading through puddles turned to pools, we found ourselves on the top of the world.

And, because we’ve been best friends since birth, we ended the trip in Disneyland. While that place is hell to some people, it’s the place we have always associated with magic. Acting like kids in a candy shop, we got there before the gates opened, making a mad dash to be the first in line for Space Mountain. We made a list of all the must-do rides, eating sickly sweet churros and mapping the best route to avoid the children on the verge of breakdowns.

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There is no one I would have rather done this trip with, and I came back a completely refreshed human.

There is so much perspective to be gained when you take a step out of your life and sink into a place of grandeur. The world is such an epic place and we are such tiny blips. So many of my concerns are in trivial things that don’t matter in the grand scheme of things. There were so many ah-ha moments on this trip, and I am back to feeling like myself. I came home with a very solid grasp of what’s important, and I am determined to move through life full of that desert joy. Who knew Utah would give me so much?

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In the desert there is space. Space is the twin sister of time. If we have open space then we have open time to breathe, to dream, to dare, to play, to pray to move freely, so freely, in a world our minds have forgotten but our bodies remember. Time and space. This partnership is holy. In these redrock canyons, time creates space–an arch, an eye, this blue eye of sky. We remember why we love the desert; it is our tactile response to light, to silence, and to stillness. – Terry Tempest Williams

Camp Tacos

It’s no surprise that tacos are my favorite food. When shopping for our trip, we knew the first meal on the menu were camp tacos. They are easy, they are delicious, and they can be repurposed in the morning for breakfast tacos. This recipe is best accompanied with a campfire and a cold beer, but if those aren’t in your near future, you can enjoy them in the comfort of your home. Side note: we forgot beans so we substituted chili which was weirdly delicious.

  • 1 Tbsp coconut oil
  • 1 onion, diced
  • 1 red bell pepper, diced
  • ½ bunch of dino kale, chopped
  • ½ can of chili or black beans
  • Cumin, chili powder, salt and pepper
  • 2 eggs
  • Flour or corn tortillas
  • Avocado
  • Sour cream
  • Salsa

I think y’all know how to make a taco. But here’s how to do it while camping. Step one, have a headlamp if, like us, you come back after dark. Forget a sharp knife? US TOO! We had a weirdly sharp butter knife, and I only nicked my finger once. Chop up the onion, bell pepper and kale while the oil is heating. Saute onion first for 3-5 minutes, add in the bell pepper and sauté for another 5 minutes. Add in the chili or beans, as dirtying another pan would be silly when camping. Lastly, add in the kale and let wilt for another 2-3 minutes. Add in your spices and let everything simmer.

We transferred all of that to a bowl and cooked our eggs in the same pan because camp dishes aren’t fun. Warm the tortillas over the fire, and then pop your veggie/bean/chili mixture on there, and add some avocado, sour cream, and salsa.

Lastly, put an egg on it.

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Pesto and Anniversaries

I have been in Austin for almost a year. As the months have gone by my hair has gotten shorter, all of my pants have become cut offs and Gertrude (that’s my bike) has become my best friend. The beginning of my time here was tough. Change has never been my forte, and although my sister was here, this place didn’t feel like home.

My heart was tethered fast to the mountains and coastline of Washington. It’s the place where I took my first steps, where I’ve held best friends for over a decade. Washington is where my grandma hosts Thanksgiving and Christmas, where I’ve left bits and pieces of my heart.  My first few months in Texas, I wore homesickness and nostalgia like a hat, a constant reminder of the comfort I had willingly left behind.

I came down here with the intention to will myself into a new person. Texas was my stepping-stone into shaping myself into a person that shed lingering jealousy, resentment and anxiety.  I looked to the Lone Star state as a refuge from all those mountains I had built out of mole hills. Washington, albeit my safety net and comfort, had left me wounded. I hobbled to Texas, hoping that I could sweat out all that had held me from happiness.

Thank the heavens that I found my stride. Back in December, I had it in my head that by August I would be loading up my Subaru and heading back into the grey and green. It was my every intention to stay in Texas for one year, get my “wiggles” out, and then return to normal.

Except normal isn’t a thing anymore. The place I left won’t be there when I go back. My people are growing, changing and shifting into their new roles in life… as they should. We are all figuring out what it means to be real adults—new jobs, new boys, new adventures.

The only constant thing in life is change, and although every part of my nesting self wants to deny it, there’s a momentous freedom in rolling with it.

Texas, with its warm air and wide sunsets has become my home. I have fallen for Austin, with its endless bike routes, swimming holes that make these 105 days tolerable and so many tacos it makes sense to eat them for every meal. This town has swallowed me up and enveloped me in the biggest, sweatiest hug.

I now dream of days riding my red bicycle on the east side, taking pictures when I feel inspired and eating popsicles by the train tracks. My future is my sister and I making cupcakes in the kitchen, walking the pups before the sun rises and watching her nanny boys grow into little men.

I’m here because I chose to start something new. I’m here because life felt hard, and now it doesn’t. I’m here because I goddamn want to be.

Amen to choices, change and new starts.

Garden Fresh Pesto

  • 2 cups firmly packed basil
  • ½ cup walnuts
  • ½ cup olive oil
  • 2 cloves of garlic
  • 1 Tbsp fresh lemon juice
  • 3 Tbsp nutritional yeast
  • Salt and pepper to taste

I got this recipe from Choosing Raw, one of those amazing food blogs I follow.

Put the basil, walnuts and garlic in a food processor and pulse to combine. Keep the motor running and drizzle the olive oil in a thin stream. Add in the salt, pepper, lemon and nutritional yeast and pulse until everything is combined. I ate mine with some quinoa pasta that I mixed with sun-dried tomatoes, spinach and kalamata olives. It was amazing. Vegan pesto… yes, please.

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